One of the most widespread mediums of learning is the written word.  It is rare that a class will not involve some level of reading within its curriculum.  So how can a student get the most out of such a learning style?  One of the best tactics to use is annotation.  Annotation is the practice of marking up a piece of writing in order to think more deeply and with more intent.  But underlining and highlighting only does so much.  This week we have created a list of tips and tricks to annotate more effectively, a skill that will lead to improved study habits and increased academic success. 

  1. Always include some sort of note or symbol in the margins when you underline/highlight something.  As time goes on, you may forget why that line stood out to you.  Do what you can to ensure that a future version of you will still understand what was being said. 
  1. If you are marking more than a few words or a single sentence, use brackets instead of underlying the entire quote.  Underlining large sections can give a sense of disorganization, making it difficult to find what you need on a given page. 
  1. Write definitions in the margins.  If there is a word you’re unfamiliar with, looking up the definition and rewriting it in your own words will allow the information to move from short-term memory to long-term memory more efficiently.  It will also help you when you return to the passage later. 
  1. Use symbols where you can.  If a line surprises you or you deem it particularly important, put an exclamation point next to it.  If a portion confuses you, put a question mark.  If you simply love a particular line, draw a heart.  Because there is only so much room on a given page, effectively utilizing symbols can save a lot of space. 
  1. Create a key.  This can be done on a post it, inside the front cover if you’re reading a book, or in the top margin near the title if reading an article or single chapter.  If you are using symbols, write down what they mean.  If you’re using a variety of colored pens or highlighters, remind yourself what each color represents.  This will help you to remember your organization decisions when returning to the work in the future. 
  1. Use different colors.  This can be especially helpful when writing a paper with multiple different points.  It can be very confusing when you are searching for lines that apply to a certain topic, only to find that they blend in with all of your other thoughts and ideas.  Anything you can do to make the things you mark stand out according to your needs is critical. 
  1. Utilize large sections of space.  Often you will find large sections of empty space at the beginning and end of chapters and articles.  Don’t let that go to waste!  These areas can provide a great opportunity to write out final thoughts, key points made, and to summarize in your own words critical ideas discussed in the text.  This may sound tedious, but it will be worth it when you return to that piece and find that you can’t remember what it was even about.  Notes like this provide a quick stop to get basic information, allowing you to pick and choose what points you feel you need to dig deeper into. 

Annotations may take time, but anything you can do to make the study experience easier later is worth it!