An annotated bibliography is a bibliography that includes a brief descriptive and evaluative paragraph after each citation. The purpose of the annotation is to inform the reader of the relevance, accuracy, and quality of the source cited.
Level of Detail
Some annotated bibliographies will call for a cursory description in preparation for a research project, while others will require more detailed analysis. Ask your professor about the level of detail needed in the annotations.
Bibliographies are traditionally arranged by Author and then Title or Year, and this arrangement can be used for annotated bibliographies as well. However, it may make more sense to organize an annotated bibliography thematically or chronologically. Use your own judgement, or ask your professor for guidance.
When you store your citations and notes in a citation manager, it takes care of the formatting, allowing you to concentrate on research and analysis.
You can also organize your bibliography in different ways, such as by author, title, or even chronologically. This can be especially useful if you are following an artist's career or the history of research on a topic.
You can import records from most of our databases in just a few clicks, and export to Word just as easily. Once you start using a citation manager, you'll wonder how you ever lived without it.
For more information, see the citation guide or Ask A Librarian.
Creating an annotated bibliography in MLA style
The MLA Handbook is on reserve at the IRC desk on the Ground Floor.
Some annotations are merely descriptive, summarizing the authors' qualifications, research methods, and arguments. Your professor might also ask you to identify the authors' theoretical frameworks.
Many annotations evaluate the quality of scholarship in a book or article. You might want to consider the logic of authors' arguments, and the quality of their evidence. Your findings can be positive, negative, or mixed.
Your professor might also want you to explain why the source is relevant to your assignment.
Sample Page: MLA-formatted annotated bibliography
Battle, Ken. “Child Poverty: The Evolution and Impact of Child Benefits.” A Question of Commitment: Children's Rights in Canada. Ed. Katherine Covell and R.Brian Howe. Waterloo, ON: Wilfrid Laurier University Press. 2007. 21-44.
Ken Battle draws on a close study of government documents, as well as his own research as an extensively-published policy analyst, to explain Canadian child benefit programs. He outlines some fundamental assumptions supporting the belief that all society members should contribute to the upbringing of children. His comparison of child poverty rates in a number of countries is a useful wake-up to anyone assuming Canadian society is doing a good job of protecting children. Battle pays particular attention to the National Child Benefit (NCB), arguing that it did not deserve to be criticized by politicians and journalists. He outlines the NCB’s development, costs, and benefits, and laments that the Conservative government scaled it back in favour of the inferior Universal Child Care Benefit (UCCB). However, he relies too heavily on his own work; he is the sole or primary author of almost half the sources in his bibliography. He could make this work stronger by drawing from others' perspectives and analyses. However, Battle does offer a valuable source for this essay, because the chapter provides a concise overview of government-funded assistance currently available to parents. This offers context for analyzing the scope and financial reality of child poverty in Canada.
Kerr, Don and Roderic Beaujot. “Child Poverty and Family Structure in Canada, 1981-1997.” Journal of Comparative Family Studies 34.3 (2003): 321-335.
Sociology professors Kerr and Beaujot analyze the demographics of impoverished families. Drawing on data from Canada’s annual Survey of Consumer Finances, the authors consider whether each family had one or two parents, the age of single parents, and the number of children in each household. They analyze child poverty rates in light of both these demographic factors and larger economic issues. Kerr and Beaujot use this data to argue that
Rules! rules! rules!
The MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers states the following formatting rules:
- The text and the works cited list should be double-spaced.
- Number your pages at the top right of the page.
- Reference list entries must have a hanging indent (to do this in Microsoft Word 2003, select the citation, click Format, then Paragraph, then Special, and choose Hanging).
- There should be 1 inch (2.54 cm) margins all around (top, bottom, left, and right) on each page.
- Use Times Roman font, or a similar serif font.
- Capitalize each important word (noun or verb) in a book or article title
- Each paragraph should be indented.