Get A Second Brain With Evernote For Science

Scientists live in a constant overflow of information. Check how to get a second brain with Evernote for science.

If you want to thrive in your scientific career you need to know how to handle it and get the most of it.

But let’s be honest, taming this information beast is a big headache.

I spend more time than ever on the Internet. Every 5 minutes I find some new piece of information that looks useful, for later on.

The problem is that later I won’t remember what information was it and where I found it.  And my bad memory will only get worse!!

I come across blogs that sparkle ideas for my blog. It’s about online marketing, sure, but I can give it a twist and apply it for online visibility for PhD students. I can already see the structure of the post in my mind. This vivid image won’t last long, so I’d better store it somewhere.

Where can I store this post? My dear Moleskine is an option. But am I going to write that endless url? Nope, and there goes my brilliant idea for a blog post.

Being a visual person, all I can remember of some science papers I read are the images. I would like to store a graph I saw in that paper, since it can support one of my arguments in my coming publication.

I could use Mendeley to keep track the papers I read. I just want to collect an image, a link to the pdf and one note. Isn’t there something simpler than a reference manager?

Mankind has been very successful at creating more information than ever. Why aren’t we as successful at digesting this information?

Google is making sense of all the information on the Internet. I don’t need to know anything anymore, I just need to know how to find it in Google.

Can’t I handle my scientific information a-la-Google?

Yes, there is a way.

Say hello to a scientist’s best friend, Evernote.

What is Evernote?

Evernote is the Swiss pocket knife for a digital scientist and his second brain.

You can dump in Evernote all the information you collect daily. You can access it from everywhere. You can easily find it with a search a-la-google.

By information I mean websites, links, scientific papers, photos, audio clips and text notes.

By everywhere I mean from any smartphone, laptop, tablet or web-browser. All information is sync’d across devices.

By search a-la-Google I mean, well, you know, search a-la-Google.

Ok seriously, by search I mean you can retrieve information via tags, keywords, or even text included in a photo.

Among the million options Evernote offers, I fell in love with two of them: optical character recognition (OCR) and website clipping.

Evernote is so flexible that there are as many ways to use it as there are users. Not only this, there are lots of add-ons and other products by the Evernote team you should definitely check.

Access Anywhere Evernote For Science

How can a scientist use Evernote?

Let me show how you can use Evernote for science with two common activities of scientists: writing papers and attending scientific conferences.

Use Evernote For Science Conferences

Whenever I go to a scientific conference abroad I always miss some document. Either it is the time planning of the flights, the confirmation of the hotel booking, a map of the conference area, or the program of the conference.

To make things worse, abroad I don’t have Internet on my phone, so I cannot check my inbox or Google.

The alternative is to print everything out and have a folder with me full of papers.

Or, I could dump digital documents and snap a photo of the printed ones in Evernote. And before going offline, I should sync my smartphone to make sure all the docs and in the portable version of Evernote.

Take photos of scientific posters with Evernote

I enjoy talking to presenters in poster sessions. It’s cozy to have a face to face conversation with a scientist presenting his results.

If I like the poster, I usually ask for a handout or if he can send me a pdf by email. The drawback of this strategy is that either the person forgets to send it or he sends it many days later once he is back in the lab.

Being used to immediate access to information, that kind of sucks.

Here comes Evernote to the rescue.

Just take pictures of the scientific posters with Evernote, because:

  • You don’t depend on the available handouts or on the memory of the poster author.
  • You immediately have the poster in your devices.
  • You can tag it with field relevant keywords.
  • You can search for text of the poster, even if it is just a photo (isn’t that wonderful?). I tend to remember people by their working place, so I just need to search for the name of the university written in the poster to find that potential collaborator.
  • You don’t need to carry handouts, which are often destroyed in my messenger bag.

[note color=”#FFCC00″]Extra tip: Snap a photo of business cards and write a comment with the action you need to take: send my poster, ask details on his poster, send slides, forward to boss, ask to vote for me in the Nobel awards, etc.[/note]

Capture Anything Evernote For Science

Evernote For Science Writing

One of the typical problems when writing a scientific paper is to sort all the information and ideas. You need to make sense of what you want to say with your paper, as well as fit in those dozens of ideas that you have after reading other papers.

You have some PDFs here and there. Some hand written notes in your Moleskine. You wrote a document describing the main message of your paper. You also have some images stored you don’t know where that are good examples of how you can show your results.

You spend hours browsing through your folders thinking “is this all the information I collected?”.

Wouldn’t it be easier to put all the information in a box and sort it out there?

This is what Evernote can do for you when you have to write an academic paper.

  • Create a stack of notebooks called “My Next Awesome Paper” . Inside it you can create multiple notebooks, each one with one purpose.
  • You can have notebooks like “references” where you clip from the web those papers you are going to cite.
  • Clip those images from your browser and store them in “images” notebook.
  • The same you can do with bits of other scientific publications you want to use to inspire your argumentation. They are paragraph openers, quotes, or statements, whatever, just dump them in “ideas”.
  • Lastly, create a notebook “draft” with separate notes for each chapter of your publication. In each of them you start organizing your ideas with bullet points. Then you can start drafting that part with one sentence or main message instead of a paragraph.

Sure, Evernote cannot substitute a full-blown text processor like Word, Pages or Latex. What it can do is help you to get the skeleton of your publication done. Then you can move on to a better text processor.

Having all the data in one place makes it much faster to visually inspect it and decide what goes in your document and what doesn’t.

[note color=”#FFCC00″]Extra tip: Install Evernote in your iPhone or iPad and have all your notes on the go. Check the latest Evernote 5 here[/note]

Give Evernote a try. Use it for one single thing and slowly find other ways it can help your daily work as a scientist.

Once you have started, I recommend to have a read at the best book on Evernote ever written, Evernote Essentials.

Evernote Essentials

Click here to get Evernote Essentials

In Evernote Essentials you will find a gazillion ways to use Evernote. I’m pretty sure several a-ha thoughts will sparkle in your brain saying “I could also do that with Evernote in my work”.

You can also share with us how you use Evernote for science. Please leave a comment for the other readers.

About Julio Peironcely

Julio Peironcely, PhD is the founder of Next Scientist and a PhD by Leiden University. He helps PhD students to stay motivated, be more productive and finish their PhDs. Follow him on Twitter (@peyron) or read more from him on


  1. Thank you for such an interesting paper. I’m sure it will be very helpful in my new work as well as everyday life. During my PhD studies I’ve come across problem you’re mentioning of looking for images and papers due to the fact I had them in different places. Evernote seems to be a great tool to keep it in one place. 

  2. Vivek sunkari says:

    Sound very Interesting. Need to use it and find the facts

  3. Here’s a very helpful article about Evernote which I just dug from my one of Evernote notebooks 😉

  4. I LOVE evernote for my academic work: I have several notebooks that constitue my traditional “lab notebook” where I take notes on experiment methods and results including figures. I’ll take pictures of the white board during lab meetings etc.

    I also have notebooks for each of my classes where I either take notes directly into the text editor or record the lecture if the material is more visual and scan in my notes for later.

  5. Great and very relevant article!

    However, I would advise to proceed with caution before taking pictures of posters. Some are sensitive to information on them that might not yet be fully published. I’d encourage to always ask before snapping a pic.

  6. Does it have any advantage over Microsoft Note?

  7. Davìd J. Markey says:

    Very clear arcticle, I hope it will help as many people as possible. I had the wonderful habit change last year of writing everything down in my notebook I always have with me. Using evernote now takes this to a whole other level.

    Remember that Evernote isn’t the best option for a single task, but rather the combination of everything which makes it so strong. It’s only by using it for everything all the time you will truly benefit from it.


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