APA style 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 citation matches a reference list entry.
Starting the APA Annotated Bibliography
Your instructor may ask you to develop an annotated bibliography in APA 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.
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
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.
This example includes properly cited in-text quotes from within the paper to validate the research.
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.