How to Read, Take Notes On and Understand Journal Articles | Essay Tips

Today I was going to do a video that was all about the various bit of literature I’ve been reading recently but then I thought what might be useful potentially to others is if I show you my method for reading and taking notes on journal articles, papers, essays and books. So, here I’ve got a paper I first read yesterday called ‘Cosmopolitan cities: the frontier in the 21st century?’ and I’m already halfway through my process of kind of reading and taking notes upon this particular paper. You might be able to see I’ve already gone through and highlighted lots of little bits. Now, I tend to use both highlighting and note-taking but I use them both in a slightly different way. If I’ve highlighted something, it essentially means I can go back and I can read through this paper the next time much quicker than previously. So, what I tend to do is pick out sentences that describe the rest of the paragraph. So, in the abstract there might be a little bit more highlighted thanlater on where it starts to get a bit more sparse where I’ve highlighted and where I haven’t. So, in a sociology paper like this particularly what I’m looking for is anywhere where it explains in a simple sentence what the study is that’s going to be carried out or perhaps explains in a simple sentence the findings. Here we can see, for example, that the authors have said that ‘we conceptualize cosmopolitan cities as urban areas whose cultures emphasize values including autonomy, freedom, egalitarian and mutual respect’. Now that is not only useful for my reading of the article but also for my writing later on. So that’s where my notes start to come in. So here is Evernote, which is a note taking application, and what I’m going to do is I’m going to make a new note and I’m going to call it ‘Cosmopolitan cities: the frontier in the 21st century?’. What I also do (and I stole this tip from a thesis whisperer article) is that I used the tags in here. So I’ve already got a notebook called PhD but that’s got, as well as notes on literature, administrative notes too and notes on supervisions. So, what I’m going to do is I’m also going to tag this one literature notes and I’m going to tag it with the names of the authors. Tagging it with the names of the authors means that when i’m continuing my reading I might be able to group together some of the work by grouping together a body of work by a particular author. The first thing I’m going to do in the actual body of the note is I always jot down the full reference for the particular article I’m working on. This is really useful as I’ve found previously I’ve done an awful lot of searching for a reference for a particular book or a particular article and had to go back to the article and find it. If it’s in my notes then it’s there, I can just copy it down and bung it in a bibliography where I might need to use it. So, with the reference now jotted down what I’m going to do is start scanning through and look for bits that I might pull out that might actually become useful for my writing later. Now this will differ to what I’ve highlighted because my goal with highlighting is that I can come back and scan through the article and, if i’m looking for something in particular, I can use the highlighted sections as a bit of orientation to find what I’m looking for. The bits that I jot down will often be bits I’ve highlighted but I won’t jot down everything that I’ve highlighted, if that makes sense. The first thing i’m going to do is I’m going to jot down this quote that I found a little bit earlier. And, as you can see, what I do is I always put the full inline citation at the end of the sentence. This is a personal thing that just helps me get the author’s names and dates in my head so that they’re a bit more stuck in. That bit can be a bit repetitive with some work but it does really help kind of lock that in. Now there’s something doubly interesting about this particular quote here. So, I’m really interested in how we define a cosmopolitan or metropolitan city as opposed to a non-cosmopolitan or non-metropolitan city. And that’s why I’ve taken that particular quote there. But what it’s also got is a reference to and a work by Mosterin in 2005. So what I’m going to do is go back to my note-taking article and I’m going to do a quick To Read section where I’m going to put Mosterin, 2005. Which means that when I get to the end of the article I can copy down all of the things that I think I should go and read from this article and I can search those out and read those articles as well. And that, very simply, is my note-taking method for reading and understanding papers. So, highlighting for reading and being able to go back and scan the article it’s note-taking for things that I might be able to use directly in my work. Other note-taking options obviously do exist and if your method differs from mine then please do let me know down in the comments. It’s always really useful to find out how people go from taking a massive body of literature and taking out the work that they need. Of course, if you have enjoyed this video, I’m thinking about maybe doing some more little things like this that, kind of, give an insight into my academic process. So, if you enjoyed this then do hit the subscribe button. Cheers!

92 thoughts on “How to Read, Take Notes On and Understand Journal Articles | Essay Tips

  1. 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 🙂

  2. If you found this useful, you may also like to check out my video on using Google Scholar to carry out literature searches in order to find all those articles and papers:

  3. Well there are some neat ideas there! Going to steal this method. Thank You!

  4. Hi Tom,
    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!

  5. 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 🙂

  6. 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.

  7. Dj Khaled's music has been topping the charts for some time now but all he does is yell out his name. He is smart because he pays for everything and gets the best artists to work with him. As an academic, you can borrow a leaf from DJ Khaled's playbook by hiring our experts to write or edit your research paper and make it better… order just email us at [email protected] or visit and let us collaborate to make your essay Golden.

  8. 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!!

  9. Who is actually searching videos on how to study instead of actually studying lol 🙈

  10. Great video!!!
    Highly recommend you on
    They are looking for people Who can give tips on how to understand articles,essay etc
    (even if you do it as a hobby)

  11. Thanks for watching everyone! A bunch more of my Essay Tips videos can be found here:

  12. 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!

  13. Holy crap you look like Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon) from Game of Thrones! Great video, thanks for sdharing.

  14. 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.

  15. One can see the smartness in his eyes. Disgusting!
    Just kidding, thank you for your work!

  16. I love this! Very clever, simple and effective! Definitely going to be using this! Thank you so much! 😁

  17. 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?

  18. 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!

  19. 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.

  20. Hi Tom, glad to watch your Essay reading skills here. I notice you using Evernote app? does it work? i wondered any note APP could be more convenient?thank you!

  21. 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.

  22. 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.

  23. 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.

  24. Which camera did you use to record yourself? Built-in webcams in most of the laptops are horrible. Great video indeed!

  25. 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.

  26. i find your method useful..thanks for sharing your technique..

  27. I think Shinobu is the surname and Kitayama the given name….

  28. Very interesting videos ! I was wondering, do you only note down quotes or do you paraphrase or start memoing/adressing how you would use the quotes in your writing ?

  29. Hi Tom, which programme/app are you using to highlight as you read and taking notes?

  30. 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… know this almost makes me miss actual books. Lol

  31. What is the application you mentioned to take notes? I did not hear properly maybe not clear to me!

  32. G thanks I'm having trouble on how to tackle this confusing article and your video helped a lot

  33. Great video! I certainly do the highlighting but I need to improve on my note taking process, I'll try your method, thanks!

  34. Using Evernote and preemptively writing your citations is actually a huge tip! I've spent way too much time at the 11th hour trying to get my references sorted. 😓

  35. sooooooo many thanks to your sharing! I feel so lucky that I found your channel at the beginning of my senior year! This is life-saving!!!

  36. Awesome work, is really hard to find videos like these, thanks

  37. Thank you very much Sir, it's really helpful and your method is highly practical too. Big like and subscribe

  38. Thank you for sharing this video! Do you also have any videos on help to write a literature review? Thanks!

  39. Great video, thank you. I think this method could really help me this year with my studies

  40. I much prefer using my RocketBook for notes, but trying to hand write citations is a huge pain compared to typing them, I have not found a good solution yet.

  41. Thanks for sharing your way of working. However, this is not a clever and efficient way of note taking I find. You are structuring ideas/quotes by source and tagging all ideas/quotes of a source identically – instead of tagging ideas/quotes by the content (what is said) or your own papers/projects. In your system, who would you be able to find all and only those quotes on say "racial bias" across ideas/quotes you stored in Evernote?

  42. Great stuff👌, but your face is everywhere bra

  43. If Ramsey Snow would have pursued a career in literature instead of torturing people xD

  44. i've tried so many ways to read, highlight and take notes. I recommend Kindle app as a very helpful app. it's easy and effective

  45. Thank you guy for your helpful video, I have been using EverNote and making tags too. But your splitting the screen is fresh to me. I will try it later. Why don't you copy the texts from the pdf rather than to type them word by word.

  46. Great tips for organization to synthesize the information later. The dissertation process is a world apart from traditional study patterns. Much of the information that is needed for citation can get lost in the process without good organization.

  47. You've improperly attributed here. You've quoted a paraphrase, which is something I tell students to never do. The quote you selected is actually not the original idea of Sevincer et al. The claim belongs to Mosterin, and should be re-paraphrased by you and cited properly in-text in order to give credit to Mosterin. To quote Sevincer et al. as making this claim is a false representation of the finding (and who's argument this really is).

  48. Thanks for taking your time to share with us those awesome note taking methods that makes learning very easy and enjoyable. Thank you

  49. ma guy!! thanks I actually felt a bit overwhelmed few minutes ago but seeing this kinda shed some hope – best way to get where you going is to get started, that's my psychological sense kicking in. I couldn't figure out which is the best way to take notes 🥳.

  50. I'm ordering papers here BUY ESSAY. GQ (without spaces) for 3 years, their work is amazing!

  51. Oooh my. You are heaven sent! I have two weeks to submit a 3000 word report😭. I have been doubting whether I'm doing the right thing in terms of sourcing information. Many thanks to you❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️. I feel confident to get a lot of work done this week!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *