Suggestions for Annotating a Text
Annotate – v . To make notes on a written work for explanation or critical commentary.
Why do we annotate? To better understand and to think critically about what you are reading. While the amount of annotation may vary widely from page to page, any notes you add to a text will help you to read it more critically. In addition, any attempt to annotate a text will strengthen your understanding of a reading, ultimately helping you return to the reading with confidence later. This is very important for E.S.L. students who need additional support with vocabulary, cultural references, and idiomatic language.
Here are some ways to annotate a text:
Chapter summaries/titles: At the end of each chapter, section, or article, write a brief summary of the main idea, plot, or simply what occurred. This does not have to be long or greatly detailed, but should include all relevant ideas or incidents. This practice will help you improve your understanding of a chapter in just a few of your own words.
Underline: Within the text of any written piece, and as you read, underline or otherwise note anything that strikes you as important, significant, or memorable. If possible, write brief comments within the side margins that indicate your motivation in underlining. In works of non-fiction, focus on important ideas, themes, and the main ideas used by the writer. Underline isolated words and phrases that are important.
Vocabulary/unusual diction: You should circle or highlight words that are unfamiliar or unusual to you. Look up words these words in a dictionary and write a short definition in the margin of the text. You can also write the definition in your own language, but you should have the definition written down in English first. You can also write down synonyms.
Questions: Actively engage the text and further/confirm your understanding of each chapter by writing questions in the margin. This will help you think deeper and more critically about the text. If you have time, make multiple choice, fill in the blank, matching, and true/false questions as well to prepare for a test or quiz.
There are a number of procedural expectations that make annotation practical and effective.
- Use a consistent system. Use the same abbreviations and symbols every time you annotate (See Below).
- Use different colors to mark the text to separate important information. For example, yellow for vocabulary, green for main ideas, blue for unknown expressions, and so on.
- Do underlining, brackets [ ], highlighting, and circling as you read.
- At chapter or section ends, stop to index page numbers on your front cover list of character information and traits as well as on your back cover list of themes, images, allusions, etc. Also, write chapter summaries at that time.
- Write questions in the margins to actively engage with the text and to think critically about what you’ve read.
- Be neat and be disciplined, and always REVIEW your annotations!
Some suggested Abbreviations/Symbols:
b/c = because
+ = and
w/ = with
w/o = without
b/t = between
e.g. = for example
ex = example
info = information
b4 = before
↑ = increase, improvement, rising
↓ = decrease, decline, falling
* = important
** = very important
# = of the utmost importance; crucial to understanding
> = use caret to point to an exact location
PLOT = plot item TP = turning point
cf = conflict RA = rising action
Cx = climax FA = falling action
RES = resolution S = setting
POV = point of view (mention type: 1st person, limited omniscient, etc.)
Th = theme