Website Review



Hypothesis is a free, open-source tool that allows you to “annotate the web, with anyone, anywhere.” Hypothesis functions most seamlessly as an extension in Google Chrome which allows you to anchor annotations to most HTML pages on the web as well as view and respond to the annotations of other Hypothesis users. After signing up and installing the extension, this tool provides a user-friendly way for you and your students to have conversations about primary and secondary sources through digital annotation.

How to Use:
The Get Started page for Hypothesis lays out the basic steps for getting the tool up and running. First, you will need to create a user account. Then, you will need to install the extension into your Google Chrome browser. If you do not use Chrome, you can download the bookmarklet instead, although you’ll get the best experience through the extension and that is the experience this tutorial will detail.

Once installed, you are ready to start using the annotation tool! The tool will work on virtually any webpage that has OCR’d or HTML text on it (basically, if you can copy and paste from the page, you should also be able to annotate with Hypothesis). You’ll occasionally run across sites that are not compatible, so always make sure to try annotating yourself first before assigning something to your students.

First, make sure you have turned on the hypothesis extension by clicking the icon in your browser. When it’s on, the icon will turn from gray to black and a number will sometimes appear in the top right corner if there are any annotations already attached to that page. With Hypothesis turned on, simply highlight the part of the text you wish to annotate and a toolbar will hover giving you an option to either annotate or simply highlight the text. After selecting one of these options, the right toolbar will slide open revealing a place to leave an annotation, allowing you to post to a group, and allowing you to make your comment private or public to other Hypothesis users. You can also view all of the annotations you have made by visiting your account on the Hypothesis website.

Hypothesis is a useful tool to introduce to students and use in your classroom. If using it with your students, it is a good idea to start a Hypothesis group for your students to join when they sign up for an account. This way, you can easily keep track of your students’ annotations and keep them separate from any other annotations from users on the open web. The Hypothesis team has done a lot of outreach connecting with educators and has provided many resources and ideas on their Hypothesis for Education page.

Hypothesis can be very helpful to keep notes on web-based secondary sources. As an educator, you can use the tool to leave your own notes on web-based readings, either for your own use or as a kind of reading guide for your students. You can also have students sign up for accounts of their own, and ask them to leave annotations on secondary source readings assigned for class. This can be a way for them to mark important passages, ask questions, and respond to the comments of you and their classmates. Alternatively, you can pose discussion questions or provide extra resources directly in the text for students to respond to using their own Hypothesis account. Finally, having students regularly use Hypothesis to leave annotations on readings can help you gauge student engagement with readings and identify important skills or passages to emphasize in class.

You can also use Hypothesis to collectively annotate a close reading of a primary source on the web. As students go through the document, they can mark important passages and provide their own questions, contexts, and interpretations of the source in the annotation field. Hypothesis also allows for hyperlinks and media embeds in addition to text, so it can also be a way to put primary sources into context with other sources from across the web.

Reviewed by Jessica Dauterive, George Mason University

How to Cite This Source

"Hypothesis," in in World History Commons, [accessed June 13, 2024]


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“This tool provides a user-friendly way for you and your students to have conversations about primary and secondary sources through digital annotation.