How to Annotate a Reading Assignment

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Annotating a reading assignment involves writing highlights, questions, summaries and comments in the margins of the piece or otherwise marking important information. Annotation helps you to quickly review the ideas within the work later and to remain more engaged in the reading, often increasing your understanding of the concepts.

1 Process for Annotating a Reading

Skim quickly through the piece before annotating to get a general idea of the information it presents. On your second read, note important ideas such as the thesis and significant terms by placing a star next to them or underlining them. Emphasize the most important ideas by highlighting these phrases or sentences or using double-underlining or multiple stars. Circle words that you need to look up to learn definitions. Indicate each section's point by writing labels in the margin such as "introduction" or "examples," and write brief summaries or key terms to explain what paragraphs or sections cover, such as, "causes for dropping out" followed by a specific list: "money, time, family." If questions such as "Are there differences among majors?" come to mind, jot them in the margin to give you ideas you can follow up on for essays or further reading. If the concepts remind you of course material or personal experiences, make a note in the margin so that you can use that information to help understand class concepts or in narrative essays. When you finish reading, look back through your notes to ensure that they make sense to you.

Kristie Sweet has been writing professionally since 1982, most recently publishing for various websites on topics like health and wellness, and education. She holds a Master of Arts in English from the University of Northern Colorado.