What is Annotating a Text? Remember that a text can take many forms, because a text can be anything that uses a form of communication to convey a message to an audience. That message can be carried using any form of communication, including language or text, visual elements, auditory elements, tactile elements, and beyond. Texts can take the form of traditional print artifacts, such as a newspaper or a chapter in a textbook, but they can also take many other forms such as infographics, billboards, television commercials, or objects (such as t-shirts or water bottles).
Growing as a writer requires developing close reading skills: writers should practice interpreting texts around them to discover how texts are created, how they “work,” and how others might interact with them and understand them. Texts only take on meaning when a reader constructs a meaning through the process of interpretation. To help draw your attention to how you construct meaning as a close reader, you’re expected to annotate many texts in this class. You are expected to complete annotations by hand in this course.
Psychotherapist and journaling expert Maud Purcell suggests (Links to an external site.) that the act of writing helps filter information and focus; Maria Konnikova of The New York Times reports (Links to an external site.) that psychologists and neuroscientists have found that writing longhand improves retention of information, helps generate more ideas, and deepens reading abilities. If you require accommodations for the activity of writing by hand, you may complete annotations in a digital form, perhaps by using Adobe Reader or your preferred platform to create text boxes and other markings that make similar moves that hand-written annotations would.
Annotation is the process of marking on and interacting with a text to construct an interpretation of it as you consume it.
This guide offers some strategies that will help you practice annotating and become a close reader. Annotations can take two main forms: markings and verbal comments.
Markings can include moves such as underlining, circling, highlighting, and other ways of flagging parts of the text. For example, you can:
- Mark any passages that summarize an author’s main argument, theme, or conflict
- Mark any words or phrases that are new to you and investigate them
- Mark any figures of speech or phrases that you find effective or enjoyable Verbal comments can take many forms, but remember that your goal is to “think out loud” to interpret the text as you consume it: capture your comments in the margins of the text, between lines or sections of the text, and even on the back of the pages if necessary.
Especially if the process of annotation is new to you, try this “formula” for constructing comments: simply take notes any time you appreciate, notice, or wonder something by starting comments in one of the following forms:
- “I appreciate…” followed by something that you admire or enjoy in the text, something that you think is done well
- “I notice…” followed by something that gets your attention or that stands out as a pattern throughout the text
- “I wonder…” followed by questions, concerns, or suggestions you have about something in the text
Here are other suggestions for how to verbalize your interpretations as you read:
- Take notes on how the writing seems to work.
- What do you notice about the organization, formatting, and other elements of the text? In what context was this text created?
- How does the writer communicate their argument, use evidence and examples, etc.?
- How does the writer communicate about the purpose of this text? o How does the writer try to reach their intended audience?
- Take notes on your reading experience, such as documenting any emotional reaction you might be having (“The way the author does _____ is making me mad…” or “It’s kind of creepy how this text talks about…”)
- Take notes on any connections you have to the text (“This reminds me a lot of…”) or future applications you might use (“I want to remember this when I…” When asked to annotate a text for this class, complete the following steps to submit your annotations.
Annotation Video Guide
If you’re annotating using pen and PA.PER:
- Print or obtain a printed copy of all texts.
- Complete the meta-analysis/annotation process by hand using a dark-colored pen.
- Use a traditional scanner on a printer or other device to capture images of all pages or sections of all text as a single PDF, OR use a smartphone app for scanning such as CamScanner, TurboScan, or Scannable to capture images of all pages or sections of the texts as a single PDF.
- Email yourself the PDF for easy access and storage. From your preferred device, download the single PDF of the annotated text from your email and then upload it to the Writer Portrait text annotations area in Canvas.
If you’re annotating using a stylus on a tablet or other device:
- Open digital files or images of the texts in your prefered application on the tablet or other device.
- Complete the annotation process by hand using a stylus and any other relevant marking tools (such as a highlighting feature).
- Save your annotated files or images of all the texts as a single PDF.
- Upload the single PDF of the annotated text to the Summary Annotations Assignment area in Canvas.