How to Write an Annotated Bibliography - MLA Style

What is an annotation, how is an annotation different from an abstract, what is an annotated bibliography, types of annotated bibliographies, descriptive or informative, analytical or critical, to get started.

An annotation is more than just a brief summary of an article, book, website, or other type of publication. An annotation should give enough information to make a reader decide whether to read the complete work. In other words, if the reader were exploring the same topic as you, is this material useful and if so, why?

While an abstract also summarizes an article, book, website, or other type of publication, it is purely descriptive. Although annotations can be descriptive, they also include distinctive features about an item. Annotations can be evaluative and critical and the two major types of annotations included here demonstrate the difference.

An annotated bibliography is an organized list of sources (like a reference list). It differs from a straightforward bibliography in that each reference is followed by a paragraph length annotation, usually 100–200 words in length.

Depending on the assignment, an annotated bibliography might have different purposes:

  • Provide a literature review on a particular subject
  • Help to formulate a thesis on a subject
  • Demonstrate the research you have performed on a particular subject
  • Provide examples of major sources of information available on a topic
  • Describe items that other researchers may find of interest on a topic

There are two major types of annotated bibliographies:

A descriptive or informative annotated bibliography describes or summarizes a source as does an abstract; it describes why the source is useful for researching a particular topic or question and its distinctive features. In addition, it describes the author's main arguments and conclusions without evaluating what the author says or concludes.

For example:

Gabbin, Joanne V. "Maya Angelou--The Peoples' Poet Laureate: An Introduction."  Langston Hughes Review , vol. 19, Spring 2005, pp. 3-6.  LION: Literature Online , gateway.proquest.com/openurl?ctx_ver=Z39.88-2003&xri:pqil:res_ver=0.2&res_id=xri:lion&rft_id=xri:lion:ft:criticism:R04012678:0&rft.accountid=14580. This scholarly article is a critical introduction to the works of Maya Angelou, and the criteria surrounding her success as a poet laureate. The author points out Angelou's literary influences, which include William Shakespeare, Edgar Allan Poe, Douglas Johnson, Langston Hughes, among others. This article also points out that her poetry lacks cultural boundaries, yet her trademark lies in the secular chants, songs, and games of the black vernacular tradition. The author discusses dialect and vernacular rhythms in several of Angelou's poems, and compares several of her works to the racy dialect of Sterling Brown and Langston Hughes. Also discussed is her political cultural voice and her deep understanding of emotion. This article is distinctive in its discussion of the need for a poet laureate to add to an audience's collective memory.

Please pay attention to the last sentence. While it points out distinctive features about the item it does not analyze the author's conclusions.

An analytical or critical annotation not only summarizes the material, it analyzes what is being said. It examines the strengths and weaknesses of what is presented as well as describing the applicability of the author's conclusions to the research being conducted.

Analytical or critical annotations will most likely be required when writing for a college-level course.

Gabbin, Joanne V. "Maya Angelou--The Peoples' Poet Laureate: An Introduction."  Langston Hughes Review , vol. 19, Spring 2005, pp. 3-6.  LION: Literature Online , gateway.proquest.com/openurl?ctx_ver=Z39.88-2003&xri:pqil:res_ver=0.2&res_id=xri:lion&rft_id=xri:lion:ft:criticism:R04012678:0&rft.accountid=14580. This scholarly article is a critical introduction to the works of Maya Angelou, and the criteria surrounding her success as a poet laureate. The author points out Angelou's literary influences, that include William Shakespeare, Edgar Allan Poe, Douglas Johnson, Langston Hughes, among others. This article also points out that her poetry lacks cultural boundaries, yet her trademark lies in the secular chants, songs, and games of the black vernacular tradition. The author discusses dialect and vernacular rhythms in several of Angelou's poems, and compares several of her works to the racy dialect of Sterling Brown and Langston Hughes. Also discussed is her political cultural voice and her deep understanding of emotion. This article is a good resource for those wanting to explore criteria related to the achievement of the award of poet laureate and how Angelou meets the criteria. This article begins to explore the poet's works and suggests her ability to add to an audience's collective memory. The author is a professor of English at James Madison University and has authored a book on Sterling Brown and numerous critical essays.

Please pay attention to the last three sentences. They give information about the author and critique the author's research.

To write an annotated bibliography here are the steps:

  • Choose your sources -  Before writing your annotated bibliography, you must choose your sources. This involves doing research much like for any other project. Locate records to materials that may apply to your topic.
  • Review the items -  Then review the actual items and choose those that provide a wide variety of perspectives on your topic. Article abstracts are helpful in this process.
  • The purpose of the work
  • A summary of its content
  • Information about the author(s)
  • For what type of audience the work is written
  • Its relevance to the topic
  • Any special or unique features about the material
  • Research methodology
  • The strengths, weaknesses or biases in the material

Annotated bibliographies are arranged alphabetically by the first author's last name.

Please see the  MLA Examples Page  for more information on citing in MLA style.

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Annotated Bibliography

  • Updated MLA Ninth Edition Annotated Bibliography Template

This template includes a space to add your topic and thesis statement as this is preferred for the annotated bibliography assignments in ENC courses taught at IRSC. Always follow your professor's instructions over any instructions on this LibGuide or inside the MLA Handbook.

Your professor may ask that you create an annotated bibliography in MLA style. An annotated bibliography is similar to the Works Cited page found at the end of a paper. The paper formatting is the same but instead of following a full research paper, the student will write a brief annotation for each source which will directly follow the source's Works Cited entry. The annotations contain descriptive or evaluative comments about your sources. Annotations should be short, typically no longer than one paragraph. Indent the annotation an inch from the start of the entry. Each citation should adhere to MLA guidelines. The title might be 'Annotated Bibliography' or 'Annotated List of Works Cited'.

Below is an example of an annotated bibliography in MLA style. You are welcome to use the template linked above to get you started with the correct formatting.

Updated MLA 9th Edition Annotated Bibliography Example

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Annotations

What is an annotation.

An annotation is a short (100-300 words) summary or critical evaluation of a source. Annotations can help you learn about your topic, develop a thesis statement, decide if a source will be useful for your assignment, and determine if there is enough valid information available to complete your project.

What is an annotated bibliography?

An annotated bibliography is a list of citations for various books, articles, and other sources. The annotated bibliography looks like a Works Cited page but it also includes an annotation after each source cited. Annotated bibliographies are a great research tool. 

What Goes Into an Annotation?

Most annotations both summarize and evaluate. Be sure to check with your professors to know what they want in annotations. 

A summary describes the source by answering who wrote the document and their overall argument. You don't need to include every part of the argument; just the parts that are most relevant to your topic.

An evaluation  critically assesses the work for accuracy, relevance, and quality. Check for any biases, holes, or particular strengths. Try out this Quick-How-To about  Evaluating Sources  for detailed guidance on assessing a source.

Tip:  Annotations are original descriptions that you create after reading the document. You may find a short summary, often titled "abstract," at the beginning of journal articles. Do not copy the abstract as that would be plagiarism.

Writing an Annotation

Cite the source using MLA style.

Describe the main ideas, arguments, themes, theses, or methodology, and identify the intended audience.

Explain the author’s expertise, point of view, and any bias he/she may have.

Compare to other sources on the same topic that you have also cited to show similarities and differences.

Explain why each source is useful for your research topic and how it relates to your topic.

Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of each source.

Identify the observations or conclusions of the author. 

Tips on Writing and Formatting

Each annotation should be one or two paragraphs and between three to six sentences long (about 100- 300 words total).

All lines should be double-spaced (unless your professor has noted a different format).

Do not add an extra line between the citations.

Try to be objective, and give explanations if you state any opinions.

Use the third person (e.g., he, she, the author) instead of the first person (e.g., I, my, me), unless discussing your own research.

Sample Annotation

London, Herbert. “Five Myths of the Television Age.” Television Quarterly , vol. 10, no. 1, Mar. 1982, pp. 81-89.

Herbert London, the Dean of Journalism at New York University and author of several books and articles, explains how television contradicts five commonly believed ideas. He uses specific examples of events seen on television, such as the assassination of John Kennedy, to illustrate his points. His examples have been selected to contradict such truisms as: “seeing is believing”; “a picture is worth a thousand words”; and “satisfaction is its own reward.” London uses logical arguments to support his ideas which are his personal opinion. He does not refer to any previous works on the topic. London’s style and vocabulary would make the article of interest to any reader. The article clearly illustrates London’s points, but does not explore their implications leaving the reader with many unanswered questions.

Adapted from: "How to Write Annotated Bibliographies."  Memorial University Libraries ,  www.library.mun.ca/researchtools/guides/writing/annotated_bibl/ .

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Annotated Bibliographies

What this handout is about.

This handout will explain why annotated bibliographies are useful for researchers, provide an explanation of what constitutes an annotation, describe various types of annotations and styles for writing them, and offer multiple examples of annotated bibliographies in the MLA, APA, and CBE/CSE styles of citation.

Introduction

Welcome to the wonderful world of annotated bibliographies! You’re probably already familiar with the need to provide bibliographies, reference pages, and works cited lists to credit your sources when you do a research paper. An annotated bibliography includes descriptions and explanations of your listed sources beyond the basic citation information you usually provide.

Why do an annotated bibliography?

One of the reasons behind citing sources and compiling a general bibliography is so that you can prove you have done some valid research to back up your argument and claims. Readers can refer to a citation in your bibliography and then go look up the material themselves. When inspired by your text or your argument, interested researchers can access your resources. They may wish to double check a claim or interpretation you’ve made, or they may simply wish to continue researching according to their interests. But think about it: even though a bibliography provides a list of research sources of all types that includes publishing information, how much does that really tell a researcher or reader about the sources themselves?

An annotated bibliography provides specific information about each source you have used. As a researcher, you have become an expert on your topic: you have the ability to explain the content of your sources, assess their usefulness, and share this information with others who may be less familiar with them. Think of your paper as part of a conversation with people interested in the same things you are; the annotated bibliography allows you to tell readers what to check out, what might be worth checking out in some situations, and what might not be worth spending the time on. It’s kind of like providing a list of good movies for your classmates to watch and then going over the list with them, telling them why this movie is better than that one or why one student in your class might like a particular movie better than another student would. You want to give your audience enough information to understand basically what the movies are about and to make an informed decision about where to spend their money based on their interests.

What does an annotated bibliography do?

A good annotated bibliography:

  • encourages you to think critically about the content of the works you are using, their place within a field of study, and their relation to your own research and ideas.
  • proves you have read and understand your sources.
  • establishes your work as a valid source and you as a competent researcher.
  • situates your study and topic in a continuing professional conversation.
  • provides a way for others to decide whether a source will be helpful to their research if they read it.
  • could help interested researchers determine whether they are interested in a topic by providing background information and an idea of the kind of work going on in a field.

What elements might an annotation include?

  • Bibliography according to the appropriate citation style (MLA, APA, CBE/CSE, etc.).
  • Explanation of main points and/or purpose of the work—basically, its thesis—which shows among other things that you have read and thoroughly understand the source.
  • Verification or critique of the authority or qualifications of the author.
  • Comments on the worth, effectiveness, and usefulness of the work in terms of both the topic being researched and/or your own research project.
  • The point of view or perspective from which the work was written. For instance, you may note whether the author seemed to have particular biases or was trying to reach a particular audience.
  • Relevant links to other work done in the area, like related sources, possibly including a comparison with some of those already on your list. You may want to establish connections to other aspects of the same argument or opposing views.

The first four elements above are usually a necessary part of the annotated bibliography. Points 5 and 6 may involve a little more analysis of the source, but you may include them in other kinds of annotations besides evaluative ones. Depending on the type of annotation you use, which this handout will address in the next section, there may be additional kinds of information that you will need to include.

For more extensive research papers (probably ten pages or more), you often see resource materials grouped into sub-headed sections based on content, but this probably will not be necessary for the kinds of assignments you’ll be working on. For longer papers, ask your instructor about their preferences concerning annotated bibliographies.

Did you know that annotations have categories and styles?

Decisions, decisions.

As you go through this handout, you’ll see that, before you start, you’ll need to make several decisions about your annotations: citation format, type of annotation, and writing style for the annotation.

First of all, you’ll need to decide which kind of citation format is appropriate to the paper and its sources, for instance, MLA or APA. This may influence the format of the annotations and bibliography. Typically, bibliographies should be double-spaced and use normal margins (you may want to check with your instructor, since they may have a different style they want you to follow).

MLA (Modern Language Association)

See the UNC Libraries citation tutorial for basic MLA bibliography formatting and rules.

  • MLA documentation is generally used for disciplines in the humanities, such as English, languages, film, and cultural studies or other theoretical studies. These annotations are often summary or analytical annotations.
  • Title your annotated bibliography “Annotated Bibliography” or “Annotated List of Works Cited.”
  • Following MLA format, use a hanging indent for your bibliographic information. This means the first line is not indented and all the other lines are indented four spaces (you may ask your instructor if it’s okay to tab over instead of using four spaces).
  • Begin your annotation immediately after the bibliographic information of the source ends; don’t skip a line down unless you have been told to do so by your instructor.

APA (American Psychological Association)

See the UNC Libraries citation tutorial for basic APA bibliography formatting and rules.

  • Natural and social sciences, such as psychology, nursing, sociology, and social work, use APA documentation. It is also used in economics, business, and criminology. These annotations are often succinct summaries.
  • Annotated bibliographies for APA format do not require a special title. Use the usual “References” designation.
  • Like MLA, APA uses a hanging indent: the first line is set flush with the left margin, and all other lines are indented four spaces (you may ask your instructor if it’s okay to tab over instead of using four spaces).
  • After the bibliographic citation, drop down to the next line to begin the annotation, but don’t skip an extra line.
  • The entire annotation is indented an additional two spaces, so that means each of its lines will be six spaces from the margin (if your instructor has said that it’s okay to tab over instead of using the four spaces rule, indent the annotation two more spaces in from that point).

CBE (Council of Biology Editors)/CSE (Council of Science Editors)

See the UNC Libraries citation tutorial for basic CBE/CSE bibliography formatting and rules.

  • CBE/CSE documentation is used by the plant sciences, zoology, microbiology, and many of the medical sciences.
  • Annotated bibliographies for CBE/CSE format do not require a special title. Use the usual “References,” “Cited References,” or “Literature Cited,” and set it flush with the left margin.
  • Bibliographies for CSE in general are in a slightly smaller font than the rest of the paper.
  • When using the name-year system, as in MLA and APA, the first line of each entry is set flush with the left margin, and all subsequent lines, including the annotation, are indented three or four spaces.
  • When using the citation-sequence method, each entry begins two spaces after the number, and every line, including the annotation, will be indented to match the beginning of the entry, or may be slightly further indented, as in the case of journals.
  • After the bibliographic citation, drop down to the next line to begin the annotation, but don’t skip an extra line. The entire annotation follows the indentation of the bibliographic entry, whether it’s N-Y or C-S format.
  • Annotations in CBE/CSE are generally a smaller font size than the rest of the bibliographic information.

After choosing a documentation format, you’ll choose from a variety of annotation categories presented in the following section. Each type of annotation highlights a particular approach to presenting a source to a reader. For instance, an annotation could provide a summary of the source only, or it could also provide some additional evaluation of that material.

In addition to making choices related to the content of the annotation, you’ll also need to choose a style of writing—for instance, telescopic versus paragraph form. Your writing style isn’t dictated by the content of your annotation. Writing style simply refers to the way you’ve chosen to convey written information. A discussion of writing style follows the section on annotation types.

Types of annotations

As you now know, one annotation does not fit all purposes! There are different kinds of annotations, depending on what might be most important for your reader to learn about a source. Your assignments will usually make it clear which citation format you need to use, but they may not always specify which type of annotation to employ. In that case, you’ll either need to pick your instructor’s brain a little to see what they want or use clue words from the assignment itself to make a decision. For instance, the assignment may tell you that your annotative bibliography should give evidence proving an analytical understanding of the sources you’ve used. The word analytical clues you in to the idea that you must evaluate the sources you’re working with and provide some kind of critique.

Summary annotations

There are two kinds of summarizing annotations, informative and indicative.

Summarizing annotations in general have a couple of defining features:

  • They sum up the content of the source, as a book report might.
  • They give an overview of the arguments and proofs/evidence addressed in the work and note the resulting conclusion.
  • They do not judge the work they are discussing. Leave that to the critical/evaluative annotations.
  • When appropriate, they describe the author’s methodology or approach to material. For instance, you might mention if the source is an ethnography or if the author employs a particular kind of theory.

Informative annotation

Informative annotations sometimes read like straight summaries of the source material, but they often spend a little more time summarizing relevant information about the author or the work itself.

Indicative annotation

Indicative annotation is the second type of summary annotation, but it does not attempt to include actual information from the argument itself. Instead, it gives general information about what kinds of questions or issues are addressed by the work. This sometimes includes the use of chapter titles.

Critical/evaluative

Evaluative annotations don’t just summarize. In addition to tackling the points addressed in summary annotations, evaluative annotations:

  • evaluate the source or author critically (biases, lack of evidence, objective, etc.).
  • show how the work may or may not be useful for a particular field of study or audience.
  • explain how researching this material assisted your own project.

Combination

An annotated bibliography may combine elements of all the types. In fact, most of them fall into this category: a little summarizing and describing, a little evaluation.

Writing style

Ok, next! So what does it mean to use different writing styles as opposed to different kinds of content? Content is what belongs in the annotation, and style is the way you write it up. First, choose which content type you need to compose, and then choose the style you’re going to use to write it

This kind of annotated bibliography is a study in succinctness. It uses a minimalist treatment of both information and sentence structure, without sacrificing clarity. Warning: this kind of writing can be harder than you might think.

Don’t skimp on this kind of annotated bibliography. If your instructor has asked for paragraph form, it likely means that you’ll need to include several elements in the annotation, or that they expect a more in-depth description or evaluation, for instance. Make sure to provide a full paragraph of discussion for each work.

As you can see now, bibliographies and annotations are really a series of organized steps. They require meticulous attention, but in the end, you’ve got an entire testimony to all the research and work you’ve done. At the end of this handout you’ll find examples of informative, indicative, evaluative, combination, telescopic, and paragraph annotated bibliography entries in MLA, APA, and CBE formats. Use these examples as your guide to creating an annotated bibliography that makes you look like the expert you are!

MLA Example

APA Example

CBE Example

Works consulted

We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.

American Psychological Association. 2010. Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association . 6th ed. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Bell, I. F., and J. Gallup. 1971. A Reference Guide to English, American, and Canadian Literature . Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press.

Bizzell, Patricia, and Bruce Herzburg. 1991. Bedford Bibliography for Teachers of Writing , 3rd ed. Boston: Bedford Books.

Center for Information on Language Teaching, and The English Teaching Information Center of the British Council. 1968. Language-Teaching Bibliography . Cambridge: Cambridge University.

Engle, Michael, Amy Blumenthal, and Tony Cosgrave. 2012. “How to Prepare an Annotated Bibliography.” Olin & Uris Libraries. Cornell University. Last updated September 25, 2012. https://olinuris.library.cornell.edu/content/how-prepare-annotated-bibliography.

Gibaldi, Joseph. 2009. MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers , 7th ed. New York: The Modern Language Association of America.

Huth, Edward. 1994. Scientific Style and Format: The CBE Manual for Authors, Editors, and Publishers . New York: University of Cambridge.

Kilborn, Judith. 2004. “MLA Documentation.” LEO: Literacy Education Online. Last updated March 16, 2004. https://leo.stcloudstate.edu/research/mla.html.

Spatt, Brenda. 1991. Writing from Sources , 3rd ed. New York: St. Martin’s.

University of Kansas. 2018. “Bibliographies.” KU Writing Center. Last updated April 2018. http://writing.ku.edu/bibliographies .

University of Wisconsin-Madison. 2019. “Annotated Bibliography.” The Writing Center. Accessed June 14, 2019. https://writing.wisc.edu/handbook/assignments/annotatedbibliography/ .

You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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Annotated Bibliography Template

  • MLA Annotated Bibliography Template

This sample annotated bibliography shows you the structure you should use to write an MLA annotated bibliography and gives examples of evaluative and summary annotations.

It can be used as a template to set up your assignment.

What is an Annotated Bibliography?

Useful Links for Annotated Bibliographies

  • Annotated Bibliographies Overview of purpose and form of annotated bibliographies from the Purdue OWL.
  • Annotated Bibliography Sample Sample annotations in an MLA and an APA annotated bibliography. From the Purdue OWL.
  • Annotated Bibliography Breakdown An example of an MLA annotated bibliography. From the Purdue OWL.

Annotations

An annotated bibliography is a list of citations for various books, articles, and other sources on a topic. The annotated bibliography looks like a Works Cited page but includes an annotation after each source cited. An annotation is a short summary and/or critical evaluation of a source. Annotated bibliographies can be part of a larger research project, or can be a stand-alone report in itself.

Types of Annotations

 A summary annotation describes the source by answering the following questions: who wrote the document, what the document discusses, when and where was the document written, why was the document produced, and how was it provided to the public. The focus is on description. 

 An evaluative annotation includes a summary as listed above but also critically assesses the work for accuracy, relevance, and quality. 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. The focus is on description and evaluation.

Writing an Evaluative Annotation

  • Cite the source using MLA style.
  • Describe the main ideas, arguments, themes, theses, or methodology, and identify the intended audience.
  • Explain the author’s expertise, point of view, and any bias he/she may have.
  • Compare to other sources on the same topic that you have also cited to show similarities and differences.
  • Explain why each source is useful for your research topic and how it relates to your topic.
  • Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of each source.
  • Identify the observations or conclusions of the author. 

Basic Tips on Writing and Formatting

  • Each annotation should be one paragraph, between three to six sentences long (about 150- 200 words).
  • Start with the same format as a regular Works Cited list.
  • All lines should be double-spaced. Do not add an extra line between the citations.
  • If your list of citations is especially long, you can organize it by topic.
  • Try to be objective, and give explanations if you state any opinions.
  • Use the third person (e.g., he, she, the author) instead of the first person (e.g., I, my, me)

Sample Evaluative Annotation

London, Herbert. “Five Myths of the Television Age.” Television Quarterly , vol. 10, no. 1, Mar. 1982, pp. 81-69. Herbert London, the Dean of Journalism at New York University and author of several books and articles, explains how television contradicts five commonly believed ideas. He uses specific examples of events seen on television, such as the assassination of John Kennedy, to illustrate his points. His examples have been selected to contradict such truisms as: “seeing is believing”; “a picture is worth a thousand words”; and “satisfaction is its own reward.” London uses logical arguments to support his ideas which are his personal opinion. He does not refer to any previous works on the topic. London’s style and vocabulary would make the article of interest to any reader. The article clearly illustrates London’s points, but does not explore their implications leaving the reader with many unanswered questions.

Adapted from:

"How to Write Annotated Bibliographies."  Memorial University Libraries , www.library.mun.ca/researchtools/guides/writing/annotated_bibl/. Accessed 29 June 2016.

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Annotated Bibliography

What is an annotation.

an•no•ta•tion : n. 1. The act or process of furnishing critical commentary or explanatory notes. 2. A critical or explanatory note; a commentary.

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th ed., Houghton Mifflin, 2009.

What is an Annotated Bibliography?

A list of citations for books, articles, websites, and other materials where each citation is accompanied by a brief descriptive and evaluative statement, called an annotation .

Annotations are different from the abstracts you will find accompanying journal article citations in online databases. Abstracts are descriptive. Your annotation must extend beyond the descriptive element to include an evaluation of the book or article.

Why Annotations?

An annotated bibliography is a tool for exploring a topic of interest. The process of reading and reflecting on the materials you find in the gathering part of the research process can help you understand the topic, identify multiple perspectives, explore different methods used to investigate the topic, and give you ideas for developing the thesis for your paper.

How are Annotations Created?

  • Locate and record the citations for articles, books, and other materials you will use for your paper. You need to gather enough sources to represent a range of perspectives on your topic.
  • Create the citation using the MLA Handbook, Ninth Edition . Tools that can help you with this include handouts received in class and in the library.
  • Write the annotation directly below the citation, indented one inch from the start of the entry.
  • Consider the questions below. Keep it short but be very complete.

Questions to consider when evaluating the item and writing your annotation include:

  • What education, experience and/or background does the author have which contributes to their being an authority on the topic?
  • Who is the intended audience for the book or article and how does that influence the presentation of the information?
  • How does this work contribute to your argument or support claims about your topic?
  • What are the main conclusions of the author(s) and what evidence do they use to support them?

The MLA Handbook, Ninth Edition guidelines for an annotation are to indent the annotation one inch from the start of the entry to distinguish it from the half-inch hanging indent of the entry. The annotation is double spaced with no gap between the citation and the annotation.

Annotation should be no more than one paragraph; however, if you need several paragraphs, indent each one but do not add an extra space between paragraphs. Follow your instructor's guidelines on the length and format for your specific assignment. Below is an example of an annotated bibliography in MLA 9th edition style.

Example of Annotated Bibliography showing indentation for citation and annotation.

Annotated Bibliographies. University Libraries, U of Nevada Las Vegas, www.library.unlv.edu/, 2018.

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MLA Citation Style 9th Edition: Annotated Bib.

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  • Images, Infographics, Maps, Charts, & Tables
  • Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers (Oral Communication)
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  • Annotated Bib.

What is an Annotated Bibliography?

Useful Links for Annotated Bibliographies

  • Annotated Bibliographies Overview of purpose and form of annotated bibliographies from the Purdue OWL.
  • Writing an Annotated Bibliography Overview and examples from the University of Guelph.
  • Writing an Annotated Bibliography Definition, tips, and examples from the University of Toronto.

Annotations

An annotated bibliography is a list of citations for various books, articles, and other sources on a topic. The annotated bibliography looks like a Reference page but includes an annotation after each source cited. An annotation is a short summary and/or critical evaluation of a source. Annotated bibliographies can be part of a larger research project, or can be a stand-alone report in itself.

Types of Annotations

 A summary annotation describes the source by answering the following questions: who wrote the document, what the document discusses, when and where was the document written, why was the document produced, and how was it provided to the public. The focus is on description. 

 An evaluative annotation includes a summary as listed above but also critically assesses the work for accuracy, relevance, and quality. 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. The focus is on description and evaluation.

Annotated Bibliographies: How-To Guide

  • MLA Annotated Bibliography Template

Sample Entry

London, Herbert. “Five Myths of the Television Age.” Television Quarterly , vol. 10, no. 1, Mar. 1982, pp. 81-69.

Herbert London, the Dean of Journalism at New York University and author of several books and articles, explains how television contradicts five commonly believed ideas. He uses specific examples of events seen on television, such as the assassination of John Kennedy, to illustrate his points. His examples have been selected to contradict such truisms as: “seeing is believing”; “a picture is worth a thousand words”; and “satisfaction is its own reward.” London uses logical arguments to support his ideas which are his personal opinion. He does not refer to any previous works on the topic. London’s style and vocabulary would make the article of interest to any reader. The article clearly illustrates London’s points, but does not explore their implications leaving the reader with many unanswered questions.

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What is an Annotated Bibliography & Why Write One

Mla annotated bibliography example, what is an annotated bibliography.

A bibliograph y is a list of sources (books, journals, Web sites, periodicals, etc.) you used for researching your topic. Bibliographies are called "Works Cited" (in MLA Style) and "References" (in APA Style)  Your bibliography will include the bibliographic information (i.e., the author, title, publisher, etc.) that your reader would need to identify and locate the original source you're citing.

An annotation is a summary and/or evaluation of a source.

Therefore, an annotated bibliography includes your citation followed by a summary and/or evaluation of each of your sources. Depending on your project or the assignment, your annotations may do one or more of the following.

  • Summarize: Some annotations merely summarize the source. What are the main arguments? What is the point of this book or article? What topics are covered? If someone asked what this article/book is about, what would you say?
  • Assess: After summarizing a source, it may be helpful to evaluate it. Is it a useful source? How does it compare with other sources in your bibliography? Is the information reliable? Is this source biased or objective? What is the goal of this source?
  • Reflect: Once you've summarized and assessed a source, you need to ask how it fits into your research. Was this source helpful to you? How does it help you shape your argument? How can you use this source in your research project? Has it changed how you think about your topic?

Your annotated bibliography may include some of these, all of these, or even others.

Be sure to always follow the specific instructions your instructor gives you.

Why Write an Annotated Bibliography

Every good research paper is an argument. The purpose of research is to state and support a thesis. So, a very important part of research is developing a thesis that is debatable, interesting, and current. Writing an annotated bibliography can help you gain a good perspective on what is being said about your topic. By reading and responding to a variety of sources on a topic, you'll start to see what the issues are, what people are arguing about, and you'll then be able to develop your own point of view.

Writing an annotated bibliography is excellent preparation for a research project. Just collecting sources for a bibliography is useful, but when you have to write annotations for each source, you're forced to read each source more carefully. You begin to read more critically instead of just collecting information.

MLA tells us that, you should cite a source in an annotated bibliography just as you would in a list of works cited and then append an annotation to the end of the entry. Annotations describe and/or evaluate sources. Further, annotations should not rehash minor details, cite evidence, quote the author, or recount steps in an argument. Writing an effective annotation requires reading the work, understanding its aims, and clearly summarizing them.

To learn more about annotated bibliographies click on the link below from Purdue OWL

Sample annotated bibliography using mla.

  • MLA 9 Annotated Bibliography Sample

Annotated Bibliography Template

You may also want to use the template below. Just type over the words in the template with your own information, citations, and annotations.

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Except where otherwise noted, this work is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 and CC BY-NC 4.0 Licenses .

How to Prepare an Annotated Bibliography: The Annotated Bibliography

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Explanation, Process, Directions, and Examples

What is an annotated bibliography.

An annotated bibliography is a list of citations to books, articles, and documents. Each citation is followed by a brief (usually about 150 words) descriptive and evaluative paragraph, the annotation. The purpose of the annotation is to inform the reader of the relevance, accuracy, and quality of the sources cited.

Annotations vs. Abstracts

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 may describe the author's point of view, authority, or clarity and appropriateness of expression.

The Process

Creating an annotated bibliography calls for the application of a variety of intellectual skills: concise exposition, succinct analysis, and informed library research.

First, locate and record citations to books, periodicals, and documents that may contain useful information and ideas on your topic. Briefly examine and review the actual items. Then choose those works that provide a variety of perspectives on your topic.

Cite the book, article, or document using the appropriate style.

Write a concise annotation that summarizes the central theme and scope of the book or article. Include one or more sentences that (a) evaluate the authority or background of the author, (b) comment on the intended audience, (c) compare or contrast this work with another you have cited, or (d) explain how this work illuminates your bibliography topic.

Critically Appraising the Book, Article, or Document

For guidance in critically appraising and analyzing the sources for your bibliography, see How to Critically Analyze Information Sources . For information on the author's background and views, ask at the reference desk for help finding appropriate biographical reference materials and book review sources.

Choosing the Correct Citation Style

Check with your instructor to find out which style is preferred for your class. Online citation guides for both the Modern Language Association (MLA) and the American Psychological Association (APA) styles are linked from the Library's Citation Management page .

Sample Annotated Bibliography Entries

The following example uses APA style ( Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association , 7th edition, 2019) for the journal citation:

Waite, L., Goldschneider, F., & Witsberger, C. (1986). Nonfamily living and the erosion of traditional family orientations among young adults. American Sociological Review, 51 (4), 541-554. The authors, researchers at the Rand Corporation and Brown University, use data from the National Longitudinal Surveys of Young Women and Young Men to test their hypothesis that nonfamily living by young adults alters their attitudes, values, plans, and expectations, moving them away from their belief in traditional sex roles. They find their hypothesis strongly supported in young females, while the effects were fewer in studies of young males. Increasing the time away from parents before marrying increased individualism, self-sufficiency, and changes in attitudes about families. In contrast, an earlier study by Williams cited below shows no significant gender differences in sex role attitudes as a result of nonfamily living.

This example uses MLA style ( MLA Handbook , 9th edition, 2021) for the journal citation. For additional annotation guidance from MLA, see 5.132: Annotated Bibliographies .

Waite, Linda J., et al. "Nonfamily Living and the Erosion of Traditional Family Orientations Among Young Adults." American Sociological Review, vol. 51, no. 4, 1986, pp. 541-554. The authors, researchers at the Rand Corporation and Brown University, use data from the National Longitudinal Surveys of Young Women and Young Men to test their hypothesis that nonfamily living by young adults alters their attitudes, values, plans, and expectations, moving them away from their belief in traditional sex roles. They find their hypothesis strongly supported in young females, while the effects were fewer in studies of young males. Increasing the time away from parents before marrying increased individualism, self-sufficiency, and changes in attitudes about families. In contrast, an earlier study by Williams cited below shows no significant gender differences in sex role attitudes as a result of nonfamily living.

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Modern Language Association (MLA) Annotations

Creating an annotated bibliography in MLA style

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General guidelines

Some anno tatio ns are merely descriptive , summarizing the authors' qualifications, research methods, and arguments.  Your professor might also ask you to identify the authors' theoretical frameworks .

Many annotations evaluate the quality of scholarship in a book or article.  You might want to consider the logic of authors' arguments, and the quality of their evidence.  Your findings can be positive, negative, or mixed.

Your professor might also want you to explain why the source is relevant to your assignment.

Sample Page: MLA-formatted annotated bibliography

  Battle, Ken. “Child Poverty: The Evolution and Impact of Child Benefits.” A Question of Commitment: Children's Rights in Canada . Ed. Katherine Covell and R.Brian Howe. Waterloo, ON: Wilfrid Laurier University Press. 2007. 21-44.

            Ken Battle draws on a close study of government documents, as well as his own research as an extensively-published policy analyst, to explain Canadian child benefit programs.  He outlines some fundamental assumptions supporting the belief that all society members should contribute to the upbringing of children.  His comparison of child poverty rates in a number of countries is a useful wake-up to anyone assuming Canadian society is doing a good job of protecting children.  Battle pays particular attention to the National Child Benefit (NCB), arguing that it did not deserve to be criticized by politicians and journalists.  He outlines the NCB’s development, costs, and benefits, and laments that the Conservative government scaled it back in favour of the inferior Universal Child Care Benefit (UCCB).  However, he relies too heavily on his own work; he is the sole or primary author of almost half the sources in his bibliography.  He could make this work stronger by drawing from others' perspectives and analyses.  However, Battle does offer a valuable source for this essay, because the chapter provides a concise overview of government-funded assistance currently available to parents.  This offers context for analyzing the scope and financial reality of child poverty in Canada.

   Kerr, Don and Roderic Beaujot. “Child Poverty and Family Structure in Canada, 1981-1997.” Journal of Comparative Family Studies 34.3 (2003): 321-335.

            Sociology professors Kerr and Beaujot analyze the demographics of impoverished families.  Drawing on data from Canada’s annual Survey of Consumer Finances, the authors consider whether each family had one or two parents, the age of single parents, and the number of children in each household.  They analyze child poverty rates in light of both these demographic factors and larger economic issues.  Kerr and Beaujot use this data to argue that 

  Rules! rules! rules!

The MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers states the following formatting rules:

  • The text and the works cited list should be double-spaced.
  • Number your pages at the top right of the page.
  • Reference list entries must have a hanging indent (to do this in Microsoft Word 2003, select the citation, click Format, then Paragraph, then Special, and choose Hanging).
  • There should be 1 inch (2.54 cm) margins all around (top, bottom, left, and right) on each page.
  • Use Times Roman font, or a similar serif font.
  • Capitalize each important word (noun or verb) in a book or article title
  • Each paragraph should be indented.

More Sample Annotations

Cornell University Library offers these instructions on preparing an annotated bibliography.

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Home / Guides / Citation Guides / MLA Format / Creating an MLA Bibliography

Creating an MLA Bibliography

If you write a research paper in MLA format, then you will need to include a Works Cited page according to the current 9th edition of the Modern Language Association (MLA) guidelines. Along with citing your sources within the body of your paper, you also need to include full citations of all sources at the end of your paper. The references in a bibliography are formatted in the same way as they would be in a Works Cited page. However, a bibliography refers to all works that you have consulted in your research, even if you did not use their information directly in your paper.

When you use the correct MLA bibliography format, it shows the reader what sources you consulted, makes finding your sources easier for the reader, and gives credibility to your work as a researcher and writer. This MLA sample paper will show you how the bibliography is incorporated into the rest of your paper. We also have a guide on APA reference pages , if you are following APA style in your paper.

Works cited or bibliography?

You may be wondering, what is a bibliography, and how is it different from a Works Cited page? The difference between the two is that while a bibliography refers to any source you consulted to write your research paper, a Works Cited page only includes full citations of the sources you quoted or paraphrased within your paper.

Typically, when someone says, “MLA bibliography” they really mean a Works Cited page, since the MLA format usually uses a Works Cited page instead of a bibliography.

A bibliography in MLA format may also refer to a Works Consulted page. If you used other sources that you did not directly quote or paraphrase within the paper, you will need to create a Works Consulted/Additional Resources page. A Works Consulted page starts on a separate page and follows the Works Cited page. It follows the same formatting guidelines as a Works Cited page, but you will use Works Consulted (or Additional Resources) as the title.

If you’re unsure of what to include in your citations list (works cited, works consulted, or both), ask your instructor. For the rest of this article, we will refer to this page as the MLA bibliography.

MLA bibliography formatting guidelines

These are the formatting rules you need to follow to create your bibliography according to MLA’s current edition guidelines. Your first page(s) will be your Works Cited page(s) and include the references that you directly refer to in your paper. Usually, this is all that is needed. If your instructor wants you to also include the works you consulted but did not include in your paper (more like a bibliography), then add Works Consulted or Additional Resources page for these sources.

  • Your MLA Works Cited (and Works Consulted or Additional Resources pages) should begin on a separate page or pages at the end of your essay.
  • Your essay should have a header on every page that includes your last name and the page number.
  • The last name/page number header should be on the top right of each page with a ½ inch margin from the top of the page.
  • One-inch margins.
  • Title the page Works Cited (no italicization or quotation marks) unless otherwise instructed. Center the title. The top should look like this:

what does an annotated bibliography mla look like

  • Only center the Works Cited title; all citations should be left-justified.
  • Double-space citations.
  • Do not add an additional space between citations.
  • After the first line, use a hanging indent of ½ inch on all additional lines of a citation. The hanging indent should look like this:

MLA works cited indent

  • Typically, this is the author’s last name, but sometimes it could be the title of the source if the author’s name is not available.

MLA bibliography works cited page

If you have a Works Consulted or Additional Resources page after your Works Cited page, format it in the same way, but with the title of Works Consulted or Additional Resources instead of Works Cited. Alternatively, your instructor may require a bibliography. If this is the case, all your sources, whether they are cited in your paper are not, are listed on the same page.

MLA citation guidelines

These are the rules you need to follow to create citations for an MLA bibliography. This section contains information on how to correctly use author names, punctuation, capitalization, fonts, page numbers, DOIs, and URLS in the citations on your MLA bibliography.

Author names

After the title Works Cited, the last name of the author of a source should be the first thing to appear on your page.

List the author’s last name followed by a comma, then the first name followed by the middle name or middle initial if applicable, without a comma separating the first and middle names. Add a period after the name.

Rowling, J.K.

Smith, Alexander McCall.

  • Do not include titles such as Dr., Mrs., etc. or professional qualifications such as PhD, M.S., etc. with author names.
  • Include suffixes such as Jr. or III after the author’s first name. Separate the first name and the suffix by a comma unless the suffix is a numeral. For example, to cite an author named John Smith, Jr., you would type Smith, John, Jr.

Sources with two authors

For a source with two authors, list the author names in your citation in the order they appear on the source, not alphabetically.

Type the last name of the first author listed on the source followed by a comma, then the first author’s first name followed by a comma. Then type the word “and” then list the second author’s first name and last name in the standard order. Follow the second name with a period.

Include middle names or initials and suffixes when applicable according to the guidelines for one author as listed above.

1st Author’s Last Name, First Name, and 2nd Author’s First Name Last Name.

Lutz, Lisa, and David Hayward.

Clark, Mary Higgins, and Alafair Burke.

Sources with three or more authors

For a source with three or more authors, only type the last and first name of the first author listed in the source, followed by a comma and the phrase et al., which is Latin for “and others.” Be sure to always place a period after the al in et al. but never after the et.

1st Author’s Last Name, First Name, et al.

Charaipotra, Sona, et al.

Williams, Beatriz, et al. All the Ways We Said Goodbye . HarperLuxe, 2020.

Organizations and corporations as authors

For sources with organizations or corporations listed as the author, type the name of the corporation in place of an author’s name. If the organization begins with an article like a, an, or the, it should be excluded in the Works Cited entry.

Modern Language Association of America. MLA Handbook . 2016.

*Note: If the organization is listed as both the author and the publisher, begin the citation with the title and include the organization’s name within the publisher field instead. 

For a source with no author listed, simply omit the author’s name and begin the citation with the title of the source. Use the first letter of the title when considering alphabetical order in your MLA bibliography.

Capitalization

Use MLA title case when citing titles of sources.

  • Nouns, pronouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, and subordinating conjunctions should be capitalized.
  • Articles, prepositions, and coordinating conjunctions should not be capitalized.

Font formatting

  • Italicize the titles of larger works such as magazines and books. Also, italicize database and website names.
  • Instead of italicization, use quotation marks around titles of shorter works such as poems, short stories, and articles.
  • End all bibliography citations with a period.

Page numbers

Include page numbers in your full citations whenever possible. This helps the reader find the information you cited more quickly than if you just cited the entire source and lends more credibility to your argument. If you cite different pages from the same source within your paper, you should cite the entire source on your MLA bibliography instead of listing all of the page numbers you used.

When including page numbers in a citation, use the abbreviation p. to cite one page and the abbreviation pp. to cite multiple pages with a hyphen between the page numbers.

p. 25 or pp. 16-37

When citing page numbers in MLA, omit the first set of repeated digits.

pp. 365-69, not pp. 365-369

DOIs and URLs

A Digital Object Identifier (DOI) is used to locate and identify an online source. While URLs may change or web pages might be edited or updated, a DOI is permanent and therefore more useful in a source citation.

  • Use a DOI (digital object identifier) whenever possible. Otherwise use a permalink or URL.
  • DOIs should be formatted with “https://doi.org/” before the DOI number.
  • Do not include “http://” or “https://” in your URLs.
  • As either one will be the last part of your citation, place a period after the DOI or URL. (Note that this period is not part of the DOI or URL.)

Butarbutar, R, et al. “Analyzing of Puzzle Local Culture-Based in Teaching English for Young Learners.” IOP Conference Series: Earth and Environmental Science , vol. 343, 2019, https://doi.org/10.1088/1755-1315/343/1/012208.

Accessed dates

Since the previous 8th edition of the MLA Handbook was published, you do NOT need to list an accessed date for a stable source (e.g., online newspaper article, journal article, photograph, etc.). However, including an access date is good to include when a source does not have a publishing date, and some instructors will request that accessed dates be included for all sources.

If you do include an access date, here’s how to format it:

  • Place it at the end of the citation without “http://” or “https://”.
  • Write “Accessed” first, followed by the date accessed.
  • The date accessed should be formatted as Day Month (abbreviated) Year.

Butarbutar, R, et al. “IOPscience.” IOP Conference Series: Earth and Environmental Science , IOP Publishing, 1 Oct. 2019, iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1755-1315/343/1/012208/meta. Accessed 8 Oct. 2020.

Note: If you choose to list an accessed date after a DOI, the accessed date part of the citation will follow the period after the DOI and will end with a period at the end of the citation

Butarbutar, R, et al. “Analyzing of Puzzle Local Culture-Based in Teaching English for Young Learners.” IOP Conference Series: Earth and Environmental Science , vol. 343, 2019, https://doi.org/10.1088/1755-1315/343/1/012208. Accessed 8 Oct. 2020.

MLA 8 th edition vs MLA 9 th edition

The 9 th edition of the MLA handbook re-introduces guidelines regarding paper formatting (which were not present in the 8 th edition). The guidance in the 9 th addition is consistent with the guidance in previous editions and expands on the formatting of tables, figures/illustrations, and lists. The 9 th edition also offers new guidance in areas like annotated bibliographies, inclusive language, and footnotes/endnotes.

Many of the differences between the 8 th edition and 9 th edition have to do with the formatting of the core elements in reference list entries. Some of the main changes include:

Written by Grace Turney , freelance writer and artist. Grace is a former librarian and has a Master’s degree in Library Science and Information Technology. 

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An MLA bibliography is similar to the Works Cited list that you include at the end of your paper. The only difference between a Works Cited list and a bibliography is that for the former, you need to include the entries for only the sources you cited in the text, whereas for the latter you can also include the sources you consulted to write your paper but didn’t directly cite in your writing. MLA generally prefers Works Cited lists to bibliographies.

If your instructor advises you to create an MLA bibliography, follow the same guidelines you would follow for creating an MLA Works Cited list.

The bibliography list appears at the end of the paper, after any endnotes if they are present.

All margins (top, bottom, left, and right) should be set at 1 inch.

Write the running head in the top right of the page at 0.5 inch from the top. Use the running head “Surname Page #.”

The font should be clear enough to read. Use Times New Roman font of size 12 points.

Entries should be double-spaced. If any entry runs over more than a line, indent the subsequent lines of the entry 0.5 inch from the left margin.

Bibliographic entries are arranged alphabetically according to the first item in each entry.

Title your bibliography as “Bibliography.”

Braidotti, Rosi. The Posthuman . Polity, 2013.

Brisini, Travis. “Phytomorphizing Performance: Plant Performance in an Expanded Field.” Text and Performance Quarterly , vol. 39, 2019,            pp. 1–2.

Riccio, Thomas. “Reimagining Yup’ik and Inupiat Performance.” Northwest Theatre Review , vol. 12, no. 1, 1999, pp. 1–30.

General rules for creating an annotated bibliography

The annotation is given after the source entry and is generally about 100-150 words in length. The annotation should be indented 1 inch from the left margin to distinguish it from the hanging indent within the citation entry.

The annotation, in general, should be written as short phrases. However, you may use full sentences as well.

The annotation for each source is usually no longer than one paragraph. However, if multiple paragraphs are included, indent the second and subsequent paragraphs without any extra line space between them.

The annotation provides basic information about the source, but does not include details about the source, quotes from the author, etc. The information can be descriptive (by generally describing what the source covers) or evaluative (by evaluating the source’s usefulness to the argument in your paper).

Example annotated bibliography

The below is an example of an annotated bibliography:

Morritt, Robert D. Beringia: Archaic Migrations into North America . Cambridge Scholars Pub, 2011.

The author studies the migration of cultures from Asia to North America. The connection between the North American Athabaskan language family and Siberia is presented, together with comparisons and examinations of the implications of linguistics from anthropological, archaeological, and folklore perspectives. This book explores the origins of the earliest people in the Americas, including Siberian, Dene, and Navajo Creation myths; linguistic comparisons between Siberian Ket Navajo and Western Apache; and comparisons between indigenous groups that appear to share the same origin.

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What guidance should I give my students for preparing an annotated bibliography?

Note: This post relates to content in the eighth edition of the MLA Handbook . For up-to-date guidance, see the ninth edition of the MLA Handbook .

Students should style a source in an annotated bibliography just as they would in a list of works cited and then append an annotation to the end of the entry. Annotations describe or evaluate sources. As James Harner writes, “[G]ood annotations accurately and incisively—but not cryptically—distill the essence of works” and “focus the reader’s attention on major points” (28). Annotations should not rehash minor details, cite evidence, quote the author, or recount steps in an argument. Writing an effective annotation requires reading the work, understanding its aims, and clearly summarizing them. For this reason, annotations may aid students in conducting research.

Annotations are generally written as succinct phrases:

Harbord, Janet. The Evolution of Film: Rethinking Film Studies. Polity, 2007. A synthesis of classic film theory and an examination of the state of film studies as of 2007 that draws on contemporary scholarship in philosophy, anthropology, and media studies.

But if you prefer to have your students use complete sentences, the students should add a line space after the entry and then begin the annotation with a paragraph indent:

Harbord, Janet. The Evolution of Film: Rethinking Film Studies . Polity, 2007. This synthesis of classic film theory examines the state of film studies as of 2007. It draws on contemporary scholarship in philosophy, anthropology, and media studies.

The list should be titled Annotated Bibliography or Annotated List of Works Cited. Students may organize the bibliography alphabetically by author or title (as for a normal list of works cited), by the date of publication, or by subject.

Harner, James. On Compiling an Annotated Bibliography . Modern Language Association of America, 2000.

MLA Citation Guide (MLA 8th Edition): Annotated Bibliography

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Annotated Bibliography Template

  • MLA Annotated Bibliography Template

Purdue OWL Links for Annotated Bibliographies

  • Annotated Bibliographies Overview of purpose and form of annotated bibliographies from the Purdue OWL.
  • Annotated Bibliography Samples Includes a sample of one MLA annotated bibliography.
  • Annotated Bibliography Example An example of an MLA annotated bibliography, containing two entries.

Annotations

An annotated bibliography is a list of citations for various books, articles, and other sources on a topic. The annotated bibliography looks like a Works Cited page but includes an annotation after each source cited. An annotation is a short summary and/or critical evaluation of a source. Annotated bibliographies can be part of a larger research project, or can be a stand-alone report in itself.

Types of Annotations

 A summary annotation describes the source by answering the following questions: who wrote the document, what does the document discuss, when and where was the document written, why was the document produced, and how was it provided to the public. The focus is on description. 

 An evaluative annotation includes a summary as listed above but also critically assesses the work for accuracy, relevance, and quality. 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. The focus is on description and evaluation.

Writing an Evaluative Annotation

  • Cite the source using MLA style.
  • Describe the main ideas, arguments, themes, theses, or methodology, and identify the intended audience.
  • Explain the author’s expertise, point of view, and any bias he/she may have.
  • Compare to other sources on the same topic that you have also cited to show similarities and differences.
  • Explain why each source is useful for your research topic and how it relates to your topic.
  • Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of each source.
  • Identify the observations or conclusions of the author. 

Basic Tips on Writing and Formatting

  • Each annotation should be one paragraph, between three to six sentences long (about 150- 200 words).
  • Start with the same format as a regular Works Cited list.
  • All lines should be double-spaced. Do not add an extra line between the citations.
  • If your list of citations is especially long, you can organize it by topic.
  • Try to be objective, and give explanations if you state any opinions.
  • Use the third person (e.g., he, she, the author) instead of the first person (e.g., I, my, me)

Sample Evaluative Annotation

London, Herbert. “Five Myths of the Television Age.” Television Quarterly , vol. 10, no. 1, Mar. 1982, pp. 81-69. Herbert London, the Dean of Journalism at New York University and author of several books and articles, explains how television contradicts five commonly believed ideas. He uses specific examples of events seen on television, such as the assassination of John Kennedy, to illustrate his points. His examples have been selected to contradict such truisms as: “seeing is believing”; “a picture is worth a thousand words”; and “satisfaction is its own reward.” London uses logical arguments to support his ideas which are his personal opinion. He does not refer to any previous works on the topic. London’s style and vocabulary would make the article of interest to any reader. The article clearly illustrates London’s points, but does not explore their implications leaving the reader with many unanswered questions.

Adapted from:

"How to Write Annotated Bibliographies."  Memorial University Libraries , www.library.mun.ca/researchtools/guides/writing/annotated_bibl/. Accessed 29 June 2016.

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English Resource Guide: Annotated Bibliographies

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Annotated Bibliography Examples

  • Examples of an Annotated Bibliography Use this document as an example of how to create an annotated bibliography for MLA, APA or Chicago styles.

Annotations vs. Abstract

Annotation vs. abstract.

At first glance, it may seem like a resource abstract and an annotation are the same thing. However, they serve different purposes

Abstracts are specifically descriptive summaries located at the beginning of scholarly journal articles or indexes. 

Annotation:

Annotations are often contextual to the research project. They are meant to assist in writing research papers by including not only a brief summary, but also one or more sentences that (a) evaluate the author's authority, (b) comment on the intended audience, (c) explain how this work ties in with your thesis or (d) compare or contrast this work with another you have cited.

What is an Annotated Bibliography?

An annotated bibliography is a combination of two parts: the citation (in your chosen style) and a brief description of the source and how it is useful to your research. They can be used with any citation style (MLA, APA, Chicago, etc.).  

Annotated bibliographies are a great way to collect your sources and determine how and why you have chosen to include them for your assignment. They help you think about the quality of the source you have chosen. 

The annotation, or description, part of the annotated bibliography is normally between 3-5 sentences, but may vary depending on what your instructor requires. Typically included in the annotation:

  • A short summary of the source and its information.
  • An assessment of the quality of information in the source. (Is the information reliable? What is the goal of the source? How does it compare to other resources you have collected? etc.)
  • An evaluation of how this source will be useful for your assignment. (Has it changed your thinking of your topic? How will it help shape your argument?) 

**Keep in mind your instructor may have different guidelines for your annotation than the three listed here. Always be sure to follow the requirements given by your instructor. **

Annotated Bibliographies are structured the same way as any other Works Cited or References page. Each citation is placed in alphabetical order and has a hanging indent. The annotation directly follows the citation it is describing. 

Visuals MLA

MLA Annotated Bibliography eample

The Process

Finding and selecting sources.

The quality and usefulness of your bibliography will depend on your selection of sources. Define the scope of your research carefully so that you can make good judgments about what to include and exclude. By understanding the requirements and focus of your research it will make the search process more streamlined. Refer to the  Finding Scholarly Sources  guide for searching tips. Consider these questions to help you find appropriate limits for your research:

  • What topic do I want to write about? What  question(s)  am I trying to answer? If your bibliography is part of a research project, this project will probably be governed by a research question/thesis. If your bibliography is a project on a general topic (e.g. incarceration and economic status), try formulating your topic as a question or a series of questions in order to define your search more precisely( ie. How does economic status effect incarceration sentences?) 
  • What  kind of material  am I looking for? (scholarly academic books and journal articles? government reports or policy statements? articles from the popular press? primary historical sources? etc.)
  • Do my sources fit the requirements of the assignment?

Summarizing

Your annotation should identify the main argument of the source. This is often the source's thesis or hypothesis. Include a brief description of the source's main points and the author's final conclusion. 

The following reading strategies can help you identify the argument of your source:

  • Identify the author’s thesis (central claim or purpose), research question, or hypothesis. Both the introduction  and  the conclusion can help you with this task.
  • Look for repetition of key terms or ideas. Follow them through the text and see what the author does with them. Note especially the key terms that occur in the thesis or research question that governs the text.
  • Notice how the text is laid out and organized. What are the main divisions or sections? What is emphasized? Why? Accounting for why will help you to move beyond listing contents and toward giving an account of the argument.
  • Notice whether and how a theory is used to interpret evidence or data. Identify the method used to investigate the problem/s addressed in the text.
  • Pay attention to the opening sentence(s) of each paragraph, where authors often state concisely their main point in the paragraph.
  • Look for paragraphs that summarize the argument. A section may sometimes begin or conclude with such a paragraph.

This section will be specific to your overall research. How does the source fit into the argument you are making in your paper? If your annotated bibliography is not part of a larger assignment, how does the source contribute to your larger selection of sources? Some thoughts to consider:

  • Are you interested in the way the source frames its research question or in the way it goes about answering it (its method)? Does it make new connections or open up new ways of seeing a problem? 
  • Are you interested in the way the source uses a theoretical framework or a key concept? 
  • Does the source gather and draw from other ideas and sources that you want to use? 
  • How do the source’s conclusions bear on your own thoughts?

In order to determine how you will use the source or define its contribution, you will need to assess the quality of the argument: why is it of value? what are its limitations? how well defined is its research problem? how effective is its method of investigation? how good is the evidence? would you draw the same conclusions from the evidence?

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What is an Annotated Bibliography?

An annotated bibliography is a summary and evaluation of a resource. According to Merriam-Webster, a bibliography is “the works or a list of the works referred to in a text or consulted by the author in its production.” Your references (APA) or Works Cited (MLA) can be considered a bibliography. A bibliography follows a documentation style and usually includes bibliographic information (i.e., the author(s), title, publication date, place of publication, publisher, etc.). An annotation refers to explanatory notes or comments on a source.

An annotated bibliography, therefore, typically consists of:

Documentation for each source you have used, following the required documentation style.

For each entry, one to three paragraphs that:

Begins  with a summary ,

Evaluates  the reliability of the information,

Demonstrates  how the information relates to previous and future research.

Entries in an annotated bibliography should be in alphabetical order.

** Please note: This may vary depending on your professor’s requirements.

Why Write an Annotated Bibliography?

Why Write an Annotated Bibliography

Writing an annotated bibliography will help you understand your topics in-depth.

An annotated bibliography is useful for organizing and cataloging resources when developing an argument.

Formatting an Annotated Bibliography

Formatting Annotated Bibliographies

  • Use 1-inch margins all around
  • Indent annotations ½ inch from the left margin.
  • Use double spacing.
  • Entries should be in alphabetical order.

Structure of an Annotated Bibliography

This table provides a high-level outline of the structure of a research article and how each section relates to important information for developing an annotated bibliography.

Annotated Bibliography Sample Outline

Author, S. A. (date of publication). Title of the article.  Title of Periodical, vol.  (issue), page-page.  https://doi.org/XXXXXX

Write one or two paragraphs that focus on the study and its findings.

  • Two or more sentences that outline the thesis, hypothesis, and population of the study.
  • Two or more sentences that discuss the methodology.
  • Two or more sentences that discuss the study findings.  
  • One or more sentences evaluating the study and its relationship to other studies.

Sample Annotated Bibliographies

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what does an annotated bibliography mla look like

Steps in the Process

Step 1. I nformed library research

  • L ocate and record citations to books, periodicals, and documents that may contain useful information and ideas on your topic.  
  • Search for recent scholarly books.  Sort your results in WorldCAT by Date (Newest First)
  • Use MLA Bibliography to find scholarly articles or chapters in books.   
  • Use Interlibrary Loan to request books,chapters in books, or articles our library does not have. 

Step 2.  Briefly examine and review the actual items

  • Books should be from a reputable and scholarly publisher.   Look for books published by a University Press, a scholarly organization or a known scholarly independent press.  
  • Is the author an expert in the field?  Look at the book jacket, forward or preface of the book to locate author's credentials and scholarly association.  Google the author(s) to assess their credentials. 

Step 3. C hoose those works that provide a variety of perspectives on your topic

Step 4.  Write a concise annotation that summarizes the central theme and scope of the book or article or chapter. 

Include one or more sentences that

  • The authority or background of the author
  • Comment on the intended audience
  • Compare or contrast this work with another you have cited, or
  • Explain how this work illuminates your bibliography topic.

Step 5.  Cite the book, article, or chapter using MLA style.

This example uses MLA style ( MLA Handbook , 8th edition, 2016)  for the journal citation:

Waite, Linda J., et al. "Nonfamily Living and the Erosion of Traditional Family Orientations Among Young Adults."  American Sociological Review,  vol. 51, no. 4, 1986, pp. 541-554. The authors, researchers at the Rand Corporation and Brown University, use data from the National Longitudinal Surveys of Young Women and Young Men to test their hypothesis that nonfamily living by young adults alters their attitudes, values, plans, and expectations, moving them away from their belief in traditional sex roles. They find their hypothesis strongly supported in young females, while the effects were fewer in studies of young males. Increasing the time away from parents before marrying increased individualism, self-sufficiency, and changes in attitudes about families. In contrast, an earlier study by Williams cited below shows no significant gender differences in sex role attitudes as a result of nonfamily living.           -  Olin Library Reference, Research & Learning Services,  Cornell University Library, Ithaca, NY, USA

Steps in Process Adapted from:   How to Prepare an Annotated Bibliography: The Annotated Bibliography. Site located at  Olin Library Reference, Research & Learning Services,  Cornell University Library, Ithaca, NY, USA

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Annotated Bibliography Samples

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Below you will find sample annotations from annotated bibliographies, each with a different research project. Remember that the annotations you include in your own bibliography should reflect your research project and/or the guidelines of your assignment.

As mentioned elsewhere in this resource, depending on the purpose of your bibliography, some annotations may summarize, some may assess or evaluate a source, and some may reflect on the source’s possible uses for the project at hand. Some annotations may address all three of these steps. Consider the purpose of your annotated bibliography and/or your instructor’s directions when deciding how much information to include in your annotations.

Please keep in mind that all your text, including the write-up beneath the citation, must be indented so that the author's last name is the only text that is flush left.

Sample MLA Annotation

Lamott, Anne. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life . Anchor Books, 1995.

Lamott's book offers honest advice on the nature of a writing life, complete with its insecurities and failures. Taking a humorous approach to the realities of being a writer, the chapters in Lamott's book are wry and anecdotal and offer advice on everything from plot development to jealousy, from perfectionism to struggling with one's own internal critic.

In the process, Lamott includes writing exercises designed to be both productive and fun. Lamott offers sane advice for those struggling with the anxieties of writing, but her main project seems to be offering the reader a reality check regarding writing, publishing, and struggling with one's own imperfect humanity in the process. Rather than a practical handbook to producing and/or publishing, this text is indispensable because of its honest perspective, its down-to-earth humor, and its encouraging approach.

Chapters in this text could easily be included in the curriculum for a writing class. Several of the chapters in Part 1 address the writing process and would serve to generate discussion on students' own drafting and revising processes. Some of the writing exercises would also be appropriate for generating classroom writing exercises. Students should find Lamott's style both engaging and enjoyable.

In the sample annotation above, the writer includes three paragraphs: a summary, an evaluation of the text, and a reflection on its applicability to his/her own research, respectively.

For information on formatting MLA citations, see our MLA 9th Edition (2021) Formatting and Style Guide .

Sample APA Annotation

Ehrenreich, B. (2001). Nickel and dimed: On (not) getting by in America . Henry Holt and Company.

In this book of nonfiction based on the journalist's experiential research, Ehrenreich attempts to ascertain whether it is currently possible for an individual to live on a minimum-wage in America. Taking jobs as a waitress, a maid in a cleaning service, and a Walmart sales employee, the author summarizes and reflects on her work, her relationships with fellow workers, and her financial struggles in each situation.

An experienced journalist, Ehrenreich is aware of the limitations of her experiment and the ethical implications of her experiential research tactics and reflects on these issues in the text. The author is forthcoming about her methods and supplements her experiences with scholarly research on her places of employment, the economy, and the rising cost of living in America. Ehrenreich’s project is timely, descriptive, and well-researched.

The annotation above both summarizes and assesses the book in the citation. The first paragraph provides a brief summary of the author's project in the book, covering the main points of the work. The second paragraph points out the project’s strengths and evaluates its methods and presentation. This particular annotation does not reflect on the source’s potential importance or usefulness for this person’s own research.

For information on formatting APA citations, see our APA Formatting and Style Guide .

Sample Chicago Manual of Style Annotation

Davidson, Hilda Ellis. Roles of the Northern Goddess . London: Routledge, 1998.

Davidson's book provides a thorough examination of the major roles filled by the numerous pagan goddesses of Northern Europe in everyday life, including their roles in hunting, agriculture, domestic arts like weaving, the household, and death. The author discusses relevant archaeological evidence, patterns of symbol and ritual, and previous research. The book includes a number of black and white photographs of relevant artifacts.

This annotation includes only one paragraph, a summary of the book. It provides a concise description of the project and the book's project and its major features.

For information on formatting Chicago Style citations, see our Chicago Manual of Style resources.

IMAGES

  1. MLA Annotated Bibliography Format

    what does an annotated bibliography mla look like

  2. Annotated Bibliography Mla Style

    what does an annotated bibliography mla look like

  3. Mla Annotated Bibliography Database

    what does an annotated bibliography mla look like

  4. How to write an annotated bibliography step-by-step with examples

    what does an annotated bibliography mla look like

  5. MLA Annotated Bibliography Examples and Writing Guide

    what does an annotated bibliography mla look like

  6. Chicago Style Annotated Bibliography: Format + Example

    what does an annotated bibliography mla look like

VIDEO

  1. MLA Annotated Bibliography

  2. Lecture #1 MLA Works Cited and Annotated Bibliography

  3. Annotated Bibliography in MLA formatting

  4. Chapter 22 Video Lecture and Annotated Bibliography Instructions

  5. Annotated Bibliography Structure Review

  6. Annotated bibliography explained

COMMENTS

  1. MLA Style Annotated Bibliography

    MLA provides guidelines for writing and formatting your annotated bibliography. An example of a typical annotation is shown below. Example of an MLA source annotation. Kenny, Anthony. A New History of Western Philosophy: In Four Parts. Oxford UP, 2010. Broad history of Western philosophy from the ancient Greeks to the present day.

  2. MLA Annotated Bibliography Format

    What does an MLA annotated bibliography look like? An annotated bibliography is a list containing complete information of sources (such as journals, books, and reports) cited in the text, along with a note or annotation for each source. It provides a brief description of each source in about 100-150 words.

  3. How to Write an Annotated Bibliography

    An annotated bibliography is an organized list of sources (like a reference list). It differs from a straightforward bibliography in that each reference is followed by a paragraph length annotation, usually 100-200 words in length. Depending on the assignment, an annotated bibliography might have different purposes:

  4. MLA Annotated Bibliography

    Your professor may ask that you create an annotated bibliography in MLA style. An annotated bibliography is similar to the Works Cited page found at the end of a paper. The paper formatting is the same but instead of following a full research paper, the student will write a brief annotation for each source which will directly follow the source ...

  5. Writing an Annotated Bibliography

    What is an annotated bibliography? An annotated bibliography is a list of citations for various books, articles, and other sources. The annotated bibliography looks like a Works Cited page but it also includes an annotation after each source cited. Annotated bibliographies are a great research tool.

  6. Annotated Bibliographies

    At the end of this handout you'll find examples of informative, indicative, evaluative, combination, telescopic, and paragraph annotated bibliography entries in MLA, APA, and CBE formats. Use these examples as your guide to creating an annotated bibliography that makes you look like the expert you are! MLA Example. APA Example. CBE Example

  7. MLA Citation Guide (9th Edition): Annotated Bibliography

    An annotated bibliography is a list of citations for various books, articles, and other sources on a topic. The annotated bibliography looks like a Works Cited page but includes an annotation after each source cited. An annotation is a short summary and/or critical evaluation of a source. Annotated bibliographies can be part of a larger ...

  8. MLA Annotated Bibliography Examples and Writing Guide

    Step 2: Create the MLA Annotations. Creating the annotation is the pivotal part. This is an annotated bibliography, after all. The first thing to think about is whether this is a summary annotation or evaluative annotation. Per the names, the summary annotation provides a summary while an evaluative annotation evaluates the work.

  9. How To

    An annotated bibliography is a tool for exploring a topic of interest. The process of reading and reflecting on the materials you find in the gathering part of the research process can help you understand the topic, identify multiple perspectives, explore different methods used to investigate the topic, and give you ideas for developing the ...

  10. LibGuides: MLA Citation Style 9th Edition: Annotated Bib

    The annotated bibliography looks like a Reference page but includes an annotation after each source cited. An annotation is a short summary and/or critical evaluation of a source. Annotated bibliographies can be part of a larger research project, or can be a stand-alone report in itself. Types of Annotations. A summary annotation describes the ...

  11. Annotated Bibliography Examples for MLA & APA

    Step 3a: MLA annotated bibliography format. The MLA Style Center and the current edition of the MLA Handbook provide the following guidance for formatting an MLA annotated bibliography: Title your reference page as "Annotated Bibliography" or "Annotated List of Works Cited.". Place each annotation after its reference.

  12. Annotated Bibliographies

    What is an Annotated Bibliography. A bibliography is a list of sources (books, journals, Web sites, periodicals, etc.) you used for researching your topic.Bibliographies are called "Works Cited" (in MLA Style) and "References" (in APA Style) Your bibliography will include the bibliographic information (i.e., the author, title, publisher, etc.) that your reader would need to identify and locate ...

  13. The Annotated Bibliography

    What Is an Annotated Bibliography? An annotated bibliography is a list of citations to books, articles, and documents. Each citation is followed by a brief (usually about 150 words) descriptive and evaluative paragraph, the annotation. The purpose of the annotation is to inform the reader of the relevance, accuracy, and quality of the sources ...

  14. LibGuides: Annotated Bibliography: Sample MLA Annotation

    Creating an annotated bibliography in MLA style. The MLA Handbook is on reserve at the IRC desk on the Ground Floor. General guidelines. Some annotations are merely descriptive, summarizing the authors' qualifications, research methods, and arguments.Your professor might also ask you to identify the authors' theoretical frameworks.. Many annotations evaluate the quality of scholarship in a ...

  15. Creating an MLA Bibliography

    MLA 8 th edition vs MLA 9 th edition. The 9 th edition of the MLA handbook re-introduces guidelines regarding paper formatting (which were not present in the 8 th edition). The guidance in the 9 th addition is consistent with the guidance in previous editions and expands on the formatting of tables, figures/illustrations, and lists. The 9 th edition also offers new guidance in areas like ...

  16. What guidance should I give my students for preparing an annotated

    For up-to-date guidance, see the ninth edition of the MLA Handbook. Students should style a source in an annotated bibliography just as they would in a list of works cited and then append an annotation to the end of the entry. Annotations describe or evaluate sources. As James Harner writes, " [G]ood annotations accurately and incisively ...

  17. How to Write an Annotated Bibliography in MLA Format

    Need to write an annotated bibliography in MLA format for a research paper or essay? In this video, I'll show you how to organize your bibliography and write...

  18. Annotated Bibliography

    An annotated bibliography is a list of citations for various books, articles, and other sources on a topic. The annotated bibliography looks like a Works Cited page but includes an annotation after each source cited. An annotation is a short summary and/or critical evaluation of a source. Annotated bibliographies can be part of a larger ...

  19. Annotated Bibliographies

    A bibliography is a list of sources (books, journals, Web sites, periodicals, etc.) one has used for researching a topic. Bibliographies are sometimes called "References" or "Works Cited" depending on the style format you are using. A bibliography usually just includes the bibliographic information (i.e., the author, title, publisher, etc.).

  20. LibGuides: English Resource Guide: Annotated Bibliographies

    An annotated bibliography is a combination of two parts: the citation (in your chosen style) and a brief description of the source and how it is useful to your research. They can be used with any citation style (MLA, APA, Chicago, etc.). Annotated bibliographies are a great way to collect your sources and determine how and why you have chosen ...

  21. Annotated Bibliography

    An annotated bibliography is a summary and evaluation of a resource. According to Merriam-Webster, a bibliography is "the works or a list of the works referred to in a text or consulted by the author in its production." ... Your references (APA) or Works Cited (MLA) can be considered a bibliography. A bibliography follows a documentation ...

  22. Steps in the Process : Annotated Bibliography (continued)

    Explain how this work illuminates your bibliography topic. Step 5. Cite the book, article, or chapter using MLA style. This example uses MLA style (MLA Handbook, 8th edition, 2016) for the journal citation: Waite, Linda J., et al. "Nonfamily Living and the Erosion of Traditional Family Orientations Among Young Adults."

  23. Annotated Bibliography Samples

    Some annotations may address all three of these steps. Consider the purpose of your annotated bibliography and/or your instructor's directions when deciding how much information to include in your annotations. Please keep in mind that all your text, including the write-up beneath the citation, must be indented so that the author's last name ...

  24. How to Write an Annotated Bibliography in Chicago/Turabian Style

    The annotation appears on a new line directly after the source citation. The whole annotation is indented, to make it clear when the annotation ends and a new source appears. According to Turabian guidelines, annotations should be formatted the same as the main text of any paper: Double-spaced. Left-aligned.