Questions and Answers in Annotation

By Matthew M. C. Roberts of Grand Valley State University

Screenshot of the Marbury v Madison supreme court case with the Hypothesis annotation bar

Description #

This assignment is from an American Constitutional Foundations course, taught as a fully asynchronous online course. If this were a face-to-face course, a common activity would be spending class time together reading through and asking questions about decisions made by the Supreme Court. Without a shared time and space, that type of activity is challenging to recreate online. I’ve had good results using Hypothesis as a shared virtual space, with students “gathering” around the actual text of a Supreme Court opinion. Students are asked to pose questions raised by the text. In addition they must attempt to answer their peers’ questions.

Assignment #

Marbury v. Madison is the first case whose opinion you’ve read in this course. For a number of reasons, this might have been a challenging experience. To help improve your understanding of the case, the opinion, and the decision the Court made in it, I’d like to have a “question and answer” session much like we would if we were together in the same classroom. To do this, we’ll be using an approach called “collective annotation.” This will allow us to share one copy of the opinion in Marbury, highlight it, and take notes together.

This assignment will be scored on a PASS / PROGRESSING / NO PASS basis. To receive a score of PASS on this assignment, please do each of the following:

  • Create a free account on the website (instructions can be found below). is the tool that we will use for our collective annotations.
  • Click the header/title of this item (or on this link here) to open a webpage copy of Chief Justice Marshall’s opinion in Marbury v. Madison. This is the same version of the opinion found in your Epstein and Walker textbook.
  • If necessary, on the Marbury webpage sign-in to
  • Find three places in the opinion where you were confused, uncertain, or just had a question. Using the highlighting and note tools, add your questions to the document. To receive a PASS you must add three (3) questions. Please be as complete and descriptive as you can in writing your question. Overly brief, terse, or vague questions such as “What’s this” or “I don’t understand” will not receive credit.
  • Once you have added your questions, find two questions posed by your classmates and try to provide an answer. You will not be graded on the basis of whether your answer is correct or not. As with questions, overly brief, terse, or vague answers will not receive credit.