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Analysing non fiction

Annotating a non-fiction text

Annotating a non-fiction text

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Annotating a non-fiction text

​​In a nutshell

Now that you're familiar with all of the elements you could study in a non-fiction text analysis, it's time to apply these skills to a text. Annotation is the process of commenting and making notes on a text, and serves as a "rough guide" you can use to plan your answer. Before you start writing your answer in full, start with an annotation.

What is an annotation?

An annotation is an essential first step towards creating a rigorous analysis. An analysis involves commenting about another text. Annotation is a way of getting your thoughts on a text down quickly on the page, right next to where the specific item of language/structure you're commenting on is located. It usually contains your first thoughts, and is normally quite rough. It can look a little untidy at times. 

Preparing your annotation

First of all, it helps to have a plan to keep your annotation clear and legible. Think about all the aspects of a non-fiction text you could comment on, and come up with a key. Here, green highlighter has been chosen for annotations about structure, and pink highlighter for annotations about language (including literary devices).


= structural annotation
= literary devices annotation

Before you start commenting line-by-line, try to think of more general things to say about the passage. What is the text type? What is its purpose, and what ​audience is it aimed at? Think about its overall structure – visual elements such as paragraph length and the use of images/graphics can be ascertained before you even read a single word. Write these notes at the top of the page.

Line by line

The time has come to go through the non-fiction text line-by-line, commenting on anything noteworthy you find. Keep in mind that a good analysis leads with the effect on the reader, so think twice about each feature you spot in the text: can you say anything valuable about what effect the feature you have spotted has? 

Read the following example in detail, and think about how you might have spotted these techniques yourself. What effect do they have on the reader?


Shortlisting your annotations

Now that you have filled the page with detailed annotations, it is time to whittle them down. It is not necessary to include all of your annotations in your eventual prose analysis, and you probably won't have room (or time) to do so, anyway. Only your strongest points, with a clear link between the techniques and the effects they have on the reader, should make the cut. Make sure to shortlist annotations from all parts of the text, as you may lose points for focusing only on one part of the text. You could mark these most pertinent points with a star (*), for instance.

With your annotation complete, it is now time to present your analysis in prose form. This means presenting your ideas logically in a coherent paragraph structure, supported by the analysis you have examined in your annotation.

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FAQs - Frequently Asked Questions

What to look for while annotating?

What is the first step in annotating?

What does it mean to annotate your text?


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