4 Ways to Use Hypothesis With JSTOR: Reading and Annotating Scholarly Writing in Community

By Jessica Fuller | 29 November, 2022

Red side-by-side logos for Hypothesis and JSTOR

We often hear from instructors that students struggle to read academic articles. Scholarly writing is unique and sometimes abstruse, and many college students have not been exposed to this type of text previously. It’s new, challenging and sometimes intimidating.

One of the earliest use cases for Hypothesis social annotation in higher education was to support the teaching of academic articles. While instructors have been using Hypothesis to teach strategies for reading scholarly writing since we launched our browser extension in 2011, a new integration with JSTOR makes doing so even easier.

JSTOR is a digital library from the nonprofit organization, ITHAKA. It provides most university libraries with access to nearly 2,800 searchable academic journals, over 100,000 scholarly books and millions of primary sources. The new JSTOR-Hypothesis integration enables instructors to simply add a link to a specific piece of JSTOR content from within a course in their Learning Management System (LMS).

Four ways Hypothesis helps teach the reading of academic writing

Social annotation of JSTOR content enables the scaffolding of scholarly writing, helps develop students’ metacognitive reading strategies, encourages digital collaboration, and nurtures students as scholars. If you’re looking for ways to make this happen in your classroom, here are some strategies for using social annotation with scholarly writing.

Guided reading

One way teachers can scaffold academic articles for students is by creating a guided reading, placing text, images or prompts in the margins for students to reply to. Scaffolding such as this can help students feel more comfortable with new and challenging texts. This could be done for an initial article as a model, and then students could read and annotate as a group or even on their own.

Independent reading — but with a framework

Teachers can help students understand the structure of scholarly literature by having them identify parts of the reading. One way to do this with social annotation would be to divide students into groups of one each (if the LMS allows for it) and have them annotate an article independently. Ask students to identify the component parts of an academic article, which might include: introduction, literature review, method, experimentation, results and analysis, limitations, and conclusion(s). A similar approach could be asking students to identify rhetorical devices in the article (e.g., synthesis, analysis, compare/contrast, cause and effect, classification, description, narration).

Collaborative reading

To encourage peer to peer learning and digital collaboration around scholarly literature, teachers can ask students to work together to create a wiki for academic articles, defining difficult vocabulary and explaining references in the margins. Especially if students are encouraged to use images, videos and links, an imageless academic article can be transformed into a beautiful illuminated text. In academic writing, there are always words and allusions that are new to students. Students can use annotations to define and explain, working together in a way that gives them agency over their own comprehension.

Academic reading

Academics are the primary audience for academic articles, which they read to stay abreast of work in their field, and in order to position their own contributions to those fields. But students are scholars too. They have contributions to make to academic fields and, especially in higher level courses, Hypothesis social annotation can be used to encourage students to share their ideas, their questions, their voices, their contributions to the ideas being discussed. In this way, social annotation mirrors the collaborative nature of scholarly knowledge production more broadly.

If you’re looking for even more assignment ideas for annotating JSTOR articles with Hypothesis, give these a try:

To learn more about using Hypothesis with JSTOR or how to enable Hypothesis with JSTOR at your institution, please reach out education@hypothes.is. And if you have ideas about how social annotation can help students learn to read academic articles, please let us know. (Spoiler alert: In January 2023 we’ll be launching a repository of open education resources — created for and by educators — where we’ll share sample assignments, mainly focused on teaching with annotation. Stay tuned!)

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