I use a variety of things to keep track of what I read. Some things are more effective than others. One thing that I found VERY effective, however, was always summarizing my papers in one paragraph. I even have a template that I created (and you can download it blow) for journal article summaries.
The most inefficient use of your time is to read an article in detail, then forget where you put the information, forcing you to read the article yet again (not saying re-reading is a bad thing, but it’s bad when you’ve got to repeat your work). So, make sure when you’re done reading, that you’ve put what you’ve learned into a system that makes it searchable. There’s a variety of ways to do this, but find your flow!
As for the template, here’s a guide to start:
- Read the abstract and intro and discussion. Depending on why you are reading the article, this may be all you need.
- Skim the rest.
- Write a one-paragraph (yep, just one) summary of what the article was about. Be sure to include (along with the page number):
- The research question
- What they did, and to whom
- How they did it
- What they found
- What they concluded
If you’re reading a particularly seminal piece of work, summarize each section and highlight important quotes – don’t forget to list the page numbers you’ve found them! Mendeley has a nifty annotation feature in their program. However, I still use my word template for important studies.