When you read, focus your attention more on the flow of the intellectual conversation than on the specific pieces of information or materials the writers use to have the conversation. Remember, you’re reading to further the conversation, not merely to acquire and retain information. In order to participate in the conversation, you have to be able to use the cues (words) on the page to realize (literally, make real, three-dimensional) the exchange of ideas embedded in the text.

  1. Here are some basic marks and margin comment types that will help you make the conversation come to life:
  • Underline essential questions and supporting questions and label which supporting questions go with each essential question;
  • Circle key concepts, then define concepts and terms in your own words in the margin;
  • Double-underline compelling passages and make margin notes about how you could use them in your own project;
  • Draw a Block around passages that are complicated, challenging or hard to understand, then on a separate sheet of paper, try to paraphrase them until you understand them;
  • Jot down the ideas, examples, and lines of inquiry that occur to you as you read;
  • Draw lines or make cross-references to forge connections and comparisons between sections of the reading, or between the current reading and others you have read previously;
  • Make text-to-text, text-to-world, and text-to-self connections
  • Make margin notes about the uses and limits of particular concepts or passages for your own work.Marking Up Text