Hey, let’s talk about annotated bibliographies. OK, so your teacher told you to write an MLA-formatted annotated bibliography. Or maybe your teacher calls it a Works Cited page. Don’t stress out. They sound scary, but they aren’t that hard. An annotated bibliography is kind of like a spork. It’s just two separate assignments that got mashed up into one.
If you just do them one at a time, it’s easy. First, you’ve probably written bibliographies for previous classes. For our purposes, a Works Cited page is pretty much the same thing as a bibliography Here’s what one looks like. So let’s do a quick review. A bibliography, or Works Cited Page, is a list of the sources you used for an essay you wrote where you looked up information created by other people and used it in your essay. Um… you were smart enough to remember to make a note of the websites you used, right? If not, go into your history on your browser and find them.
All of your sources are listed in alphabetical order, and they have what’s called a "hanging indent." See here: the first line begins at the margin, but the rest of the citation is indented a half inch. That way, it’s easy for a reader to skim down and find the source he or she is looking for. And a lot of teachers will pick one source from your bibliography at random and actually investigate it to see if it’s what you say it is. Now, I have no problem with students using bibliography-making websites, if they work properly, though they sometimes don’t. Like sometimes they’ll put in quotation marks that don’t belong there. But even if they work, there is definitely value in learning how to do this yourself instead of depending on a machine to know what you could just learn yourself.
Next time you’re at the library, take a look at the latest edition of the MLA Handbook. Everything you need to know is in there. OK, so, each bibliographic entry is made up of some pretty basic information: what is it? who wrote it? when was it written? and who published it? That’s easy when you’re using an actual book; it’s all right there before the title page. When you’re using a website as a source, though, it can get tricky.
However, if you spend a few minutes searching the site, you can usually find out when it was posted online — you can use a copyright date if that’s all you have — and if it’s a reputable source, the author can often be found as well. If you can’t find the author, your entry will begin with the title of the page itself, but this looks frustrating incomplete to most teachers, including me. I always want to know: did this kid actually try to find the name of the author? And then I’ll go look at the site myself to check. The key is to do the hunting around and find as much information as is available.
Next, if you used images taken from the Internet for a poster or slideshow presentations like this one, you give the creator of the image if you can find that, the title of the image if there is one, the name of the webpage, the publisher, and the date it was posted. Unfortunately, digital images copied from the Internet often do not come with much bibliographic information, which makes documenting them challenging. Here’s an entry for a digital image. You see here: I couldn’t find the name of the person who created this photo, so it begins with a short description of the image. And don’t put the description in quotation marks.
It’s not an actual title. If your bibliography-making-site puts them on there, it’s wrong. Delete those quotation marks. When it asks what the publisher is, look at the website. It might just say it, all obvious-like. But if not, look at the root of the URL, the Internet address. Let’s say this is your URL.
Then this is what you can list as the publisher. It usually follows the two forward slashes — these — and ends with something like .com, .org, .net, .ca if it’s from Canada, and so on. 90% of the time, that’s who produced that web site. After you have all your entries done, put them in alphabetical order by the first letter. Alphabetize numbers as if they were spelled out in letters. So "5" is alphabetized f-i-v-e and appears after Abe and before "Fred." Many teachers will want you to include the URL or what’s called a DOI if you can find one, but the MLA doesn’t strictly require it. So that part isn’t too hard, right?
If your Works Cited Page is complete, you’re done with the first half of the spork. Remember the spork? OK, now, I don’t have the same expectations for a 9th grader that I would have for a university-level student. This article is for beginners, so the annotations will be short and simple. University-level students should check out this article from the Columbia Gorge Community College. All an annotation is is a description of the source and how you used it in your assignment. That’s all it is.
It looks like this. Here, I’ll put the annotations in red so you can see where the citation ends and the annotation begins. (Don’t use different colors in your essay; I’m just doing that here so you can see it clearly). You can see that under each bibliographic entry, there are a few lines describing what the source is and how you used it in your paper. Sometimes, you won’t actually have any quotes from a source, but you used it as a source of general knowledge on your topic. That’s fine. Just explain that in your annotation, as you see here. Last, the format.
Your annotated bibliography should be double-spaced — yes, all of it. It may look weird if you’re not used to it, but do it anyway. And don’t make it double spaced by hitting the return key twice. Adjust the line-spacing using the format function on your computer. How that’s done depends on your word processing program. While we’re on this topic, if your program automatically inserts a blank space after each paragraph, disable that.
Also, don’t forget those hanging indents, like these here. And use 12 pt. Times New Roman for your font if possible. And that’s it. It’s a bit of work documenting your sources correctly, and to be completely frank, a little tedious, but presumably your research was the hard part. Do a good job in this section or you could raise suspicions that you plagiarized or just made stuff up.
So it’s worth the effort. OK, good luck with your annotated bibliography.