Don’t Reread, Annotate
A big percentage of the way we learn in college is by reading, and in all honesty reading long complicated passages can be challenging because students have to analyze and recall information from long papers. In order to get the most advantage out of reading students should be aware that there is a way that can make reading more efficient. Has it ever happened to you that you are reading a text and when you finally finish it you have no idea what you just read? Well this is something that certainly happened (and still happens) to me more frequently that I want to admit. In order to be able to make better use of my time I started to actively read and annotate in my readings. Annotating forms part of active reading, and it’s important because it is a technique that allows students to thoroughly understand a text and be able to recall information without having to reread the paper again. Annotating is a process that I didn’t know about before coming to college, but it’s been extremely helpful over this last year in college and I hope that you can find something useful in here to use it in future classes.
What is annotating?
Annotating is a way for students to recognize the focal points in the text that seem important in order to refer back to it later in time. Once a student reads a paper and annotates it, it will be easier to go back to the information in the future. “If you’ve annotated well, you can simply go back and read your notes to help gather your thoughts on the author’s main idea and start formulating meaning.”(Anthony Starros, “Why Good Readers Make Better Writers”) Without annotating a text you would have to reread again, which can take a long time.
When to annotate?
“Annotate any text that you must know well, in detail, and from which you might need to produce evidence that supports your knowledge or reading, such as a book on which you will be tested. Don’t assume that you must annotate when you read for pleasure; if you’re relaxing with a book, well, relax. Still, some people—let’s call them “not-abnormal”—actually annotate for pleasure” (Nick Otten’s “How and Why to Annotate a Book”). Annotating is a valuable skill that students should acquire thorough their college career, but it doesn’t mean that students have to annotate all their texts, , one can do it when there is something to remember or something to practice and later on recall. Annotating is for you, and you should be the judge of when annotating can be useful or not.
What should you mark?
Anything that stands out when reading the text, points that seem important to remember fro a later date. Try not to highlight every detail in the text because having a page full of highlighter doesn’t really help students find the main idea of the text.
1.Underline important terms or sentences
When I am reading an academic writing it is hard for me to keep up and remember the information that I just read. Because of this I always have at least three different color highlighters so that if I find any important detail I can underline it and later when I go back I can easily find the information that I need. Also highlight different information with different colors, for example highlight quotes, facts, and key words with a different color each.
This is an example of comparing and contrasting: In this academic reading I had to write a paper analyzing the similarities and differences between girls and boys, and because of the two different highlighting colors the task became much simpler:
2.Don’t underline everything in the text!
I know that when I read my text books or articles I want to highlight every detail because it may be important to remember in the future. One should underline only the topic sentence of each paragraph, try not to underline everything because in that case highlighting looses its purpose. Annotating is a way to be able to find information easily but if everything in the text is highlighted then there is really not much advantage to it. Try highlighting the main ideas of the paragraph and only those, so that when you go back you know what if going on in the text without having to read it all over again.
Don’t! What was the main idea again? I’ll just have to read everything again.
Do! In this text you can easily just read the sentence that is important and get the main idea of the text.
3.Define key terms and terms you don’t understand
Many times when I’m reading a paper there are many terms that I don’t ad before I used to just ignore them because I wanted to get over with my reading. Not only I didn’t fully understand the text, but every time I went over the reading again I was always left confused on what the meaning of the word was. Defining terms on the margins of the papers is just so helpful because it helps with the overall understanding of the text but also expands the use of your vocabulary in the long run.
4.Write a little summary next to each paragraph
The reason for annotating is to make it easier for students to go back to a text and remember the main ideas and key points of it without having to read it over again. When I am reading I usually stop every paragraph or every other paragraph and quickly paraphrase the main idea from the text. At the beginning it may seem like a hassle to stop and annotate, but with practice it becomes something natural to do and at the end it will help students have a better understanding of the text.
5.Make your own “Mini Journal”
By a journal I mean a paper where the symbols and its meaning are written for future reference. You can use exclamations points, emoji, different shapes, and anything that will make it easier to go back to the text and understand what is going on. At the beginning it may be hard to remember the symbols that are being used, but let’s face it in college we are going to have countless readings to come, so after many (and I mean MANY) reading you’ll get so use to your own symbols and then the journal won’t be that necessary any more.
This is an example of a mini journal that I created for myself when I started taking the UWP1. Also the symbols can fun and silly as long as they are understandable, because annotating is for the reader, is not meant to be treated like an assignment:
Annotating has helped me tremendously when reading texts for school, and it helps me understand better what is that I’m reading and also be able to retrieve information more easily. Annotating can be difficult at first because it may take some time to adapt, but talking from personal experience, at the end it will be worth it and you will be able to use this technique to improve in many classes.
Otten, Nick. “How and Why to Annotate a Book.” AP Central. College Board, 05 Oct. 2015. Web. 01 June 2016.
Starros, Anthony. Why Good Readers Make Better Writers. Active Reading. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 June 2016.