Annotating books is a really useful technique people use to fully understand a text and also use as a reference for future essay topics/quotes. Last year I began to annotate my texts for english and I have definitely seen great results! Not only does the hard work show, your book emulates the laborious (or sometimes not so much!) hours you’ve put into understanding a book, is aesthetically (very) nice to look at and saves you loadssss of time when preparing you for essays, also looking for quotes.
I know many people have trouble knowing what to annotate and how when reading a book, so here’s my method of annotations. Keep in mind that there is no ‘correct’ way of annotating a book, this is just the method which I find useful to me.
First of all, my standard page looks like this (I am reading Pride and Prejudice, if you were wondering):
1. HIGHLIGHTERS ARE YOUR BEST FRIEND
The differently highlighted colours actually don’t mean anything in this context (I ran out of colours). However, I do highlight all pieces of information which I think I would be able to quote or incorporate into a text analysis essay. I am often praised for including many quotes in my essays by teachers, and I find that this technique is clear, easy and really efficient.
2. STICKY NOTES ARE AMAZING
At the beginning of my book I have a key which indicates what each coloured sticker means:
- Pink = Women and Femininity
- Green = Mr and Mrs Bennet
- Blue = Elizebeth Bennet
- Yellow = Mr Darcy and Mr Bingley
- Orange = Bennet sisters
- Purple = Other
These are the absolute best because it saves you a heap of time when looking for quotes to incorporate in essays and you can then categorise them into themes and pick the ones you want to use straight out of the book without too much hassle.
3. UNDERLINING IS ACTUALLY VERY IMPORTANT TOO!
I also like to underline important plot points in black, so if I want to know what happened in the chapter, I can literally read the underlined parts and get a brief summary in the words of Jane Austen.
4. ADDRESS NEW VOCAB SO YOU’RE NOT STUCK ON DEFINITIONS
The words underlined in purple are new vocab which I don’t know the definitions to. After reading the chapter, I’ll google the definition of them and jot down some synonyms instead of writing the full definition as I don’t have much space on the book. I like this way of learning new vocab cause it also breaks the words down into synonyms which i can easily understand within the context of a text and sentence, rather than a long complex definition written in a notebook which I will probably never read.
I don’t particularly like keeping a ‘definitions notebook’ because it ends up becoming a huge, endless list of words which, upon opening, feels like you’re going to drown in a sea of words. In these cases, I’ll usually shut the book immediately and not take in any information.
5. SUMMARIZE EACH CHAPTER TO CONSOLIDATE
At the end of each chapter, I have a post-it note where I summarize the key things that happened in my own words (or sometimes with the help of shmoop and other english websites). You can use a post-it note (the larger ones, or which ever deem fit) or if there is space, you can right it straight onto the page. However, I like to keep consistent so i use post-it notes all the way through.
6. BOOKMARK IMPORTANT PAGES AND CHAPTERS
In addition, the coloured post it notes sticking out the top of the book act as ‘bookmarked pages’ which I will refer to when preparing for an essay. The green post its mark the main pages and chapters where complex themes come into play e.g role of women in society during the 19th century… themes which may need extra background information and research to develop more mature ideas.
The orange post-it notes are marked on the pages where philosophical questions are raised e.g Vanity vs pride… themes which may not come up often enough to dedicate 123971283 sticky notes to, but often enough to form a body paragraph for an essay with added complexity.
7. THE MARGINS ARE THERE FOR A REASON
I love love love love love writing in the margins. Write everything in the margins. Anything comes to mind - write it in the margins. Whenever I have a sudden thought after reading the passage, I’d write it in the margins because you never know whether or not it will be useful in the future.
Especially when there is an occurring theme for 2-6 paragraphs, write what is happening in the margin and mark where it starts and finishes. For example, there is a passage where Jane and Elizabeth are arguing, showing their clashing personalities. that has been highlighted and I’ve written comments in the margin summarizing what happened and any additional thoughts and questions.
Not sure if it is just my school, but in english when we are studying a classic; we are often made to do chapter anaylsis’ where we are organised into a group of 3 max, sometimes even by ourselves, and we are required to analyse the chapter then present our findings to the class as a presentation. Annotating books are so good for these, and writing in the margins is so useful when it comes to this activity. Compared to those students who have only read the book, made no annotations or summaries, you’ll be able to spend minimal time on the assignment and still probably have more information than anyone else.