Skills Hub

Highlighting and annotating

General Principles:

When you are reading a text, you need to actively focus on identifying the main points. Distinguish between the main points, and examples which are used to illustrate them. Highlighting the main points will help you keep a track of the argument and allow you to quickly indicate sections that you might want to return to later. It is a good idea to read a section of text and then return to it to highlight when you are sure of the key points. Annotating a text with your thoughts about the authors arguments or summaries in your own words will help you understand the text, and may be useful if you need to return to it later.

It is important that you don't write on library books! Using sticky notes is a good way to highlight important sections. It can also be helpful to photocopy particularly useful pages and highlight and annotate your photocopy.

If you haven't already looked at the section of this website Questioning as you read you might find it helpful to do this now before starting this activity.


This activity will help you practice identifying the key ideas in a text using highlighting and annotating. Choose an essay title below and then print out the text for suggested reading. As you read the text highlight the key ideas with a highlighter pen or by underlining. Note down your own thoughts or questions in the margin. You will notice that for each text we have also included a highlighted and annotated version you may find it helpful to compare your own notes with those provided.

Essay title: Is capitalism the cause of or solution to environmental problems?
Suggested reading: Ecology and Society: An Introduction [pdf 1.0 MB] by Luke Martell pages 62-72.

For help look at our example of Martell's annotated text [pdf 0.8 MB].


Essay title: What are the influences affecting children's acquisition of gender roles?
Suggested reading: Chapter 5 Gender Identity and the development of gender roles [pdf 1.8 MB] by Robin Banerjee. (This text has been used with permission from the publisher. Please note: Copyright © The Open University 2005 All rights reserved).

For help look at our example of Banerjee's annotated text [pdf 1.6 MB].

These texts are available in pdf format, to be read via Adobe's Acrobat Reader. If this does not download automatically, please download Acrobat Reader free of charge.

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