How to Annotate a Text (and why it’s Helpful)

Whether you are a student or a professional writer, working with the best essay writer service and assisting others complete their assignments, reading and comprehending the text in front of you is essential. A study, conducted among the best essay writer service providers, shows that most students often find themselves in the midst of nowhere when they read for a long time. They don’t have the slightest of idea what the author has said in last few paragraphs.

Fortunately, the problem can be overcome by using various techniques. And one of these effective techniques in annotation.

What is Annotation?

An annotation is a note, explanation or comment about some particular part of the text. This note enables you to question, understand or explain the key ideas presented in that portion of the text. Annotations are generally given in the margins of the text book.

Unlike highlighting, annotating is a more active form of reading. While highlighting, you just point out the important phrases, things you need to understand or questions that need to be answered. This does not engage you much with the reading process.

But when you annotate a text while reading it, you are able to explain various ideas, pose questions and your first response to the text and engage yourself in the activity better.

How to Annotate?

This section will introduce you to the strategies and methods you may use to annotate effectively. We are going to look at the activity step by step.

Survey the Article:

When you come across the article/book, look at its credibility first. Research about the author and its year of publication to get the context. Note the title and try to make sense of what the topic is and what is the author going to argue about.

Look at the headings and subheadings and see what they offer to understand. Highlight the bold or italicized phrases or words and look for an abstract or methodology, if provided.


Secondly, skim through the article and see what it has to offer you. Read the introduction and try to identify the thesis statement. Comprehending the main theme helps you remain focused.

After you are done with the introduction, skim through the body paragraphs and look at the main ideas by concentrating on the first few lines of each paragraph.

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Finally, go through the whole article paying attention on the small details. You have already got a good idea of the main theme and the argument of the article. Highlight the main themes, write important questions in the margin and circle the words or definitions you don’t recognize. Mark the transition points and the change of tone as well.

Make it Easy for yourself:

Annotation is an activity that helps you fathom the complex ideas you could not comprehend otherwise. Therefore, it’s imperative that you make it easy enough to be understood when you go through the text next time.

                A few strategies can help you in this regard:

  • If you use highlighters to mark the important points in the text, always use different colors for different kinds of reactions to the text. For example all the definitions can be highlighted with green while all the disagreement or confusions can be given the yellow color.
  • Add a key to your article explaining what kind of color is used to indicate a particular kind of reaction or information.
  • Do not underline or highlight everything. Use various shapes including circle, triangle or even question mark to indicate different kinds of information. Add this in your key too.
  • Use each margin for one purpose only. Questions in the left, statement/reactions in the right, definitions in the top and summary in the bottom margin, for instance.

Why Annotation is Helpful?

It keeps you awake:

Have you ever noticed that you have been reading a book or article but suddenly you realize that you don’t know what these last few paragraphs were about? It happens often. Annotation keeps you awake and alert because you have a pencil and a highlighter in your hand to jot down your instant reactions on what the author has said.

Active reading:

A book on light fiction or an ordinary topic might not need a lot of attention. However, when you are reading works of great literature, they need more concentration. You need to read between the lines. Annotation helps you read a book actively and engages you with the text for better understanding.

A conversation between reader and author:

Reading a great book by a reputed author doesn’t mean you have to be a passive receptacle and accept everything. Annotation enables you to converse with the author by stating your own responses. You may disagree, just the way you do when having a conversation with your teacher in class. This creates an environment that helps you concentrate more and keeps you active. Because now you are not reading something, rather you are conversing.


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