A comprehensive guide on how to write annotated bibliography in MLA style


An annotated bibliography is a comprehensive list of sources, accompanied by brief descriptions and evaluations of each source’s content and relevance to your research. Writing an annotated bibliography in MLA (Modern Language Association) style requires careful attention to detail and adherence to specific formatting guidelines. This guide will walk you through the process of creating an annotated bibliography in MLA style, covering the necessary steps, formatting requirements, and examples.

Annotated bibliography

Annotated bibliography


An annotated bibliography serves several purposes:

  1. Evaluation: It helps evaluate the quality, relevance, and credibility of sources.
  2. Summary: It provides concise summaries of each source, aiding in understanding their content.
  3. Critical Analysis: It offers critical insights into the strengths and weaknesses of each source.
  4. Research Planning: It assists in organizing and planning research by identifying key sources.


An annotated bibliography typically includes the following elements:

  1. Citation: Proper citation of the source in a specified citation style (e.g., MLA, APA).
  2. Summary: A brief summary of the source’s content, highlighting its main arguments, findings, and conclusions.
  3. Evaluation: An evaluation of the source’s reliability, credibility, and relevance to the research topic.
  4. Reflection: Personal reflections on how the source contributes to the overall research or thesis.

Now that we’ve established the purpose and components, let’s look into the specifics of writing an annotated bibliography in MLA style.

1. Understanding the Purpose of an Annotated Bibliography

Before looking into the mechanics of writing an annotated bibliography, it’s crucial to understand its purpose:

  • To Provide an Overview: An annotated bibliography gives readers an overview of the sources you’ve consulted for your research project.
  • To Evaluate Sources: Annotations provide critical evaluations of each source, helping readers assess their credibility, relevance, and contribution to your research.
  • To Demonstrate Research Skills: Writing an annotated bibliography showcases your ability to gather, evaluate, and synthesize information from various sources.

2. Gathering Relevant Sources

Start by identifying sources that are relevant to your research topic. These may include books, journal articles, websites, and other scholarly materials. Ensure that each source you select aligns with the scope and objectives of your research project.

3. Citing Sources in MLA Style

For each source in your annotated bibliography, provide a citation in MLA format. The basic format for MLA citations includes the author’s name, title of the source, publication information, and other relevant details. Here’s a general template for citing different types of sources:

  • Book: Last Name, First Name. Title of Book. Publisher, Publication Year.
  • Journal Article: Last Name, First Name. “Title of Article.” Title of Journal, vol. Volume Number, no. Issue Number, Publication Year, pp. Page Range.
  • Website: Last Name, First Name (if available). “Title of Webpage.” Title of Website, Publisher or Sponsor, Publication Date, URL.

Ensure that you consult the latest edition of the MLA Handbook or refer to online resources for detailed citation guidelines.

4. Writing Annotations

After each citation, write a concise annotation that summarizes the source’s content and evaluates its relevance to your research. Annotations typically range from 100 to 200 words and may include the following elements:

  • Summary: Summarize the main arguments, findings, or themes of the source.
  • Evaluation: Assess the source’s credibility, objectivity, and reliability. Consider the author’s credentials, the publication venue, and any biases that may influence the content.
  • Relevance: Explain how the source contributes to your research topic or thesis. Discuss its significance in relation to other sources you’ve consulted.

5. Formatting Guidelines

Adhere to the following formatting guidelines when creating your annotated bibliography in MLA style:

  • Double-Spacing: Double-space the entire document, including citations and annotations.
  • Indentation: Indent the second and subsequent lines of each citation using a hanging indent.
  • Heading: Include a descriptive title at the top of your annotated bibliography (e.g., “Annotated Bibliography: [Your Topic]”). Center the title and use standard MLA heading formatting.
  • Alphabetical Order: Arrange your sources alphabetically by the author’s last name. If the author’s name is unavailable, use the title of the source for alphabetization.

6. Example Annotated Bibliography Entry

Here’s an example of how an annotated bibliography entry should look in MLA style:

Smith, John. The Role of Technology in Education. ABC Publishing, 2020.

Smith’s book examines the impact of technology on modern education, focusing on its potential benefits and drawbacks. The author argues that while technology offers new opportunities for interactive learning and global collaboration, it also poses challenges such as digital divide and information overload. Smith’s research is based on extensive surveys and case studies, providing valuable insights for educators and policymakers. This comprehensive overview of the subject contributes to the ongoing discourse on technology integration in education.

7. Proofreading and Revision

Once you’ve compiled your annotated bibliography, review each entry for accuracy, clarity, and coherence. Check for grammatical errors, typos, and formatting inconsistencies. Ensure that your annotations effectively convey the relevance and significance of each source to your research project.

Tips for Writing Effective Annotations:

Be Concise and Specific:

  • Focus on providing concise summaries and evaluations without unnecessary detail.
  • Use clear and precise language to convey your thoughts effectively.

Maintain Objectivity:

  • Strive for an objective evaluation of each source, considering both its strengths and limitations.
  • Avoid personal biases and subjective judgments in your annotations.

Tailor Annotations to Audience and Purpose:

  • Adapt your annotations to suit the specific requirements of your audience and assignment.
  • Consider the intended purpose of the annotated bibliography and tailor your annotations accordingly.

Revise and Proofread:

  • Review your annotations carefully for clarity, coherence, and accuracy.
  • Proofread the annotated bibliography to eliminate errors in grammar, punctuation, and formatting.


Writing an annotated bibliography in MLA style requires effective attention to detail and adherence to specific formatting guidelines. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can create a well-organized and informative annotated bibliography that enhances the credibility and depth of your research. Remember to consult reputable sources and critically evaluate each source’s content to ensure its relevance and reliability for your research project.

Rebecca J.
Rebecca J.
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