by Samantha Bronkar
Have to read an article for a class? You could just read it—but what if you could have a conversation about it instead?
Often, we can expand our own thoughts and ideas when we talk about them out loud. You can think of annotating an article as having a conversation with the author. If you are reading an article that appears dense or uninteresting, physically taking notes on the article (along the margins) helps you to actively engage with the article.
When you annotate, you can (and should):
- Ask your own questions
- Paraphrase or summarize what the author claims
- Take note of your own thoughts
- Underline or highlight key phrases, quotes, individuals, dates, and ideas*
*Tip: You may find it helpful to color-code your annotations. For example, you can use an orange pen to note questions you have, a blue pen to note the author’s claims, a green pen to note your own thoughts, and a red pen to underline key dates, figures, etc.
Rather than reading text and trying to absorb it as you progress, annotating gives space for pausing, reflecting, questioning, and connecting ideas or themes you notice. This space can help readers learn, understand, and remember.
The beauty of annotations is that they give you permission not to understand something the first time you read it. I repeat: it is okay to not completely understand something, especially the first time you read it. In fact, having questions is a sign that you are critically assessing what you are reading, and that’s great!
As you read, take notes in the margins about things that confuse, interest, and inspire you. That way, you can easily locate those ideas in class or when studying in order to discuss them in greater detail. It’s also a good tool if you need to revisit a source when writing a research paper: your annotations will help you remember and work with a source you haven’t read in a while.
Samantha Bronkar is a junior majoring in English and will be participating in the Prague abroad next fall. She will be dearly missed.