How to Annotate a Reading Assignment

For people who often come across reading assignments at work, it is important to know the right way to annotate text. Annotations aid you in keeping a track of important information while helping you understand the true meaning behind a complex passage. In simple words, you will be able to get the most out of an assignment if you are able to mark it up correctly. The task is very simple but does require some practice.

Things Required:

– Pen or pencil
– Highlighter
– Dictionary (optional)


  • 1

    While you are reading a paper, you may come across sentences that that seem out of place, or unfamiliar words. It is always a good idea to read the whole assignment, come back to unknown and unfamiliar words/phrases and read them in order to get a meaning. However, you will need to circle the unclear words and sentences with a pen or pencil so that you can know where you will have to look for them when you start rereading.

  • 2

    Words that define a certain phenomenon or object should be underlined, highlighted or circled and the word ‘Def’ be written in the margin. This will help you keep track of the definitions written in the assignment.

  • 3

    Mark sentences that require an example or need elaboration with an X.

  • 4

    Sentences that do not make any sense at all even after you have read them multiple times should be marked with a question mark. Seek your instructor’s advice about such sentences.

  • 5

    Ideas that are written in support of the main concept should be numbered so that you can keep track of how well supported the main idea is. Write numbers (1, 2, 3...) or letters (a, b, c...) in the margin next to each supportive idea.

  • 6

    Passages that you think are of overall importance should be marked with a star. This practice is really helpful in taking a test where candidates are required to go through the entire passage and then answer question related to it.

  • 7

    If a question or a comment pops up in your mind, write it down in the margin. These annotations can be used in class discussions or exams to elaborate your point of view on a certain topic.

  • 8

    Last, but not the least, it is very important to keep it as simple as possible. For instance, it is ideal to mark a maximum of s15 percent of the total text.

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