BK Writing Lab

Paul DiGeorgio, Ph.D.


Annotation is the practice of taking notes on a text as you read it.

Annotating is not the same as highlighting a text. When you highlight a text, you are only passively engaging the text. You are not making it "new." Furthermore with highlighting there is always the danger that you highlight too much of a text, in which case your highlights are not especially meaningful. If highlighting works for you, then you are encouraged to continue, but it would probably be useful to pair your highlighting with actual annotations -- read on!

Annotating is writing on a text. Therefore it can be considered an active reading strategy. Instead of just highlighting sentences that are already in the text, annotating is the active creation of new text or the active manipulation of already existing text.

At Bishop Kenny, you should use the Notability app on your iPad to annotate your course readings. Here are several ways in which you can annotate a text:

  • circle key terms and important concepts in nonfiction
  • circle significant "moments" in fiction: significant events, detailed character descriptions, important actions, important commentary from the narrator
  • underline definitions and meaningful statements
  • write key words or names in the margin of the page
  • write questions in the margin -- there are two ways to approach this: 1) write out questions next to the passage in which they are answered, or 2) write out questions that are unresolved or unanswered by the text (essentially these questions point to issues or problems that are raised by the text, either intentionally or not)
  • make rhetorical comparisons; if you notice that a piece of non-fiction directly contradicts another text, make note of it in the margin -- you can use the shorthand cf. in such situations
  • make literary comparisons; if you notice a literary similarity between two texts, make note of it in the margin
  • add a star or asterisk next to an especially important or significant paragraph/passage
  • write out lists in the margin to describe the logical steps of an argument or to catalog the steps of an important sequence or process
  • at the end of a text, jot down a few notes in summary of the material


If you have any questions, send us an email at bkwritinglab@bishopkennyhs.org!


Image Credit: Compose by Nikolay Necheuhin from the Noun Project

  • Annotation
  • Literature
  • Reading
  • Research