Tips and tricks for Evernote

One of the most important parts of doing academic research is keeping track of all of the numerous bits.  It’s one thing to have a database for primary sources (more on this later) but what about everything else?  As Jackie let slip in a previous post , I am a big fan of using technology to help me stay organized.  The post on Evernote is the first in a series of posts designed to show ways to organize your research.

I use Evernote as a catch-all.  As I already hinted, I keep a separate database of primary sources in an Excel Spreadsheet.  I know, not exactly the most exciting format, but sometimes simple is best (more on types of databases for your research coming soon).  I also have a database of secondary sources that I promise to show you in the very near future.  You’re probably thinking right now that if I already have databases for everything, why do I need Evernote?

Well, the simple answer is: everything.  Databases need to be organized and you need to put things into them.  What happens when you hear about a great book but you don’t have your database with you?  Well, some of us write the names down on Post-it notes (and some of us then promptly lose that Post-it note).  Some of us, like me, make ourselves a quick note in Evernote.  That way I’ll be able to remember the book and find it later.  Lets take a quick look at my Evernote and I’ll show you what I mean.

Now I keep everything (and I mean everything) in my Evernote.  Here’s a quick shot of what my Evernote looks like:

Evernote Academic Research Software Notebook

You’ll see on the side there a list of Notebooks.  Notebooks in Evernote are exactly what they sounds like: Notebooks.  You keep notes in them.  First in the list is my 01.INBOX.  That is by default where all of my new notes go (and I will give you a quick run down of all of the different ways you can create new notes and the bottom of this post).  The notes sit in the inbox notebook until I have a chance to tag them and move them into the other notebooks.  I also have a notebook for tasks, 02.TASKS, where I put all the notes that are really things that I need to do.  Most of the notes in my tasks notebook have reminders which get emailed to me and integrate with my calendar.

You can also see that I have notebooks for all sorts of other things (because, like I said, I keep everything in my Evernote) but we’re really only going to be talking today about how I use Evernote for research.  This means that we’ll be focusing more on workflow than on my own personal notes.

Because I’ve been using Evernote for a long time I tend to use other products that I know sync well with it.  I use PostBox for email ,which lets me make an email into a note, and I use Sunrise Calendar, which allows the reminders I set to show up in my calendar.  It’s easy enough to create these same things without using PostBox and Sunrise, especially since Gmail integrates perfectly well with Evernote.

When I see something that I need to remember, I save it to Evernote.  Sometimes it’s an email about a talk or an article that someone has sent me.  Sometimes it’s a BMCR that I want to save for later.  Whatever it is I put it in my Evernote so I can find it (and search for it).  You’ll also notice in that list of notebooks 03.Bibliography and 04.Dissertation.  These are important notebooks for my research.  Basically all of the books I come across go into Bibliography because that is part of my workflow for my database of secondary sources.  My dissertation folder is where I put everything that I might (or in some cases might not) need for my dissertation.  It is full of emails from my supervisor, random notes I’ve made after talking to people, even sometimes chunks of text that I’ve deleted from my draft but I can’t bring myself to throw out.  I input the notes that I take at meetings with my supervisor and my committee as well.  That way, when I KNOW that I’ve come across something in the past I can search the notes in my dissertation notebook and find it quickly.

For me the most amazing part about Evernote is how easy it is to put stuff in it.  Evernote works with everything.  I have it installed on my computer, my tablet, and my smartphone.  Plus you can use Evernote in your browser if you’re at the library.  Evernote also syncs across all of your devices.  Adding stuff is easy and I can record things with my phone as notes right from the app.  That way, when someone says something about a great book I can put it in Evernote and then I won’t have to worry about losing the post-it.  My favorite way to put things in Evernote is the web clipper.  Take a look at my browser (I’m using a Chrome on a Mac but you can get the clipper for anything).

Screen Shot 2015-11-25 at 5.46.48 PM

See that little elephant next to the address bar?  That’s the Evernote Web Clipper.  When I click on it a menu opens up, allowing me to save whatever I’m looking at in several different ways.

Evernote Web Clipper

I can save the whole page, a screenshot, or an article.  I can also file it in whatever notebook I want and add tags right from the clipper.  I find these features particularly handy because if I have the time, I can go ahead and add the tags right in the clipper so it doesn’t have to go to my inbox first.  That saves me time later and keeps my inbox from filling up too quickly.

I could talk about Evernote forever I think but I’ll stop here today.  There are so many wonderful resources for using Evernote, in general and specifically for academics.  If you like Evernote and want to start using it I would advise downloading it and diving right in.  It’s absolutely free (although you can pay for a premium account for a few extra features and I will confess to shelling out the $5 a month).

You can download Evernote from and find links to the various apps and the web clipper right on the website.

You can also take a look at the following resources:

There is a great ebook on using all of Evernote’s features.

I’m a particular fan of this shared Evernote Notebook on using Evernote for Academics.

This is a pretty awesome (and free) guide to using Evernote.

A bunch of great tricks for using Evernote more effectively.

And last but not least, a Lifehacker write up!


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Tips and tricks for Evernote by is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


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