Marginalia: A Meta-Reading Checklist

Adapted from Professor Mary Goldschmidt ‘s handout

Examine each of your marginal notes and identify what function it is performing.

Does it identify:

  • the main argument/thesis
  • a new point
  • an example
  • evidence being used to support a point or sub-point
  • why the passage is important
  • a contradiction

Does it comment on (praise/criticize/question, agree/disagree with, or otherwise evaluate):

  • the author’s idea(s)
  • the author’s logic, examples, evidence
  • the author’s analysis
  • the author’s assumptions
  • the author’s methodology

Does it:

  • offer an alternative explanation
  • offer additional or contradictory evidence
  • pose new questions
  • react emotionally to the author’s style, tone, or substance?
  • make a connection with your extra-textual knowledge (or experience)

Does it in some way comment on or address:

  • how the author attends to, or fails to attend to, readers’ needs (for data, for acknowledgement of differing perspectives, etc.)
  • the effectiveness of how the author responds to other scholars in the field
  • the scope of the author’s knowledge of the debate that he/she has entered
  • the author’s mastery of relevant scholarship
  • how the author establishes or undermines his/her own credibility
  • the author’s implied political stance and/or ideological grounding