Good note-taking practice is essential for graduate students who have to be familiar with hundreds of readings. Most of the time you will be reading with a specific purpose or project in mind. Note-taking, therefore, should also be tailored to how this reading will help your research in the future.
What information should you capture?
Important: Always include the correct citation in your notes! Especially when you are copying down direct quotations, you should cite it as if you were writing a scholarly paper (i.e. with page number as well).
The debate between keeping paper notes vs. going paperless seems never-ending. I find that it comes down to personal preference in the end. What I would add is that even if you prefer note-taking by hand, you can still take advantage of digital capability (such as search function) by scanning your notes and organizing them into note-taking softwares. Most softwares and scanners now have Optical Character Recognition (OCR) which makes handwritten text searchable as well. Below are some features unique to digital note-taking softwares that you might find useful in your workflow.
After scanning and pasting paper notes into a digital note-taking program, I can easily re-organize the order of my notes and add more detail quickly to my handwritten notes. This flexibility is great, especially when I am working on the go and cannot bring all of my binders and notebooks.
Another helpful feature of digital note-taking programs is their ability to link different note pages together. Basically, each note page has its own hyperlink that you can include in other pages. An use case I have found for this is a master index of my reading notes, where I make a list of the hyperlinks to all of my reading notes. This means that I can always go back to this list, scan through it quickly and jump to a reference that I'm interested in.
The strength of digital note-taking softwares lies in their search and keyword systems. You can use tags to organize your notes according to their themes. You can also create 'action tags' for your to-do lists, reading lists, or lists of materials to check out.
Example: Tags Summary in OneNote
OneNote: Capture thoughts, ideas, and to-dos and sync them to all your devices. Each note’s paper size can be expanded indefinitely, and you can categorize from notebooks > group of sections > sections > pages > sub-pages.
Install: http://www.onenote.com/download Important: Install the Windows Desktop version as that is the most powerful
EverNote: Capture notes and sync across devices. Powerful keyword tagging and search capability, but you have to pay for premium features.
Scrivener: Scrivener is a word processor and project management tool created specifically for writers of long texts such as novels and research papers.