Annotating in Five Steps

Step 1: Have the Proper Tools

case of annotation tools

Whether you have a simple No.2 pencil, or the whole kit and caboodle, it is imperitive to have the right tools for annotations. Some students don't enjoy writing in books because they think it's messy, so they choose to write their notes separately on Post-its to place inside the text. Other students love office supplies, so they wreck their books using highlighters, colorful pens, and sticky tabs, creating an explosion of ideas within their books. Find the right tools that work for you!

Step 2: Get in the Zone

student annotating in the dark

Many of us like to read in a variety of settings-- beaches, in the car, or our favorite reading nook. Reading in different places can be fun, but it's important for us to be "in the zone" when reading for academic purposes. Many of your classes will require that you read closely, which means reading with the intent of recalling details and analyzing quotations. When you are preparing to read a text closely, find a distraction-free environment that allows you to immerse yourself in the words.

Step 3: Use Resources

student using resources to annotate

When reading through any text, it's important to have additional resources available in case you need them. Many students have infinite access to information right at their finger tips with their cellular devices. When you come across words you don't understand, especially in older texts where the language requires a bit more work to unpackage, look up terms and definitions. Additionally, it's a good idea to find access to the audio version of literature, such as through Audible or free Youtube recordings. Listening to the words being read allowed can help you to grasp not only what is being said, but also how it should be understood.

Step 4: Flag and Tag

book with paper sticky tab

A great practice for close-reading is to flag and tag . Have a set of sticky notes handy, so you can place notes in and around pages of a book. Consider writing a brief summary of major plot points or topics addressed within a set of pages. This can be especially handy if you struggle to remember key information on the day of a quiz or test. Flagging and tagging your annotations gives you a visible mark in your book for you to turn to whenever discussing literature with your peers.

Step 5: Share Your Findings

student sharing textual evidence

If you've done all the work to read closely, then you will be ready to engage fully in class discussions. Annotating the material will give you the support you need when sharing your big and insightful ideas with your classmates. Your annotations will make sure you never come to class empty handed.