What Is a Preliminary Annotated Reference List?

A preliminary annotated reference list is more commonly called an annotated bibliography. An annotated bibliography has two purposes: it provides a reference for you when writing a paper, and it shows the person reading your paper what references you chose and why you chose them. Completing a preliminary annotated reference list is an important first step for any research paper.


The key features of a preliminary annotated reference list are detailed references and annotation.

For each reference you choose to include in your paper, make sure to include the name of the publication, the author, the date of publication, and, if applicable, the title of the article. This is the reference.

Annotation is the information you provide about the reference. Usually this means you are summarizing the information contained within the reference. The summary is commonly followed by your reason for choosing this reference.


A preliminary annotated reference list is for you and for the person evaluating your work.

Often, a teacher or professor will ask for an annotated reference list before your paper is due in order to assess your research. It will tell the teacher or professor if you're on the right track, and if you aren't, it will indicate how he should help you.

An annotated reference list can also help you wade through piles of research to decide what you really need in order to complete your paper. It can also help bring together all your ideas in a central location so that your thesis can start to emerge.

The Facts

Before writing your annotated reference list you should read from your references. Ideally, a student should read everything within the article or book she is using, but this can be very time consuming. In lieu of this, a student can read a portion of the reference. Taking information off of the book jacket or an article summary is not sufficient. If you are using a book, open to a relevant chapter and read that chapter. If you are using an article, read the whole article. Make sure you gain information relevant to your paper that you can use in your annotated reference list.


There are two concerns with annotated reference lists: plagiarism and irrelevant references.

Anything you write is subject to the prohibition of plagiarism. This includes an annotation for a reference. Do not copy and paste from book reviews and article summaries. If you turn direct copies of texts in to your teacher or professor you will have committed plagiarism. Even though an annotated reference list is not a paper it should still be your work and your work alone.

Do not include references that you could not use in your paper. If the reference is from the wrong field or simply doesn't apply to the topic at hand, you should not include it. The temptation to "pad' your references may be there, but in the end it will only irritate your teacher or professor and cost you time.

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