Teaching Resources


Resource Overview

Guide on using Hypothesis, a social annotation tool used for collaboration, interactive reading, annotation, and discussion.

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Hypothes.is (or Hypothesis) is a social annotation tool that places a conversational layer on top of texts to support collaboration, interactive reading, and engagement. Adding Hypothesis to readings in Canvas can increase active discussion right on top of PDFs and webpages, enabling students and instructors to add comments and start conversations in the margins of a course reading.

For more ideas and technical support, email us or schedule a consult with a CTL staff member. You can also reach out to Becky George, WashU Customer Support Specialist at Hypothes.is, to get individual help and ideas for using Hypothes.is.


  • WashU licensed
  • Seamlessly integrated with Canvas Assignments, Groups, and SpeedGrader
  • Works with webpages or searchable PDFs
  • Supports annotations in Canvas groups
  • Shared annotations, notes, and replies
  • Private highlights and notes
  • Ability to annotate with images, links, and videos
  • Student resources, including guides on best practices and annotation types
  • CTL managed and supported
Reasons to Use Hypothesis

Hypothesis makes reading active, visible, and social. A metanalysis conducted by Novak et al in 2012 suggested that social annotation tools can “lead to learning gains in higher education” (p. 47). In particular, the study found that social annotation activities contribute to “improved critical thinking, meta-cognitive skills, and reading comprehension” (p. 47). Preliminary findings in the same study also suggested that using social annotation “promotes motivation for reading and contributes to higher frequency of positive emotions and lower frequency of negative emotions” (towards the reading) (47). In addition, Brown and Croft (2020) argue that social annotation is an inclusive teaching practice because of how it promotes collaborative knowledge building (2).

Ideas for Teaching with Hypothesis


  • Increase engagement on a reading assignment by asking students to share reactions, personal connections, or questions about a text. Such annotations make the reading experience social and spark conversations between students.
  • Help students read a difficult text together. In the instructions, ask students to raise questions about confusing concepts, share how they interpret the text, and add links to resources that define terms, provide examples or elaborate on concepts raised in the text.


  • Help students do more close reading by asking probing questions or directing students to important parts of the text. Open the text in Hypothesis as a student would and add your prompts as annotations. Consider these 10 different types of annotations.
  • Use a text or a section of a text to model how you would engage with it. Open the text in Hypothesis and add annotations to share your own responses, analyses, and meta-comments. You could also use this opportunity to introduce students to annotation etiquette, or best practices that make annotations more useful for others.


  • Synthesize annotations using tags. Make sure that you and students add specific tags to your annotations such as by concept, topic, or comment type (e.g., “metaphor” “love” “resource”. This will allow you to search for this tag and quickly identify themes across annotations.
  • Include multimedia in annotation by showing students how to add external images and videos in comments and replies. These can be immediately viewed in the comments window.
  • Get ideas from the Hypothesis teacher community at Liquid Margins which meets regularly to discuss ideas for social annotation. All past recordings are available on YouTube.
Common Hypothesis Activities
  • Discussion Board Alternative: Students benefit from conversations that take place within a text. This can keep their conversations specific and grounded. Students can post questions and then respond to other students’ questions OR you can place questions within the text for students to respond to.
  • Comparative Activity: Students work to closely analyze a series of texts looking for commonalities, dissimilarities, or other points of importance for future discussion.
  • Close Reading Practice: Students often fly through short complex texts too quickly. A Hypothesis activity can slow them down and encourage them to engage in slow, careful reading. Students may be tasked with adding definitions to unfamiliar words, grappling with passages that seem critical or patterns that stand out in the text, and linking to other texts or theories that a passage seems to allude to etc.
  • Rhetorical Analysis: Students might be tasked with marking and explaining rhetorical strategies that they encounter in a text.
  • Multimedia Writing: Students use Hypothesis to create a collaborative multimedia text by annotating a written text with images and video.
  • Creative Writing Exercise: Students could respond creatively and collaboratively to a written text. It could also be used as an exercise (e.g. annotate “x” text in the voices of characters from a prior text).

  • Brown, M. & Croft, B. (2020). “Social annotation an inclusive praxis for open pedagogy in the college classroom.” Journal of Interactive Media in Education, 1-8.
  • Novak, E. et al. (2012). “The educational use of social annotation tools in higher education: A literature review.” The Internet and Higher Education, 15, 39-49.

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If you have suggestions of resources we might add to these pages, please contact us:

ctl@wustl.edu(314) 935-6810Mon - Fri, 8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.