Annotating Text

Properly annotated text from beginning slide show

There are different ways to markup and interact with a text. You probably already know and use some of these methods. In high school, you may have learned a specific type of annotation method.

Basic rules of text annotation are to:

  • Use a pencil to underline key passages and circle unknown vocabulary as you read. You may use a highlighter too, but avoid highlighting too much.
  • Write in the margins. You own your college textbooks; make the books your own. Ask questions of the text in the margins. Summarize the thesis. Draw connections between passages. Note rhetorical devices, recurring themes, or contradictions as you notice them.
  • Take advantage of digital tools. Word processing software usually includes annotation features to highlight and comment on text. Other helpful features include spell checking and word counts. Adobe Acrobat Reader provides annotation tools too, enabling you to markup readings provided in the PDF file format.

Below is a quick tutorial on how to use Adobe Reader annotation features:

Example of Annotated Text

Peruse this example of annotated text. To help develop good reading habits, select a method for marking up your text. You'll find that annotation really helps comprehension and completing later assignments with the reading.

Annotation Example

Question the Text and Yourself

Whenever you have a question or stop to think, that's an important cue to you to make note. More specifically you should:

  1. Note times when your reading changes:

    • You see something you didn't see before.
    • You recognize a pattern – the images start to overlap, gestures or phrases recur, some details seem associated with each other.
    • The story suddenly seems to you to be about something different from what you originally thought.
    • You discover that you were misreading.
    • You realize that the writer has introduced a new context or new perspective.
  2. Note times when you are surprised or puzzled:

    • Something just doesn't fit.
    • Things don't make sense – pose explicitly the question or problem that occurs to you.
  3. Note details that seem important and that make you look again.
  4. Note ways in which the text makes you speculate about a connection to another text, an incident in real life, or even another academic discipline.
  5. Note rhetorical devices that you recognize; how do they contribute to your reading of the text?
  6. What are the writer's claims (main points)? How does he or she support these claims?
  7. Note your first impression of the conclusion or the ending – ”what ended"? What conclusions did the writer bring you to?