The third learning outcome in the English 110 syllabus states that students should be able to “employ techniques of active reading, critical reading, and informal reading response for inquiry, learning, and thinking.”
We were required to annotate each article that we encountered throughout the semester. We then were required to answer a set of questions to engage us in the reading and put our perspectives in conversation with those of the writer.
I employ a variety of techniques when annotating texts depending on their difficulty and complexity. First, I read through the text once, marking questions about certain words that I do not know the definition of or just topics that don’t quite make sense to me. On my second read-through, I summarize the paragraphs that I don’t understand in my own words. Susan Gilroy in her “Interrogating Texts: 6 Reading Habits to Develop in Your First Year at Harvard,” describes that summarizing allows “connections between ideas [to be] made explicit”. This means that connecting ideas becomes more clear with summarizing. These summaries in turn allow for me to connect my own perspective to the text, allowing me to carry out analysis of the paragraphs in connection with each other.
Another technique I use while annotating is asking questions. The title of Gilroy’s article from the Harvard Library: Research Guides (1980) employs the title, “Interrogating Texts.” Interrogation is an intense questioning with the goal of finding an answer to an answer that is not openly offered. I write down anything I am curious about, and offer connections to other texts I have read in the course. I consider my environment and it’s impact on my perspective in comparison to that of the author. This allows a sense of framing, and I use questions to frame my essays quite often. Chances are, if I am asking these deeper questions then my audience may be as well. If they are not, then it allows them to see a level of thinking deeper than before, opening their minds and perspectives. Asking these questions in my annotations directly transfers over to my essays, and ultimately supports my larger claim and takes it to a new level of consideration. This is how I successfully interrogate texts as Gilroy suggests.
This is an example of annotations that I did while reading Jeffrey Scheuer, a source that I utilized in Essay Two (Showcase).
There are several items to note here that I mentioned above. Notice how I employ summarizing when I say,
“In summary: Liberal arts is usually defined by ‘critical thinking and citizenship,’ how are these connected and what do they mean/represent?Bottom of page (right).
I utilize summarization and simultaneously ask an important question that addresses an important connection that I use in Essay Two. This exact connection is how I answer Essay Twos prompt, and argue that the connection between liberal arts and citizenship is not direct. This is an example of how crucial annotation techniques can be later in the writing process.
This method of annotation is very helpful when answering the Questions for Engagement. Oftentimes, these questions prompt a connection between the text, student, world, and current events. To answer these informal questions, I put all of these different aspects into conversation with each other. I like to outline these answers with questions that I have written in my annotations, and answer them as best I can with textual evidence from the relevant reading and setting other “course readings against each other to determine their relationships (hidden or explicit)” (Gilroy). Thinking of annotations and these questions as a conversation prompts active reading and interaction with the text. This is a skill that I have developed and strengthened throughout this course, and ultimately provides a basis of outline questions and topics when it comes time to respond to an essay prompt.
Below are screenshots of a prompt in the assignment for actively engaging with Scheuer. Clicking on these images will take you to the entire assignment, and the rest of my responses.
My response here claims that STEM is restricting, and that students want to expand their horizons and be creative. I use my response to this questions in my last two essays of the course, but it different ways. This response came from my summary and questions in my annotations. In Essay Two, I claim that having a liberal arts degree does not define a citizen; this response claim that students want a broader education than STEM. This can also involve the trades and other blue-collar jobs, or anything outside of the realm of college degrees. In Essay Three, this response comes to play as I address the pandemic and our need for the skills obtained through both STEM and liberal arts degrees.
It is interesting to see how my point of view changed as I wrote new Essays and read more articles. This wouldn’t be true if I had not annotated by summary, and more importantly, through interrogation. Interrogation allowed me to put my voice into my work in a new way, a way I had never done before. Through asking questions on the articles, I learned to transfer the answer to Questions for Engaging the texts. This allowed me to have a voice in the argument, which transferred to paper. This is evident in Essay Two and Three. In Essay Two (Showcase), I experimented with anecdotal evidence, and it turned out to arguably be my strongest evidence in this piece. I dedicate an entire body paragraph solely to my own experiences:
In fact, Maine families are an excellent example. I grew up in Maine, and now I attend UNE here. One side of my family consists of landscapers, lobstermen, fishermen, plowers, and painters. My mom co-owns a cleaning business, my dad a pipe-organ builder for churches. The other side of my family consists of hairdressers, auto body builders and nurses …”(Ouellette, 4). Essay Two, Final Draft.
Through interrogating texts by summary, questioning, and connecting multiple sources, my annotations and informal answer to the Question for Engaging became my most valuable tools in responding to essay prompts and incorporating my voice into the argument.
Essay 2, Final Draft: