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Creating an Annotated Bibliography in MLA Style

Resources to help you write an Annotated Bibliography in MLA Style.

Definitions

A bibliography is a list of source material, cited in whatever citation style you're required to use in a specific course.

An annotation is a summary and/or evaluation.

Put the two together and you have an Annotated Bibliography!


An Annotated Bibliography is an organizational tool. An Annotated Bibliography...
  • Is an alphabetical list of all of your source material
  • Includes sources you may or may not use in your research
  • Summarizes each resource so you can remember what it's about
  • Can include any type of resource unless specified in the assignment instructions (For an overview of the types of resources you can find through our library, view our description of resource types on our Evaluating Sources guide.)

Why must you do an Annotated Bibliography?
  • If you're utilizing print resources through the library, you may not be able to renew items. How will you remember what the resource was about if you have to send it back?
  • If you're utilizing electronic resources, nothing online is permanent. How will you find the resource again if it disappears?
  • In larger projects, every resource starts to look the same. An Annotated Bibliography can save you time by reminding you of what you've already found.

What types of resources are used?

An Annotated Bibliography can include any type of resource unless otherwise specified by the assignment. This can include (but is not limited to):

  • Scholarly materials
  • Interviews
  • Government documents
  • Websites
  • Books
  • Media

Annotated Bibliographies can be a great resource for students before they write other types of assignments, like literature reviews


There are TWO PARTS to each entry in an Annotated Bibliography. They are:

  • The citation of the resource, in whatever citation style you're required to use.
  • The annotation describing the contents of the resource and how it may or may not contribute to your research.

Be sure to carefully read over the assignment instructions when you're asked to compose an Annotated Bibliography, and reach out to your professor with any questions!

Tips

Citation Help

Consult your course style guide to confirm the accuracy of your citation. 

You can also...


Skimming Sources

Focus on key areas of a text to learn enough so that you can write a strong annotation. This includes:

  • Abstracts, prefaces, and summaries
  • Paragraph headings
  • Charts/graphs/images and their captions
  • Introduction paragraph(s)
  • Conclusion paragraph(s)
  • Sources/References/Bibliography

These areas will provide you with enough information to determine the topic, arguments, and conclusions drawn from any research presented.


Writing Annotations

A strong annotation will have three main parts:

  • Summary
  • Assessment
  • Reflection

Length requirements can vary from a few sentences to a single paragraph or a full page. Be sure to verify length requirements with your professor and/or through the assignment instructions.

 

When writing the summary, ask yourself:
  • What topics are covered in the resource?
  • What are the main arguments?
  • What are the main conclusions drawn from the resource?
 
When writing the assessment, ask yourself:
  • Is the source useful?
  • How does it compare to your other resources?
  • Is there bias present?
  • Is the source reliable?

Our guide for Evaluating Your Sources can help you assess your research material.

 
When writing the reflection, ask yourself:
  • How does the source fit into your research?
  • How might the source support your argument?
  • Did the source change your mind about the topic?

Examples

Sample MLA Style citation with annotation:

Bell, Caryn, and Michelle Holder. "The Interrelationship between Race, Social Norms, and Dietary Behaviors among College-attending Women."

American Journal of Health Behavior, vol. 43, no. 1, Jan.-Feb. 2019, pp. 23-36. This article examines a study conducted to compare racial identity

and dietary habits of women on college campuses. The findings of the study found that women with perceived differences and social/family norms

were more likely to develop unhealthy dietary habits in college, most specifically related to fruit and vegetable consumption. This resource is useful

because it examines self-perception of race and how that can impact behavior in ways that influence one's health in the future.

View a full example in MLA Style: