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MLA 9th Edition Overview

Annotated Bibliography

What is an Annotated Bibliography?

bibliography is a list of citations for your sources (books, journals, websites, periodicals, etc.). 

It's like a Works Cited (MLA) or References (APA) page at the end of a paper -- listing your source's author, title, publisher, etc. Ask your instructor which citation style to use for your sources.

An annotation is a paragraph that goes underneath each citation. It usually includes a short summary of the source, an evaluation of the source's credibility, and an assessment of how you're going to use the source (or not) in your research paper. (See below for more information).


What is the Purpose of an Annotated Bibliography?

  1. To evaluate sources:

    Ask yourself what it is and whether it's a reliable source. This will help you become a better researcher.
  2. To learn about your topic:

    Writing an annotated bibliography is excellent preparation for a research project. Just collecting sources for a bibliography is useful, but when you have to write annotations for each source, you're forced to read each source more carefully. You begin to read more critically instead of just collecting information.
  3. To help you formulate a thesis:

    Every good research paper is an argument. The purpose of research is to state and support a thesis. So a very important part of research is developing a thesis that is debatable, interesting, and current. Writing an annotated bibliography can help you gain a good perspective on what is being said about your topic. By reading and responding to a variety of sources on a topic, you'll start to see what the issues are, what people are arguing about, and you'll then be able to develop your own point of view.

Annotations versus Abstracts

Many scholarly articles start with an abstract, which is the author's summary of the article to help you decide whether you should read the entire article.  This abstract is not the same thing as an annotation.  The annotation needs to be in your own words, to explain the relevance of the source to your particular assignment or research question.