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MLA Citation Guide (MLA 9th Edition): Writing an Annotated Bibliography

Discover the ins and outs of MLA citation


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