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Citation Styles Guide: Annotated bibliographies

This guide is intended to help students with the different citation styles used at the College.

What is an annotated bibliography?

An annotated bibliography is a list of the sources you have used or will use for an assignment. Each entry in the list is accompanied by an explanation of its usefulness for your work. This explanation is what differentiates an annotated bibliography from a normal Works Cited.

Your annotated bibliography should contain the following:

  • A citation for each of the works you used.

  • An annotation describing each work’s relationship to your research.

The content of your annotations will vary according to assignment guidelines. Your instructor may require you to:

  • Describe a source’s content.

  • Identify a source’s main argument(s) (i.e. thesis, hypothesis, research question).

  • Evaluate the strengths or weakness of a source’s argument(s).

  • Assess the reliability of a source (for help with this, consult the PAARC Test on the Evaluating information: The PAARC test page of our Performing academic research LibGuide).

  • Explain a source’s relevance to your research or argument.

Please pay careful attention to your assignment requirements – not all annotated bibliographies contain the same information! The requirements of your assignment always overrule anything we mention here.

Preparing an annotated bibliography in MLA style (MLA Handbook 5.132)

Each entry in an MLA style annotated bibliography will have two parts. They are:

  1. A citation in standard MLA format. Just as when you normally prepare your list of Works Cited at the end of a paper, you will need to follow the specifics of MLA citation style in order to provide the required information about your source. To learn more about MLA citation styles, please consult the Works Cited section of this LibGuide.
  2. The annotation, that is, your explanation of the usefulness of a given source. The annotation will always follow directly after the end of the citation. Start it on a new line, It should be indented a full inch (2.54 cm) from the margin, to distinguish it from the 1/2 inch (1.27 cm) hanging indent of the citation.


Example - With a description of the source's content

Eigen, Joel Peter. Unconscious Crime: Mental Absence and Criminal Responsibility in Victorian London. Johns Hopkins UP, 2003. Ebook Central,

Eigen examines the effects of the McNaughton trial and its resulting 1843 legal rules on criminal cases at London’s Old Bailey between 1843 and 1876. The book further explores the impact of the era’s various preoccupations with altered consciousness, such as in Mesmerism, somnambulism and hypnotism, as well as their impact on legal proceedings.


Note: Always follow your teacher’s requirements for the content of your annotations. Don’t assume you are supposed to provide a summary only.

The MLA Handbook, 9th Edition

The MLA Handbook, 9th Edition, published by the Modern Language Association, is the definitive guide on MLA citation style. It was last updated in 2021. Copies of the Handbook are available at the Reserve Desk in the Library.

Useful websites

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