Learn and Generate Bibliographies, Citations, and Works Cited

How to Write an Annotated Bibliography in MLA Format Step-by-Step


Is your professor asking you to write an annotated bibliography? Are you clueless? You’ve come to the right place. The world of bibliographies can be a difficult web to weave, especially when you are talking about annotated bibliographies. Take a deep breath and get ready. You’re going to learn everything you need to know to make an annotated bibliography in MLA.

Student writing annotated bibliography in MLA

What Is an Annotated Bibliography?

MLA typically uses a works cited. But there might come a time when a professor asks you for an annotated bibliography in MLA. An annotated bibliography just takes your references to the next level. In addition to providing citation, it gives you more information through an annotation: a fancy word for further explanation.

The Use and Difference

A standard bibliography provides basic information about your source. You have the author, title and publication information. But, sometimes that’s not enough. An annotated bibliography can provide a more in-depth study or evaluation. In the process of creating your paper, you have become a topic expert. Show the world your expertise. Demonstrate why the source was perfect for your audience, and for the central theme of the article or book. It also allows you to show how this work compares to others you’ve discussed.

Creating an Annotated Bibliography in MLA

Before looking at the steps to creating an annotated bibliography, there are a few things to remember about formatting.

  • Your annotated bibliography will be double spaced.
  • Annotated bibliographies don’t have specific guidelines in the 8th edition MLA handbook for making quotes. Therefore, if you need to include quotes, keep them short.
  • Use hanging indents for citation. The first line will start on the left margin, but consecutive lines will be indented four spaces.
  • The beginning of the annotation will be indented.
  • The annotation is typically between 100 and 300 words.
  • Title the page “Annotated Bibliography.”

Now, that you know how to format, it is time to begin writing.

Step 1: Create Your Citation

Citations will vary depending on what you are citing. For example, the format for citing a book will be different than a magazine. MLA breaks down the core elements of your citation to author, title, title of container, contributors, version, number, publisher, publication date and location. For a website or digital file, a URL might be included as well. Check out an example:

Annotated Bibliography

Austen, J. Pride and Prejudice. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2004.

Step 2: Create the Annotation

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 their names, the summary annotation provides a summary while an evaluative annotation evaluates the work. Examine each one in more depth:

  • Summary Annotation: This type will summarize the source for the readers, letting them know the central theme of the book, plus information about the author and the audience the book was designed for.
  • Evaluative Annotation: Beyond just a quick summary, this type of annotation allows you to go into more depth about the author, including any expertise and bias they have. It might compare the work to other works and delve into why it was used for the topic along with strengths and weaknesses you found.

An example of a summary annotation might look like:

This story explores the way that pride and prejudice affect the relationship of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy, along with other characters in the book. Written by Jane Austin, it is a…

Difference in MLA

MLA was designed for humanities writers. These are the people that write about literature, philosophy and cultural science, to name a few. In these areas, you’ll see writers comparing one work to another. This means that this type of writing will be more focused on the writer of sources and where to find them, which is where citations focus.

Annotation Master

While an MLA annotated bibliography might look terrifying, remember you are an expert. You’ve done the research and have all the skills to prove to your audience why this source was perfect for your paper.

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About the author

Jennifer Betts

Jennifer Betts is a diverse educational writer who has been published in multiple online forums. She also works part time as a substitute teacher with seven different school districts. Building on skills gained from a brother and son with learning disabilities, she has been a tutor and mentor for disadvantaged children for more than 20 years. Interested in learning more about Jennifer Betts, just ask.

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