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Harvard Style

This guide shows how to use the Harvard style of referencing

An annotation

An annotation may contain all or part of the following elements depending on the word limit and the content of the sources you are examining. Present the full bibliographic reference in the appropriate style (e.g. Harvard, APA, Chicago).


Types of Annotations

Your annotation may be descriptive only or a combination of descriptive and evaluative or critical.


Descriptive Annotations

A descriptive annotated bibliography describes or summarizes a source. It outlines why the source is useful for researching a particular topic and it highlights the source's distinctive features. It does this without evaluating what the author concludes from its findings.


You could indicate some of the following:

  • What type of source it is (e.g. book, journal article)
  • Indicate the background and credibility of the author

  • What are the main topics or findings of this work

  • Identify the research methods, if applicable.

  • The intended audience

  • Identify any conclusions made by the author.

  • Special features of the work such as illustrations, maps, tables, etc.



Evaluative Annotations

An evaluative annotation not only summarizes the material, but it also analyses what is being said. It examines the strengths and weaknesses of what is described in the source as well as its conclusions. It is likely that, for most of your annotated bibliographies, you will be writing evaluative annotations.

As well as the descriptive elements as above, you could include some of the following:

  • the importance of the source compared to other writing on the subject
  • the author's qualifications for writing the work
  • the accuracy of the information
  • the strengths and limitations of the source
  • the research methodology used
  • any biases or unsubstantiated results presented
  • any special features of the work that were unique or helpful (e.g. charts, graphs etc.)
  • your view or reaction to the work
  • Discuss its usefulness or relevance to your research topic


Evaluative annotations can help you learn about your topic, develop a thesis statement, decide if a specific source will be useful for your assignment and determine if there is enough valid information available to complete your project. See below some sample guidelines for your annotation.


Rules for writing Annotations

When writing annotations, it is important to consider the following:

  • The length of the annotation depends on its purpose and what has been asked, but should be brief; in most cases one paragraph long (100-200 words)
  • The paragraph should contain a summary of the work's major ideas and should not repeat any information found in the citation itself
  • Write in full sentences using an academic writing style 
  • Use present tense verbs, e.g. "Murphy states..." or "The evidence indicates that..."
  • Write the annotation in your own words
  • Include page numbers if a quotation supporting a statement is used
  • No in-text citations are included
  • Use transition words, e.g. furthermore, moreover, however and therefore
  • Avoid adjectives such as ‘excellent’ or ‘good’
  • Arrange your Annotated Bibliography in alphabetical order from A-Z according to the first author’s surname of each cited source