The above image is a page from Thomas Merton's book, Love and Living. I would like to use it as a reference to demonstrate how I'm annotating my academic reading these days.
Strategy 1: Underlining passages that resonate.
I'm a heavy underliner. I used to feel a bit embarrassed about it as if I weren't smart enough to only highlight the most important things. Or, that I wasn't skilled enough to remember everything. But now, I look at underlining as a way to relate to the text. Almost the same as if I were to nod my head in understanding while talking to someone.
Strategy 2: Highlighting confusing parts.
As I mentioned last week, I've started a shameless habit of marking anything I don't understand while I'm reading. It could be that I get the gist of it, but wouldn't really be able to explain it. Or that I have no idea at all and need to look it up, which was the case here. I see these highlights as evidence of paying good attention and being curious.
Strategy 3: Marking when I'm distracted.
A habit I picked up with the Pomodoro Technique is to mark when I felt an internal pull of distraction. I mark this with a dash (-). You can also mark when you experience an external pull of distraction (like a phone ringing or a person stopping by). I mark that with a hash (#). In this reading, I got distracted internally at exactly that point in the text.
Strategy 4: Marking when the bell rings.
As I mentioned last week, I've been working on a practice of contemplative reading and part of that is playing a bell of mindfulness every three minutes using an app on my phone. I mark each time the bell goes off with a small circle. This helps me be present to the bell and it also helps me see patterns in the pace of my reading.
Strategy 5: Annotating my thoughts.
I used to write in the margins, but since there's hardly ever enough room I've begun to make notes in a different place and note them in the readings with a circled letter of the alphabet. Sometimes I type my annotations and sometimes I write them in my Bullet Journal. For this reading, I wrote in my journal. The annotation simply says, "R. Don't follow ballgame." I wrote this because I feel I get the first two points (there is no me or there is nothing), but I'm not sure what it means that "me seeing me" means I'm not in the ballgame. Is it that "I" don't participate in life because the true self is the one observing the self in the ballgame? Yeah, not sure. But the annotation will come in handy when I talk this over with my advisor.
Strategy 6: Marking key points.
I mark key points with an asterisk, which is probably the most helpful strategy of all those listed. It's helpful when I write the reading note and it's helpful when I'm in conversation with others and my mind is scrambling to remember what I found particularly important about a text. It's very easy to spot while skimming several pages and a good reading strategy in general to be looking for key points while you go.