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Annotated Bibliography Rubric Assess Reflect

Annotated Bibliography Example


This handout provides information about annotated bibliographies in MLA, APA, and CMS.

Contributors: Geoff Stacks, Erin Karper, Dana Bisignani, Allen Brizee
Last Edited: 2018-02-09 12:16:53

Stem Cell Research: An Annotated Bibliography

Holland, Suzanne. The Human Embryonic Stem Cell Debate: Science, Ethics, and Public Policy. Boston: MIT P, 2001.

This is the annotation of the above source, which is formatted according to MLA 2016 (8th ed.) guidelines for the bibliographic information listed above. If one were really writing an annotation for this source, one would offer a brief summary of what this book says about stem cell research.

After a brief summary, it would be appropriate to assess this source and offer some criticisms of it. Does it seem like a reliable and current source? Why? Is the research biased or objective? Are the facts well documented? Who is the author? Is she qualified in this subject? Is this source scholarly, popular, some of both?

The length of your annotation will depend on the assignment or on the purpose of your annotated bibliography. After summarizing and assessing, you can now reflect on this source. How does it fit into your research? Is this a helpful resource? Too scholarly? Not scholarly enough? Too general/specific? Since "stem cell research" is a very broad topic, has this source helped you to narrow your topic?

Senior, K. "Extending the Ethical Boundaries of Stem Cell Research." Trends in Molecular Medicine, vol. 7, 2001, pp. 5-6.

Not all annotations have to be the same length. For example, this source is a very short scholarly article. It may only take a sentence or two to summarize. Even if you are using a book, you should only focus on the sections that relate to your topic.

Not all annotated bibliographies assess and reflect; some merely summarize. That may not be the most helpful for you, but, if this is an assignment, you should always ask your instructor for specific guidelines.

Wallace, Kelly. "Bush Stands Pat on Stem Cell Policy." CNN. 13 Aug. 2001.

Using a variety of sources can help give you a broader picture of what is being said about your topic. You may want to investigate how scholarly sources are treating this topic differently than more popular sources. But again, if your assignment is to only use scholarly sources, then you will probably want to avoid magazines and popular web sites.

The bibliographic information above is proper MLA format (use whatever style is appropriate in your field) and the annotations are in paragraph form. Note also that the entries are alphabetized by the first word in the bibliographic entry. If you are writing an annotated bibliography with many sources, it may be helpful to divide the sources into categories. For example, if putting together an extensive annotated bibliography for stem cell research, it might be best to divide the sources into categories such as ethical concerns, scholarly analyses, and political ramifications.

For more examples, a quick search at a library or even on the Internet should produce several examples of annotated bibliographies in your area.

Teaching the Annotated Bibliography

While the annotated bibliography is a common assignment in higher education, it should not be assumed that students will come to your classroom ready and able to find high quality sources, summarize the content, or to critically evaluate the chosen sources in a scholarly fashion. The fact is, they may need guidance and support in those skills in order to compose a quality annotated bibliography. How would you do that? Read on!

The Andrew L. Bouwhuis Library is a wonderful source for both citing and teaching the annotated bibliography. Use this site and make sure you send students here. Need someone to come in to review any of this information?

Planning for Success

  • Reflect on why you are assigning this. What do you want them to get out of this work and what course goals and objectives does the annotated bibliography help them to meet? Is it important for them to prove some information literacy skills? Do you know how many sources you want them to minimally include? Are you particular about the ages of the sources or the length? Make a solid plan including the following:
  • What are the assignment particulars in terms of length, number of sources, etc.? If you use a rubric, you may choose to have the quality and quantity included in the rubric so students can aim their grade where they want to be!
  • What citation style do you require? Consult your department for more information if necessary.
  • What style of bibliography do you want them to compose?
  • How do you want them to organize this information?

Styles of Annotated Bibliographies

Summary/Descriptive/ Informative Annotations

These sum up the content of the source, give an overview of the arguments in the work and note the results, they are objective and do not judge the worth of the source, and they may describe the author's methodology. 

Critical/Evaluative Annotations

In addition to summarizing, these evaluate the source and/or author by noting any biases, lack of evidence, etc. They may show how a source may be useful to an area of study, or not useful due to limitations, and they may even contain a bit of how how the material may or may not inform a study. 

Combination Annotations

These include aspects of the other types; they include summarizing, describing, and evaluation.

Writing Style and Organization


This style is succinct. Think few words and a minimalist style for the information and sentence structure. Remember, for some students this may be quite difficult!


This is a more in-depth treatment of the sources and will require a fully developed paragraph for each source. This is usually used with the evaluative or combination styles of bibliographies.

So, How Do You TEACH This?

Choosing a Topic

Whenever possible, allow for choice. Even if you are teaching a specialized course, for example educational psychology or chemistry, you can still allow students a number of choices for the annotated bibliographies. Helping them to discover an area of interest, by helping them see how the topic may fit into their life or future career, can go far in the successful bibliography. So, begin with a brainstorming session on the overall topic. Help them, through the use of the course text or other resources, to narrow their topic a bit and find an area of interest. Consider having students investigate or freely choose a topic BEFORE they know they will be completing an annotated bibliography. That way they may be more likely to choose an area of interest.

Teach Them What it is

Use this link in your class or assign it as a homework review. You can embed this in an ANGEL course too!

Use this link for added help on the Andrew L. Bouwhuis Library web site.

NOTE: Check with your department Chair and make sure students are aware of which citation style they should use (ie. APA, MLA, etc.).

Review Information Literacy and How to Choose Quality Sources

Again, the Andrew L. Bouwhuis Library web site has some great information and links for learning how to critically analyze a source. Click here!

Share and Critique Examples

Students will need to see samples of this type of writing as they may have never encountered an annotated bibliography either as an assignment, or as a reader.

Teaching Tip!

The OWL at Purdue has a page dedicated to examples and samples.

Review Citation Style

Again, the OWL at Purdue is a wonderful source for citing information, as is our own Library.

Tips for Teaching Citing

  • Make sure students are clear on what style you or your department are using.
  • Conduct mini-lessons on citing. Students tend to absorb how to cite properly in small chunks and with a lot of practice!
  • Allow students to practice after you teach a citing style. Have an "entrance ticket" activity where students are given jumbled information on a source and have to organize it into a proper citation. Please be ready for few, if any, of them to get this 100% right the first time.
  • Ask students to create a proper citation in a smaller paper, online discussion, etc., to practice.
  • Model citing in your own work: PowerPoints, notes, online discussion, etc.
  • Have students turn in a draft of the assignment, with references in place, for an early check.
  • Have students peer revise and edit, checking for proper citing and plagiarism issues.
  • Use Turnitin.com as a teaching tool. Have students turn their papers into TII, and revise as needed, before final copies are submitted to you.
  • Create activities, such as the one below, to help students practice. This was done in Softchalk and can easily be placed in ANGEL




Use the Writing Process to Help Students Succeed

Click here and consider this!

  • Research supports the use of process writing in order to get the best possible product (See References below).
  • Many students are not yet aware of howTHEY best use the writing process to successfully complete a major writing assignment. Teach the writing process and give them time, and credit, for using it to write.
  • Allowing students a risk-free way to revise and edit can go far in any class. When you set up the major writing assignment, set up check-in dates for the rough draft, a peer revision, etc, and offer partial credit along the way.

NOTE: If you need help developing rubrics or peer revision guidelines for these stages, the FacTS Center and the CTE are here to help!

  • Consider such strategies during revision as "read aloud" days where students find a quiet spot, or meet with a peer, and simply read loud, listening for awkward phrasing, repetitive sentences, etc.
  • When checking drafts, be sure to allow for some errors in formatting. Give students 2-3 writing goals for each stage.

As always, if you would like some instructional ideas, a colleague to brainstorm with, or some help using technology (such as a rubric-maker) to facilitate the teaching or assessing of the annotated bibliography, we are here to help! Just call the FacTS Center or the Center for Teaching Excellence for additional support.


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