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Annotating readings

Marks on books and articles

When reading books and articles for research, one has the tendency to annotate on the side of the pages and to underline the sentences of most interest. Whether these pages are printed or read on a screen, everyone finds a method to highlight what is relevant and what needs to be used for later when, for instance, writing an essay. In public or university libraries, it is common to find books annotated by others, which can be helpful or annoying as these marks may influence the reader in what seems to be relevant. One’s understanding of what is relevant can be shared with others in a rather objective way, or considered mostly subjective as it depends of what people are searching in a text. Then, tools used to underline can be diverse; pen, pencils, markers or keypads are preferred whether per habit, convenience or necessity. The practice of annotating unveils a method of evaluation and classification when reading that should be discussed more widely.

Since my MA in Sociology in 2016–17, my journey in research through my readings has never stopped. Over time, I have developed my own way to annotate my books and articles, the former with a pencil and the latter with a pen. Sentences are underlined and then exclamation marks are put on a side to show the level of relevancy based on my own criteria: one exclamation mark shows relevancy, two show higher interest and three show maximum interest on what is read. If a horizontal line is placed on the top of three exclamation marks, then it means that the sentences underlined must be used in a way or another in further works. When reading on a laptop, lines, arrows or any handmade mark cannot be done, but colours can be used to show the degree of relevancy: I usually use yellow for the relevant areas and green for the highly relevant keywords or sentences to be used later on. When reading several articles at once, I usually put a positive sign (+) on the first page for those useful articles to be considered. All these marks are personal but I never cease to find interesting analysing the annotations of others as it may show one’s intimate reflection process through the slightest details.

Posted: April 27th, 2022

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