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

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 and ranges anywhere from 100-300 words. 

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. They are a great tool in effective research.

Useful Links for Annotated Bibliographies

The formatting of annotated bibliographies can vary. UNR recommends the format exhibited in the examples below, but if you are still unsure what format to use, ask your professor. 

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What Goes Into an Annotation?

Most annotations both summarize and evaluate. Be sure to check with your professor to know what she or he wants in your annotations. 

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

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

Basic Tips on Writing and Formatting

  • Each annotation should be one or two paragraphs, between three to six sentences long (about 100- 300 words total).
  • Start with the same format as a regular Works Cited list.
  • All lines should be double-spaced (though this depends on your teacher's preference). 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 in relation to the source.

Writing an Annotation

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

 Remember: Annotations are original descriptions that you create after reading the document. When researching, you may find journal articles that provide a short summary at the beginning of the text. This article abstract is similar to a summary annotation. You may consult the abstract when creating your evaluative annotation, but never simply copy it as that would be considered plagiarism.

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/. Accessed 29 June 2016.

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