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Difference Between a Literature Review and Annotated Bibliography


Students Discussing Difference Between Literature Review and Annotated Bibliography

As students enter the research writing world, they have to learn a whole new language about theses, bibliographies, secondary sources, primary sources and other new terms. Some areas that students find confusing are the differences among abstracts, annotated bibliographic entries and literature reviews.

The confusion is understandable as there are many similarities in these aspects of report writing. First of all, abstracts, annotations and literature review all present summaries of sources. Secondly, each summary of a source is short and concise. The main difference is the purpose and way each are presented to the reader.

Literature Reviews

Literature reviews can be full papers, in their own right, or incorporated into a school paper. Their purpose is to review and tie together previously published research to bolster a writer’s own thesis. Also, the literature review then suggests ways to move research forward or identifies gaps in existing literature.

Preparing a Literature Review

Preparing a literature review is an excellent way for students to learn to find and critically evaluate sources. Students need to make sure they find the most current research on a subject, as well. Once you find sources, you will begin to see the same authors writing on a particular topic. This helps you in your search, as you can then start searching by author name. Databases, such as ProQuest and Science Direct, have tools to help you find current information. You should also look for the original research that sparked the current thread of research.

As you prepare your literature review, look for ways to tie your sources together. You may use in-text citations to back up your points.

Annotated Bibliography

An annotated bibliography, like a literature review, can be a section of a research report or stand alone as its own product. Sometimes, teachers will assign annotated bibliographies as a way for students to develop their research and critical evaluation skills.

Unlike a literature review, however, the annotations are formatted in a list. Each source is evaluated on its own, although you may compare and contrast sources in the annotations.

Annotation simply means a note or comment on an item. When you annotate a source, you are making a note or comment on it. Of course, there is more to it than that. Annotations are either a brief summary or an evaluation of the source.


Doerr, John. Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs. New York: Portfolio/Penguin. 2018.

This book is written by Doerr, who is the chair of a venture capitalist group. The book describes how business organizations can use OKRs to drive the focus of a company through agility, which leads to explosive growth. There are first-person, behind the scenes case studies narrated by leaders like Bill Gates and Bono. This book helps guide understanding of business and management strategies that drive the success of large companies.


Although there are many similarities among literature reviews, abstracts and annotated bibliographies, each work has its own purpose within the research paper. While this article focuses on literature reviews and annotated bibliographies, abstracts and annotated bibliographies also have similarities.

Related Articles

Writing APA Abstracts for a Literature Review

Developing an APA Annotated Bibliography


About the author

Adrienne Mathewson

Adrienne Mathewson, Editor-in-Chief of Bibliography.com, is an Information Professional with a Master’s in Library, Information & Science from San José State University with an emphasis on information literacy and scholarly publishing. She is a certified librarian through the State of New Mexico.

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