Spring 15 Session 3 (2/18/2015): Annotation


Last session (2/11/2015), we discussed how to engage with an audiovisual text. This week we moved on to discussing how to engage actively with a written text through annotation, which simply means marking the page with notes.

The Hunter College Writing Center does an excellent job of explaining why annotating a written text is better than “passive reading” or simply highlighting. Check it out here: http://rwc.hunter.cuny.edu/reading-writing/on-line/annotating-a-text.pdf

In class, we reviewed three major categories of information that can be helpful to capture when annotating a text.   These categories are:

  • Content notes (a.k.a. what the text says). When we take “content notes” for a section of text, we’re capturing the overall message/main idea of the section.
  • Descriptive outline notes (a.k.a what the text does).  The Hunter College Writing Center gives a helpful explanation of this category:

A descriptive outline shows the organization of a piece of writing, breaking it down to show where ideas are introduced, where they are developed, and where any turns in the development occur… A descriptive outline will focus on the function of individual paragraphs or sections within a text. These functions might include: summarizing a topic/argument, introducing an idea, adding explanation, giving examples, etc. This list is hardly exhaustive and it’s important to recognize that several of these functions may be repeated within a text, particularly ones that contain more than one major idea. Making a descriptive outline allows you to follow the construction of the writer’s argument and/or the process of his/her thinking. It helps identify which parts of the text work together and how they do so.

  • Synthesis notes (a.k.a “what you say”).  This is the space for your “conversation” w/ the text.  Examples include comments, questions, connections to personal experience, connections to ideas from other sources.

When you’re working with a text that you can’t mark up, you can divide a separate sheet of paper into four columns. The class handout includes a visual example and template for this method. Check it out here: WS S15 Session 3

We practiced this method using the article “But They’re Happening to You at the Wrong Time” (Burles & Thomas, 2012). Sloan will be reviewing this article with you next week in class. You can read it here: photovoice article hw


This week, we’ll be discussing how to write a response paper. To prepare for class, please do the following:

1) Read The Science of Success (Dobbs, 2009). Annotate at least pages 1-4 and 12-13. Your annotations should include at least three categories: 1) what the text says (i.e. content/main ideas), 2) what the text does (i.e. how each part functions), and 3) your own reactions to the text. You can download and print a copy of the article here:

The Science of Success – The Atlantic

or you can access the online version of the article here:


2) Read the handout How to Write a Reaction Paper or Reader Response




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