Rock Valley College
Rockford, Illinois

Underline and Annotate

Text marking is often a difficult task to learn.

If you are just beginning your college career, you probably have done very little marking in your books, because most high schools frown on students writing in their texts. Most people highlight as they read and therein lies the problem. When we highlight as we read, we tend to highlight everything! Marking a text in this manner does not serve as a valuable study aid and is actually no better than doing no marking at all.

The following system forces you to be selective in your marking and further helps you to become an active reader.

1. Set aside your highlighters. Use a pen or pencil to do your underlining. The reason for choosing a pen or pencil rather than a highlighter will become evident as the annotate/underline system is explained and as you practice the suggested techniques.

2. Remember that when you mark your text, you want to be able to use it as an aid to future review.

3. When you use the annotate/underline system of marking, you annotate, rather than underline, while you are reading. Annotating means writing key words and phrases in the margins of your text so that you can easily refer to them later to locate key words, names, dates, lists, and the like. Annotating also consists jotting abbreviations (such as "def". for definition, ex for example, * for important, a check mark for supporting details). Because you annotate as your read, a pen or pencil is more appropriate than a highlighter.

4. Read and annotate a section at a time, using text headings and subheadings as stopping points. After reading and annotation a section, stop and think about the questions you posed as part of your survey. Can you answer those questions? If you can answer them, then and only then should you go back and underline. Use your annotations as a guide for underlining. You should not underline something tat is not annotated, but you may have annotated an idea that you realize is unimportant once you have completed reading the section, which is fine. Just remember that annotate first and then going back and underlining forces you to be selective and provides you with a valuable study tool for test preparation.

One final comment about text marking is in order. As mentioned earlier, most students think that underlining while reading aids in concentration, but typically the more bored students get, the more they underline. Keep in mind that it is better to underline too little than to underline too much. Remember to use your initial annotations as a guide. You can always go back and underline more information, should you feel that it is necessary; but you cannot remove what you have already underlined. Too much underlining causes you to reread too much of the material when you are preparing for an exam.