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Annotated Bibliography

In an annotated bibliography a student critically summarises key source materials. The c. 100-150 word annotations give insight into the relevance, accuracy, and quality of sources cited—and often indicate a student’s level of understanding of a source. Students might be provided with an annotated bibliography to support them with an assessment or, more likely, be asked to generate an annotated bibliography in preparation for the development of an assessment. Annotated bibliographies can also be reused later for revision purposes.

Typically used to…. 

  • develop students’ understanding of current research in a particular field.
  • assess students’ capacity to identify and locate key sources in a field of research.
  • evaluate students’ ability to summarise key concepts coherently and concisely (e.g. via tighter word limits).
  • evaluate students’ engagement with scholars/experts in the discipline.
  • assess students’ ability to critique and evaluate arguments, theories or claims made in existing research and to identify existing gaps or weaknesses in the literature.
  • demonstrate and develop students’ information literacy which is a key digital capability.


Key considerations when using annotated bibliographies for an assessment

Annotated bibliographies can be used to develop and showcase students’ engagement with content/research within a particular field or area of study. Annotated bibliographies can support the assessment of referencing, academic writing, and analytic insight. They can be particularly useful when used as an interim assessment or as part of a broader assessment strategy, for example, as a peer-assessed ‘check-in’ contributing to a later high-stakes assessment. When using annotated bibliographies as part of your assessment strategy, keep the following points in mind:

  • What is the purpose of the annotated bibliography? Is it the most appropriate way to assess student learning outcomes in this instance?
  • Are you intending to use the annotated bibliography for formative or summative assessment purposes, or both?
  • What criteria will you use to assess students’ annotated bibliographies? Will you assess based on ‘content’ (e.g. the summary statements for each source), the formatting (e.g. by style guide), criticality (e.g. the level of critique of a source in the summary), or a mixture?
  • Have you provided students with a rubric which reflects your marking criteria? Does the rubric align with the relevant learning outcomes?
  • Have you provided students with clear guidelines on the format and requirements of the annotated bibliography format in your discipline?
    • Do students have a clear understanding of referencing requirements?
    • What format(s) are acceptable? Do students have flexibility and choice in the format adopted. (For example annotated bibliographies can comprise written/audio/video annotations. They may be creating and presented using word-processing software, multimedia tools and/or social bookmarking tools.
  • How many readings will you require students to include in the bibliography?
  • How will students submit their annotated bibliography? For example, will you require students to submit through the VLE Assignments tool or via email? (See suggestions for relevant tools and technologies below.) Will you allow multiple submission attempts or one attempt only? Is the submission process clear to students?
  • Remember that your students may not be familiar with using digital technologies as part of the annotated bibliography writing and submission process. Check what institutional supports and guides are provided for this and share with your students in advance.

One of the key challenges which can often arise when using annotated bibliographies as part of your assessment strategy relates to ensuring and maintaining academic integrity. To minimise threats to academic integrity consider asking students to:

  • submit their work using a plagiarism checker tool such as Turnitin —such tools can easily generate a ‘similarity report’ which may constitute a potential indicator of (accidental) misconduct.
  • submit a ‘draft in progress’ at different points of the semester— this can mitigate binge writing and support learners to create their own work.


Trinity-supported tools:  

Example of an annotated bibliography

Annotated bibliography brief and rubric (681 KB)

Sample annotated bibliography (PDF 109KB)


What's an annotated bibliography?  

This YouTube video from Brock University Library provides a summary of the main components of an annotated bibliography.

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