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MLA Annotated Bibliography Format

The mla style center provides the following guidance for formatting an mla annotated bibliography:.

Here’s a run-through of everything this page includes:

Book example

Website example.


Here are general mla bibliography format guidelines that also apply:.

If you don’t need to include annotations with your citations, this guide on creating a regular MLA works cited page can help!

MLA annotated bibliography

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.

example of an MLA annotated bibliography entry for a 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,

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,

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!

Annotated bibliography tool

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.

For example:

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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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.

An annotated bibliography, which contains a source and a description or an evaluation of a source, is always double-spaced.

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The Southern California Institute of Law

Mla format for annotated bibliography for campus life essay writing

Mla format for annotated bibliography

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MLA Style Annotated Bibliography | Format & Examples

Published on July 13, 2021 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on June 14, 2022.

An annotated bibliography is a special assignment that lists sources in a way similar to the MLA Works Cited list, but providing an annotation for each source giving extra information.

You might be assigned an annotated bibliography as part of the research process for a paper , or as an individual assignment.

MLA provides guidelines for writing and formatting your annotated bibliography. An example of a typical annotation is shown below.

Kenny, Anthony. A New History of Western Philosophy: In Four Parts . Oxford UP, 2010.

You can create and manage your annotated bibliography with Scribbr’s free MLA Citation Generator. Choose your source type, retrieve the details, and click “Add annotation.”

Generate accurate MLA citations with Scribbr

Table of contents, mla format for annotated bibliographies, length and content of annotations, frequently asked questions about annotated bibliographies.

The list should be titled either “Annotated Bibliography” or “Annotated List of Works Cited.” You may be told which title to use; “bibliography” is normally used for a list that also includes sources you didn’t cite in your paper or that isn’t connected to a paper at all.

Sources are usually organized alphabetically , like in a normal Works Cited list, but can instead be organized chronologically or by subject depending on the purpose of the assignment.

The source information is presented and formatted in the same way as in a normal Works Cited entry:

The annotation follows on the next line, also double-spaced and left-aligned. The whole annotation is indented 1 inch from the left margin to distinguish it from the 0.5 inch hanging indent of the source entry.

MLA annotated bibliography

MLA gives some guidelines for writing the annotations themselves. They cover how concise you need to be and what exactly you should write about your sources.

Phrases or full sentences?

MLA states that it’s acceptable to use concise phrases rather than grammatically complete sentences in your annotations.

While you shouldn’t write this way in your main text, it’s acceptable in annotations because the subject of the phrase is clear from the context. It’s also fine to use full sentences instead, if you prefer.

Always use full sentences if your instructor requires you to do so, though.

How many paragraphs?

MLA states that annotations usually aim to be concise and thus are only one paragraph long. However, it’s acceptable to write multiple-paragraph annotations if you need to.

If in doubt, aim to keep your annotations short, but use multiple paragraphs if longer annotations are required for your assignment.

Descriptive, evaluative, or reflective annotations?

MLA states that annotations can describe or evaluate sources, or do both. They shouldn’t go into too much depth quoting or discussing minor details from the source, but aim to write about it in broad terms.

You’ll usually write either descriptive , evaluative , or reflective annotations . If you’re not sure what kind of annotations you need, consult your assignment guidelines or ask your instructor.

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example of an annotated bibliography in mla format

An annotated bibliography is an assignment where you collect sources on a specific topic and write an annotation for each source. An annotation is a short text that describes and sometimes evaluates the source.

Any credible sources on your topic can be included in an annotated bibliography . The exact sources you cover will vary depending on the assignment, but you should usually focus on collecting journal articles and scholarly books . When in doubt, utilize the CRAAP test !

Each annotation in an annotated bibliography is usually between 50 and 200 words long. Longer annotations may be divided into paragraphs .

The content of the annotation varies according to your assignment. An annotation can be descriptive, meaning it just describes the source objectively; evaluative, meaning it assesses its usefulness; or reflective, meaning it explains how the source will be used in your own research .

No, in an MLA annotated bibliography , you can write short phrases instead of full sentences to keep your annotations concise. You can still choose to use full sentences instead, though.

Use full sentences in your annotations if your instructor requires you to, and always use full sentences in the main text of your paper .

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Caulfield, J. (2022, June 14). MLA Style Annotated Bibliography | Format & Examples. Scribbr. Retrieved May 29, 2023, from

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