Students should style a source in an annotated bibliography just as they would in a list of works cited and then append an annotation to the end of the entry. Annotations describe or evaluate sources. As James Harner writes, “[G]ood annotations accurately and incisively—but not cryptically—distill the essence of works” and “focus the reader’s attention on major points” (28). Annotations should not rehash minor details, cite evidence, quote the author, or recount steps in an argument. Writing an effective annotation requires reading the work, understanding its aims, and clearly summarizing them. For this reason, annotations may aid students in conducting research.
Annotations are generally written as succinct phrases:
Harbord, Janet. The Evolution of Film: Rethinking Film Studies. Polity, 2007. A synthesis of classic film theory and an examination of the state of film studies as of 2007 that draws on contemporary scholarship in philosophy, anthropology, and media studies.
But if you prefer to have your students use complete sentences, the students should add a line space after the entry and then begin the annotation with a paragraph indent:
Harbord, Janet. The Evolution of Film: Rethinking Film Studies. Polity, 2007.
This synthesis of classic film theory examines the state of film studies as of 2007. It draws on contemporary scholarship in philosophy, anthropology, and media studies.
The list should be titled Annotated Bibliography or Annotated List of Works Cited. Students may organize the bibliography alphabetically by author or title (as for a normal list of works cited), by the date of publication, or by subject.
Harner, James. On Compiling an Annotated Bibliography. Modern Language Association of America, 2000.
To cite a term in the dictionary that includes different parts of speech in the headword, follow the MLA format template and begin with the headword (as it appears) as the title of the source. Note that this may include parts of speech.
“Heavy, Adj. 1 and N.” Oxford English Dictionary, Oxford UP, 2015, www.oed.com/view/Entry/85246?rskey=aIe8OM&result=1.
“Heavy.” Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed., vol. 7, Clarendon Press, 1989, p. 84.
When you alphabetize your works-cited list, treat numbers in titles as though they were spelled out.
Let’s say, for example, you need to alphabetize entries for George Orwell’s Animal Farm and 1984, along with two entries for lyrics to songs by Radiohead thought to be inspired by Orwell’s novels, “2 + 2 = 5” and “Optimistic.” Treat 1984 as Nineteen Eighty-Four and “2 + 2 = 5” as “Two plus Two Equals Five,” and alphabetize the entries by their titles accordingly:
Orwell, George. Animal Farm: A Fairy Story. 1946. Plume, 2003.
—. 1984. 1949. Introduction by Julian Symons, Alfred A. Knopf, 1992.
Radiohead. “Optimistic.” MetroLyrics, CBS Interactive, 2016, www.metrolyrics.com/optimistic-lyrics-radiohead.html.
MLA style avoids ibid. and op. cit., using short titles instead, on the principles that (1) a short title makes your reference clearer to readers, not requiring them to look back in text, notes, or documentation, with a groan, to find what exactly the abbreviation is pointing to, and that (2) the days of expecting an educated person to know Latin and Greek are over—i.e. and e.g. notwithstanding. QED.
The MLA format template calls for a period after the title of a source, but if the title of a source ends in a question mark or exclamation point, do not include a period. Question marks or exclamation points, as stronger marks, always supersede a period:
Albee, Edward. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Signet, 1983.
If, however, the title of the container ends in a question mark or exclamation point, do add a comma after the question mark. MLA style allows a comma after a question mark or exclamation point if the comma facilitates reading or if rewording is impossible. Since a works-cited-list entry cannot be reworded and since the MLA template calls for a comma after the title of a container, retain the comma:
Tomlinson, Hugh, and Graham Burchell. Translators’ introduction. What Is Philosophy?, by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Columbia UP, 1994.
Astley, Rick. Concert. 6 Oct. 2016, Town Hall, New York City.
If you are discussing a collaborative performance, generally begin with the title of the source. In the below example, the author of the play, the director, and the lead performers appear in the “Other contributors” position. Provide the name of the company presenting the work in the publisher slot, then the date of the performance, and the location:
Heartbreak House. By George Bernard Shaw, directed by Robin Lefevre, performances by Philip Bosco and Swoosie Kurtz, Roundabout Theatre Company, 1 Oct. 2006, American Airlines Theatre, New York.
If your discussion of the work focuses on the contribution of a particular person, begin the entry with that person’s name, followed by a descriptive label:
Lefevre, Robin, director. Heartbreak House. By George Bernard Shaw, performances by Philip Bosco and Swoosie Kurtz, Roundabout Theatre Company, 1 Oct. 2006, American Airlines Theatre, New York.
The MLA’s system of documentation is based not on publication format but on a template of core elements. For each slot in the MLA template, you should include the pertinent information provided by your source. If a magazine you are citing provides volume and issue numbers in addition to a date, include the volume and issue numbers in the number slot and the date in the publication-date slot:
Jones, Mel. “The Second Racial Wealth Gap.” Washington Monthly, vol. 47, nos. 11-12, Nov.-Dec. 2015, pp. 11-14.
Note that a different version of the same source might not provide information for all the elements. The online version of the Washington Monthly article provides only months and year, so you would not include volume and issue numbers:
Jones, Mel. “The Second Racial Wealth Gap.” Washington Monthly, Nov.-Dec. 2015, washingtonmonthly.com/magazine/novdec-2015/the-second-racial-wealth-gap/.
Page 49 of the MLA Handbook demonstrates how to create a works-cited-list entry for an artwork viewed firsthand at a museum. Include the name of the artist, the title of the work, the date of composition, and the name of the museum along with the city in which the museum is located:
Bearden, Romare. The Train. 1975, Museum of Modern Art, New York.
The medium of publication and materials of composition, if important to your discussion, could be included at the end of the entry as optional elements.
If you viewed the same painting on the museum’s Web site, include the name of the Web site as the title of the container, followed by the publisher of the Web site and the URL. Following page 42 of the handbook, omit the publisher’s name if it is essentially the same as the title of the Web site:
Bearden, Romare. The Train. 1975. MOMA, www.moma.org/collection/works/65232?locale=en.
Note that in the above works-cited-list entries, the date is followed by a comma in the first example and a period in the second. In the first example, 1975 is in the publication-date slot on the MLA format template. In the second example, 1975 tells you when The Train was created, not when it was published on the site MOMA. It thus appears in the optional-element slot after the element to which it relates (see the MLA Handbook 50–53 for more). There is no date after the title of the container (MOMA) because the date the image was posted is not given on the site.