Supplemental Reading #2: How to Annotate a Text

Annotate (v): To supply critical or explanatory notes to a text.Identifying and responding to the elements below will aid you in completing a close reading of the text. While annotations will not be collected or graded, doing them properly will aid in your understanding of the material and help you develop material for the assignments (Textual Annotations, Weekly Journals, and Major Essays).

While Reading

  • Characters
  • Setting (When and/or Where)
  • Vocabulary
  • Important ideas or information
  • Write in the margins:
    • Formulate opinions
    • Make connections: Can you see any connections between this reading and another we have had?
    • Ask open-ended questions (How…? Why…?)
    • Write reflections / reactions / comments: Have a conversation with the text! Did you like something? Not like something?

I recommend using multiple colored highlighters for these elements. Characters: Green, Setting: Blue, Margin Notes: Yellow, etc.). And be as detailed as possible when making notes–You’d hate to go back to something later and not remember why you highlighted it!

After Reading

  • Summarize: Attempt to summarize the work in 2-3 sentences without looking at the material. I recommend limiting your summary to 2-3 sentences because any longer could risk turning into a “play-by-play” vs. an actual summary.
  • Articulate the most important idea you feel the text is presenting. “The author wants us to know ___.” or “The moral of the story is ___.”

Complete these points in the margins at the end of the text or on the back of the last page.

Final Thought

Annotating is as personal as reading, and there are MANY ways to annotate a work. This system is just a suggestion. For example, some people prefer to use colored highlighters, while others may prefer to use symbols (underlining key words, etc.). There’s no “right way” to annotate–If you already have a system, feel free to use what you are comfortable with. I am not going to hold you to a specific style, however whatever style you use should cover the major areas discussed above.