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, and doing them properly will aid in your understanding of the material and help you develop material for the assignments.

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.