Social Annotation in English and Composition

colorful tower of books in front of a plain, blurred background

Given the rich history of readers annotating literature, it is not surprising that social annotation is an intuitive and productive complement to English courses. Students’ reading of literature, their textual analysis and discussion activities become collaborative processes when annotating together. Research shows that when using social annotation in English courses, students can read using multiple rhetorical and critical lenses, identify genre-specific conventions and argumentative strategies, and develop more complex reading comprehension competencies. In describing the large scale use of Hypothesis in English Department courses at Indiana University Bloomington, Associate Professor of English Justin Hodgson has noted: “We turned to Hypothesis because it offered the ability for us to not only maintain critical reading and analysis components, but to actively enhance that experience through the affordances of networked technologies — anchoring student conversations and discussions in course texts.”

Research about annotation in composition indicates that students who write annotations can consequently improve other academic writing skills and products. In composition courses, annotations are often written as a response to a text, with students replying to peers, asking questions, challenging arguments and constructing shared insight. Writing activities can also guide students to use their annotations in peer review; as students read and reply to peer writing, they may provide feedback, motivate revision and assist as a collaborator. Student composition through annotation can also be multimodal, with writing that includes various forms of media and resources, and is one strategy for supporting the development of digital literacy skills. Finally, there is emerging evidence that students who annotate course readings are successful in identifying textual evidence which is subsequently used to support their original argumentation in essay writing activities.

Watch short clips from Liquid Margins 16: “Community in Composition: Annotation and English Education” to hear from Alex Penn, visiting lecturer, Indiana University, and Remi Kalir, Assistant Professor of Learning Design and Technology at the University of Colorado Denver and the 2020-21 Hypothesis Scholar in Residence.

Dig in to the complete Liquid Margins 16 episode.

Watch highlights from Liquid Margins 2: “Good Writing Starts in the Margins: Annotation in the Composition Classroom” to hear from Anna Mills, Instructor in English, City College of San Francisco, and Nima Kianfar, Faculty in English, Contra Costa College.

Watch the complete Liquid Margins 2 episode.

View best practices for using social annotation in: