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Annotated Bibliographies and Literature Reviews

This guide is intended for students who are seeking help on writing annotated bibliographies and literature review

Difference Between a Literature Review and an Annotated Bibliography

Literature Review

A literature review should not be confused with an annotated bibliography. A literature review is not simply a summary of information you have found on a topic. Literature reviews are more in depth and provides analysis of multiple works relating to a research question. An annotated bibliography is a list of the resources, that you consulted when working on a research project. Each citation is accompanied by a brief written analysis of its usefulness to your research.


Courtesy of Washington University Library

“Library Guides: Annotated Bibliographies: Overview.” Overview - Annotated Bibliographies - Library Guides at University of Washington Libraries,

Purdue Owl Annotated Bibliographies

Purdue Owl Annotated Bibliography Information

Annotated Bibliography Breakdown

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.