Writing in the margins has always been an essential activity for students. Annotation helps in reading comprehension and in developing critical thinking about course materials. Hypothesis enables students to continue this essential activity with online readings. Digital annotation also offers new affordances, enabling students to respond to text using different media and empowering them to collaborate on understanding and developing ideas about their readings.


Hypothesis is a web-based annotation tool that will allow us to read our texts together, asking and answering questions, defining difficult words, and practicing the essential skill of close reading. Below is an image and link to a Hypothesis demo so you can see an example.

Hypothesis Annotations in Project Gutenberg ebook: Frankenstein

Get Started!

Follow the instructions and watch the video below to set up your Hypothesis account.

  1. Visit the Get Started page to create a Hypothesis account.
  2. Next, install the Hypothesis Chrome Extension.
  3. If you’re using a different browser simply drag the bookmarklet button from the Get Started page into your bookmarks bar. Note: you need to make sure your bookmarks bar is visible first.
  4. Using Hypothesis on mobile? If you are working on an tablet or phone, simply add “https://via.hypothes.is/” to the start of any web address (URL) or use the Paste a Link feature at the top of hypothes.is
Hypothesis – Getting Started

Join our Hypothesis group

The instructions and video provide instruction for joining our Hypothesis group.

  1. Log into your Hypothesis account.
  2. Next click this Hypothesis Group Invite link to join our group: COMD3504_OL08
  3. The COMD3504_OL08 group homepage will display links to the annotated readings.
  4. When you are using Hypothesis for this class, be sure to choose our group from the dropdown. That way, all of our annotations, notes and replies are collected in one place.
Join our Hypothesis Group

Start Annotating

The instructions and video below will give you an overview of how to use Hypothesis and the types of annotation tools available.

  1. Login: Make sure you are logged into your Hypothesis account.
  2. Review Types: Before you start annotating your first reading, Learn About Annotation Types below and/or watch the video.
  3. Enable Hypothesis: Navigate to an assigned reading or webpage to annotate. Try it out on the main course text on page 6 “Forward: Why Theory?“. Many of the assigned readings, like this one, will have the Hypothesis tools enabled automattically, but if not, activate the Chrome extension by pressing the greyed-out h. button on your Chrome extensions bar or select the Hypothesis Bookmarklet if you are using another browser or use Paste a Link.
    • NOTE: You can toggle Hypothesis on and off by clicking on the extension or bookmarklet.
  4. Enable the Group: Click on the little arrow on the upper right to extend the Hypothesis tools pop out. Make sure you are logged in and choose our group from the My Groups dropdown (IMPORTANT). By default it will be set to Public.
  5. Start Annotating:
    • Select a word or phrase on the page to bring up the Annotate and Highlight icons. Annotations can be shared with the group. Highlights are always private.
    • You may also leave a Page Note by selecting the note icon from the Hypothesis tools popout. Page notes relate to the whole text.
    • Click the Share icon to copy your relevant annotations and include in your Reading Responses and/or Research Papers as footnotes.
  6. View All Annotations: To view all of the shared annotations in our group, click on the “Show All” button in the sidebar or visit the COMD3504_OL08 group homepage. It will display links to the annotated readings.
Annotation Types – Start Annotating

Learn about Annotation Types

Hypothesis gives you a few different tools to help you annotate a reading. As a general rule, your annotations should add something to what is already in the text. What you contribute will also help your classmates. Here are some suggestions for each type of tool.

The Annotation Tool

Use the annotation tool to select a word or phrase in the text and add notes, images, links to share with the class. When others come across the annotation, they can also add an annotation or reply to yours. TIP: You can also use the annotation tool for your own research by choosing “Only Me” when posting.

  • Ask a question. Confused by a passage or word? Select it and pose a question to the class.
  • Define a word. Did you find an unfamiliar word or a word you don’t understand because of the context? Select it and add a definition plus a link to the source, preferably Websters or similar.
  • Add a reference. Is there a word or concept in the reading that you are unfamiliar with? Look it up and provide a link to a website, interview, or video. Or add an image.
  • Rewrite a sentence. Sometimes the way a writer communicates a concept can be confusing or too wordy. Rewrite the sentence in your own words after defining unfamiliar words, when necessary.

The Highlight Tool

A highlight is similar to swiping a yellow marker over a passage of text. There are no comments or tags, like the annotation, but it’s anchored in the document and is quoted in the sidebar. A highlight is always private (“Only Me”), which means only you can see it and only when you’re logged in.

  • Important concepts
  • Quotations
  • Statistics

Page Notes

A page note has similar functionality to an annotation, but it associates comments, images, links, and/or tags with the whole document, not an individual word or phrase. Like Annotations, you can make Page Notes private by choosing “Only Me” when posting.

  • Prompts / Questions. Your professor may use a page note to provide a list of prompts or questions for your reading response.
  • General Questions or Ideas. If you have a question or thought about the reading as a whole, you might leave it a page note for the class.
  • Associated Texts. If there are other texts that you think relate, you might add a page note with links to those texts.


You can add a reply to an annotation, highlight, page note, or a prior reply. Use the Reply icon to create a reply. Your reply can include text, links, images, and/or tags.

  • Ask or Answer a Question. A reply is a great way to communicate with your classmates and discuss the reading as you go along.
  • Responding to your own annotations. It’s also a good way of replying to your own highlights, annotations, and notes with additional thoughts as you learn more.


Use the Share icon to copy links to your relevant annotations and add them to your Reading Responses and Research Papers as a footnote.

Annotating PDFs

In addition to annotating readings on a website, we can also annotate distributed PDFs that you’ve downloaded to your computer.

  • Refer to this Annotating PDFs Tutorial for instructions on how to set up the Chrome Extension to allow for PDF file annotations in the browser.
  • You may also use Firefox and the Hypothesis Bookmarklet
  • Here’s another tutorial for downloading PDFs, viewing them in the browser, and annotating in our Hypothesis Group.


  1. QuickStart Guide for Students
  2. Annotation Tips for Students for annotation guidelines.
  3. Taxonomy of Annotation Types for guidence on which type of annotation tool to use.
  4. Using Hypothesis on mobile
  5. Annotating PDFs Tutorial
  6. More helpful tips from Student Resource Guide