The first pilot to my Essay Tips series! I share my method for reading and understanding a journal article or paper quickly and efficiently including how to take good, concise notes and remember useful citations.
If your method differs from mine or you think you can give me some pointers then let me know in the comments!
This is the first in a series of videos I'm hoping to produce while undertaking my PhD at the University of Exeter on tips for students at university or college whether undergraduate, postgraduate or otherwise.
Note: The programme to the left (which I highlight in) is Mendeley. Apologies for forgetting to state this in the video!!
If you've enjoyed this video then please do check out the rest of my channel. I generally put out new videos every Tuesday and Friday discussing theatre and playwriting from the perspective of an aspirant and (some might say) emerging playwright, theatre maker and academic.
My tagging system was borrowed from this article on The Thesis Whisperer: https://thesiswhisperer.com/2015/10/28/how-evernote-can-help-you-with-your-literature-review/
The Academic Skills Handbook by Diana Hopkins and Tom Reid
The Study Skills Handbook by Stella Cottrell
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This shouldn't be too hard to find, I'd suggest keeping your search terms broad. The good thing is that meta-analyses tend to get cited a lot and so you should be able to sort search results by number of citations and one will usually be near the top somewhere!
I think he is asking whether you could share how extensive you need to go for in each note. You only showed that you typed down a quotation in this video, but I guess people struggle the most with how to efficiently summarize papers but also have enough material when trying to find the exact text?
The one I'm using here is called Evernote. However, I have, more recently, moved to an app called Bear. While I would recommend a dedicated note-taking app, I would suggest that which you use is largely a matter of personal preference.
so Tom, I quickly downloaded Mendeley on Internet Explorer after view/reading comments, however, I had to close it using the task manager because it quit responding. I have Evernote, and what I was originally looking for was a tool that allows highlighting and notetaking on screen with the article. I like Evernote but find that I haven't been using it because it doesn't do what I want.....you know this almost makes me miss actual books. Lol
I know that you can highlight in Mendeley, I'm not so sure about notes however. Some notetaking apps allow you to import PDFs too (in fact, Evernote may do...). Fairly recently I switched to Bear which is an alternative notetaking app which I kind of prefer as its got a few less features and is a little more streamlined. Hope you manage to find a solution that works for you!
Hi Neeru, it's called Mendeley and is essentially a freeware version of EndNote (however I'd argue for it entirely on its own merit!). A really useful way of storing papers in the cloud with annotations.
Usually, I tend to just note to begin with however, often, I will return to papers/books which I think are of particular interest and read them with the very direct objective of considering how I will make use of them for a particular piece of writing.
Tom Nicholas Tom Nicholas Tom Nicholas lol you're right in the video. Afaik, Kitayama is a fairly known surname and Shinobu the given name. I don't know why i wrote that comment. Also i think it's only East Asians who uses the "Surname GivenName" but the article has used it the other way for continuity... Anyways, great video tho!
Ah, thanks for letting me know. That's my anglocentrism poking through! Actually, I do wonder what the accepted practice is with referencing when citing from work by scholars from cultures where the "last name" is not necessarily the "family name"...
I downloaded the Evernote app for my MacBook after seeing this. I like the side by side double window option so I can take notes while going through my online lessons for college. However, on the Evernote app I can not seem to figure out how to remove the side bar that shows all of my notes. I was able to "hide the side bar" but there is another side bar, the "card view" I think they call it? is there any way to remove that so I have a full screen of strictly text? Side by side already narrows everything down and I am trying to figure how to utilize as much typing/viewing space as possible.
Yeah. I do miss the tagging system with Evernote as I did like having both tags and notebooks (where Bear only has tags). Bear's so much cheaper however and, as you say, does away with all the annoying bells and whistles that I don't actually need!
Tom Nicholas Thank you for the reply. I agree and removed Evernote. I just want a simple note taking app. I don’t need a ton of bells and whistles. Just take notes with breaking them up by subject...etc.
I’ve recently moved to an app called Bear for multiple reasons but partly because of some of the unnecessary complications that Evernote seems to like to throw in users’ paths! Sorry I can’t be more helpful!!
What is the PDF reader you’re using? I annotate articles using Goodreader on an iPad Pro. It allows highlighting by colours, underlining, and stroke through. Additionally, it will print/export a page-referenced summary of annotations. I export to Word or Pages and digitally file with the .pdf.
This is Mendeley which is specifically designed for storing academic papers and can also export bibliographies etc and organise citations for you within Word if that's something you find useful. I actually don't know if it lets you export just the quotations. Sounds like you've got a decent method there though!
Why would you retype the selected highlight instead of a copy and paste? I’m assuming that was an APA in-text citation appended to what could then be a quotation in a consequent paper. Very clever side-by-side arrangement of the PDF reader and Evernote. Great videos.
I simply find it helps me to remember where I got the citations from and to help me to develop a really indepth understanding of the field so that, if I'm presenting or similar, I can recall the bits that I've found most useful. It's not the most time-efficient way of reading each paper but, in the long run, the repetition is something I find useful--won't necessarily be for everyone though!
Hi Tom! great vlogs, I love the selection of topics you cover. I am first year Phd student, and after 6 months I have tons of word documents and no system at all. I was wondering - how do you organise your notes on books, not just pdf articles? where do you put them? do you use Mendeley at all? thank you for the amazing content you put online.
Ahhh, sorry, I understand now!! I use the same method for books actually. Trying to avoid having loads and loads of notes I find to be a good way of making myself think about whether I REALLY need to jot that extra sentence down or not and therefore to be a little more strict on myself.
Ah, I will think about doing one of those actually. I should maybe do it for some kind of anniversary or milestone...
I did watch it, of course :) here you are taking notes on a article. How do you manage big books? also in evernote? and do you use something for referencing or manualy? thank you! btw. I would be really interested to see a vlog about why you started this channel, why is it important to you. it is definitely important to us! tnx!
Hi Kristina, Thanks for saying so, glad you've been enjoying my vids! Have you watched this one? I feel like this will answer many of those questions! Although, if you want me to explain a little more about my Evernote system then I'd be more than happy to let you know!
It should be fairly simple to adapt this method to another note app. I’m currently debating switching to Apple Notes as it works on more devices however it does have less features. Whichever you feel most comfortable with should work—even paper!
I enjoyed your video and how you take notes. Love that you are noting content for citations in your notes. My only suggestion is to note the name of the author cited in the original content into your Evernote citation because if you chose to use that sentence, your citation in APA should include that author (citing a secondary source) and you might forget otherwise.
I will admit I haven’t watched this back for a while so hopefully am remembering what’s in the video right but...
I’d generally avoid citing sources which are citing sources and, instead, dig out the original source that is being cited. That’s why, usually, I jot down just the source they’re referring to and then go away and appraise that on its own merit. It can look a little lazy to have not have done so (although sometimes it’s unavoidable). But, yes, if noting down a citation within a source, important to have the ‘cited in’ in your notes.
Another great video :) Have you got any videos (or plans for videos) about overcoming self-doubt problems during a PhD? I know it's quite a personal one, or perhaps not something you struggle with at all, but I know myself and a few other students in MA and PhD sometimes find it hard to overcome that nagging feeling of "Am I good enough for PhD study?" when you don't fully understand a difficult theory, or trip up on a journal article etc. TIA!
Ahhh, I actually MUST make a video on this, good shout! You are definitely not alone in this and I think this is something the vast, vast majority of people who are doing a PhD go through. I certainly, very regularly wonder how I’ve managed to blag my way into this position!! In fact, I think I may just fast track this one to be a video very soon. Thanks for the suggestion!!
Hello Tom, i have struggle searching full journal article on the internet. Most of the time i just found out an abstract , not the full text or i need to pay . How? any idea or can you do a video about it?
Journals will often require a subscription to read more than just the abstract. Are you a member of a University or other kind of educational institution? These should have subscriptions to many journals which allow you access. If not, you could ask at your local public library if they have access to many academic journals.
You're awesome!! Thank you so much! This was helpful. Why don't you drag the pdf to the evernote note and use annotation? It should offer annotation summary in the same note. Not sure how do you think about this.
Ooh, I'll have to check out Read Cube, I've not heard of that one before. Sounds like you've got a great system that really works there. And thanks for saying nice things about my videos, much appreciated! Best of luck with the MA!!
I understand! Honestly, I used to use Zotero, then tried Mendely for a very short while (didn't feel comfortable with it that much I think I should give it another try) and now am using Read Cube. I keep research papers I download and will read in Read Cube and once I start reading and taking notes I move it to Evernote (Just tried that recently). I did subscribe to Evernote though, they have a reduced price for students. It gives 10 GB of storage every month. For an MA this is ok I believe not sure about a PHD. :) The highlighting, annotation features are much better in Evernote than it is in Read cube. Thank you so much for your videos, they are a great recourse for any researcher! Keep up the great work! Greetings from Egypt :)
Hi Mona, I know that is an option but I quite like having all my references in Mendeley. Also, there's a limit on how much you can upload to Evernote each month and I read quite a lot of different papers so would probably burn through that fairly quickly. Certainly worth trying if it works for you though! Glad you enjoyed the video!
Thank you for the video. After taking a gap year and suddenly plunging into higher level courses, I'm finding myself swimming in readings without much guidance with how to go about with them. Great video!
Hey there, I just found your channel and it's quite useful, but as an undergraduate student, my main concern right now is: should I look for a knowledge gap in the literature review for my dissertation? and do you know any good databases for business studies please help because I'm really struggling with the collection of information...!! thanks in advance!!
Thanks Taylor! First off, I'd say these are definitely conversations you can ask one of your lecturers. That's what they're there for and they'll be able to tell you in regard to your particular university. For your undergrad dissertation I wouldn't worry about your dissertation being absolutely groundbreaking but I think you'll find it more fun and rewarding (and potentially get a better mark) if you find something where there isn't lots of research already.
And Google Scholar is awesome. I've got a video about how to use it if you wanted to check it out! :)
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For anyone considering paying someone to write a scholarly paper, I would strongly caution against this. First, most colleges and universities have strict rules against plagiarism which can take many forms, one of which is submitting an assignment which you did not write. This could have serious consequences including expulsion from your program. It can give you a bad reputation in your field of study and undermine your credibility. I would hope that anyone in a graduate program is pursing a higher degree to advance their field of study. By purchasing your work you cheat yourself out of a unique educational experience. I myself am pursing a doctorate, and it would sadden me to know my colleagues were cheating like this. If you are in a degreed program whether it is undergrad or graduate and you are having trouble completing work, please use resources your school has to offer or reach out for guidance. Graduate school is difficult but there are many resources designed to help you succeed (such as this video!). Find what works for you and hang in there. It gets better and you will be rewarded with a degree you earned on your own. If you find that you need to purchase assignments, the program which you are enrolled may not be a good fit for you.
Question: do you read the whole paper and highlight stuff, and then take notes on it afterwards? or do it as you go? I prefer doing it as I go, but some psychology literature on effective reading seems to suggest that reading through first is better for understanding.
Hey James! I'd say it really depends on what the paper is. As you say, papers written in different fields can vary massively. Some are really well organised and, then, I tend to be able to go through and highlight and note take once. With some more complex ones (say, really complicated cultural criticism), it tends to take a few reads and I might find myself realising that something I thought was SUPER important before actually isn't or that something I missed before is vital!
This is so helpful!
I am starting my PhD this September so wanted to use the next few months to create an organisation plan - better to start organised than to get organised later on and then have to review everything you went over before.
Thanks for sharing your tips - really appreciated - I've subscribed :)
+Evie Bamigbade Glad it was useful Evie and best of luck with starting out, I'm sure you'll find it a really fun challenge!
Let me know if there's anything else you'd be interested to hear about before you start, suggestions and questions are always welcome!
Yay! I am happy that I found your channel. I've been looking for this such technical sharing. Good to know how other people doing in 'technical' part of PhD like organising journal articles, reviewing literature, note taking, writing research paper, etc. Not so many people share their methods and I'm glad I found yours.
Just subscribed and looking forward for more updates!
yeah it s the famous questions we doctorat students have ,is my methode of reading suficient are other effictive methodes been used by others that i may learn and use is my methode too time taking ,how can i read with effeciency by taking notes and extracting the necessary info all by taking less time possible ... its good to see our other friends from phd sharing thiers
+The Nizzah One No worries! I find it has the best balance of having some useful features without being so whizzy as to get in the way. One of the only things that's persuaded me to swap it for the apps that already came on my phone. Also, the free version is more than enough (unless you want to upload loads of photos or something).
Thats a very nice video, Tom! Thanks a lot. I just wanted to ask why dont you use some tools as zotero or mendeley to organize notes and quotations? It was really funny also that this article been in my to-read list for a past couple days :)
+ольга соловьёва Thanks, glad you found it useful! The app to the left is Mendeley. I don't think I said that in the video though, apologies! Mendeley is great (if a bit clunky sometimes). I find Evernote that tiny bit more fluent for keeping notes on though. So I use both!
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