Scholarly annotation has been practiced for more than a thousand years, taking the form of short explanatory notes or longer commentaries. More recently, digital tools have enabled collaborative annotation of online texts. As a free and open resource, the Hypothesis annotation tool helps students and researchers hold discussions, read socially, organize their research, and take personal notes. At JCU, your instructor might use this resource to facilitate collaborative analysis of specific texts, and to help you develop your skills in writing clearly and concisely.
Why write annotations? Annotating in an online collaborative environment fosters discussion about specific elements of a text (e.g. a word, a sentence, or a passage), encouraging close reading that will help to enhance knowledge and understanding of the text and the contexts in which it was produced. Writing effective annotations takes skill. Developing these skills will enable you to add something interesting and meaningful to the highlighted word or passage. As a student in literary studies, you can use annotations to develop your ability to communicate complex ideas in interesting ways.
Privacy. Hypothesis annotations can be set to Private or Public, enabling you to keep personal notes or share an annotation or commentary with your own community of practice (e.g. students enrolled in the same subject, or independent study groups). Sharing your ideas and engaging with others is where conversation starts, and leads to a deeper knowledge and understanding of the world.
A longer annotation, or commentary, might offer an extended description or analysis of textual, biographical or historical information. In the 16th century, many books were published that compiled commentaries on important theological and classical texts. A commentary on a word or line of a particular text is often longer than a simple annotation, but rarely extends beyond a paragraph or page in length.
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In addition to text and hyperlinks, Hypothesis enables images and YouTube videos to be embedded in the body of an annotation. Well-chosen multi-media content could enrich your discussion or raise questions about the appropriate use of ideas, e.g. Milton’s 16th century ideas being used in present-day political speech.
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