What are typical components of the MLA annotated bibliography?

Writing an MLA annotated bibliography usually means listing of information sources that you used in your research paper (such as books, articles from scientific newspapers and magazines, web-sites, audio and video files, interviews and so on) in the end of your paper. The sources may be printed or electronic, it is up to you. As a matter of fact, the annotated bibliography may be also referred as to works cited or references.

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Depending on what requirements to your research work are and what instructions you have, the information provided in your annotated bibliography may vary. However, the common components of a bibliography are the following:

  • Description of the content. You need to provide a brief description of what the information source gives info about.
  • Facts about the usefulness and relevance of the source that you used. You need to write down the reason that proves that the source made a significant contribution not only to the general are of your research subject, but also to your  project specifically.
  • Write what advantages and disadvantages the source has. Are there any weaknesses that you would like to mention?
  • State the value of the general significance of the source, as well as its reliability. Here, you need to include the conclusions made by the author of the source and appropriate references, if possible.
  • Show your personal reaction and attitude to the info source. Pay attention, this has to be a reaction to the research work, but not to the author himself.

As a rule, the purpose of a typical bibliography is to provide a deep, but narrow overview of the whole list of information sources mentioned in your project. However, the general purpose includes several additional purposes that you can find below:

  • It has to provide a review of the information (including all the above-mentioned possible sources, such as books, articles, web-sites, etc.) in light of a certain subject of your research paper.
  • It serves for demonstrating the high quality if your own project. You can benefit considerably from a good annotated bibliography because it shows your competence and intelligence in regard to the area of your research.
  • It gives concrete examples of possible info sources that are available for usage.
  • It usually describes a number of other important issues in regard to different issues that also can provoke your potential reader's interest.
  • It shows how the subject of your research area may be explored additionally in case that a reader wants to continue his exploration.

An important characteristic of the MLA annotated bibliography is that it needs to be as coherent as possible. There has to be a logical line in each annotation that guides a reader through the research.

Again, this issue depends on the requirements to your annotated bibliography and on the instructions given to you by your professor (if such exist). However, there is still a short list of possible ways to organize your bibliography. They are the following:

  • Write the sources in accordance with the first letters of the publication or its author.
  • Chronologically ordered annotation may be organized by the date of publication or in accordance with the historical period of research. It may be year, era, century, decade, etc.
  • Organizing by subtopic. If there are subtopics in your project and each subtopic has relative information sources, then it is acceptable to organize them in this way.
  • Organizing by formatting style. You can divide your annotated bibliography into sections, each of which would provide sources that have different formats: scientific articles, chapters of books, books, web-documents and web-pages, audio-files and media-files and so on. A well-written annotation enlightens the research project in a historical context.
  • Finally, you can organize your annotated bibliography in accordance with the language used in the source.

First of all, remember that annotations are known to have two main functions: they provide a brief description of the information source and state the value of the source. In fact, your annotation is a short overview of a certain source which includes significant details and aspects about the source that are not mentioned (or evident) in the title of the source. It gives the explorer an opportunity to state the reliability of a certain book or article used in the research project. Also, the bibliography proves the knowledge of the researcher in particular field of science and can give him significant advantages. As for the abstracts, they may also be written in scientific articles and research papers, but their main purpose is to provide the  work with an understandable summary so the potential reader could understand from the very beginning of the work whether the subject of certain research lies within his area of scientific interest and expertise.

All in all, writing an annotated bibliography will give you a chance to learn more about the subject of your research and to understand whether there can be a place in the history of science for your personal project. You should take it seriously and be patient when looking for details of the source.

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