Citation/Annotation Help

This guide will help you find the resources for MLA, APA, Chicago style bibliographies, footnotes, citations, and more.


Ask your professor or look at your syllabus for detailed instructions on how THEY want you to write an annotated bibliography.  Your professor may have something very specific in mind that is different from these instructions.  Some professors want a summary of the article or book; some want a critique; others may want your reasoning behind including or excluding a title.  You should do what THEY ask you to do.  If in doubt, ask them.

Steps to an Annotated Bibliography

1 - Know your assignment (are you giving a summary or evaluating your sources)?

2 - Think about your annotated bibliography.  What type of resources should you use?  Scholarly/academic only?  Popular sites?    

3 - Start doing the research - read, read, read.  Be picky and find the BEST books, articles, websites, videos, pamphlets, etc.  If you have trouble finding resources, don't forget to look at the bibliographies of the good books and articles you do find.

4 - Save the citations for each resource in the correct format - are you supposed to use Chicago? MLA? APA? Make sure you know how to find each work again and make yourself notes about each article, book and website you look at.  What is memorable? What are the most important points?  Keep the notes WITH the citation. Keep notes on each source - author's background, biases, age of research, main arguments or points in the work.

5 - Make an outline or list of topics you want to cover and write the resource next to it when you find one. Have you found 5 'things' on one point and none on another?  

6 - Ask yourself with each work - 'Why do I want to include THIS work?'  Don't reject too many immediately but possibly start an 'A' file and a 'B' file of resources you think are most relevant. As you read, think about whether or not the information is reliable, biased, objective, outdated or current.   Is this resource helpful for your topic?

7 - Write out the strengths and weaknesses of the resource or the arguments made.  

8 - Think about your reaction or response to the work - did you agree, disagree?  Did you think they skipped important works?  Did they bring in some new resources nobody else had mentioned?  Did reading this work change your mind or increase your knowledge or conviction of beliefs?  

One reason to do research is to engage with the topic.  Learn what others think and have written.  Who are the important authors?  What are the main points of agreement and argument?  Do you see gaps in the literature that YOU may want to investigate?  Start getting involved in the 'conversation' on the topic even if it is between you and your professor.  This skill is important in any line of work.  Become knowledgeable, open to learning and then think and evolve with what you read, hear and see.  Your arguments will be stronger if based on knowledge.


What is an annotation? It is a one-paragraph assessment of a work that provides both a brief summary and a critical response.

Kiarostami, Abbas. Taste of Cherry. Abbas Kiarostami Productions. Iran, 1997.

A middle-aged man who's contemplating suicide drives around the hilly, dusty outskirts of Tehran trying to find someone who will bury him if he succeeds and retrieve him if he fails. This minimalist yet powerful and life-enhancing 1997 feature by Abbas Kiarostami (Where Is the Friend's House?, Life and Nothing More, Through the Olive Trees) never explains why the man wants to end his life, yet every moment in his daylong odyssey carries a great deal of poignancy and philosophical weight. Kiarostami, one of the great filmmakers of our time, is a master at filming landscapes and constructing parablelike narratives whose missing pieces solicit the viewer's active imagination. Taste of Cherry actually says a great deal about what it's like to be alive in the 1990s, and despite its somber theme, this masterpiece has a startling epilogue that radiates with wonder and euphoria.

Rosenbaum, Jonathon. Rev. of Taste of Cherry. Dir. Abbas Kiarostami.Chicago Reader.26 April 2001.

Notice first of all how Rosenbaum summarizes the film. In the first and second sentences the basic plot and idea of the film is sketched out.We don't need to know everything that happens to the man who wants to kill himself, just the essential information (and the information is highly interesting).

Second, Rosenbaum provides a critical assessment of first the film and then the filmmaker, and even suggests the ways in which the film has something to say about our own lives.About the film he uses the descriptive and judgmental terms "minimalist", "powerful", "life-enhancing", "poignancy", and "philosophical weight", "wonder", and "euphoria". He calls Kiarostami "one of the great filmmakers of our time" and "a master". The last sentence tells us that viewing this film will help us understand "what it's like to be alive in the 1990s".

In just 140 words, Rosenbaum manages to convey not only what the film is about but also what he thinks of it, both in concrete terms. These two things together allow us, who perhaps have not seen this film, to get a good sense of both the film and of Rosenbaum's thinking. When we see it for ourselves we can then compare what we think to what Rosenbaum has written.

This is what all researchers do when they examine books, articles, webpages, and other sources.

What is an Annotated Bibliography?

Depending upon your assignment, an annotated bibliography may consist of a bibliography (list of works normally used to create a paper in a particular citation format) and an annotation, which can be a summary of the work or a critique of the work.  So make sure you know the instructions YOUR professor has given for this particular assignment.  These are two completely different types of annotated bibliographies and there are other variations!