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How to Write an Annotated Bibliography and Examples

Virginia has been a university English instructor for over 20 years. She specializes in helping people write essays faster and easier.

Here's a how-to on writing up an annotated bibliography.

Here's a how-to on writing up an annotated bibliography.

What's Included

Bibliographical Citation: Start with a citation of the source in the format you are using for your paper, ususally MLA, APA or Chicago.

Summary: A short statement of the main ideas of the source in your own words. Don't use quotes or give a lot of details. Just give the main ideas and if you are using this for a research paper, you should focus on the part of the source which will be most helpful in your essay.

Introduction: Sometimes you will be asked to include an introduction to your topic or even a short Exploratory Essay about your topic question.

Annotated Bibliographies:

Evaluate and report on the research you have done for a paper or project. They always include:

1. A bibliographical citation in the correct format for that discipline.

2. A short summary of the source.

They sometimes include:

3. Evaluation of the importance and reliability of the source.

4. How that source can be used in your paper.

Example Student Annotated Bibliographies

The following sample was written as part of a research project evaluating a non-profit organization, Meals on Wheels. To help my students organize their information, I often have them use the headers "Summary, "Response," and "Use in Paper." Your assignment might be different, so be sure to follow the instructions of your teacher and use these samples as a guide. The following examples are taken from my student's essays, but the bibliographical information is fictional.

Student Example #1

Handbook of Families & Poverty. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2008. 144-60. Print.

Summary: Being poor is one of the factors that contributes to senior hunger. Food insecurity can come from not having the money to get the food you need to stay healthy and strong. Poverty often leads to social exclusion and loneliness. When the elderly start becoming alone, the issue of food insecurity and senior hunger gets a lot bigger. As our seniors grow older, they have less and less money and are forced to spend more to get the necessities for them to stay healthy. Also, the accessibility of these items also gets harder. As a combination of both of these reasons, seniors are going hungry. The seniors that are lonely have no one to depend on to help them out or make them that one good meal when they need it.

Moreover, as we age, our bodies require different things to stay healthy and balanced. As seniors, the vitamin intake will need to go up which can be very costly. But, at the same time, they also need to keep eating the nutritious meals they had always eaten. For some, this can be very expensive. Also, as the requirements change in our seniors, they also need more attention and care to help tend to the problems and things they might need. For a senior that is lonely and might not have a family, this is a reason for easily slipping into senior hunger. If there is no one around to help with cooking, getting food, or just talking to, even the small problems can turn into something big. When a small problem becomes big and there is no one there to stop it, it can lead to hunger, malnutrition, and a rapid decay in health. Our seniors need people around them to help watch over them and keep them healthy as a way to combat senior hunger and prevent it.

Response: I think the article explains reasons for poverty in our society today very well. It helps me to understand that there are multiple reasons for the elderly to become poor and not have enough food. I didn’t realize how problems in the economy hurt seniors more than other people. I hadn’t thought about the fact that most seniors don’t have a way to get more income. This article also explains why hunger or food insecurity can result from poverty.

Use in Paper: I am going to use this in my Problem section of the paper to explain the different causes of hunger for the elderly. I will also use this to show that the solution of Meals on Wheels is effective because it solves several of the causes with one solution.

Student Example #2

Jacobs, Jeremy. "What is Meals on Wheels?" Meals & Wheels - Central Texas. Web. 05 Apr. 2014.

Summary: This is the local Meals on Wheels (MOW) site for Waco, Texas. They currently serve over 750 families in the Waco area. To qualify for the program, you must be over 60 years old and not be able to produce a quality meal for yourself that is nutritious or have a dependent that can do it for you. Spouses and dependents of this member also qualify for MOW services. Most of their clients are over 80 and have trouble moving around the house they are in. They tend to be lonely and just in need of someone to talk to every once in a while. To be approved for the program, you go through an interview and a house visit by an employee to see what your condition is. They serve lunch between 10:20 and 12:30. Depending on your situation, they will decide how many days a week to serve you meals.

Response: I think that Meals on Wheels is a valuable organization that helps combat the severe problem of senior hunger. Senior hunger is clearly a big problem, so it is good that there is a group to help take care of this and aid our seniors and help them along. I think the website tells the basic information but I was disappointed that it is not very detailed. It also isn’t very visually appealing and I think it is hard to find information on the website. Especially for seniors looking for help or for their busy family members, I think they need to have a better website that people can get enough information from.

Use in Paper: I will use this as basic information on the local chapter of Meals on Wheels which is part of a national group that is based in many cities around the country. I will also use this in the evaluation section to say how they can improve reaching out into the community and advertising what they do in order to get more volunteers and donations.

Student Example #3

Klein, Julia. "Understanding Senior Hunger." Meals On Wheels Association of America. Web. 09 March. 2013.

Summary: Senior hunger is a huge problem facing our society today. Many people are not aware of the problem so it is hard for them to know how to help. In 2007, there were over 6 million people in the United States who were facing the threat of hunger. Many seniors face at least some form of food insecurity. As part of aging, getting around and having the ability to get to the store becomes more difficult.

Hunger in seniors is not at all correlated to race. This means that the problem can happen to anyone. Also, this is not a problem just to those who are poor. Food insecurity comes from a lack of help from family and friends combined with the inability to take care of yourself. You can have a good income and be far above the poverty line and still be affected by the problem. However, there are many factors that can make a person more prone to being affected by food insecurity. If you are a college dropout, minority, below the poverty line, divorced, or renters it is easier to be affected by this growing problem.

Response: This source really is helpful in understanding the problem. I was impressed at how Meals on Wheels investigates senior hunger and how it is a problem today. Senior hunger is a huge problem that needs to be seen and addressed so that it does not grow.

Use in Paper: I will use the MOW national website as a way to give a background on senior hunger to describe the problem I am writing about. Also, this website gives a more detailed view of what Meals on Wheels does around the country which will help me compare the local Waco MOW with what happens nationally.

Student Example #4

Peterson, Winston, "Food Insecurity in America: Our National Crisis." Poverty Institute Journal. 34.5 (2010): 45-57. Print.

Summary: One in six Americans suffer from food insecurity. There are millions of people who suffer from food insecurity in America overall. The biggest problem with food insecurity is that people aren’t aware of it. Hardly anyone talks about the fact that lots of Americans don't have enough food. The people that are affected by this are often hard-working people and not slackers. Food insecurity with seniors is not about not the result of poor choices or someone who isn't willing to work hard.

Food is the most basic building block of life. Without it, we cannot survive. In America, millions of people go hungry each year. There are more than 35 million Americans that are food insecure today and that number is growing. Being food insecure means that you have either a lack of money or a lack of resources or it can be a combination of the two. Often a lack of money leads to a lack of resources.

Since 2000, more than 11 percent or about 5 million people have experienced some form of food insecurity. Less than one-fifth of these are due to poverty. Many people have the money to get the food but don’t have the ability to go out and get it or actually make the food. Health condition plays a big role in a person going food insecure. With bad health, it doesn’t matter how much money you have if you can't do anything with it. This is where family members come in to help. But, if there is no family or support tree, there is no one to help. The people that are often going hungry today are those seniors that have no support tree to help them when they can no longer help themselves.

Response: This article lays a lot of senior hunger problems and facts out as a way to introduce the problem and then also goes into explaining the causes of senior hunger. I like the way this article gives me some idea of the numbers of people affected by this problem. Because this is a government source, I can consider this information reliable.

Use in Paper: I am going to use the facts in this article in the introduction of my paper to interest the reader in this issue and to help them understand what a big problem it is. I’ll also compare the statistics in this article with the statistics that the national Meals on Wheels website gives to see how effective this program is. How many people does MOW really help? Are they making a dent in senior hunger?

How to Write Research Introduction

An Introduction gives a description of your topic. It may include an exploration of the rhetorical situation around that topic and an exploration of views.

For my student's Research Paper on a Non-profit Organization, I ask them to do a two-part introduction:

  • Non-Profit Organization Overview: a one to two-page overview of the history, goals, philosophy, and work of the charity.
  • Problem Exploratory Essay: a one to two-page description of a problem their non-profit organization is trying to solve. This exploratory essay should include a discussion of the different views on what causes this problem and how it should be solved.

Sample Introduction

Meals on Wheels (MOW) is a national organization with many local chapters all over the nation. They are here to serve those elderly who do not have the ability to make a healthy meal for themselves and don’t have anyone else to make one for them. Today in the United States, there are over 6 million in the seniors facing the threat of hunger.

The first meal was delivered in canteens to British servicemen during World War II. In America, the first Meals on Wheels program was established in Philadelphia in the 1950’s. MOW is the oldest and first nutrition agency to deliver food to the elderly in the United States.

Meals on Wheels runs on four pillars. The fist of the pillars is The National Campaign for Community Impact. This provides grants and other money for Meals o Wheels to help take out meals to the people who need them most. The second pillar is the National Center for Nutrition Leadership. This center empowers leaders in the senior nutrition field with training skills and knowledge. The third pillar is The National Response to Senior Hunger. This helps eradicate senior hunger. Hunger is not limited to one race, geographic area, or income level. The fourth and last pillar is Capacity Building. This allows meals on wheels to improve its internal capabilities.

The goal for MOW is to match the number of seniors facing hunger with the same amount of volunteers in the company. They want to have six million volunteers who are there to serve those facing senior hunger. They have many ways to race public awareness such as ads and March for meals. This is a yearly national march that raises money and raises awareness on the issue. They also have an emergency service in case there was a problem or disaster so that seniors would not go hungry depending on the circumstances. MOW has found ways to even get to rural places and places that might not be easily accessed.


Using Headers

Bold print headers can help you organize your information. Use either:

1. One to two words.

2. Short statements of the main point.

3. Questions

Sample Problem Exploratory

What is senior hunger?

The underlying problem that Meals on Wheels is facing is senior hunger. There is a huge problem that seniors today are not able to feed themselves nutritional meals on a regular basis. Meals on Wheels helps combat this issue by bringing nutritional meals to those seniors that cannot produce these meals for themselves.

How big of a problem is it?

Senior Hunger affects over 6 million people in our society today. There are tons of food organizations, but it is the distribution that is hard. Not everyone can come to a food bank or a place

Senior Hunger affects over 6 million people in our society today. There are tons of food organizations, but it is the distribution that is hard. Not everyone can come to a food bank or a place to pick up food. Many of the elderly are not capable of moving that far on their own and don’t have family members to help them get there. Over 2 million homes in the United States with at least one senior think they are food insecure.

Who is affected?

Senior hunger is not a minority problem. Over two-thirds of those at risk for senior hunger are white. Also, hunger is not confined to the poor. Half of those who go hungry are above the poverty line. Sometimes, it is just the fact that they don’t have access to food rather than not being able to afford the food they need.

What causes Senior Hunger?

A 2008 study shows that younger senior (between ages of 60 and 64) are more at risk for senior hunger. Also, living below the poverty line and being divorced are other ways to be a higher risk of senior hunger. The result of these consequences is that many of the people are in poor health and do not have the necessary energy to get through the day. It is said that by 2025 there will be close to 10 million seniors facing some sort of food insecurity. Also, almost 4 million will be at risk for hunger. Lastly, about 1 million senior Americans will suffer from hunger.

What are the ideas of Solving Senior Hunger?

Some people believe that senior hunger needs to be solved by families being more involved in caring for their elderly relatives. People with this belief would tend to favor solutions which support families keeping their elderly at home, such as adult day care and home health support. Other people suggest that seniors are better off in institutions which provide daily meals and other health support which makes sure they are getting the right nutrition. This viewpoint would favor having more elderly in retirement communities and nursing homes. Another viewpoint, which aligns closer to the MOW philosophy, is that seniors will be better helped if they are able to stay independent but have support through nutritious meals and regular contact with community members to help monitor their needs.


Jill Spencer from United States on July 31, 2014:

Very helpful! If you don't already, you should post your teaching samples on Teachers Pay Teachers!

Dianna Mendez on April 27, 2014:

Another informative article written with excellence!

Harshit Pandey from Varanasi on April 15, 2014:

Very informative and thorough knowledge. Thanks for posting it.