Text: Annotating

As we’ve learned in earlier sections, active reading involves multiple steps. Even experts in a field expect to read a new piece of writing several times before they feel they understand it fully. Following the same steps that advanced readers do will help you become an advanced reader yourself.

The Secret is In the Pen

One of the ways experienced readers read is with a pen in hand. They know their purpose is to keep their attention on the material by:

  • predicting what the material will be about
  • questioning the material to further understanding
  • determining what’s important
  • identifying key vocabulary
  • summarizing the material in their own words, and
  • monitoring their comprehension (understanding) during and after engaging with the material

Strategies for Annotation

You remember from the SQ3R approach to reading, that there are five general steps to reading: Surveying, Questioning, Reading, Reciting, and Reviewing.

The process of annotation will be especially useful for the Questioning and Reading steps of the SQ3R process. This video provides a demonstration of annotation in action.

As you annotate, focus on some or all of the following:

  • Definitions. Look up and write down definitions of unfamiliar words.
  • Concepts. Underline what you think are the most important, interesting, or difficult concepts.
  • Tone. Note the writer’s tone–sarcastic, sincere, witty, shrill.
  • Biases. Look out for the writer’s biases and unstated assumptions (and your own).
  • Responses. Ask questions and note your own reactions and insights.
  • Connections. Make connections with other texts you have read or your own experiences.