How to for Annotated Bibliography Cards

Updated June 13, 2017


An annotated bibliography is a valuable tool for considering sources critically as you determine whether they support the main point of a paper. The act of reading each source in order to summarize it and reflect upon how it could be used is a good step toward developing an argument. Additionally, including an annotated bibliography with a final draft is helpful for professors, researchers or others who may read the essay and want to know how each source was used.


Annotated bibliographies always include some sort of written note after listing the citation for each source. The content and length of this note can vary, however, depending on the specific assignment. Some typical elements include a brief summary of the overall point, comments about the relevance of the source or the author's credibility, a description of special features such as charts or appendices, a description of how the source compares with other sources used, whether the source is biased or objective and reflections on how the source can best be used for the task at hand.

Citation Styles

There are no specific instructions for how to create annotated bibliographies in APA citation style. The Chicago style manual indicates that annotations may begin right after the end of a citation or may start on a new line. The MLA style guide does contain a specific style, including creating the bibliography according to standard MLA guidelines and then adding the paragraphs to the end of the citations, without any line breaks. It general, it is best to check with the teacher or professor and ask their specific style preference.

Formatting the Cards

When using note cards, use only one card per source. List the citation information using the preferred citation style on one side of the card, then include the annotations on the remaining space, using the back of the card if necessary. Choose words carefully because there may be limited space, depending on the size of the cards used. To turn in, arrange the cards in alphabetical order by the author's last name.

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About the Author

Anna Tower has a B.A. in history and journalism from Washington & Lee University and a M.A.Ed. from the College of William and Mary. She has been writing since 2003 at various publications, including the "Rockbridge Report," the "Fairfax County Times" and "USA Today." Tower is certified to teach social studies, English and journalism in grades 6-12.