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How to Write an Annotated Bibliography for Websites


While a bibliography is just a list of sources used when researching a topic, an annotated bibliography adds a summary and evaluation of each source, such as a description of the intended audience and the benefit of the source to your own research. Annotated bibliographies of web sources can be particularly useful because of the myriad of pages associated with one website. The bibliography will steer you back to the page you sourced, and the annotation will remind you what information you gathered from that page. Annotated bibliographies begin with the bibliographic citation, followed by your annotation.

Modern Language Association (MLA) Style

In MLA style, cite the author’s name, article or page name, title of the website, version numbers, publisher information and the date you accessed the site. MLA style does not require URLs in bibliographic citations, but for an annotated bibliography, you might want to include it so you can easily find the site again.

For example: “Definition and Quotes about Music Therapy.” American Music Therapy Association. AMTA, n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2015. <http://www.musictherapy.org/about/quotes/>.

There is no author for this page, so the citation begins with the page’s title, which is written in quotation marks. The website name is italicized, and the publisher’s name follows. The abbreviation “n.d.” stands for no date, as the site does not list a publication date. The date accessed goes in day-month-year format. The URL is encased in angle brackets, and there is a period at the end.

To add the annotation, drop down two lines after your bibliographic citation. Write your annotation in paragraph form. MLA style requires text to be double spaced. Keep the entire paragraph indented, so your paragraphs are flush with the hanging indent in your second and any subsequent lines in your bibliography; only the first line of your bibliography is fully to the left margin of the paper. Drop down an extra line between paragraphs in your annotation.

American Psychological Association (APA) Style

In APA style, cite web sources as follows:

Bonn, S. A. (2014). How to tell a sociopath from a psychopath. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/wicked-deeds/201401/how-tell-sociopath-psychopath

Notice there are no brackets around the URL. If this page didn’t have an author, the title of the article would be the first component of the bibliography. Since an article is a common format, you do not need a format description bracket. If, however, the page is a blog post or lecture notes, for example, you should indicate that in brackets after the title.

Drop down two lines after your bibliographic citation and begin your annotation. APA style also dictates double-spacing to be maintained throughout the annotation. Keep the entire paragraph indented to be flush with your hanging indent, and don't add an extra indentation to the first line of the paragraph. Separate the annotation into paragraphs for each section, such as a separate paragraph for the summary and another paragraph for the evaluation. Your annotation can be up to three paragraphs.

Chicago Manual Style (CMS)

Like APA, CMS requires the inclusion of URLs in the bibliographic citation.

For example: Bowley, Graham. “Art Sales on the Rise.” The New York Times, March 11 2015. Accessed March 11, 2015. http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/03/11/art-sales-on-the-rise/?_r=0

This citation includes both the date of the article and the date you accessed the website. The citation for a webpage that isn’t an article is very similar; it includes the name of the page in place of the author’s name, the title of the page in quotation marks, the date accessed and the URL.

Drop down two lines after your citation and begin writing your annotation, which follows the same indentation as APA and MLA styles. Do not italicize or add extra indentations. Your annotation could be just one paragraph, or it could be up to three paragraphs, separated by sections -- summary, evaluation, and usefulness to your research.

Harvard Style

Harvard style requires URL and date accessed information in your bibliographic citation. The information you include varies, depending on what kind of website you cite.

For example, to cite a blog post like this: Hibnick, E 2015, Lawyers moonlighting as entrepreneurs. 14 February 2015. The Law Insider. Available from: <http://www.thelawinsider.com/media/lawyers-moonlighting-entrepreneurs/> [10 March 2015].

Harvard style puts the website in angle brackets and ends the citation with a period.

Harvard style differs from the other guides, requiring single-spacing within a paragraph. You should still add a double space after your citation, followed by your single-spaced paragraphs. Keep your indentation flush to the left, and add a double space in between paragraphs. As with the other styles, your annotation can be up to three paragraphs.

About the Author

Cara Batema is a musician, teacher and writer who specializes in early childhood, special needs and psychology. Since 2010, Batema has been an active writer in the fields of education, parenting, science and health. She holds a bachelor's degree in music therapy and creative writing.

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