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Annotations (with Perusall)

Published onOct 17, 2022
Annotations (with Perusall)

In this course, you will learn key concepts, theories, and research on criminal justice by reading, annotating, and critically discussing. This will be accomplished by using an interactive social reading platform called Perusall.

How do I use Perusall?

The video below provides a quick overview of how to get started with Perusall. Note that when you click on a Perusall link from this course, you will not be asked to enroll (D2L is linked to Perusall) or purchase a textbook (I have already uploaded all of the class readings).

Student LMS account set up

Why are we using Perusall?

While we often think of reading as activity we do in isolation, it is actually an inherently social activity (people don't write and publish things they don't want anyone to read and talk about). Perusall will help us to lean into the social potential of reading by functioning kind of like a book club.

The stereotypical image of a book club is a bunch of ladies sitting in a suburban living room having tea, talking about the same book. That is a perfectly fine way to do it, but there are other ways. Book clubs can be held most anywhere; in-person, over the phone, or online; with members discussing the same or different books; and otherwise vary. For more information on the types and practices of book clubs, and books about book clubs, see this Wikipedia page.

What do other students think of Perusall?

Perusall Intro

Visit Perusall’s “Getting Started” documentation for students for a text version of these instructions and other help topics.

Completing Your Annotations with Perusall

1. Open Perusall

In the section module, you will see a link to an “External Learning Tool” for the assigned annotation. The course schedule will tell you which annotation assignment you should be completing; that name corresponds to the assignment name in D2L. Click the link. You are then prompted to “Launch Perusall.” Click, “Launch Perusall.” Note, you must access the assignment via the module link in D2L, otherwise your work will not be synced and scored by Perusall.

You will then see a copy of the first assigned reading. Note, in the gray bar at the top that you are told how many “parts” there are in the assignment. To access the remaining “parts” you must scroll to the bottom and click on the next gray bar which says “Continue assignment.”

2. Read

Always start by just reading the text yourself, making note (either in Perusall or separate) of your thoughts and questions as you read. Note what surprises you, what seems unclear, what resonates with you, what you disagree with, etc.

3. Read Critically

Read the text again, consider the Critical Reading Questions below, and form some judgements. Check out the “Reading Critically” handout for further instructions on this step.

Critical Reading Questions

  • What do you think is the most important point of the text? In other words, what are the major take away points and why are they being made?

  • How is the point made? Is the text asserting something new; arguing for something different; denying or refuting, or proving or disproving a previous claim; or just explaining something for their audience?

  • What surprises you? By “surprise,” I mean contradicts what you assumed to be factually true.

  • What do you disagree with? By “disagree,” I mean contradicts your values or beliefs.

3. Annotate

Review your notes and share a version of them in Perusall. Your initial notes for yourself may be messy – which is fine! – so take some time to clean them up for clarity, grammar, and spelling when adding your annotations to Perusall. Use your annotations to:

  • Comment on parts of the reading that you think answer, engage with, or problematize the critical reading questions above.

  • Ask a question about something you don't understand.

  • Try to explain or interpret a complex idea in your own words or using an analogy you find helpful.

  • Connect an idea in the reading to your own experience or real-world events or news.

  • Explain why you agree or disagree with a point or idea in the reading by providing supporting or counter evidence or examples.

  • Start a conversation about something in the text that intrigues you!

Your Perusall score will update in real time every time you open an assignment. Want tips for how to improve your score before completing next week's activities? See below for How to Get the Grade You Want.

4. Discuss

Keep the conversation going in Perusall by commenting on your peers' annotations. Use your comments to:

  • Answer someone else's question.

  • Ask a probing or clarifying question about someone else's annotation.

  • Explain why you agree or disagree with a point or idea someone else made by providing supporting or counter evidence or examples.

  • Continue a conversation about something that intrigues you!

Get started on this early. If you wait until the due date to begin, you will be unable to engage with your peers enough to receive full credit.

How to Get the Grade You Want

Your work is scored through the Perusall algorithm based on predetermined scoring metrics and percentages, as shown below.  Using this tool ensures that all students are objectively evaluated based on these same standards. Your score will automatically update in Perusall as you continue to engage with each assignment throughout the annotation period. You can check your progress under My Scores in Perusall. Work is graded on a scale from 0 to 10.

The scores from your work show up in two places: (1) The Perusall website and (2) D2L. You can see your progress in Persusall by clicking "My Scores." The following URL has a lot more information about grading in Perusall:

Scoring Guidelines

Follow the guidelines below to get full credit. You will be able to see your score in Perusall go up throughout the module as you engage more. 

Scoring Metric

% of Total Score


Annotation Content


Students earn full credit on this scoring metric by submitting high-quality comments.

Responses that are not distributed evenly throughout the content will receive a 10% penalty.

Opening Assignment


Students earn full credit on this scoring metric by opening the assignment several times.

Reading to the End


Students earn full credit for this scoring metric once they have accessed each page or section of the document.

Active Engagement Time


Students earn full credit on this metric once they have actively engaged with the content for a predetermined set of time.

Getting Responses


Students earn full credit on this metric if they have posted comments that elicit responses from their classmates.



Students earn full credit on this metric by upvoting of their classmates' comments or by receiving upvotes.



As you can see, the total for all metrics surpasses 100%. This means that you have multiple options for earning full credit. 

Here are some tips that you may find useful:

  • Annotate: It is important to annotate high-quality comments as you go. For what constitutes “high quality,” visit here.)

  • Start early: The earlier you start reading and annotating, the more opportunities you will have for other students to comment on and upvote your annotations.

  • Spread it out: Spread your annotations and comments throughout the entire reading (see some examples). Also spread your reading time out over the duration of the module and check back in regularly to continue participating in conversations.

  • Read to the end: Read every assignment all the way through to the end because Perusall tracks completion.

  • Talk to each other: Answer other people's questions and upvote thoughtful questions and helpful answers. Just reading is not enough. A significant portion of your score is based on the conversations you have about the readings.

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