As an academic, I have to read a lot. A former professor of mine, Klaus Dicke, underlined the importance of writing excerpts of articles and books, one's reading: After you read an article or book, you want to quote from (directly or indirectly), you write down the essential ideas and quotes of the publication. While doing this, you keep also track of the page numbers, the idea or quote can be found. So, the ideas stick better to your head and you can find these faster than just by highlighting in the text. An excerpt done by hand might look like this example from the beautiful blog "Minimalismus und mehr".
Writing by hand has some advantages, I don't want to discuss in detail now, but personally, I went paperless few years ago. Why?
- Normally, you get journal articles as PDFs now. Academic networks such as Academia are used to share PDFs with others. And let's not forget Scribd and e-books, which make it quite easy get necessary literature for free or less costs.
- Most copying machines offer PDF scanning, too.
- I'm a very messy person, but my computer files are stored systematically.
- Software, such as Papers, Mendeley, Citavi or Endnote make it easy to organize, share and cite the literature.
- I don't have to carry a bulk of paper with me. All I need is my tablet, its charger and my stylus (a pen for tablets).
To read my PDFs, I use an iPad. My app of choice is iAnnotate, although there are other apps that do the same job:
- Adding annotations (including handwritten ones) to PDF documents.
- Integration of cloud drives (such as Dropbox, Google Drive or OwnCloud).
I write the excerpts using Evernote. Evernote is extremely good, when it comes to organize ((sub-)notebooks and tags) and search notes. So, you actually can find the information you look for quite fast. When done with the excerpt comes the best part of working paperless: I attach the annotated PDF, which was uploaded to my cloud drive of choice by iAnnotate. So, I can crosscheck quickly, if I get confused by my own words.
Certainly, going paperless is not cheap, if you don't have the devices. However, for me, it was worth it.