Learn and Generate Bibliographies, Citations, and Works Cited

APA Annotated Bibliography Guide With Examples


APA citation uses an author-date reference list rather than a bibliography format to cite research sources. A reference list, unlike a bibliography, includes only those sources you cited within your school research paper. Each in-text APA 6 citation matches a reference list entry.

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Starting the APA Annotated Bibliography

Your instructor may ask you to develop an annotated bibliography in APA 6 style. An annotated bibliography may be created as its own paper, rather than attached to the end of a research paper. This type of bibliography is a good way to practice your research skills. Similar to writing a research paper, you will find a topic to research, then look for sources on that subject.

Narrowing the Subject Focus

Developing an annotated bibliography gives a wider scope to your research as you are reviewing sources for current or future research. It also helps you narrow your focus. For example, if you decide to write a school paper on abnormal psychology, you may find that is too broad of a subject. You can then narrow the focus until you find the exact subject matter you want to pursue in your research. For example, narrow the larger subject of abnormal psychology to the medical theory and then how Hippocrates‘ ideas contributed to the development of that theory.

Depending on the type of paper you are writing, (like a literature review, critical analysis and so forth), you can find the right sources and narrow your search to a manageable subject.

Now that you understand the concept of an annotated bibliography, we will talk about specifics.

Finding Sources

When preparing an APA annotated bibliography, it is good to have a variety of primary and secondary sources. It is easy to go online and find content from websites, online newspapers and magazines. But, you need to focus on authoritative sources, such as government or educational websites, and scholarly journals and books. Stop by your school or local library and ask the reference librarian — they are there to help you.

Creating an Annotated Bibliography Entry

Students creating APA Annotated Bibliography on computer in class

Formatting an annotated bibliography entry is the same as in an APA reference list. You will use the same author-date style and place the elements in the same order. However, you will then add a few sentences after the citation format to explain the material in the source.

As you may include entries for sources that will not be used in a later research paper, you may include a short sentence explaining the value to your paper. For example, you may consult a source and find out it does not meet your research needs. Add a sentence explaining why this is so. This shows your instructor that you understand how to evaluate sources.

Although your instructor may provide guidelines, you should expect to evaluate the following aspects of each source:

  • Authority of source
  • Overview of information in source
  • Value to your research

The length of your bibliographic entry depends on your instructor’s guidelines.


This example provides an overview of the article, and evaluates the length and authority of the authors.

McElroy, K., & Bridges, L. M. (2015). Access to information is (not) a universal right in higher education: Librarian ethics and advocacy. International Review of Information Ethics. (23), 35-46. Retrieved from http://library.oregonstate.edu/McElroyKellyLibraryAccessInformationNot.pdf

In accordance with the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) Code of Ethics for Librarians and Other Information Workers, access to information is a fundamental human right.  Within a global context, this paper compares 16 countries, including the United States, highlighting barriers to achieving the basic right of equitable access to information. Published in 2015, the paper reveals stark differences in developing countries in terms of costs of access to information in higher education, scholarly publishing costs, and language. This article is short but provides a brief overview of global barriers to information access despite the declared fundamental human right to such access. The authors cited few references. Both authors are associate professors at Oregon State University.

This example includes properly cited in-text quotes from within the paper to validate the research.

Real, B., McDermott, A. J., Bertot, J. C., & Jaeger, P. T. (2015). Digital inclusion and the Affordable Care Act: Public libraries, politics, policy, and enrollment in “Obamacare”. Public Library Quarterly, 34(1), 1-22.

This article continues to build on research that indicates libraries are expected to bear the burden of providing access to government agencies. After the Affordable Care Act was signed into law, its reliance on a web-based enrollment system meant that libraries had to provide both assistance and access to patrons. The article discusses the ethics of forcing people to sign up for a mandatory government service and then making it difficult for those who have neither access nor the technological knowledge to navigate the electronic enrollment system stating, “Public libraries were expected to embrace an enormous new burden to inform and help enroll millions of uninsured people in a new online government program-on top of their already extensive digital literacy and digital inclusion activities-without receiving additional funding.” (Real, McDermott et.al, 2015, p. 8) To complicate matters further, the politically charged atmosphere around ACA put libraries in in the crossfire between proponents and opponents of the act. This article is particularly valuable in terms of statistics, references, and a thorough discussion of the complexities of this issue.

Organizing the Final Paper

An APA annotated bibliography is organized in the same manner as the reference list. Alphabetize using the letter by letter system by the author’s last name.

Depending on your teacher’s instructions, you may develop an APA annotated bibliography as a separate assignment or include it at the end of your school paper. You may also be required to create a reference list of the actual sources you used in your paper. Remember to gather as much information about your sources as you can to make it easy to format the elements in your APA style school project and follow your instructor’s guidelines.

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