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Bibliographic Citations using MLA Style 8th edition (2016): Annotated Bibliographies

An introduction to the new (April 2016) edition of the MLA citation guide. The new Guide has introduced many new features to this widely used bibliographic style.

MLA Citation Style

What is an Annotation?

 

An annotation summarizes the essential ideas contained in a document, reporting the author's thesis and main points as well as how they relate to your own ideas or thesis. There are two types of annotations; summative and evaluative. Summative annotations provide only a summary of the author's main ideas. Summative annotations include no statements of relevance or critical evaluation remarks. Evaluative annotations provide both a descriptive and critical evaluation of the source. Evaluative annotations usually begin with broad comments about the focus of the source then moves to more details. Your comments should move from the details of the text to your evaluation of the source. Annotations are typically brief (one paragraph) but may be longer depending on the requirements of your assignment.

Check with your instructor to determine the citation format, length and the type of annotations you will be writing. Remember, the annotation should show that you have done more than simply describe what is in the source. The following is an example of a evaluative and a summative annotated citation.

Why write an annotated bibliography?

  • An annotated bibliography will help you read your sources more carefully. Writing an annotation on each source you use in your research will help you to read the material more closely and to think critically about the sources you are using and how they might be helpful (or not) in larger research projects.
  • An annotated bibliography will help you track your research. The annotation will serve as a note to yourself regarding each article or text you’ve read.
  • An annotated bibliography provides additional information or background material for your reader, and will give your reader a better understanding of the topic.

What information might be included in the annotation?

Some information your abstract might provide:

  • What is the author's thesis?
  • What are the author's main points?
  • Who is the author, what is his authority or background?
  • Who is the author’s intended audience?
  • What parts of the subject does the article emphasize or de-emphasize?
  • Is there any bias or slant in the article?
  • Are there any obvious omissions that seem important to the ideas being discussed?
  • Does the evidence clearly support the author’s main point?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of the article (critical evaluation)?

Examples:

Evaluative annotation

Achebe, Chinua. "An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad's Heart of Darkness." Heart of Darkness, edited by Robert Kimbrough, Norton, 1988, pp. 251-62. A provocative essay by the influential Nigerian author Achebe on the prevalent image of Africa in the Western imagination, focusing on racist dimensions of Conrad's Heart of Darkness. Achebe presents an interpretation of cultural identity and identifies a pervasive need on the part of "the West" to denigrate and dehumanize Africa. This controversial essay has been tremendously influential in recent discussion of multicultural education but has received by no means universal assent.

Summative annotation

Achebe, Chinua. "An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad's Heart of Darkness." Heart of Darkness, edited by Robert KimbroughNorton, 1988, pp. 251-62. An essay by Nigerian author Achebe on the prevalent image of Africa in the Western imagination, focusing on racist dimensions of Conrad's Heart of Darkness. Achebe presents an interpretation of the function of the images of Others in the construction of cultural identity and identifies a need on the part of "the West" to denigrate and dehumanize Africa.

Evaluative annotation

Lange, Karl P. "Native American Medicines and the Lewis and Clark Expedition.” Journal of Western American History, no. 51, 1992, pp. 534-568. Lange, a Doctor of Naturopathic medicine at Eastern State University, presents a convincing argument that the Lewis and Clark expedition would have failed had they relied solely on the medicines in common use in the United States at the time. Lange supports his arguments with numerous passages from the published journals and letters of expedition members. This is a very informative article which provides an extensive inventory of native medicines including how they were used by the expedition. The article is well illustrated with numerous diagrams of native plants used by the expedition and contains an extensive bibliography of additional resources.

Summative annotation

Lange, Karl P. "Native American Medicines and the Lewis and Clark Expedition.” Journal of Western American History, no. 51, 1992, pp. 534-568.The author examines the of use of native medicines by the Lewis and Clark expedition. Lange argues that the expedition would have failed had they relied solely on the medicines in common use in the United States at the time. Includes illustrations of natives plants used for medicinal purposes.

Evaluative annotation

Kreie, Jennifer, and Timothy Paul Cronan. “Making Ethical Decisions.” Communications of the ACM, vol. 43, no. 12, 2000, pp. 66-71. Academic Search Premier. The authors, professors of computer systems, present findings of a study of 300 college students to support their theory that businesses who promote a strong ethical code of conduct can influence employee behavior in certain situations. The paper builds on an earlier study conducted by the authors. While the results of the study appear valid the survey is limited in its scope to a small population. A comparison of a similar survey conducted in a work place would be a valuable addition to this study. While the authors’ conclusion that people rely on their personal values when making ethical decisions is perhaps stating the obvious, this article provides a good starting point for additional research on the topic.

Summative annotation

Kreie, Jennifer, and Timothy Paul Cronan. “Making Ethical Decisions.” Communications of the ACM, vol. 43, no. 12, 2000, pp. 66-71. Academic Search Premier. The authors present findings of a study of 300 college students to support their theory that businesses who promote a strong ethical code of conduct can influence employee behavior in certain situations. The survey asked participants to read five scenarios then judge whether what the patron did was ethical or unethical. Includes a chart presenting results of the survey and a short bibliography.

 

 

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