book annotations

slytherin girls tapping their matte black nails impatiently on the desks, waiting for charms to be over so they can fix their roots, fiddling with the laces of their worn out combat boots, applying perfect winged eyeliner without even trying, scrawling their name in sharpies on the bottoms of their desks, wearing shorts in the dead of winter because they could, sending each other bad selfies in the middle of the night, perfecting the messy bun, dorms filled with old polariods and louboutins and old sweaters strewn everywhere

hufflepuff girls having kitchen raids at two in the morning, wearing ridiculously oversize yellow sweaters, using dry shampoo much too often, wearing the most glittery highlighters, perfecting curled ombre hair, using up whole packs of polaroid film at once, leaving nice notes on everyone’s bed, wearing ripped tights because why not, always laughing in the hallways, playing muggle music on old record players and dorms filled with all kinds of plants and cacti 

gryffindor girls having the perfect dutch braids, all taking baths in the prefects bathroom at the same time, dancing in the rain, snapping their gum loudly, watching old films in the common room, perfecting the red lip, doing dares that seem stupid in the morning, playing muggle soccer on the quidditch pitch, group chats with every gryffindor girl, wearing red ponchos that are obnoxiously loud when you move, dorms draped in gold and covered in lights and always having enough snacks laying around

ravenclaw girls having study sessions and always writing the most beautiful notes, perfecting their sharp eyebrows, watching netflix when they’re supposed to be studying, making their own perfumes, running around in the hallways after curfew, having a flawless instagram feed, wearing tattered and ripped jeans, annotating books until they were covered in notes, brewing their own skin treatments, dorms filled with stacks of books and to do lists and covered in blue lights

How to Annotate Literature

Many times language and literature classes require students to annotate the books that are given to them, but in many cases tips and advice on how to do so is lacking. I will be sharing my personal strategy for efficient and successful annotating that will not only help your understanding of the text but also gain the love of your teachers!

The tips have been divided into 5 components, each with their own explanation.

Sticky Tabs are Your Best Friend

I don’t know how I would manage to annotate without my sticky tabs. They help me organize and navigate the book before the reading, remind me what to look for while i’m going through the text and help me find whatever I may need once I get to further analysis for the class. 

Create a key for your tabs, personally I use five colors each having a few specific purposes based on where I place them in the book. Most stickies are accompanied by a specific note that will remind me of what I wanted to point out, these stick out of the right margin. 

  • Pink- Anything to do with characters, be it development or certain traits to remember. It can also be used for when you have questions about character related aspects of the text.
  • Orange- Refers to setting, in plays it is also applicable for stage directions.
  • Yellow- Is used for literary devices and use of language (tone, diction, patterns) and syntax, if there is a particular word the author used or a structure you want to take note of, this is the color to use. 
  • Green- Applicable to any important plot events, notable scenes or things that you think will be significant later in the story.
  • Blue- Themes and context of said ideas, anything to do with time, place and space in which the text takes place. It can also relate to how your context (a student reading a book for a literature course) impacts your perception of the text.

These are the things teachers usually look out for and it is certainly useful in any kind of further task! 

The top and bottom margins can be used to divide the book in to sections, such as chapters or scenes, mark the most important pages and to also highlight text to text connections. These colors you can pick yourself!

I do not recommend having more than 5 sticky tabs per page, otherwise it gets too crowded and they lose their purpose! (but you will still need to buy aaa lloootttt)

This is my key for the book I am currently annotating, Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw. 

Don’t Overdo it With the Highlighter

Find one color highlighter that you like the most and use it to mark explicit words or phrases that catch your attention, you can also use them in correlation with you sticky tabs! 

I prefer to use a yellow highlighter because it seems to bleed the least, and I usually use it in relation to the the yellow and blue tabs because those are the ones that relate to the most detailed and minute parts of the text. Once again you can find your own preference! But don’t overdo it, otherwise, like the tabs, the highlighter will lose its function to highlight important points. 

This is an example of how much highlighting I usually do. For non-fictional texts or parts of a book (like in the introduction you see here) I reserved highlighter for dates and names. 

Have a Conversation With the Author

This is one of the first tips that my high school teacher gave me and it’s really one of the most important ones to remember. And I know, it may sound kinda silly, but I find that it really helps me in developing my ideas and remembering exactly how I felt about a certain aspect of part of the text. 

Whether the text is fiction of non fiction, anything in between, you can always do these few things

  • Ask questions- As if you were going to get an answer, ask questions, write them down and write down as many as you want. Writing things down helps people remember so then it is more likely that in a class discussion you will be able to recall your queries or wonders. 
  • If you don’t like something, or you’re surprised by something, write it down! Use exclamation marks, use words that you would use in a regular conversation. I always write ‘WOW!!’ or ‘OMG’ when i’m especially impressed, and having such vocal- well written vocally- emotions will bring you closer to the subject of the text. 
  • Talk to the characters as well, if you are questioning a character’s actions ask them and provide an explanation as to why you speculate they may have acted a certain way. Not only does that further contribute to your involvement (also making things more entertaining) but it also deepens your thought!

What i’m trying to say is write down anything that comes to mind, your first response is your true response, and it is a valuable addition to your notes! And if you want to write a whole essay in between the lines… Actually, i’ll come back to that later! 

Pens, not Pencils 

I used to make notes completely in pencil but my approach changed when I realized that overtime the pencil would rub off and get illegible. I think it was because I used my book so much, but having switched to pen I realized that it helps me in quite a few other things as well. 

The good thing about pen is that you can’t erase it and let’s say you started writing down a note, scan down the page and realize what you are taking a note of is completely wrong. That’s ok! That’s actually really good! Don’t scribble out what you just wrote down, but instead continue and explain why you may have thought a certain way and what your understanding is now. That relates really closely to the previous note. 

Evidently pen also appears darker on the page, then there’s no possibility of it ever disappearing. It also won’t smudge or bleed as long as it’s ballpoint! That’s a good thing when drawing arrows between lines, underlining in addition to your highlights and circling/boxing whatever you deem necessary.

Time, Effort and Commitment

It’s clear that this post took me a while to make, and it took me a while to develop this system with all of the things that I have considered. So it must be self evident that using this type of annotation won’t be quick. It might get tiring at some times, and for me it really does, but at the end I find that it always pays off! You have to stay committed to this technique, you have to put in the same amount of effort for every page, which means you need time. So here are a few final general tips I will leave you with.

  • Don’t procrastinate! As goes for any task, and this one more than any, don’t waste time getting to it! I advice you check how many pages you have in total and make sure that you do a certain amount per day (usually 5-10 pages a day is good!)
  • If you go off on massive tangents in the side bars, make sure that you don’t get too distracted by them because they will take up a lot of your time. But one now and then may be good! Be sure to mark it for later reference!
  • Play mind games with yourself. This one is actually pretty interesting but it personally gets me a long way. If you have 20 pages left, don’t look at it as 20 pages but instead as 4 times 5, then the amount will seem a lot more manageable! It’s a kind of self encouragement!
  • That can also be said by looking now and then at how far your bookmark has moved through the book and giving yourself a pat on the back for all of you hard work!

That’s all I have for now! If you have any further questions for advice or explanation please message me and I will be more than happy to help! And I hope that this helps some people out too! (I’m counting this as 21/100 days of productivity as all I did today was related to annotating.)

2

11th March 2017 📝

I thought that it might be helpful to share my annotation key! I use this system all the time for my college reading, and I find it super handy in that it’s simple, uncluttered and easy to use ✨ This is especially great if you don’t like copious amounts of highlighting or you’re using a library book that you want to make as few marks as possible on. I just put small brackets (in pencil!) around the section or quote I want to highlight, and pop the corresponding icon in the margin beside it. This makes it so quick and easy to find what I’m looking for when I go back and review. 📚

Of course, this system isn’t gonna work for everyone (if you’re annotating a biology textbook, I’m not sure that agree/disagree are terribly useful - ‘I wholly disagree that the mitochondrion is the powerhouse of the cell!’) but it’s easily adjustable! The icon at the bottom is my lil versatile one that changes depending on what I’m reading, cause every book if different ❤️ In one book it might denote a definition, in another it might mark important dates etc.

Perhaps someone will find this useful! How do you guys annotate your books? ☺️

To Note:

This is how I study literature and it works for me( my lit exams marks are typically 70/75 sometimes higher or in the high sixties( 60’s) but everyone is different and it is important that you use what works for you! I hope this helps you in any way big or small!


1: Read the novel. Just read it with no stopping to take notes or highlight, if possible try to enjoy it. This gives you a general idea of all the themes, plots,characters and others.

2: Get a notebook  or leaflets of paper binder/folder to keep it all in one place. I prefer a notebook. What I have in this notebook:

  • I tend to leave the first page blank and later paste a quote on it.
  • table of contents.
  • summary of full book.
  • any research on particular topics (this was homework but i would recommend researching a little if the book mentions a lot of like historical stuff or things you just don’t know).
  • the main character’s family tree.
  • a page each for the main characters then I put a page for important families in the book (examples Radley and Ewells family in To Kill A Mockingbird). As well as one or two pages titled ‘minor characters’ where any little detail about these characters can be jotted down here. More on what these pages contain later on.
  • chapter summaries in order, with beginning and ending page numbers along with a short analysis (on a post-it). I also add a quote that I i liked or felt was important but that isn’t necessary as quotes are covered later down. These summaries are written after I reread that particular chapter, where I underline words I don’t know the meaning of and you can highlight important thing if you want,preferably to a colour code system. here’s a nice little guide to annotating by @mildstudies

3: So what I usually have on these main characters’ pages are:

  • basic character information (name, age, race.
  • character sketch (basically the qualities of the person like bravery and kindness).
  • character growth (more so for the protagonist).
  • an important quote or two that was said by the character but again that’s not necessary.
  • my thoughts on the character which I think is really important.

4: Quotes are very important in literature and most if not all teachers will encourage you to use them in your essays so these are two things you can do:

  • just write quotes that each person said on their character’s page and quotes from the narrative itself on a separate page.
  • or the second way which I prefer is to arrange these quotes by chapter, highlighting which character said it and then writing a brief analysis on it. You can also arrange them by person and highlight the chapter and page number. I love either ways.

5: Vocabulary is also important ( my teacher once told me about a question asking for the meaning of 'spittoon’ in To Kill A Mockingbird.) When reading over the novel I underline words I don’t know and transfer them onto a separate sheet of paper (arrange by chapter) and write down the meanings. You can use two columns to do this, one with word and the other definition. You can also use studyign’s summary foldables method and make (online) flashcards to test yourself.

6: Reviewing for exams can be hard, especially if you don’t have the time to reread the entire books. But that’s okay because you have the chapter summaries and analysis and all your other information although I do recommend reading or simply skimming the really important chapters. Here are some other tips:

  • know your exam format and the type of questions. My exam typically gives us two choices for the novel, each of which gives us a particular topic (one example is Jem’s punishment for what he did to Mrs. Dubose) and then three to four things they’d like us to include (example: why did he do that to Mrs. Dubose.) We are to write these in essay formats.
  • write essays on the book to review later (for TKAM I’m writing an essay on the theme racism using references from the book as well as I wrote a view on Scout’s character and Atticus’ parenting style.) This is really good to read before an exam.
  • do mock papers, preferably within the usual time period of your exams.
  • get a good night sleep, eat a good breakfast and believe in yourself. You’ve put in the work, you’ll reap the benefits.

Important:

I guess this can be considered hardcore because I’m probably the only one in my class that does this much work but the main reason is that I am being tested on this at the end of the term for probably three terms in all as well as in 2018, two years after we started doing this novel, I will be tested on it for an exam that the entire region (i believe it’s similar to gcse) so all this work is in preparation for that so do adjust it to fit your needs. I’m also very open to ways to improve this!

For subjects like history, geography, business and even the sciences like biology and chemistry, a lot of content needs to be memorised! These are just a few of my tips on how to memorise all of the information you need before your exam.

Repeating over time- In the best scenario, studying for a test three weeks ahead is the most optimal way to study. Usually, the process is memorising chunks two weeks before and doing past papers the week of. However, more often than not, this doesn’t end up happening because the weeks get hectic/busy so the max time before a test is probably 1.5-2 weeks. The next few points are more catered to that time period!

Palm cards- This I feel is the most common way of memorising things, by putting information on palm cards and taking them around with you to study on the train, bus, or wherever you go. The cons of this is to make sure that you don’t copy the information onto them in a passive way. You learn it over again when you write it out so make that opportunity count!

Teach content to others- I have learnt over the past few years that this is one of my favourite ways to memorise- give a family member, friend or anyone (even your pets) the notes and teach them the topic, point by point. If you can’t explain a topic in a simple way where the other person can understand, it indicates that you haven’t learnt the information properly or enough to explain it in a test situation.

Film yourself- Another of my personal favourites, read over your information one palm card/paragraph/page at a time, turn on your phone camera or photobooth (on Mac) and film yourself talking like you’re in a Youtube video. If you do this a lot, it really helps because it’s almost as if you’re talking to someone else, and speaking it out loud helps you memorise.

Writing out notes- It’s best to actually type out/write out notes as you go in class, but before tests I usually handwrite them out again. This emphasises this in your mind and you can also ensure that you have learnt everything that is on the syllabus. Making them pretty is a plus!

Watch videos and Podcasts- Youtube has so many great videos on any topic. My favourites are Khan Academy (most subjects) , Crashcourse (science and history), Lisa Study Guides (English), Stated Clearly (Biology) and Eddie Woo (Maths). If you’re a visual/auditory learner, these really help because it feels like you are learning the lesson again.

Active textbook reading- Read over the text books and annotate/highlight. However, you need to ensure that you are actually reading the text, not just highlighting the words. 

I hope this helped anyone who has trouble memorising, good luck with all of your exams!

Jade

xx

The Tiny Anthropologist's Advice for College:
  • 8 AM classes really aren't that bad: It may take some willpower (and coffee) to get there, but really, 8AMs aren't that bad. Get a decent amount of sleep the night before and you will be okay. If I can get myself and my 4 year old out of bed, get ready, drop her off at preschool and arrive on time for an 8am, you can too!
  • Taking classes that meet once a week for long blocks: If your learning style is such that sitting in a long lecture once a week is something you can handle, then these are the best classes to take. Personally, I have done 3 semesters of these and they have been my favorite and the ones I have gotten the best grades in.
  • Scheduling back-to-back class periods: These can be beneficial if you're the type of person that just likes to get everything out of the way at once. However, the downside is that you will not have time to eat between classes, and you may have to grab something and eat during lecture. If the buildings for your classes are far apart, this may not even be an option. Having breaks between classes is important to allow yourself mental relaxation and to eat, or catch up on work.
  • Don't be afraid to change your major: I've changed my major a lot, like maybe 8-10 times. The downside is that I am graduating a year late, but I took A LOT of fascinating classes and became a much better rounded student. Colleges know that student change their minds. If you switch majors 2-3 times, you won't end up behind. I'm a special case.
  • Take long-hand notes: You may feel strange taking long-hand notes while everyone else is typing away at their MacBooks, but long-hand notes are MUCH more beneficial as far as long-term memory goes, and you don't run the risk of being distracted by Facebook.
  • Dress appropriately for class: The college stereotype of everyone attending class in their pajamas isn't true. At least make the effort to throw on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. Your professors will notice if you look like a slacker in class, and dressing nicely (or at least not in your pajamas) shows them that you value your education and respect their lectures. People wear anything from casual clothes to ties to class, and everything inbetween. Don't be afraid you'll be overdressed, being underdressed is much worse (in my opinion).
  • Cultivate relationships with professors: ATTEND OFFICE HOURS. Close relationships with professors are massively helpful! Professors are much more willing to write letters of recommendation, look over rough drafts, or help you out via email at 10pm for students that they know than ones that they don't. Additionally, professors can be some of the most interesting people you will ever meet.
  • Attend class: Along the same lines as above, attending class is very important. You (or your parents) are paying for you to be there. You should try to get the most out of that by attending lectures that you have signed up for. Additionally, when it comes finals time and you need to boost your grade, no professor is going to help you if you haven't attended their lectures.
  • Invest in a water bottle: Nothing is worse than sitting in a lecture dying of thirst.
  • Invest in a messenger bag, tote bag, or backpack: You don't have a locker in college and chances are your dorm will be far away from your classes. Make sure you have something to carry anything you'll need, from books, to pens and pencils, to a laptop, or even snacks like granola bars.
  • Take notes: Do it. Your professor knows more than you, that's why they are at the front of the room. Listen to them, and write down what they say. Then study it. This is how you learn.
  • Utilize the library: Other than during finals week, the library is pretty much a guaranteed quiet place to study. Additionally, college libraries have databases for research papers, printing services, and a whole lot more for students.
  • Eat alone if you want/have to: No one will judge you. I promise.
  • Annotate your books: Especially if you are an English/literature major! It is a lot easier to simply take all of your notes in the novel than to copy down page numbers and quotes into a notebook. Textbooks (like science ones) can be annotated too!
  • Don't let anyone shame you about your major: Each major is difficult in its own way. Don't let anyone make you feel like you're taking an "easy" major or that they are more intelligent than you because they are in a "hard" major. STEM majors are not better than Liberal Arts majors, and Liberal Arts majors are not better than STEM majors. Ignore anyone who says otherwise. Ignore anyone who says your major is pointless. This does not only apply to fellow students, but family, friends, and the world in general.
  • Prepare for advising periods: Class offerings are usually posted before registration is open. Take an hour to become familiar with the requirements of your department and the individual college it is in (if applicable), as well as University/institutional requirements (IE at UMass, my "college" is the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, while my department is Anthropology. The university itself, SBS, and Anthro all have different specific requirements I must meet to graduate) and make a list of classes you would like to take that satisfy these requirements. Advisors will appreciate it.
  • Take advantage of campus resources: Many colleges and universities have numerous extremely helpful resources, such as employment services which will help with resumes, or counselors for when you're having a hard time. Use these. They are there for you.
  • Keep yourself organized: Notebooks, highlighters, a planner, flashcards, an expandable file, binders, folders, literally whatever you need to keep track of all your papers, assignments, due dates, and what you need to help you study is important for you to have. If you don't know what helps you study or what keeps you organized, try some different systems or do some research.
  • Keep your syllabi: Every semester I buy a different notebook for each class I am taking, and I always keep my syllabus folded in half in the back of each notebook. It has saved my ass numerous times.
  • Check your email or the course website before class: Nothing sucks more than being the only kid who didn't know class was cancelled, especially if you're a commuter and you drove in/took the bus to a class that isn't happening.
  • Give yourself plenty of time: Whether its getting to class, doing homework, or writing a paper, make sure you give yourself enough time. This is especially important for commuters. I can promise you that you will need more time to drive to class than you think. I live less than 40 minutes away from UMass and I still leave 75-90 minutes before class starts.
  • Understand your learning style: Do flashcards work best? What about mindmaps? Answering questions at the end of the chapter? Understand what allows things to sink into your mind the best, and utilize that method of learning.
  • Honestly, you can get by with SparkNotes: I was an English major. We had to read, a lot and I didn't always read the novels. I used SparkNotes and skimmed chapters. While I wouldn't recommend relying on this entirely to graduate, it can help in a pinch.
  • Skipping class: I know I just told you to go, and I do mean that. But sometimes you need to skip class and be lazy or frivolous, and that's fine. Don't make it a habit. I usually allow myself 1-2 "mental health" days per semester. HOWEVER you should be VERY clear on the absence policy of your professors. Some don't take attendance, and others will kick you out if you miss 3 classes. It's always in the syllabus.
  • It's okay to withdraw from a class: Getting a W is better than getting an F. If a class is too much for you, then it's best to step out of it. Most professors will understand, and most grad schools and jobs will too.
  • Be kind to yourself: It's easy to only value yourself through school, as in what grade you got on a test, or how your GPA stacks up against others but we are all human and sometimes we fuck up and sometimes we do poorly and thats alright. Learn from it and move on.
  • Take care of yourself: !!!!! This is very important. Eat as well as you can/enough, sleep enough, don't become addicted to or dependent on drugs/alcohol, exercise (even if its just walking to class), take showers, etc. Sometimes taking care of yourself takes a back seat to taking care of your grades OR to having too much fun, and neither is a good strategy. Yes, college is a time to assert your independence and have fun and party, but if you do too much it will begin to affect your grades and your health.
  • Try to get internships or research assistantships/independent studies: These will look great on your resume and a lot of them are quite interesting/enjoyable. It shows initiative, drive, and motivation! Professors usually have independent studies and career/employment services (if your campus has that) can help with internship placement.
  • These are basic things that I have learned during my college career. I'm sure I could come up with more, but I hope this is helpful!
2

6 February 2017 

Some of this semesters required reading and my annotation key! 🌹An abundance of critical reading and annotating is exhausting, but it’s also my only excuse to read literature which I’ve missed since starting uni.

04.08.2015// Decided to start studying contract law from this book and also researched online for other sources. Today’s study snack is strawberry yogurt. I used post-its (sticky notes) to help me annotate this book.