Writing an annotated bibliography is common to university students. Professors will test student’s ability to research different sources and create a brief account of each source. Depending on the lecturer’s demands, the bibliography can be a single assignment or part of a bigger project. You may need to evaluate research sources or analyze them with supporting arguments.

A Chicago annotated bibliography includes your citations and an annotation summarizing or evaluating each source. The citation includes a descriptive and evaluative paragraph about the source. Descriptive paragraphs should be brief, usually about 150 words. You use an annotated bibliography to inform the reader of the source's accuracy, quality, and relevancy.

This article will help you write an annotated bibliography in Chicago Style. You will find a sample and format of a Chicago annotated bibliography to get a clear picture of creating the annotations.

What is an annotated bibliography?

A bibliography describes a list of books, journals, periodicals, websites, documents, or articles used for researching a topic. It is also called a reference list or works cited page, depending on the format you are using. It usually includes bibliographic information such as the author, title, and publisher.

Compared to an abstract, annotated bibliographies are descriptive and critical. You use it to describe the author’s point of view you and appropriateness of expression. The comments under these books are annotations since they describe the sources cited in your paper.

An annotation refers to summarizing, evaluating, or reflecting on each resource you used in researching a topic. Some annotations will only summarize the source. They will provide the principal arguments in the book or title and the topics covered. If anyone asks what the article or a book is about, they get the answers from the annotations. The length of this annotation will determine the details of the summary.

After summarizing the source, you may also need to evaluate it. You explain whether the source is useful. You can compare the book with other sources in your bibliography. You also explain whether the information is reliable, biased, or aim. Explain the goal of using resources in your bibliography.

The third aspect of writing an annotated bibliography is to reflect. When required by the instructor, show how the source fits into your research. For example, reflect on whether it is helpful to you and how it will help you shape your argument in the paper. Consider how you will use this source in your project and how it changes your thinking about the topic.

How to format an annotated bibliography in Chicago style

Setting up an annotated bibliography is simple. However, it also demands a set of intellectual skills such as concise exposition and library research. The important thing about writing an annotated bibliography is to know what to include and the format needed.

When formatting an annotated bibliography, focus on the structure. The bibliography comprises the citation and annotation.

The citation

You start by formatting the citation in the Chicago Style. Locate and record citation books, documents, and periodicals that contain useful information on the topic. Examine and evaluate these items, then choose the work that provides different perspectives on your topic.

Once you have the sources, cite them using the Chicago Style. Chicago-style citations come in two varieties. You can use the notes and bibliography system or go with the author-date approach.

The notes and bibliography system is common in humanities, such as literature, history, and arts. When using this system, you cite the sources in numbered footnotes or endnotes. Each note must correspond to a raised number in the text. Therefore, you use footnotes for in-text citations with a bibliography at the end.

The author-date approach applies in sciences and social sciences. This system entails citing the sources briefly in the text, usually in parentheses. You use the author’s last name and year of publication for in-text citations and a reference list at the end. Ensure you cite and document every source in the footnotes and the bibliography at the end of your paper.

When writing the Chicago-style annotated bibliography, ensure the author-date or notes-bibliography format stays the same. You will only need to include an annotation of the source used. You'll find footnotes at the bottom of a page, while endnotes just before the bibliography at the end of the paper.

You must cite your sources in both notes and bibliography. For student papers, you must double-space the body of your paper, with the footnotes or endnotes remaining single-spaced. The bibliography follows the same spacing. Every page must have a page number, including a blank page, appendix, and bibliography.

The annotation

After citing the source you used in a paper, format the annotation. Write a concise annotation of the book, article, or document, summarizing its central theme and scope. The annotations come in two varieties: an evaluation or summary of the source. It should reflect your research project and the guidelines of your assignment.

In the annotation, evaluate the authority of the author and his background. Also, compare and contrast the other work with another while explaining how this source illuminates your topic. Some annotations may have all three steps. This means it will summarize the source, evaluate it, and reflect on the source’s use for the project at hand.

In most cases, an annotation ranges between 100 and 300 words. It is like one brief paragraph describing the source material. You must follow the instructor's directions when writing an annotation. The instructor will dictate how much information you will include and the type of annotation you’ll write.

Sometimes you may need to provide a different lens depending on your professors’ expectations. The annotation may summarize the author’s project in the book, covering the key points of the work. In the second paragraph, you can evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the project and its presentation.

Other annotations to your bibliography don’t need to reflect on the source’s importance or usefulness to your research.

An annotation includes several items:

  • First, summarize the source. It can be a book journal or webpage
  • Explain the strengths and weaknesses of your source
  • Describe why the source is relevant in your field of study
  • Elaborate the relationship between the source and other studies in the field
  • Evaluate the research methodology in your source
  • Provide information about the author’s background
  • Give your personal view of the source

When annotating your sources such as a book, article, or document, indent all your text. Ensure you indent every text in the annotation after the citation. Only the author's name starts from the far left.

Example of an entry in an annotated bibliography in Chicago style


Davidson, Hilda Ellis. Roles of the Northern Goddess. London: Routledge, 1998.

Davidson's book provides a thorough examination of Northern Europe's major roles associated with several pagan goddesses. Some roles in everyday life include agriculture, hunting, domestic art like weaving, and death. In this book, the author discusses relevant archaeological evidence, previous research, and patterns of rituals and symbols. The book includes several photographs of relevant artifacts.

This Chicago-style annotation is a single paragraph summarizing the book. It is a concise description of the project and its major features. The annotations you include in a bibliography should reflect your research project. If the professor has some guidelines regarding the assignment, you must include them in the annotations.

Important factors to consider

Professors will require a student to write an annotated bibliography to prepare for a research project. Collecting sources for a bibliography is useful to the student and the instructor. You must read each source carefully before writing an annotation. At a professional level, annotated bibliographies allow you to read more critically instead of just collecting information. It helps you get a good perspective of the topic.

Before writing an annotated bibliography, you must read widely and respond to various sources on a topic. It allows you to get an in-depth knowledge of the issues and arguments about a topic. It also allows you to develop your point of view.

Another importance of writing an annotated bibliography is to help other researchers. This bibliography provides a comprehensive overview of all the important things said about the topic. You can publish it to help other researchers learn more about your topic.

Therefore, the annotations vary depending on the purpose of your bibliography. For example, some annotations summarize the source while others may evaluate it. In other annotations, you may need to reflect on using the source for the project at hand. You can also include all the three elements, where you summarize, evaluate the text, and reflect on its applicability to your research.

When formatting an annotated bibliography, start by knowing what it is. The course instructor looks for several factors in an annotated bibliography. For example, they assess whether the student has an in-depth understanding of the material included.

Bottom line

An annotated bibliography format can vary depending on the professor’s instruction. Start by providing the bibliographic information of the source. It includes the title, the author, publisher, and the date of the book or article.

After that, you write the annotation for each source in paragraph forms. The length of this annotation varies significantly from a couple of sentences to several paragraphs. If you summarize your sources, the annotation will be shorter than evaluating the source.

Frequently Asked Questions about annotated bibliographies in Chicago style

🍎 How do you write an annotated bibliography in Chicago style?

You'll need to give a brief overview of each literature piece included in the bibliography, providing a few different perspectives on your topic. Try to find evidence for and against it and discuss it in detail. When formatting an annotated bibliography, focus on the structure. The bibliography comprises the citation and annotation.

😊 What are the 3 parts of an annotated bibliography?

Your annotated bibliography will need to include a citation, an overview of the methods and findings, and an evaluation of the work. These three parts need to be present for every source you want to discuss.

🤼 Is there a bibliography in Chicago style?

The Chicago style has two systems: the author-date system and the notes and bibliography system. In the author-date system, you must include a reference list. In the notes and bibliography system, you cite in footnotes. A bibliography is optional but recommended.

🎽 How do you start an annotated bibliography?

You start an annotated bibliography by formatting the citation, and then the annotation. In the annotation, evaluate the authority of the author and his background. Also, compare and contrast the other work with another while explaining how this source illuminates your topic.

📌 Do you have to in-text cite in an annotated bibliography?

You only need to include in-text citations if you refer to a separate work from the one cited in the annotation. In general, you will only make use of full citations in annotated bibliographies.


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