APA Style: Annotated Bibliography

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by James N. Powell, editor

As is sometimes the case for elements of American Psychological Association (APA) style, even though there is no actual rule found in the manual for a given element, readers can extrapolate a rule by paying attention to how the manual is written. This is true for annotated bibliographies. Although annotated bibliographies are often helpful to readers, there is no section in the manual that specifies how to format them. However, the Suggested Reading section of the manual does present an annotated bibliography of works on topics of interest to readers of the manual. Astute readers may safely model an annotated bibliography on this example. An analysis of the example reveals that an entry for an annotated bibliography consists of two elements: (a) a standard entry using the APA format for citations and (b) a short abstract describing the work.

You may safely observe the following rules when creating an annotated bibliography for your research: 

  • Use double spacing throughout the bibliography.
  • Write a standard reference entry.
  • If the standard entry is more than one line, use a hanging indentation: The first line should start at the left margin, and subsequent lines should be indented four spaces. The right margin is the right margin of your document.
  • Go down to the next line, indent two more spaces, and write the annotation.
  • The annotation can consist of (a) a short summary of the work referenced and (b) if you like, a short description of how the work relates to your research. Note that annotations need not be complete sentences, but tend to be grammatically parallel.
  • In an extensive annotated bibliography, you may break down the entries into different categories or topics.

As an example, there follows a partial annotated bibliography for Slow Love: A Polynesian Pillow Book.

Dening, G. (1986). Possessing Tahiti. Archaeology in Oceania, 21, 103-118.

Explores early European textual and visual representations of aboriginal Tahiti.

Suggs, R. C. (1966). Marquesan sexual behavior: An anthropological study of Polynesian practices. New York: Harcourt, Brace, & World.

An anthropological and historical study of sexual practices in a remote and minimally Westernized Polynesian area, detailing customs, beliefs, and reconstructions of past practices.

Sturma, M. (2002). South Sea maidens: Western fantasy and sexual politics in the South Pacific. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.    

Examines gender, racial, and postcolonial issues in Western representations of South Pacific cultures from the time of first European contact until the present.


James Powell is a published writer and longtime editor as well as a former professor of English literature.

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