Text Annotation is the practice and annotated reading result of adding a note or gloss to a text, which may include highlights or underlining, comments, footnotes, tags, and links.
This article covers both private and socially shared text annotations, including hand-written and information technology-based annotation. For information on annotation of Web content, including images and other non-textual content, see also Web annotation. Text annotation may be as old as writing on media, annotated reading it was possible to produce an additional copy with a reasonable effort. It became a prominent activity around 1000 AD in Talmudic commentaries and Arabic rhetorics treaties. Computer-based technologies have provided new opportunities for individual and socially shared text annotations that support multiple purposes, including readers’ individual reading goals, learning, social reading, writing and editing, and other practices. Text annotations can serve a variety of functions for both private and public reading and communication practices.
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Educational research in text annotation has examined the role that both private and shared text annotations can play in supporting learning goals and communication. Other areas of educational research investigate the benefits of socially shared text annotations for collaborative learning, both for paper-based and IT-based annotation sharing. For example, studies by Joanna Wolfe have investigated the benefits of exposure to others’ annotations on student readers and writers. While shared annotations can benefit individual readers, it is important to note that, «since the 1920s, literacy theory has increasingly emphasized the importance of social factors in the development of literacy. More recent research in the effects of shared text annotations has focused on the learning applications for web-based annotation systems, some of which were developed based on design recommendations from studies outlined above. The collaboration with peers and experts around a shared text improved these skills and brought the communities’ understanding closer together.
Text annotations have long been used in writing and revision processes as a way for reviewers to suggest changes and communicate about a text. In book publishing, for example, the collaboration of authors and editors to develop and revise a manuscript frequently involves exchanges of both in-line revisions or notes as well as marginal annotations. Much research into the functionality and design of collaborative IT-based writing systems, which often support text annotation, has occurred in the area of computer-supported cooperative work. Research in the design and development of annotation systems uses specific terminology to refer to distinct structural components of annotations and also distinguishes among options for digital annotation displays.
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