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Ask Slashdot: Best Software For Med-School Note-Taking?

timothy posted 1 year,19 days | from the you-mean-you-don't-like-onenote dept.

Medicine 217

First time accepted submitter spencj writes "I'm just starting year two of medical school, and I've been rethinking the way I make and create notes/study guides. One of the problems I've considered is that we learn about the same topic in several arenas. For example, if I consider some disease like coronary artery disease, I will likely learn about this topic in cardiology, radiology, pharmacology, and then in outside study resources such as Kaplan guides, online resources, etc.. Further, it will come up in August, October, March, April, etc.. My dream app is some combination of Excel, Visio, Word, and a blog where I could tag selections of text. If I then 'filtered' by certain parameters, it would collapse all the information I'd collected from different resources. For example, say I create a flowchart in Visio, take some notes in Word, create a table in Excel, and save from text from a web resource. I tag each item with 'coronary artery disease,' then I want to quickly query for all of my items with this tag. Is there any kind of app or resource that can pull this off? Medical students everywhere would be grateful."

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pen and paper (4, Insightful)

intermodal (534361) | 1 year,19 days | (#44554339)

Nothing I've yet discovered is as flexible, reliable, and controllable. every digital attempt I've seen/tried has been inferior. You might try recording the lectures as you go in case you need to go back for context at some point, especially if you go back and type them later.

Re:pen and paper (2, Insightful)

Frobnicator (565869) | 1 year,19 days | (#44554489)

Totally agree, PENCIL + PAPER is the answer.

Do you want to spend your time swapping between apps, waiting for apps to load, trying to draw with your laptop's touchpad, and otherwise concentrating on the technology rather than concentrating on the discussion?

If you want to review your paper notes and make them digital at some point after class, that is up to you. But for simple flexibility and reliability, paper is the answer.

Write on it. Draw on it. Re-use it in another class. Archive it. Paper does all the things asked for in the article.

Re:pen and paper (4, Insightful)

eggstasy (458692) | 1 year,19 days | (#44554573)

I concur. It's worked pretty well so far, why would it need to change...? Is there a specific problem you're trying to solve?
Do bear in mind, from my own painful experience with note taking, you should try to actually pay attention to your class. It's different for everyone, but I found excessive note-taking counter-productive. That's what people did before they had easy access to all the information in the world.

Also, get off my lawn you damn kids.

Re:pen and paper (2)

intermodal (534361) | 1 year,19 days | (#44554631)

Amen and amen. Excessive note taking means, in my experience, missing half the class.

Re:pen and paper (2)

Russ1642 (1087959) | 1 year,19 days | (#44555403)

Is that going to be on the test? Should I write it down? Ok.

Re:pen and paper (1)

loufoque (1400831) | 1 year,19 days | (#44554729)

A class is made for you the understand the subject topic.
Only note something once you've understood it.

Some students still haven't grasped this, which is astounding.

Re:pen and paper (4, Insightful)

Colonel Korn (1258968) | 1 year,19 days | (#44554893)

Totally agree, PENCIL + PAPER is the answer.

Do you want to spend your time swapping between apps, waiting for apps to load, trying to draw with your laptop's touchpad, and otherwise concentrating on the technology rather than concentrating on the discussion?

If you want to review your paper notes and make them digital at some point after class, that is up to you. But for simple flexibility and reliability, paper is the answer.

Write on it. Draw on it. Re-use it in another class. Archive it. Paper does all the things asked for in the article.

OneNote and a tablet with an active digitizer is searchable pencil and paper. It's not any more cumbersome than a notebook but it's far better for finding old notes.

Re:pen and paper (5, Insightful)

larwe (858929) | 1 year,19 days | (#44554581)

This. Not only this, but the OP is seriously underestimating the workload overhead of tagging CONSISTENTLY, and adding all sorts of meta-information to documents. It's an analogous problem to tagging a huge collection of photos. This is a picture of my dog. Is it a #dog, a #fido, a #poodle, or what? It's extremely hard to maintain consistent tagging rules for a large body of individual notes. As for digital note taking, there is no solution that works as well as paper. In the course of EE studies, I have tried everything under the sun. Tablets, PDAs, laptops, digital ink pens, etc etc. If you're taking lots of text notes, a keyboard is king... but probably no faster than handwriting. If your notes include diagrams, mathematical symbols, chemical formulae, etc, you can pretty much forget keyboards (though I have seen some Mathcad mavens enter math proofs "live" off a whiteboard since they know all the keyboard shortcuts for everything). Stylus-based screens don't have the resolution nor the responsiveness of paper. The best solution I ever reached was paper notes which I then scanned, so I could carry all my notes on my laptop/tablet. Forget about this frankly OCD-sounding desire for neatly aligned banks of metadata-encrusted Faberge eggs of notecraft. It's far more important to focus on listening to what the hell is going on in the lecture, and comprehending it, which oftentimes means participation back the other way to clarify points being made in the lecture. You won't be able to get that clarification offline studying at home. If you are studying to be a clinical professional, focus on the skills that further that goal. Wasting effort on the Quest for Perfect Electronic Notes is a more appropriate activity for someone whose goal is, say, clinical informatics specialist. In summary: Grrrrr.

Re:pen and paper (2)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | 1 year,19 days | (#44554811)

It's an analogous problem to tagging a huge collection of photos. This is a picture of my dog. Is it a #dog, a #fido, a #poodle, or what?

That's why ontologies and inference engines were created. Anyway, if the application doesn't at least offer semi-automated tagging, it's so 20th century (talking of text, of course - pictures will have to wait).

Re:pen and paper (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,19 days | (#44555185)

Learn shorthand. Get a good pen to avoid writing fatigue, I always preferred a mechanical pencil for mistakes(staedtler [] ) ...that one has metal grip and cap w/ plastic tube. It will last for years and years.

Don't go smaller then .5 lead it breaks too much(.5-.7). Use a soft lead(B-HB, don't use F-H)to avoid writing fatigue/tearing paper, and it's easier to erase since you aren't pressing as hard. ...and a tube click eraser, use the one in the pencil cap for backup.

I always used graph paper(thin 3 ring binder) which allowed writing and technical drawing. Just don't get too fine of grid(such as EE paper). You can download images and print your own if you can't find anything appropriate, this may be most appropriate as you can size the grid to you writing size.

As to the computer... you won't have time. The great thing about a 3 ring binder is you can rearrange later if needed, e.g. take 1 thin binder to school, arrange the different classes/notes in their own bigger binder later. Your back will thank you.

Re:pen and paper (2)

Russ1642 (1087959) | 1 year,19 days | (#44555457)

The best pen for avoiding fatigue is a fountain pen, unless of course you're a left handed devil worshipper. You barely have to touch the page.

Re:pen and paper (1)

loufoque (1400831) | 1 year,19 days | (#44554603)

Why is it always when you find an interesting underrated comment that you're out of mod points?

Re:pen and paper (1)

wiredog (43288) | 1 year,19 days | (#44555137)

Yep. What if the professors, or other students, find your incessant typing to be distracting? Can you mix sketching and writing on a digital document as fast as on paper?

How well will your laptop/tablet/whatever of choice hold up in environments with spurting blood and other contaminants?

I work on some of the TMIP-J software used by DoD for military medical and it' highly ambitious, and heavily unused by medics in the field. They use pencil and paper.

Re:pen and paper (2)

gmclapp (2834681) | 1 year,19 days | (#44555299)

I recently finished my degree in Mechanical Engineering. The way I found to be most efficient was to use a pen and paper and subsequently scan the notes. Then, for each of my classes, I had a folder for notes. I would put the scanned copy in all of the classes for which it might be relevant. Not just the one for which they were explicitly for.

get a fountain pen, a good notebook, and good ink (2)

SuperBanana (662181) | 1 year,19 days | (#44555315)

I would add: Get a decent (~$100-200) fountain pen, good quality notebooks, and quality ink.

Waterman makes the Expert 2 and is a pretty safe recommendation, but there are a bunch of others out there to try. Note that fountain pens should be held extremely lightly against the writing surface, and are not really ideal for occasional use if you live in a dry climate. For daily or bi-daily use, they'll be fine.

Clairefontaine sells notebooks with superb paper that is very smooth, strong, and thick enough to not bleed through to the other size...and sells proper cloth-covered, stitched-binding notebooks.

Noodler's Ink has "bulletproof" varieties which will not run or bleed from almost any common solvent or bleaching agent, making them quite ideal for labs and such (or if you simply drop your notebook in a puddle.) Doubles as a very good ink for signing important documents.

Re:pen and paper (2, Informative)

camperdave (969942) | 1 year,19 days | (#44555505)

Whatever you do, GET A SYSTEM.

For years was taking notes with paper and pen. I used the four color BIC pen; black is for titles, section headings, etc. Blue is for main body notes. Red is for references and underlining, and green is for activities, suggested reading, etc. I would also recommend the Cornell notetaking system. Also get some good notebooks so that you're not going to lose pages.

The problem with paper is searching for information. Using a system like Cornell will help for searching, but nothing beats an electronic search. For that, I'd recommend Microsoft OneNote. OneNote lets you have audio, video, text, clipart, and screen captures on the page. You can even insert documents from Word and Excel. You can arrange notes hierarchically, and cross link notes from other sections. OneNote allows collaberation. Although, I have not tried it (due to not having a tablet PC), you can even hand-write notes a-la pen and paper. OneNote can OCR this for you so that you don't have to try to read your own handwriting - a bonus in my case.

Re:pen and paper (1)

profplump (309017) | 1 year,19 days | (#44555563)

How does changing the method of information capture relate to the question that was asked -- you know, the question actually in the summary, where the note taker wanted to facilitate information retrieval? If the note taker converted all of her notes to pen and paper copies, wouldn't the same problem still exist, except now with lots of paper to keep track of?

Re:pen and paper (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,19 days | (#44555731)

Sadly I must recommend Microsoft OneNote for the use-case described by the original question in the article.

One Note? (3, Informative)

Andrio (2580551) | 1 year,19 days | (#44554349)

See subject.

Re:One Note? (2)

adonoman (624929) | 1 year,19 days | (#44554449)

This would seem to fit. When you search in OneNote it'll give you a list of all the pages that have that search term (including UCRing images, and searching through recorded audio).

Re:One Note? (3, Insightful)

smitty_one_each (243267) | 1 year,19 days | (#44554681)

Emacs. Org mode. Long after One Note goes the way of Bob, Emacs will chug on.

Re:One Note? (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | 1 year,19 days | (#44554733)

I was going to say Org Mode, too, but then I realized that Dynabook Jr. could be an answer to many woes of personal computing - if (when?) it gets "finished" (due to it being an open system, the quotation marks are sort of mandatory).

Re:One Note? (1)

Trepidity (597) | 1 year,19 days | (#44554971)

The files are also pretty readable plain text, vaguely inspired by markdown. So even if org mode somehow disappears, you will still be able to read the damn things, whereas that's less likely to be the case if some day you're stuck with some decades-old janky binary format for a discontinued piece of software.

On the other hand, the learning curve is a bit steep if you've never used Emacs.

Re:One Note? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,19 days | (#44555647)

Inspired by? ;-) 2003 2004, last I checked.

The learning curve is steep - although org-mode tables are worth it.

Re:One Note? (1)

Defenestrar (1773808) | 1 year,19 days | (#44554851)

It's come a long way in the last few versions - in addition to what the post mentioned, you can even pull in things from Outlook if you're emailed course notes/tasks/homework/etc...

Re:One Note? (4, Interesting)

ericloewe (2129490) | 1 year,19 days | (#44555215)

I'll add my two cents for OneNote.

Pen & eraser input on tablets that support it (Surface Pro, for instance), OCR, handwriting recognition, speech recognition... And it's relatively easy to use.

Re:One Note? (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,19 days | (#44555653)

Definitely OneNote. You could print anything (you do in word/excel/visio/etc) to it as well and then let it keep track of your tags etc.

Microsoft OneNote (4, Informative)

lw54 (73409) | 1 year,19 days | (#44554361)

Since you're needing to record info from Word, Excel and Visio, OneNote would be perfect to consolidate the information in place. You can also include images, video and webpages.

Re:Microsoft OneNote (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,19 days | (#44554879)

I'm finding myself using OneNote more and more at work. It is so nice to throw screenshots, spreadsheets, binary email attachments, PDFs, etc all in OneNote, with a simple organizational structure that can be easily rearranged on a whim. Paste something from the Web, and it automatically tags your selection with the source address! Search functionality is a automatically OCRs your images and makes them text searchable. Other workgroups here use it as a wiki, use it for planning/scheduling...I am simply amazed at how useful this tool is.

Re:Microsoft OneNote (0)

sl4shd0rk (755837) | 1 year,19 days | (#44554989)

You can also include images, video and webpages.

...Illustrating my disdain

Re:Microsoft OneNote (1)

bemymonkey (1244086) | 1 year,19 days | (#44555921)

This, but with an active digitizer. I'm in engineering myself, but I can't imagine medicine requiring much more on this front...

devonthink / evernote (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,19 days | (#44554367)

DevonThink or Evernote?

Re: devonthink / evernote (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,19 days | (#44554673)

These are your best choices for what you have described.

I used Devonthink for law school notes and now use Evernote. I am not sure how Devonthink had evolved over the years but from my experience if you are doing most stuff on one machine, Devonthink is your best bet. If you want web friendliness, use Evernote.

this could be done (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,19 days | (#44554395)

You could try a Wiki []

Xmind (2)

Tsiangkun (746511) | 1 year,19 days | (#44554399) []

Re:Xmind (1)

Tsiangkun (746511) | 1 year,19 days | (#44554427)

Although I find it useful, I always go back to pen and paper when I need to work at a pace other than my own, such as one being dictated by a speaker.

Re:Xmind (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,19 days | (#44555595)

Also could try Freemind:

*golf clap* (5, Insightful)

MagicM (85041) | 1 year,19 days | (#44554407)

A wonderfully creative way to post a slashvertisement for Microsoft OneNote. Well done.

Re:*golf clap* (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,19 days | (#44554795)

A wonderfully creative way to post a slashvertisement for Microsoft OneNote. Well done.

Well, if the only real solution for that problem is Microsoft OneNote (and yes, it is!) then...

Re:*golf clap* (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,19 days | (#44555919)

well, You can fabricate a problem so that the only solution to is OneNote... it's not that hard. Pick any technology, from access to xfce, find a feature that other competing software doesn't have, imagine a situation in which one would depend on the said feature, and You're golden.

Re:*golf clap* (0)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | 1 year,19 days | (#44555529)

Reading all the "OneNote rocks!" spam under this article, you're probably right. a patient, I'm hoping you MEMORIZE it (0)

xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) | 1 year,19 days | (#44554411)

>> I'm just starting year two of medical school, and I've been rethinking the way I make and create notes/study guides

You're scaring me dude. The doctors that I've known have been able to cram away a lot of information in their heads, and note-taking wasn't one of their problems in year two of med school. As a potential patient, you have me worried already... a patient, I'm hoping you MEMORIZE it (1)

alen (225700) | 1 year,19 days | (#44554475)

no one can remember that much info on a long term basis

that's why all doctors are in some specialty and most of their problems are the same ones every day so they can remember some frequently used info a patient, I'm hoping you MEMORIZE it (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,19 days | (#44554565)

I'm not studying a doctor, but I've never had any trouble cramming information in my head. Despite that I take detailed, copious notes in a very organized and thorough manner. That's part of HOW I cram the information in my head.

I guarantee you, as a patient, you have NO idea how your doctor studied in med school unless you also have a personal relationship with your doctor. Being "scared" about this is just mindless and insulting. a patient, I'm hoping you MEMORIZE it (1)

MightyYar (622222) | 1 year,19 days | (#44554761)

Doctors Google. Sorry to disappoint you, but really do you want to rely on someone's memory? a patient, I'm hoping you MEMORIZE it (2)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | 1 year,19 days | (#44554769)

The doctors that I've known have been able to cram away a lot of information in their heads

Exactly, that's why they never have sizable libraries in their offices. a patient, I'm hoping you MEMORIZE it (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,19 days | (#44554783)

The amount of information a doctor has to know is increasing exponentially. And that's a good thing. It represents progress in the medical sciences. I certainly don't expect them to have everything (especially for a GP) memorized.
Doctors are no different from the rest of us - they remember the things they use most often, and look up the rest.

How exactly do you think the doctors you've known were able to memorize such vast amounts of information? They made notes and study guides. The OP wanted to find a more efficient or optimal way to do this. As a potential patient, I'm fine with this. a patient, I'm hoping you MEMORIZE it (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,19 days | (#44555483)

>> I'm just starting year two of medical school, and I've been rethinking the way I make and create notes/study guides

As a former medical student (and now practicing physician), I'm amazed you're going to class in the second year. It may sound like a joke, but at my medical school, the entire second year class could not fit into the auditorium at the same time....people just stopped going, and relied on the note taking service and read their books or the syllabus provided for the class. I guess if you're in a PBL program it may be different....but then your material is already organized that way (see below for PBL)

You're scaring me dude. The doctors that I've known have been able to cram away a lot of information in their heads, and note-taking wasn't one of their problems in year two of med school. As a potential patient, you have me worried already... learn a lot of junk in the first two years of school. Its like learning to rivet and weld so that you can fly a plane....yeah, it's nice to know, but most pilots don't need to know it. The problem is, to be a good doctor you need to know a lot of specialized information, that requires understanding of basic material. Since you don't (can't) know what you're going to specialize in in the future, they fill your head with what we think a doctor should know. As time and training go on, you forget a lot of the information that you don't use (and don't need to know). But a lot of it is still there....I amaze my residents by recalling tidbits I learned 10 years ago and never saw or used since...that's what makes a good physician a great one.

And as far as sitting in class and memorizing it....I will just tell you that you have no idea of the volume of material that is poured into medical students. Which in and of itself is a problem, but you also (as mentioned) need to mentally cross-reference the material to other lectures over several years. Part of this is why they have been doing problem based learning....instead of teaching anatomy, physiology, microbiology, genetics, pharmacology, pathology, neuroscience, and clinical medicine as separate classes, they now teach a cardiology core where you learn heart anatomy, heart physiology, heart microbiology, heart genetics, heart pharmacology, heart pathology, heart neuroscience(lol), and clinical heart medicine, followed by the pulmonary core....etc a patient, I'm hoping you MEMORIZE it (2)

Russ1642 (1087959) | 1 year,19 days | (#44555513)

The best doctors are the ones who are experts at looking things up. The ones that think they already know everything because they went to med school are the ones to be worried about.

Evernote (1)

ohieaux (2860669) | 1 year,19 days | (#44554417)

I've been using Evernote and it is pretty rich for setting a base hierarchy. Then, you can set all manner of tags and search on them. But, you have to be diligent to make the system really work for you.

Flash cards (1)

pbaer (833011) | 1 year,19 days | (#44554423) [] This is an excellent program flash card program. You rate flash cards by how well you know them and it does automatic scheduling. Cards you know well show up less often than cards you don't know. You can include images and sounds. It has a good tagging system so you can mark a card for multiple areas. You choose which subjects you want the cards to cover. For example, you could look at all your cards on coronary arteries regardless of subject, or you could look specifically at coronary arteries for one particular class. The key to getting the most out of this program is to include questions that cannot be answered with memorization. Include flash cards that force you to explain the why and the what.

Evernote and a tablet (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,19 days | (#44554425)

Surprisingly one of the few things a Surface Pro is good for.

Labels (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,19 days | (#44554429)

A simple hack is to use fairly unique labels which will turn up in a file system search, e.g. |tag:coronary|.

Then index your file system. (Spotlight on the Mac is particularly good, Windows Search is ok).

Re:Labels (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,19 days | (#44554471)

I forgot to clarify that these are simple searchable text strings in your Word, Visio, Excel, etc. document.
Your file system search tool may need special filters to read the stuff inside binary files such as these. I believe Windows Search can do this; Spotlight can for sure.

Org mode in Emacs (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,19 days | (#44554439)

Flamewars aside, Org mode is my latest love when taking notes and organizing my life. Collapsable text, easily inserted hyperlinks to web pages and documents, it's almost wiki-like. It worked well for me in law school, but some of my friends really liked OmniOutliner (and a few other programs from that same family of sofware).

Re:Org mode in Emacs (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,19 days | (#44554633)

A thousand times that. I organize my research (geochemistry) with org-mode. Read a paper, make a note with relevant tags. Begin a paper, schedule conferences/meetings/classes, keep tabs on projects. It is awesome, and everything you do is edit simple text files. You will never get locked out or lose some of it because of an "upgrade"

evernote +1 (2)

alen (225700) | 1 year,19 days | (#44554443)

you can write your own notes and tag them
you can clip websites and news articles as well and tag them

60MB per month for the free account and $45 per year after that. and it works on a computer, phone, tablet

Re:evernote +1 (1)

camperdave (969942) | 1 year,19 days | (#44554777)

Content blocked by your organization
Reason: This Websense category is filtered: Personal Network Storage and Backup.

^THIS^ is the problem with any cloud based solution. Your data is only available at the whim of the sysadmins.

echo smartpen (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,19 days | (#44554481)

SharePoint (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,19 days | (#44554497)

Get an Office365 SharePoint subscription. create all the tags and metadata you want. Fully searchable.

Lab books and mind-mapping software maybe? (4, Interesting)

gstoddart (321705) | 1 year,19 days | (#44554501)

Me, I've used those standard black lab books for my note taking for my daily work for almost 2 decades, and it's tough to do better. At least, for me it is.

You can always write your own mind maps or some kind of wiki later ... but, for the first pass, nothing is more flexible than pen and paper notes since it supports multiple languages, terminologies, and creating diagrams. No upgrades of licenses to worry about. ;-)

And a lab book has the advantage of being hard-covered as well as being pretty obvious if pages have been removed (which is why they use them as lab books in the first place).

Technology has all sorts of failure points and limitations. And most alternatives to pen and paper either have in-built limitations, or in the long run are harder to actually keep your notes with.

I'm not saying you shouldn't look at some technology to see if it helps, but for me, good old fashioned bound paper notebooks are still my preferred way, and look to remain so. I've got a stack of about 40-50 to them that I periodically refer back to.

Re:Lab books and mind-mapping software maybe? (1)

sconeu (64226) | 1 year,19 days | (#44554755)

If I had mod points I'd mod you up.

In class, nothing is better than Pencil and Paper Mark One.

Use paper and pen. Scan later to pdf (2)

vivek7006 (585218) | 1 year,19 days | (#44554505)

Especially with all the drawings/figures and equations, its best to use paper and pen. Buy a good quality scanner and scan all your notes into pdf at the end of the day. Tablets/laptops jdont work because they actually slow you down. Also, I feel that taking notes with pen/paper help me stay focused during lectures

Med school? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,19 days | (#44554513)

It sounds more like you have been tasked (or have tasked yourself with) designing a library. Why do that when what matters is what is in your head? To that end, order the info in whatever format makes it most convenient to eventually memorized. If you are writing it down just to have it, you should just buy the books.

Search Engine (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,19 days | (#44554531)

The text is a tag - just keep your files in a directory, and use that search box in the upper right corner. Man I feel like Wil Wheaton.

Paper, Pen, and... (3, Informative)

wjcofkc (964165) | 1 year,19 days | (#44554539)

My favorite way to study in a situation like yours is to first take my notes the old fashioned way: with paper and pen in class. I then take those notes, along with applicable textbooks, and manually compose them in whatever software makes sense, typically LibreOffice Writer. The act of first taking notes the old fashioned way, and then cross referencing with the textbook, while in turn creating a highly refined set of notes in an application, strongly re-enforces what I am studying in my brain. I know that's kind of like wrote rehearsal, which is considered a bad study habit, but I disagree with that philosophy (wrote rehearsal = good). Plus the act of composing more highly refined notes from your originals takes it one step beyond that.

Past that, I really don't think there is a single application that will filter all your notes automagically into so many different formats.

Re:Paper, Pen, and... (4, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | 1 year,19 days | (#44554871)

. I know that's kind of like wrote rehearsal, which is considered a bad study habit, but I disagree with that philosophy (wrote (sic) rehearsal = good).

Except what you're describing isn't rote rehearsal. The act of synthesizing your notes from multiple sources into a coherent thing actually causes you to think about what it all means and understand it in a broader context.

Me, the one and only time I decided I was going to cheat on an exam, by time time I wrote up my notes containing the information I wanted and had it all laid out the way I wanted -- I didn't need my notes. It was like studying works or something. ;-)

Rote rehearsal is just memorizing without really thinking about what it means -- and you can't easily rearrange, summarize, and cross reference your own notes without thinking about the meaning of it.

Re:Paper, Pen, and... (1)

wjcofkc (964165) | 1 year,19 days | (#44555005)

Point taken.

You still have time to change your mind! (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,19 days | (#44554569)

Something that I always tell prospective physicians before they get in too deep to change. At year two, you haven't gotten in so far financially that you have to continue. You still have time to change your mind.

A physician in Iowa (where the Board of Medicine conducts 'blatantly sub-par investigations' according to the Iowa Court of Appeals).

Re: You still have time to change your mind! (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,19 days | (#44554803)

I always encourage my future competition to quit.

Qualitative data analysis tools (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,19 days | (#44554595)

... are very interesting for collecting, relating and analysing such kind of complex data from several perspectives. Many integrate nicely with other bibliographic tools. High quality free/open source and propietary solutions are available: . Furthermore, they may be very useful for your future research ;)

MediaWiki? (1)

krotscheck (132706) | 1 year,19 days | (#44554639)

Create a MediaWiki for yourself, and crossreference as you go? I did this for my MBA 5 years ago, and it worked wonders.

Re:MediaWiki? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,19 days | (#44555179)

How'd you do it? Running a server on your laptop or something on the web? I think it's a great idea ;)

TiddlyWiki (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,19 days | (#44554661)

I suggest TiddlyWiki. It's an HTML file you can open/edit in any browser -- although Java OS restrictions force you to use Safari on Macs. On Windows 7 the latest Chrome works too, I think. You need to download the tiddlywiki htm file, and a little Java helper applet for the file i/o. Take notes in plaintext or use simple a markup for formatting (bold, italics, bulleted lists, tables, etc.). I use it for my engineering work. You can cross-reference, tag, and search quickly. Insert JPGs directly into the page. Neat stuff. And you're not stuck with one OS.

Partner with Developer (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,19 days | (#44554765)

I know the last thing you need is another project while in med school. You may have an opportunity though for a new product by partnering with a software developer who can build an app to your specs. I have been contemplating Apache Lucene as the indexing engine for an app that is similar to your needs. As a med student that reference may not mean much to you, but to a dev it does. You could work together on it and when its ready-for-primetime, you may have another source of income after med school by selling the app to med students.

In the meantime, the mind mapping software offers a good working solution. Find one that allows you to connect to different file types (spreadsheet, doc, pdf, etc). The downside is that it may not have any indexing capabilities for later searching. You may have to link all the coronary artery disease references by hand to one map as you create it or update it. If there is a mind map software product that allows indexing, then you may have your solution already made.

Having been through medical school... (1)

Duncan J Murray (1678632) | 1 year,19 days | (#44554855)

... I suggest you try to ensure you get handouts and then devote 100% of your concentration to listening and interpreting what you're being told.

If you write things down, you won't look at 90% of it. You will need it all in your memory at some point - either for the exams or when you're practising, so better commit it to memory in the first place. And, no, writing it down does not help with that.

My only warning is never to believe 100% anything anyone teaches you - no-one knows everything about everything, and the evidence and research is always changing.

Re:Having been through medical school... (1)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | 1 year,19 days | (#44555493)

The trick to note taking is knowing what to write down. Don't do dictation. I disagree that note taking is pointless because I found myself constantly consulting mine for my bachelor's. But, you are right if you just robotically dictate you can't keep up with the professor and will miss information trying to write everything down.

Re:Having been through medical school... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,19 days | (#44555661)

I have to disagree. If you write something down, and not just word for word note taking, but organizing it in a meaningful way to you most certainly assists committing something to memory.

And probably 50% of what you are taught as fact in school is proven wrong in the following 10 years.

TreeDB Notes (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,19 days | (#44554901)

Check out TreeDB Notes ( Offers just about everything you asked for but it takes a learning curve. Nice thing is you can make internal links that go back to other notes/trees/external sites. This allows you to keep your specific classes separate but still have easy links to each other. There is also a search feature to pull up keywords. Myself I have used this for school, work, knowledge base articles, recipes, customer specific info, etc. Each subject is in its own tree with sub headers as needed and links that bring together information (like knowledge base info to a specific customer).

I have been using their free version for about 5 years now and I have made it portable (can be done after an install) and keep the portable version and database in my dropbox (will be moving to Tresorit soon) so I can access it from any PC I am at. It would be nice if there was an app for it but since I do not use it on the go it has not been an issue.

based on my experiences (1)

Trepidity (597) | 1 year,19 days | (#44554931)

As a researcher (patient) studying the social practices of doctors (visiting their offices), my tentative conclusions are that the industry-standard note-taking practices are currently: 1) a web browser; 2) open to WebMD.

Surface Pro tablet and OneNote (1)

Ambassador Kosh (18352) | 1 year,19 days | (#44554945)

For this kind of application I can't think of anything better. OneNote is probably the best note taking app out there and the surface pro and a real digitizer and a digital pen so you can take good notes with it.

I picked up a galaxy note 8 for my engineering classes (since it also has a digitizer) and for what I do it works very well. I would have gotten a surface pro except that they are so much more expensive.

For any class where you have drawings it is hard to beat a tablet with a real digitizer. I used to type all my notes and that was harder to do as my engineering classes ended up with more and more diagrams. I also did not want to deal with pen and paper anymore since it is so hard to deal with it, find stuff in it, keep track of it, share information etc.

You can also look at other windows 8 tablets (NOT windows RT) and find ones with real digitizers (preferably wacom) and digital pens. There are some lenovo ones that are supposed to be nice.

Remember the one hour equals three hours rule. (5, Interesting)

rjforster (2130) | 1 year,19 days | (#44554967)

I was told this when I started at university but it took me until my final year to truly grok it.

Each one hour lecture should take 3 hours of your time. One hour in the lecture itself, one hour within the next day or two (at most, ideally same day so things are fresher in your mind) when you annotate the notes you had taken, redraw bad diagrams, look stuff up etc. Don't hope or expect to get 'perfect' notes from the lecture itself. Then finally one hour before the exam to go over that hour of lecture time.

As others have said, pen and paper is king for that first hour in the lecture itself. Anything you try to do with technology should concentrate on the second hour.

45 lecture hours plus two all nighters (3, Insightful)

peter303 (12292) | 1 year,19 days | (#44555157)

Seems to have been my actual rule :-)

Re:Remember the one hour equals three hours rule. (1)

gstoddart (321705) | 1 year,19 days | (#44555191)

As others have said, pen and paper is king for that first hour in the lecture itself. Anything you try to do with technology should concentrate on the second hour.

And, cynically, I will say that trying to do that with the technology is in the long run going to cost you a lot more than that 1 hour.

Instead of thinking purely about the content, you're looking at fonts, layouts, application upgrades, file formats ... and not what you're trying to study.

Technology is cool and useful, but sometimes it also creates more work unrelated to what it is you're trying to achieve.

Don't get yourself into a position where you're become a slave to your technology and keeping it working is more work than benefit in terms of you understanding the stuff you're studying.

You don't want to spend a bunch of years in med school only to realize that you need to be a full time sysadmin in order to keep accessing your notes. Because I'm betting once you're out in the world, that software environment you so lovingly crafted is going to be low on your list of things to maintain, and if you don't maintain it you no longer have the information.

Livescribe Smart Pen (1)

tehfeer (1088105) | 1 year,19 days | (#44555129)

A smart-pen along with ever-note have been great for law school. It digitizes your paper notes and allows you click a section of notes to go directly to that part of the lecture.

Re:Livescribe Smart Pen (1)

mark_reh (2015546) | 1 year,19 days | (#44555373)

My smartpen got me through a couple years of didactic classes at dental school. Highly recommended. Gretaly speeds study time, boosts study efficiency, and minimizes note taking.

Pen and Paper + Document Management (1)

Blackshadow (139224) | 1 year,19 days | (#44555207)

For capturing the information during class, go with a fountain pen and paper. Particularly for multi-hour classes, a good fountain pen (~$30) can ease hand strain and fatigue. Focus on concise notes and diagrams that summarize the information. Often hand-outs will contain the information you need to memorize. Then, get a good scanner and document management platform. I used Devon Think ( for organization of case files in law school. After scanning and OCR conversion, I let it create logical links between files. In this way, I did not have to worry about creating meta-tags or manual linking. Yes, I did go back in and create links later, but most of the time the automated routines worked. Yes, it will take time to learn in the beginning. Budget about eight hours to start over the course of a few days. The rewards are there if you are willing to invest in the program.

Re:Pen and Paper + Document Management (1)

Russ1642 (1087959) | 1 year,19 days | (#44555683)

I think you're missing a zero. There's no good fountain pen to be had for $30.

Take notes with emacs (2)

WarJolt (990309) | 1 year,19 days | (#44555229)

Most graphs formulas and daigrams are in the book or available online. I take notes with emacs and search with grep.

I've thought about using a corporate wiki like confluence to take school notes, but didn't want to shell out $10 a month.

Google Glass (1)

gmuslera (3436) | 1 year,19 days | (#44555237)

Or a camera, or better yet, that your class have a camera that takes everything and publish it later in youtube or a students portal for everyone there. You can take the notes later, don't mess your attention fiddling with a touchscreen keyboard, a bulky notebook or switching apps.

Also, getting an antivirus warning in a medical class will be pretty embarrasing.

OneNote Has the Force! (1)

SnappyTech (2809279) | 1 year,19 days | (#44555333)

Answer: OneNote is the ultimate note taking app and I find its layout to be far more my liking than Evernote. Evernote actually repulses me graphically. It is actually the main app preventing me from moving over to Linux Mint. Libre Office suffices in place of Word and Excel, but nothing out there comes close to the power of OneNote. Listen, extremists, I'm sorry I am endorsing a Microsoft product! OneNote 2003 can run under WINE except for a few things that are trivial to me (search up the WINE compatibility database -- very useful). OneNote 2013 will not run under WINE for a *long* time, I'm sure. Only Windows flavors of OneNote are worthy of the name -- the iOS & Android varients are not good. Try to keep all comments relative to note taking software, so this fellow gets his problem solved.

Focus on taking notes. Tag them later (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,19 days | (#44555371)

Take the notes in whatever program works best for the material, and then store them in dropbox, or similar, and use the tagging functions from the online service. Don't worry about tagging as you take note. As have been stated, you're better of focusing on the material.

At the end of the day, or week, go back and tag all your notes in the online storage. This will add a review, and help you keep your tags consistent.

"The Brain" (1)

Bodhammer (559311) | 1 year,19 days | (#44555587)

"The Brain" software is a pretty interesting 3-D mind mapping software and supports tagging and linking. The have a free single user version - []

Use TreeSheets. Best outline/mind mapping tool. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,19 days | (#44555589)

obviously (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,19 days | (#44555611)

Emacs org mode

Coding (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,19 days | (#44555617)

It sounds to me like you are approaching this from a 'coding' (as it relates to social science or qualitative research). There are some software packages that can do some (maybe all?) of the things you're looking for. An example of this is NVivo.

Here you go... (1)

jcr (53032) | 1 year,19 days | (#44555763)

Check out "Notebook" from Circus Ponies [] . Available for Mac and iOS.


Mind mapping software, anyone? (1)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | 1 year,19 days | (#44555819)

This sounds like a natural fit for mind mapping software. While normally touted for brainstorming activities or connecting free form thought. It can be used to associate the related but varied sources of information the questioner is asking about. And there are various offerings available on Windows, Mac and Linux.

Evernote. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,19 days | (#44555833)

Embed documents, links, etc. Tag them. You can search by tag or keyword. The free version is solid. There are also applications from the same company that will allow you to digitize and search your handwritten notes.

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