One of the most important skills for students, faculty, and academics in general to learn is that of note-taking. We are in classes, at meetings, attending conferences, and critically reading as a part of our daily activities, not to mention keeping dozens of important ideas, projects, and things-to-do in mind. A solution to this problem that I have used (and has saved me a few times) is Evernote. This program can be downloaded and synced across all devices (including tablets and phones) keeping primarily lists of things available for viewing and editing anywhere at anytime (syncing across all devices occurs when there is a wireless signal).
Evernote is organized as "notebooks" that I like to use as overarching labeling for types of notes and lists. Within the notebooks are a series of "notes" that can be edited as if it is one large text box. I have notebooks for each class, conferences, guest lectures, and individual projects. My personal notebook (the one that is create default when you start using Evernote) is full of brainstorming, random notes for project ideas, and important contact information. The notebooks are listed on the farthest left side and once one is selected, a new column opens with that notebook's notes. Select a note and it will appear in the rest of the screen on the right. Creating a new notebook or note is as easy as clicking the Notebook drop down menu or the New Note button at the top of the currently selected note. When you open an already created note, it automatically opens in view mode so you can easily read and look up saved information. Editing is done by clicking the "Edit" button at the top, which allows for regular type editing.
There are many tools and formatting styles for the notes that can be customized to how you work best. Perhaps the most useful is the ability to attach files to the note (i.e., brainstorming a content analysis methodology and attaching the LexisNexis search output). There are other options that I use less, but are definitely worthwhile:
- record verbal notes/reminders on top of written notes (if you are somewhere where typing is difficult or inconvenient)
- easily change title and move into different notebooks (good if projects are constantly changing or you have variable tastes in academic organization)
- associate a URL with the text
- if you find a relevant website, copy and paste the article text and put the link to the article in the URL box
- if you want to cite an article, write a note about the relevant information you want to include and put the link in the URL box for easy reference later when creating a bibliography
- tag and label your document so you can search for particular notes or parts of notes later
- I do not use this, simply because I prefer to rely on specific titles and clear organization within notebooks, but if you were a prolific note-writer and needed to find information quickly, this is definitely a good option
- send notes to Facebook, Twitter, through email (as a PDF), or create a link to the note
- good for sharing information for group projects or turning notes during class into a PDF'ed study guide
- keep track of to-do lists organized chronologically, by class, topic, activity, etc.
- keep track of funding, reimbursements, grant budgets, etc.
Final food for thought: Evernote saved me during my final exams this semester, so I am definitely in debt to it. Both of my final exams allowed for computer use during the final to type up responses, but my computer (both days) was having screen issues where it would randomly turn off. This occurred five minutes into my first final and panic set in, so I reached for my iPad with case/keyboard and opened Evernote. I typed my entire final on the Evernote and sent it via email to my professor and his teaching assistant easily. Knowing that my computer was acting up, I did not bother with it for my second final and again typed that and emailed it in through Evernote, avoiding the stress of working with a dysfunctional computer. Without this program installed on my iPad, I would not have been able to send in my finals this semester, so I owe Evernote a big thanks.