MLA Annotated Bibliography Format
The MLA Style Center provides the following guidance for formatting an MLA annotated bibliography:
- Title your reference page as “Annotated Bibliography” or “Annotated List of Works Cited.”
- Include annotations after the full, listed reference.
- Annotations should typically not exceed a single paragraph.
- If you do exceed one paragraph, indent each new paragraph but do not add extra space between them.
- For more information on writing an annotation, visit the general annotated bibliography guide.
Here’s a run-through of everything this page includes:
Here are general MLA bibliography format guidelines that also apply:
- Organize sources alphabetically by author or title, by the publication date, or by subject. Ask your instructor how they would like this organized if they haven’t provided specific guidance.
- The entire bibliography MLA page or pages should be double-spaced.
- Have 1-inch margins around the page.
If you don’t need to include annotations with your citations, this guide on creating a regular MLA works cited page can help!
Here is the source’s citation and annotation in MLA bibliography format. It contains a summary for the book The Elements of Eloquence: Secrets of the Perfect Turn of Phrase by UK author and blogger Mark Forsyth:
Forsyth, Mark. The Elements of Eloquence: Secrets of the Perfect Turn of Phrase. Penguin Books, 2014.
The author, Mark Forsyth, examines the rhetorical devices used in the English language, analyzing the patterns and formats that create memorable quotes. He traces the history of rhetoric to the Ancient Greeks, and provides an abridged timeline, following their use and evolution through to modern day. The author also explores the broader subject of persuasion and maps out the role that the figures of rhetoric play in it. In all, he examines over thirty devices, dissecting notable passages and phrases from pop music, the plays of William Shakespeare, the Bible, and more to explore the figures of rhetoric at work within each of them. Thorough definitions accompany this examination of structure to demonstrate how these formulas have been used to generate famously memorable expressions as well as how to reproduce their effects.
Here is another annotated bibliography example in MLA for an article on the MLA website.
Citation with annotation:
“What Guidance Should I Give My Students for Preparing an Annotated Bibliography?” The MLA Style Center, The Modern Language Association, 4 Nov. 2016, style.mla.org/annotated-bibliographies/.
This article offers brief and clear directions for MLA formatting of a bibliography with annotations. Citing James Harner’s On Compiling an Annotated Bibliography, it provides guidelines for writing annotations that can be applied to either paraphrase or commentary form. It also demonstrates how writing annotations can benefit students who are tasked with researching a subject and offers instruction on the organization of entries and acceptable page titles. While the advice is tailored to respond to a question posed by an instructor, students and researchers may also benefit from the guidance that the MLA provided.
Citation without annotation:
The following is an example MLA format Works Cited citation for an article on the MLA website. This MLA bibliography example shows what the entry will look like without an annotation:
“What Guidance Should I Give My Students for Preparing an Annotated Bibliography?” The MLA Style Center, Modern Language Association, 4 Nov. 2016, style.mla.org/annotated-bibliographies/
Note that this MLA bibliography does not contain an introductory paragraph. If you are including a prefatory section, it should reside between the page title and the initial entry.
The MLA follows the rules set forth in James L. Harner’s On Compiling an Annotated Bibliography, 2nd edition, which they published in 2000. Harner submits that the typical organization for this type of work “…consists of three parts: prefatory matter, entries, and an index” (7). Following this, he adds, however, that “an electronic bibliography rarely includes an index” (7).
The “prefatory matter” functions similarly to an introduction, and “typically consists of an introduction, an explanation of editorial procedures, acknowledgements, and separate lists of abbreviations, major reference sources searched, and the subject author’s works” (7). He expands on this, “You must explain – and, if necessary, offer a rationale for – the taxonomy, the kinds of works included and excluded, and the chronological span (especially terminal date) of scholarship covered” (7).
Using the EasyBib annotation tool
If you create your citations using the EasyBib citation generator, then you can also access the annotation tool!
When you create a new or edit an existing citation, you’ll review a citation form that lists every piece of information for the citation. At the bottom of this form is a section called “More options.” In this section, simply click the “Add annotation” text to open the tool. Copy and paste your annotation here, complete your citation, and both the citation and annotation will be automatically formatted together!
Always consult your instructor
Your instructor or school may have additional or different requirements for how you format and organize this page. If your teacher or professor requires an introduction, they may identify specific points to include or exclude which deviate from Harner’s definition, so it’s essential that you verify your understanding of the assignment before beginning.
If you are required to share your references in a manner other than in MLA bibliography format, there is also a guide on APA annotated bibliographies.
Solution #1: How do I annotate a source that is an image or video?
To annotate a visual source like an image or video, describe the important elements of your visual source to your reader as you would with a textual source.
If it is a painting, for example, you do not need to describe every color you see or the mood of the painting, but it may be important to include the artistic movement of which it is a part of, the style of painting, the subject, the culture of origin, or any information about the artist.
Keep in mind the style of annotation you are using for your works-cited annotations, whether you are providing more commentary on sources or simply summarizing them. Maintain the style of annotation consistent for all your annotations. Commentary will include more information about why a source is relevant to your paper, whereas a summary will more plainly describe the source.
van Gogh, Vincent. The Starry Night. 1889, Museum of Modern Art, New York City.
Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night is a depiction of the night sky seen above the Saint-Paul mental asylum in Saint-Remy, France, where van Gogh received care as his mental health waned. van Gogh was born in Holland, but spent significant time in France. The influence of contemporaneous artistic styles such as Impressionism, Pointilism, and Neo-Impressionism can be seen in The Starry Night. The Starry Night combines the observable world with the world of van Gogh’s emotion, memory, and imagination.
Solution #2: How do I annotate a source that is an audio recording, song, or interview?
Annotate your works-cited MLA citation for an audio recording the same way you would for a textual source.
Keep the style of your annotations consistent, whether you are commenting on sources or simply summarizing sources.
Important elements of your audio source to consider in your annotation may include the following elements: the speaker(s) in the recording, where and when the recording was taken, the important members of the band or musicians of a song, or, if it is a clip, the context of the complete recording.
Describe your audio source as best you can in about 4-5 sentences for your annotation.
Tavernise, Sabrina. “Why Do So Many Traffic Stops Go Wrong?” The Daily, The New York Times,
1 Nov. 2021. Spotify app.
David D. Kirkpatrick, a national correspondent for the New York Times, breaks down years’ worth of investigative journalism from the NYT. Their journalism focused on casualties due to routine traffic stops performed by police nationwide. The NYT’s reporting suggested that many cities and municipalities may rely heavily on revenue generated from traffic tickets, and that officers may be encouraged to make more, even unnecessary, traffic stops. Kirkpatrick also suggested that training may encourage police to use unnecessary force and escalate encounters during traffic stops, as misleading data has been used to teach officers that traffic stops are disproportionately deadly for police.
Solution #3: How long should my annotation be?
An annotation for an MLA works-cited citation should be about a paragraph long. It shouldn’t be a few words or just one sentence.
If your annotation definitely needs to be longer than 4-5 sentences, make a new paragraph and indent it, but do not add any additional space or line breaks between the paragraphs of your annotation.
Harner, James L. On Compiling an Annotated Bibliography. 2nd ed., Modern Language Association of America, 2000.
MLA Handbook. 9th ed., Modern Language Association of America, 2021.
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- What does an MLA annotated bibliography look like?
An annotated bibliography is a list containing complete information of sources (such as journals, books, and reports) cited in the text, along with a note or annotation for each source. It provides a brief description of each source in about 100–150 words. Below is an example of an annotated bibliography:
Annotated bibliography example:
Morritt, Robert D. Beringia: Archaic Migrations into North America. Cambridge Scholars Pub, 2011.
The author studies the migration of cultures from Asia to North America. The connection between the North American Athabaskan language family and Siberia is presented, together with comparisons and examinations of the implications of linguistics from anthropological, archaeological, and folklore perspectives. This book explores the origins of the earliest people in the Americas, including Siberian, Dene, and Navajo Creation myths; linguistic comparisons between Siberian Ket Navajo and Western Apache; and comparisons between indigenous groups that appear to share the same origin.
Ehrenreich, Barbara. Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking has Undermined America. Metropolitan Books, 2009.
In this book, Barbara Ehrenreich shows how harmful the positive thinking movement is, how it means self-blame, victim-blaming, and national denial, inviting disaster. She shows that it wrecks efforts for education, skills, and reforms. The book analyzes how the school of mindless optimism was born, fed the subprime scandal, and has come to infect mainstream corporate management thinking.
- Do you double-space an MLA annotated bibliography?
An annotated bibliography, which contains a source and a description or an evaluation of a source, is always double-spaced.