Social Annotation Research With Hypothesis

As social annotation becomes more widely used in various contexts, including education, journalism/fact-checking, publishing, and scholarship, people are generating streams of interesting data about collaborative reading that has never before been available at this scale. At Hypothesis, we are excited by what we can learn from this data about how people interact with and generate knowledge, and we are committed to ensuring that research about social annotation is conducted collaboratively and ethically with our partners. With these priorities, we are launching an ongoing program to advance the field of collaborative research about social annotation.

Our program will center on research about social annotation itself, rather than research about other topics that use social annotation as a tool. Hypothesis will also continue to participate in activities that incorporate social annotation into research practices in various domains, including the natural sciences (as with SciBot), the social sciences (as with Annotation for Transparent Inquiry), the humanities (as with Modernism/modernity), and scholarly publication more widely.


View the recording from Liquid Margins 11, “Researching Annotation’s Power With Our First Scholar in Residence,” where Dr. Remi Kalir, the first Hypothesis scholar in residence, spoke with Hypothesis VP of Education Dr. Jeremy Dean about his new role and what’s happening with research on social annotation, now and in the future.

Our approach

Like all of our efforts, social annotation research with Hypothesis is guided by our organization’s principles, including openness, transparency, and public benefit.

While we encourage research about social annotation in any domain, we will first focus on research about social annotation in education. As teachers and students across the United States and around the world use Hypothesis in various learning environments, we are seeing a growing body of research literature that demonstrates how social annotation productively aids learning, and are turning that research into a collaborative bibliography. Given the fast-growing use of social annotation in education, we believe more can, and should, be known about how students read and annotate together, as well as how educators design and facilitate such learning as a means to enable reading comprehension, knowledge construction, and meaningful engagement with texts. Drawing from existing literature and established research methods, our initial foray into educational research will be inspired by broad questions, such as:

  • In what ways do reading and annotation — as active, visible, and social practices — support student learning and success?
  • How might students’ meaningful use of social annotation vary by discipline or purpose?
  • How can educators create learning environments and plan instructional activities to effectively support students’ social reading and annotation?

We will guide all of our research efforts by two overarching principles that will proactively inform how research studies will be designed, how research will be conducted, and how research findings and products will be shared with the public. Specifically, we commit to:

  1. Advancing collaborative, partner-driven research
  2. Promoting open research and scholarship

Advancing collaborative, partner-driven research

Whether a research project is located at a single institution or spans multiple institutions and learning contexts, we will advance collaborative, partner-driven research. We welcome contributions from everyone, and will focus on deeper collaboration with members of AnnotatED, the community of educators, researchers, and technologists from organizations that engage deeply with social annotation as a transformative practice in teaching and learning. Our strategies will include:

  • Investigating research questions that are germane to local contexts, discipline-specific learning arrangements and environments, and educators’ problems of practice
  • Engaging equitably and transparently with multiple stakeholders as research co-designers, co-facilitators, and co-authors, including educators, instructional designers, and other technology and educational leaders
  • Following guidelines for ethical human-subjects research as approved by institutional review boards (IRBs) at partner schools
  • Protecting the privacy of research participants
  • Establishing projects that demonstrate how the relationship between social annotation and student learning is usefully approached from diverse research designs, theoretical perspectives, and methodologies

Promoting open research and scholarship

Our educational research efforts will broadly align with six strategic priorities for open scholarship, as identified by a consensus report for open scholarship strategy development. In their broadest form, these priorities include:

  1. Ensuring diversity and inclusion in all scholarly processes and communication. For example, engaging diverse educational stakeholders in all facets of our research processes as well as in the creation and dissemination of research products (as detailed in our commitment to collaborative, partner-driven research).
  2. Making scholarly knowledge outputs accessible and freely available. For example, disseminating research results via pre-publication preprint services, and open-access publications when feasible.
  3. Harnessing network effects by connecting scholars and making scholarly processes transparent. For example, facilitating transparent research processes while not in any way compromising either ethical research guidelines or privacy protections for our research partners and stakeholders.
  4. Strengthening platforms, tools, and services for research dissemination and collaboration. For example, developing and disseminating openly licensed tools, datasets, and documentation for use by other researchers, including survey instruments, interview protocols, learning-analytics technologies, and curated resources to support open research and scholarship by others in the field.
  5. Privileging community engagement and the communication of research processes by making readily accessible and understandable scientific results and products. For example, developing and disseminating research results in accessible formats and styles for audiences beyond academia.
  6. Contributing to new research metrics that reflect different values and more diverse forms of scientific impact. For example, embracing multiple metrics for research impact, based upon robustness of evidence, humility, multiple methodologies, transparency of data collection and analysis, and both internal and external evaluation processes.


Our preliminary first-year timeline for this research program:

  • Sep–Dec 2020: Launch program and establish general research framework and processes
  • Jan–May 2021: Conduct first formal research investigations with partners
  • Jul–Aug 2021: Prepare research outcomes for publication

Learn more and get involved

We welcome your feedback on this initial approach to our educational research efforts. Please contact us if you are interested in participating in or discussing current or future research activities.

Version 1.0 21 Sep 2020: This statement was originally authored by Dr. Remi Kalir, inaugural Hypothesis Scholar in Residence, and includes feedback from multiple Hypothesis team members. We anticipate that this statement will be revised as research projects and processes develop over time.