APA Annotated Bibliography Format

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The American Psychological Association states that your instructor should set the guidelines for your annotated bibliography, but does ask that the list be formatted according to their standard reference page rules (see Section 9.51 of the Publication Manual). Since there are no set rules for creating one, you may be wondering how to create an annotated APA bibliography. If your teacher or professor requests one, don’t worry, here are our recommendations:

  • Make sure you create your references according to APA’s guidelines. If you need some help, here’s a great APA citation website, which shows how to create references for electronic sources. We also have a page on developing a reference for an APA journal. Need other source types? Check out the other helpful pages on EasyBib.com.
  • Annotations should be kept short and are usually not more than one paragraph.
  • For more information on writing an annotation, visit the general annotated bibliography guide.

Here’s a run-through of everything this page includes:

Quick APA formatting guidelines:

  • Use 1-inch page margins on all sides.
  • The entire page should be double-spaced.
  • Title your page, “Annotated Bibliography”. Center and bold it.
  • Left-align references. If a reference runs over more than one line, any line(s) that comes after the first should be indented a ½ inch from the left margin.
  • Organize your references alphabetically by the first word in the reference. (See further details in this APA Reference Page guide).
  • Add the annotations on the line right after their corresponding reference.
  • Indent annotations ½ inch from the left margin.
  • Include a page number in the upper right corner; if this is a professional paper, it should be a running head.

For an annotated bibliography APA example, we’re using the same description as above. The only thing we’re going to change is the structure of the reference. For an APA bibliography, the reference needs to be an APA citation, and the description can be formed the same way as above.

Annotation example

Here’s what the APA book citation for The Elements of Eloquence: Secrets of the Perfect Turn of Phrase looks like:

Forsyth, M. (2014). The elements of eloquence: Secrets of the perfect turn of phrase. Penguin Books.

The author, Mark Forsyth, examines the rhetorical devices used in the English language, analyzing the patterns and formats that create memorable quotes. He traces the history of rhetoric to the Ancient Greeks, and provides an abridged timeline, following their use and evolution through to modern day. The author also explores the broader subject of persuasion and maps out the role that the figures of rhetoric play in it. In all, he examines over thirty devices, dissecting notable passages and phrases from pop music, the plays of William Shakespeare, the Bible, and more to explore the figures of rhetoric at work within each of them. Thorough definitions accompany this examination of structure to demonstrate how these formulas have been used to generate famously memorable expressions as well as how to reproduce their effects.

Visual example

Here is a visual annotated bibliography example APA using the entry above:

Using the EasyBib annotation tool

The EasyBib citation generator has an annotation tool that can help you easily add your annotation to a citation.

    1. To do this, begin creating a citation in the EasyBib citation generator. Already have a citation on EasyBib.com? Go to the citation, open your citation options and select “Edit citation.”
    2. Once you get to the citation form (where you review found information), scroll to the bottom until you see the sections “More options.”
    3. Under that section, click on the “Add annotation” link to open the annotation box.
    4. Copy and paste your annotation into the box.
    5. Complete your citation.
    6. Your annotation will automatically be included and formatted with your citation. You can copy and paste directly into your paper!

Annotated bibliography tool

Again, even though the APA style does not support the creation of bibliographies that include annotations, many schools and professors expect their students to include summaries or commentary alongside their citations in APA style.


Troubleshooting

Solution #1: How to write an annotation

Annotations are brief paragraph summaries of your source and may include details about how you plan to use the information in your paper, or the quality of information in your source. Take these steps:

  1. Read through the source.
  2. Consider these points:
    • Identify the main thesis theme of the source then consider how you would summarize the article and its purpose in one sentence.
    • Evaluate the source. Is the author(s) qualified? Is the source and its arguments credible? Well-written? Why or why not?
    • How does the source relate to your paper?
  3. Write your annotation based on the above steps. Choose only the points that would most help you or your reader gain an understanding of the source and its significance.

Here are writing tips:

  1. Avoid describing every event, statistic, or detail that occurs in your source.
  2. Focus on details that are relevant to your topic or your paper. Help the reader understand why the source was selected and is importance.
  3. Think about how the information impacts your perspective, how it contributes to your topic, and the effect on your overall paper.

Annotated paragraph example:

The author, Mark Forsyth, examines the rhetorical devices used in the English language, analyzing the patterns and formats that create memorable quotes. He traces the history of rhetoric to the Ancient Greeks, and provides an abridged timeline, following their use and evolution through to modern day. The author also explores the broader subject of persuasion and maps out the role that the figures of rhetoric play in it. In all, he examines over thirty devices, dissecting notable passages and phrases from pop music, the plays of William Shakespeare, the Bible, and more to explore the figures of rhetoric at work within each of them. Thorough definitions accompany this examination of structure to demonstrate how these formulas have been used to generate famously memorable expressions as well as how to reproduce their effects.

Solution #2: How to correctly format an annotation with multiple paragraphs

  1. Indent the entire annotated paragraph at ½ of an inch. When done correctly, the left edge of the annotated paragraph will look entirely straight, as in the first example below.
  2. If there are multiple paragraphs, follow step one but use a second 0.5-inch indention on the second and following paragraphs.
  3. Avoid indenting the paragraph at 0.5 inch like a regular essay paragraph, as shown in the third example.

Single annotated paragraph example:

The author, Mark Forsyth, examines the rhetorical devices used in the English language, analyzing the patterns and formats that create memorable quotes. He traces the history of rhetoric to the Ancient Greeks, and provides an abridged timeline, following their use and evolution through to modern day. The author also explores the broader subject of persuasion and maps out the role that the figures of rhetoric play in it. In all, he examines over thirty devices, dissecting notable passages and phrases from pop music, the plays of William Shakespeare, the Bible, and more to explore the figures of rhetoric at work within each of them. Thorough definitions accompany this examination of structure to demonstrate how these formulas have been used to generate famously memorable expressions as well as how to reproduce their effects.

Multiple annotated paragraphs example:

In his novel, “A True Story of John Doe,” Samuel Smith outlines his life through the eyes of a fictional character. His recollection outlines the immigrant experience and demonstrates how modern life in England came to be.

          Chapters two and three outline the novelty of moving to a new location by describing the eventual progression to culture shock. Smith describes life as beautiful and wonderous in chapter two by emphasizing sensory experiences. However, in chapter three, he slowly gains awareness of the differences between his current and previous lives and of how the locals treat him. Smith nullifies the sensory experiences and, instead, focuses on the depth of the human emotion. I intend to use this source to compare to my own experience as an immigrant.


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How do I create an annotated APA bibliography?

To create an annotated APA bibliography, follow the below recommendations:

  • Order your reference entries in alphabetical order similar to how you would order entries in the reference list.
  • If you want to add an annotation to an entry, add it as a new paragraph below the reference entry. The entire annotation is indented 0.5 inches from the left margin.

For example:

Lim, L. (2014). Ideology, rationality and reproduction in education: A critical discourse analysis. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 35(1), 61–76. https://doi.org/10.1080/01596306.2012.739467
Lim focuses on issues of power and ideology dominant in curricular discourses of rationality to study a discourse analysis of the goals of one of the most important curricula in the teaching of thinking. He proves that political and class commitments are reproduced in the forms of thinking that are valued in societies. Through his research, Lim asserts that such curricula engage in creating our understanding of what thinking and rationality are.

How do I format an annotated bibliography in APA?

To format an annotated bibliography in APA, follow the recommendations given below:

  • Set the left, right, top, and bottom margins as 1 inch.
  • Use double-line spacing.
  • Title the page “Annotated Bibliography.” Set it in bold.
  • The title should be aligned to the center of the page.
  • As you format reference entries, left-align all references in the annotated bibliography section. If any entry runs over more than a line, indent the subsequent lines 0.5 inches from the left margin.
  • Arrange all reference entries alphabetically according to the surname of the authors.
  • Provide your annotations below the reference entry for which you want to give your annotation. Indent annotations 0.5 inches from the left margin.