There is no one right way to annotate. As you get used to the idea, you will develop your own way to interact with whatever you read. Here are some hints to help you get started:
Within the text or on clear sticky notes, you can use the following tools and techniques for note-taking:
In the margins or on sticky notes, you can write the following information:
Source: “Reading,” Phillip Martin
How you annotate doesn’t matter as much as long as you are consistent. Using the same annotations consistently helps you remember why you annotated an idea.
For example, if you always circle the main idea, you will immediately find the main idea when you look back in the text. Of course, if the main idea is not stated directly, then you will need to write your summary of the main idea in the margin and circle it.
Source: Henry David Thoreau; Library of Congress, American Memory collection
By physically circling the main idea as you read, you will force yourself to find it, which will help you to quickly identify and remember the main idea when you study.
Remember: When you can’t write in your book, photocopy the page or use sticky notes. This will allow you to annotate freely without defacing a borrowed book.
Let’s take a look at how one reader annotated excerpts from Henry David Thoreau’s Walden and noted unfamiliar words, the main idea, and metaphors. In 1845, Thoreau moved into the woods where he studied nature and wrote. His book Walden was named after the pond in the woods where he lived.
Can you draw conclusions from the reader’s annotation? Using your notes, answer the questions below. Check your understanding when you are finished.
The annotations of the Walden excerpts show only one reader’s notes. There is no right or wrong way to annotate. You can choose your own annotation style based on what you know or want to know about the text. You can use all the colors you want. You can invent icons for different uses. It’s all up to you.
Effective annotation is a skill that must be developed through practice. It requires thought, planning, and consistency. If you do it well, it will help you to understand and remember what you read. If you don’t do it well, it will do little more than provide you with patches of colored text.
Let’s look over another student’s annotation of the same page. What does the reader annotate in this excerpt? Do you think her annotations are helpful? Why or why not?
The reader makes no distinction among ideas. She doesn’t provide definitions for difficult words, doesn’t summarize in her own words, and doesn’t interact fully with the text. It will be difficult to return to this page and quickly remember the content.Close