How to Annotate a Chapter

Annotations can save time and effort when researching.

When you annotate a chapter, you are adding explanatory notes and highlighting critical comments. Annotation at its core is note taking that is more thorough and structured to increase your retention of text material. This kind of note taking will create a quick reference when you review the information in the future and can make summarizing information easier as well. It can be used on non-fiction and fiction works alike. Ditch the sticky notes and adopt this way of notetaking that is all in one place!

Annotating books for the first time may be confusing, but it cuts down the time you need to spend when you research a text and makes note taking more efficient. No matter your reading experience or current methods of notetaking, you can find helpful ways to annotate and write notes that are better.

Without the proper annotation method, however, you may end up highlighting text that is not essential to your research, which may actually cost you more time than it saves you. Avoid over zealous mark up and make relevant notations.

Use post-it notes or sticky tabs to highlight relevant pages for discussion. And, steal a lesson from Ben Franklin who improved his writing by noting vocabulary words. It is important to know how to properly annotate, give proper attribution, and put information into your own words.

1. Read and Re Read

Read the chapter in question thoroughly. The purpose of annotation is to pick out the most essential parts of the chapter and cite them. Without a proper understanding of what information the chapter contains, you will not know what to annotate. You may have to look over the chapter more than once as well.

Re reading information to ensure you found all relevant and important information for your note taking is vital. At the end of each chapter, check in with yourself to see if you could explain the chapter or summarize it, and if not you may need to re read it again.

2. Create a Code

Creating a code of colors, symbols and shorthand could be useful to you as you annotate. Create symbols to use when you annotate such as an asterisk or brackets for emphasizing important pieces of information.

For example, use stars to draw attention to a particular word, and use a bubble to draw attention to a certain phrase or sentence.

Further clarifying your words with a color code can expedite the reading process too. Use different colors to differentiate between key information, information about characters or figures in the text, things you have questions about and more.

If you need further clarification and coding for your annotations, utilize underlining items and circling words that are important to you.

To double up on your code, you could circle words in a specific color to even further differentiate from the other texts.

3. Summarize

Place brackets on the page margins at a particularly long but important section of the chapter. In the remaining space of the margins, write a brief but explanatory note about the information contained in the bracketed section. This summarization can be helpful when you don’t have time to re read each section of your annotated notes. If you use brackets, you’ll find that this serves as a great annotation tool that you will want to use in the future.

Another step in annotating a chapter that could be useful to you as you read is to take note of your favorite quotes or passages. If they speak to you, could be useful down the line or spark questions, take note of them in another section at your discretion. Writing down quotes can help you remember key words, main points and then develop your own thoughts based off the information you read!

There are so many ways to personalize your annotations and enhance your learning. Whether you annotate your text on a piece of paper, use a separate notebook or use notes apps, this could change the way you learn!

Final Tip

Create a small key at the bottom of the pages to remind you what your different symbols mean. For example, say you visit this chapter twice for two different research assignments and you look for two different types of information; if you mark important information with stars for the first assignment and squares for the second, a key can tell you which symbols belong to which project.

Annotate sparingly in your chapter. If you highlight too many facts, the annotation may lose its effectiveness and you may as well read the entire chapter again.

Do not be afraid to write directly in the book if you own it. Doing so keeps your notes in one centralized place for quick reference in the future. Your notes also can be very helpful to anyone who borrows the book from you.

If you run out of room on a margin, consider taking notes on a separate key card and storing it near the chapter. Use a light tape that will not tear off any paper from the original page to bind the key card to the paper.