One of the most difficult aspects of the transition from undergraduate work to graduate work has been the massive increase in papers and books I have to read for class. After talking with my coursemates and exploring methods suggested on the internet, I developed this simple note-taking "grid" to use to standardize the information I collect from the various readings I do. The main point of the grid is to make reading more efficient (i.e. to prevent me from taking notes on every little thing, which is my default), to focus attention on deeper questions about the work, and to neatly keep track of the connections between readings.
Feel free to download and edit this for your own use if you think it might be helpful, and please share any of your own systems for note-taking in the comments below!
Fields of the grid, unformatted:
Title: Full title of the work
Author: Author’s full name
Date published: Usually just a year
Citation: Copy full citation from your reference manager
Publication notes: Any useful information about the publication, e.g. edition number
Access notes: How did you access this? Who recommended it?
Related to: Does the work directly respond to another piece?
Problem: What research question is the author trying to address?
Approach: How? Often useful to list the contents or sections in the work
Conclusion: What do they find? What do they conclude?
General takeaways: General notes of interest—can be long or short
Quotes: Quotes that might be of use later, with page numbers
Date read: Date you read the work
My takeaways: How this work is useful to your thesis, paper, etc.
Questions I have: What do you want to know more about?
References to track: What references will you follow up on?