• Home   /  
  • Archive by category "1"

How To Write Annotations For An Essay

An annotated essay is a written piece of text that examines several related texts.  You know what an essay is--a coherent, unified, focused, developed and organized piece of writing.  The difference is your subject will be three to four related texts that you have read and will now explain, summarize and comment upon in your essay.  The citations for those texts you've read will appear in your essay as well as in a separate bibliography page.  I have provided a sample of my own work for you above (Sample Essay).  You can also look at another sample on the web at http://writing.colostate.edu/demos/mla_intext/example.cfm

Choosing Texts

First, you need to choose a subject in Sociolinguistics that you'd like to know more about.  Read through the chapter titles and subtitles, the "further reading" sections at the end of the chapters or leaf through the reference and index sections of the textbooks for ideas.  Once you have an idea, you need to find texts.  I recommend sticking to journal articles rather than books for the obvious time constraints, but do consider chapters from books.

You are required to use reputable, scholarly articles for this, so an article out of Time will not suffice.  To find such material, try First Search.  Go to http://newfirstsearch.oclc.org/ I will give you the authorization code and password in class.  Once in, try searching in ArticleFirst or WorldCat--my two favorites.  If the material you want is in our library, it will tell you.  If not, you can order it through Interlibrary Loan, a process that usually takes about a week.  You can do this by going to the library homepage and clicking on Document Delivery--just fill in the correct form and they'll do the rest.  Any material you use should be up-to-date and from a scholarly source.

The Essay

A large part of your essay is summary, but how you present those summaries is crucial.  As in any good essay, there must be an introduction, a thesis, logical transitions and all the rest--focus, development, organization, voice, a conclusion.  You may follow either APA or MLA guidelines (the sample is done in MLA minus the heading, which you will have).  Linguistics uses APA.  (You can find help for MLA and APA at http://owl.english.purdue.edu/ Purdue's On-Line Writing Lab)

Notice in the sample how the introduction let's the reader know why I am looking at this subject and exactly what that subject is.  I go on to introduce my first work and show how it is relevant to my discussion.  There are transitions between works--you can see that there is a flow to the paper and that one point leads to the next.  At the end, there is a summary of the main points.  In fact, this essay really makes an argument in favor of collaborative methods over competitive ones, which can clearly be seen by the texts I chose to use.  There is also a complete bibliography.

Your essay should be 6-8 pages (the sample is 15 pages in Word) plus a bibliography page.  It is due by the end of exam period at 1:00 on Tuesday, December 10.  If you contact me by noon on Monday, December 9, we can make arrangements for an extended deadline if needed.




Annotating a Text

Annotating a text, or marking the pages with notes, is an excellent, if not essential, way to make the most out of the reading you do for college courses. Annotations make it easy to find important information quickly when you look back and review a text. They help you familiarize yourself with both the content and organization of what you read. They provide a way to begin engaging with ideas and issues directly through comments, questions, associations, or other reactions that occur to you as you read. In all these ways, annotating a text makes the reading process an active one, not just background for writing assignments, but an integral first step in the writing process.

A well-annotated text will accomplish all of the following:

  • clearly identify where in the text important ideas and information are located
  • express the main ideas of a text
  • trace the development of ideas/arguments throughout a text
  • introduce a few of the reader’s thoughts and reactions

Ideally, you should read a text through once before making major annotations. You may just want to circle unfamiliar vocabulary or concepts. This way, you will have a clearer idea about where major ideas and important information are in the text, and your annotating will be more efficient.

A brief description and discussion of four ways of annotating a text—highlighting/underlining, paraphrase/summary of main ideas, descriptive outline, and comments/responses—and a sample annotated text follow:


Highlighting or underlining key words and phrases or major ideas is the most common form of annotating texts. Many people use this method to make it easier to review material, especially for exams. Highlighting is also a good way of picking out specific language within a text that you may want to cite or quote in a piece of writing. However, over-reliance on highlighting is unwise for two reasons. First, there is a tendency to highlight more information than necessary, especially when done on a first reading. Second, highlighting is the least active form of annotating. Instead of being a way to begin thinking and interacting with ideas in texts, highlighting can become a postponement of that process.

On the other hand, highlighting is a useful way of marking parts of a text that you want to make notes about. And it’s a good idea to highlight the words or phrases of a text that are referred to by your other annotations.


Going beyond locating important ideas to being able to capture their meaning through paraphrase is a way of solidifying your understanding of these ideas. It’s also excellent preparation for any writing you may have to do based on your reading. A series of brief notes in the margins beside important ideas gives you a handy summary right on the pages of the text itself, and if you can take the substance of a sentence or paragraph and condense it into a few words, you should have little trouble clearly demonstrating your understanding of the ideas in question in your own writing.


A descriptive outline shows the organization of a piece of writing, breaking it down to show where ideas are introduced and where they are developed. A descriptive outline allows you to see not only where the main ideas are but also where the details, facts, explanations, and other kinds of support for those ideas are located.

A descriptive outline will focus on the function of individual paragraphs or sections within a text. These functions might include any of the following:

  • summarizing a topic/argument/etc.
  • introducing an idea
  • adding explanation
  • giving examples
  • providing factual evidence
  • expanding or limiting the idea
  • considering an opposing view
  • dismissing a contrary view
  • creating a transition
  • stating a conclusion

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.


You can use annotation to go beyond understanding a text’s meaning and organization by noting your reactions—agreement/disagreement, questions, related personal experience, connection to ideas from other texts, class discussions, etc. This is an excellent way to begin formulating your own ideas for writing assignments based on the text or on any of the ideas it contains.

One thought on “How To Write Annotations For An Essay

Leave a comment

L'indirizzo email non verrĂ  pubblicato. I campi obbligatori sono contrassegnati *