SCI 100: Citing Sources

MLA Style

Creating an Annotated Bibliography

What is an annotated bibliography?

An annotated bibliography is a list of sources such as books, articles, and documents. Each source in the bibliography is represented by a citation that includes the author (if given), title, and publication details of the source. Each citation is followed by a brief (usually about 150 words) descriptive and evaluative paragraph, the annotation. The purpose of the annotation is to help the reader evaluate whether the work cited is relevant to a specific research topic or line of inquiry.

Annotations versus abstracts

Abstracts are brief statements that present the main points of the original work. They normally do not include an evaluation of the work itself.

Annotations could be descriptive or evaluative, or a combination of both. A descriptive annotation summarizes the scope and content of a work whereas an evaluative annotation provides critical comment.

What an annotation usually includes?

Generally, annotations should be no more than 150 words (or 4-6 sentences long). They should be concise and well-written. Depending on your assignment, annotations may include some or all of the following information:

  • Main focus or purpose of the work,
  • Intended audience for the work,
  • Usefulness or relevance to your research topic (or why it did not meet your expectations)
  • Special features of the work that were unique or helpful
  • Background and credibility of the author
  • Conclusions or observations reached by the author
  • Conclusions or observations reached by you

Which citation style to use

There are many style manuals with specific instructions on how to format your annotated bibliography. The style you use may depend on your subject discipline or the preference of your instructor. Whatever the format, be consistent with the same style throughout the bibliography.

Consult our sample style sheets for various Style Guides for examples of how to format citations in MLA, APA, or other style formats.

Need More Help?

Further information on writing annotated bibliographies may be found in:

  • Harner, J.L. (2000). On Compiling an Annotated Bibliography. New York: The Modern Language Association of America. Reference Room Z1001 .H33 2000
  • Ikeda, A. (2002). Writing Annotated Bibliographies. Claremont, California: Claremont Graduate University Writing Center. Retrieved 7th September 2004 from the World Wide Web: http://www.cgu.edu/pages/836.asp.
  • Stacks, G. and Karper, E. (2001). Annotated Bibliographies. West Lafayette, Indiana: Online Writing Lab (OWL) at Purdue University. Retrieved 11th July 2002 from the World Wide Web: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/614/01/