Sbl Annotated Bibliography

Writing an Annotated Bibliography

What is an annotated bibliography?

This is an organized list of sources (references cited), such as books, journals, newspapers, magazines, Web Pages, etc., each of which is followed by an annotation or description of each item. 

"Writing Annotated Bibliographies" by Allison Ikeda

Annotated bibliographies provide basic bibliographical information in a standard style of documentation, as in a regular bibliography or works cited page; the only difference is that each citation is annotated with a brief statement about the text. This statement can range in length from a sentence or two to a full paragraph, but it always contains a description or summary of the text, and it often includes an assessment of its use, value, and/or significance. 

The standard documentation style such as MLA, APA, or Chicago’s most often set by your field, so check with your department to find out which one you should use. The purpose of the annotations determines their length and focus. Some assignments specify what kind of information needs to be provided, as well as how long and detailed the statements should be. However, if you are not given explicit directions about purpose and detail, consider the following:


For whom is this text intended?


What could this information be used for?


Why is this text important? What does or could it add to discussions in your field?


Does this text offer a particularly intelligent and complex argument, a useful update to earlier editions, or an exceptionally clear, detailed, or comprehensive treatment of its subject? Why or why not?


Is this an original source, an accurate testimony, a well-researched and logical argument, etc.?


Does this text use or is it influenced by particular theory? What are its underlying assumptions? What methodology does it use?

You can’t, and probably shouldn’t, take all of these things into consideration for each statement, but the above list can give you a better idea of how the purpose of the annotated bibliography as a whole will structure each individual citation.

Annotations may consist of all or part of the following list of items, depending on the purpose of the bibliography:

  • describe the content (focus) of the item
  • describe the usefulness of the item
  • discuss any limitations that the item may have, e.g. grade level, timeliness etc.
  • describe what audience the item is intended for
  • evaluate the methods (research) used in the item
  • evaluate the reliability of the item
  • discuss the author’s background
  • discuss any conclusions the author(s) may have made
  • describe your reaction to the item  

What is the purpose of an annotated bibliography?

Depending on the assignment the annotated bibliography may serve a number of purposes. Including but not limited to:

  • a review of the literature on a particular subject
  • illustrate the quality of research that you have done
  • provide examples of the types of sources available
  • describe other items on a topic that may be of interest to the reader
  • explore the subject for further research 

How is an annotation different than an abstract?

Abstracts are typically descriptive summaries of academic articles or other scholarly publications. Annotations are descriptive and also critical. Annotations are more likely to offer a point of view and not just describe an item.  Abstracts are the purely descriptive summaries often found at the beginning of scholarly journal articles or in periodical indexes. Annotations are descriptive and critical; they expose the author's point of view, clarity and appropriateness of expression, and authority.

What does an annotated bibliography look like?

You write and arrange the bibliographic entries (citations) just as you would any other bibliography. This is usually arranged alphabetically by the first word, which is typically the author’s last name. Your instructor may have their own style that they prefer that you use and there are a number of crib sheets (both on the Internet and in print form) with the popular styles, such as APA, MLA, Chicago, CBE, etc. The annotation may then immediately follow the bibliographic information or may skip one or two lines depending on the style manual that is used. Remember to be brief and include only directly significant information and write in an efficient manner.


Edited Bible book:


12. Bernard M. Levinson, ed. Deuteronomy in The New Oxford Annotated Bible (ed. Michael D. Coogen; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 253.

19. Levinson, Deuteronomy, 201.

Sentence (Levinson 2001, 301).

According to Bernard M. Levinson, "...quotation..." (2001, 301).

Levinson, Bernard M., ed. Deuteronomy. Pages 240-308 in The New Oxford Annotated Bible. Edited by Michael D. Coogen.

Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.

Bible Commentaries


4. Raymond Brown, The Gospel According to John XII-XXI, Anchor Bible 29A (Garden City: Doubleday, 1966), 980.

32. Brown, The Gospel According to John XII-XXI. 1159.

Sentence (Brown 1966, 1159).

According to Raymond Brown, “...quotation...” (1966, 1159).

Brown, Raymond. The Gospel According to John. 2 vols. Anchor Bible 29A.Garden City: Doubleday,1966.

Dictionary or encyclopedia entry


33. Krister. Stendahl, “Biblical Theology, Contemporary,” IDB 1:418-32.

39. Stendahl, “Biblical Theology” 1:419.

Sentence (Stendahl 1962, 1:422).

According to K. Stendahl, “...quotation...” (1962, 1:422).

Stendahl, Krister. “Biblical Theology, Contemporary.” IDB 1:418-32.

Article in a journal


24. Marcus Joel, “Rivers of Living Water from Jesus’ Belly (John 7:38),” Journal of Biblical Literature 117 (1998): 329.

35. Joel, “Rivers of Living Water,” 330.

Sentence (Joel, 1998, 330).

According to Marcus Joel, “...quotation...” (1998, 330).

Joel, Marcus. “Rivers of Living Water from Jesus’ Belly (John 7:38).” Journal of Biblical Literature 117 (1998): 328-330.



12. Martin Hengel, The Johannine Question (London: SCM; Philadelphia: Trinity Press, 1989), 132.

19. Hengel, The Johannine Question, 152.

Sentence (Hengel 1989, 152).

According to Martin Hengel, “...quotation...” (1989, 152).

Hengel, Martin. The Johannine Question. London: SCM; Philadelphia: Trinity Press, 1989.

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