How to annotate with

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In this class, we use the tool to annotate in the margins of websites and online PDF readings. Your goal is to write thoughtful comments, questions, and connections with other readings, to help other students become better prepared for our class discussions. For example, you can:

  • pose questions or seek clarifications about the author’s key ideas
  • call our attention to a key phrase or step in the author’s argument
  • compare and contrast with other readings (if you wish, add a link)
  • challenge an author’s claims, evidence, assumptions, or perspective
  • propose an alternative idea that the author might have considered
  • respond constructively to an annotation posted by another reader

Scratch below the surface, dig into the text, and you’ll get there.

To use this online tool, read the Quick Start Guide for students, or my summary below:

  1. Sign up for a free account.
  2. Install the free tool in your Chrome browser
  3. Go to our assigned reading on a website or online PDF. Turn on the tool icon in your browser, select any text, and click the pen icon to annotate. Use the default public setting. Watch my 3-minute video tutorial below (using a slightly older format of

Remember our seminar’s public/private policy: Use a version of your name that I will recognize to give you credit for your work. If you annotate a page inside our password-protected Moodle site, only members of our seminar can view it. But if you annotate a page on the open web, anyone with this tool can view your public comments.

Advice for instructors using

  1. See helpful resources on the Education page
  2. If you assign copyrighted journal articles or book chapters in PDF format, make sure that they have been OCRed (optical character recognized) so that the “find” command locates text on the pages. For PDF files that are not already OCRed, I use Adobe Acrobat Pro to recognize text, but other tools are available.
  3. If using PDF files online, decide where they should be posted for student annotations. One option is to use PDFs on existing online services, such as JStor and other library databases, but these versions may have existing comments from other users or past classes of your students. Another option, which I prefer, is to post a clean version of the PDF on a class website. When I do not have permission to post copyrighted PDFs on the public web, I post them on a password-protected learning management site, which on my campus is Moodle. In our current Moodle version with the current Chrome, PDF files automatically open in the browser, ready for annotation. (In older versions of Moodle, I had to modify Admin > Settings > File and Uploads Default display option for files > change from Force Download to “Open.”)

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