Wednesday, May 22, 2024

How to annotate articles

Annotating articles: Your ultimate guide for effective reading

Aaron S. Robertson


As middle school students and high school students, you're probably used to us teachers harping on you all the time, "Use your annotating strategies!" and "Don't forget to highlight as you read!" and so on. And rightly so. See, us teachers understand that merely reading an article or book isn't enough to fully comprehend the text. It's easy to forget key details and to totally miss potentially valuable concepts, insights, and deeper connections by only reading on the surface. The way to become a critical reader, then, is to annotate while reading, which will allow you to understand the text more completely.

Annotation is an act of highlighting and making notes on the text, which can be done both in digital or physical formats. In this blog post, we will explore some strategies and good practices for annotating an article or book. Middle school students, high school students, and even college students and older adults can benefit from these tips and strategies. This is a great life and work/career skill that can help you at any age, in any situation, and with whatever you're reading, no matter the subject. I annotate all the time, and I love it. So, without further ado, then, let’s dive into the details here and help you get more out of your reading.

Effective strategies for annotating articles

1. Pick the right tool

Before you start annotating, you need to select the right tool. You can opt for either digital format (like PDF annotation tools or Microsoft OneNote) or physical format (an old-fashioned highlighter and pen). Both formats have their advantages and disadvantages, and it depends on your preference and convenience. Personally, for me, I prefer the physical format. I like the article/book to be in hard copy format whenever possible and using yellow highlighters and black pens to make notes.

2. Identify important points - and avoid overdoing it

Now comes the most important part of annotating: identifying key details and points you may not understand right away. You can mark or highlight the phrases that introduce the main idea of each paragraph; the critical supporting details; noteworthy people, dates and places; and any unfamiliar words or phrases. While highlighting, you'll want to avoid highlighting everything. I see many students fall into this trap. Too much highlighting can make it difficult to tell important points from the less important ones, so you'll want to be selective in your highlighting.

3. Make notes

After identifying the most important points, it's time to make notes that summarize the critical points, along with your thoughts and questions about them. Using a system of abbreviations and keywords can help you keep your notes brief and organized, such as "Q" (question), "C" (cause), and "e.g." (for example). Summarizing the text into your own words helps you understand it better and aids in retention.

4. Connect ideas

Once you’ve identified key concepts and made notes, look for any connections between them. Would one idea lead naturally to another? Can you challenge or support the author's argument constructively? Making connections and reflections while annotating will help you improve your critical thinking and find and understand the links between ideas.

5. Revise your notes

Finally, When you read your annotated notes again, revise them, and check to see if they are comprehensive and make sense to you. Go back to the highlighted parts of the text and double-check to see if you missed anything essential. It’s critical to finalize your notes while everything is fresh in your mind, so try to revise them as soon as possible.


In conclusion, annotations provide an excellent means to better understand a text, making them a useful practice for lifelong learning. Whether you’re a middle school student, high school student, college student, or even an older adult, annotating articles will help you improve your reading and comprehension. The strategies discussed in this post are beginner-friendly and can be practiced by virtually anyone, anywhere, and in any format. Don't get caught up in the idea that there's only one way to annotate an article - find what works best for you and make it a habit to improve your reading and comprehension skills, along with your retention. Happy reading - and annotating!

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