Software for Research and Digital Notetaking

Most of us utilize a range of media when conducting research—we gather documents from online databases, as well as images, audio, and video files from the web. We review box after box of physical documents at the archives. We take notes from books as well as from journal articles we’ve downloaded as pdfs. Some of us conduct oral history interviews, by person or phone. It can be a challenge to keep so much diverse material organized, accessible, and easy to work with when you’re in the process of writing a major research paper or dissertation.

Fortunately, there are a wide array of digital tools for notetaking, generating citations, and organizing your research. Listed below are a few of the many available options:


A free, easy-to-use tool to help you collect, organize, cite, and share your research sources from your browser. Integrates with Word to generate bibliographies and citations quickly.

Idea Rover

PhD dissertation writing software. Helps to retain, organize, and evaluate assertions, ideas, and concepts for your dissertation, prepares outline-structured notes and saves your time by eliminating tedious cut-and-paste work.


Scrivener is a powerful content-generation tool for writers that allows you to concentrate on composing and structuring long and difficult documents. Scrivener puts everything you need for structuring, writing and editing long documents at your fingertips. On the left of the window, the “binder” allows you to navigate between the different parts of your manuscript, your notes, and research materials, with ease. No more switching between multiple applications to refer to research files: keep all of your background material—images, PDF files, movies, web pages, sound files—right inside Scrivener.


Mendeley is a free reference manager and academic social network that can help you organize your research, collaborate with others online, and discover the latest research. The program automatically generate bibliographies, imports papers from other research software, helps you find papers based on what you are reading, and enables you to collaborate with other researchers online.


Powerful database software for organizing your research (available for Mac and PC). Take notes, import pdfs, images, videos, and audio files, cross-reference your documents, and more. FilemakerPro comes with built in templates for research notes, but it is completely customizable as well. Fully-searchable. Take advantage of a significant student discount by purchasing this software through the UVa bookstore.


Intuitive notetaking software that comes with Microsoft Office. OneNote is a digital notebook that provides a single place where you can gather all of your notes and information, with the added benefits of powerful search capabilities to find what you are looking for quickly, plus easy-to-use shared notebooks so you can manage information overload and work together with others more effectively. You can insert almost anything into a page, and create as many pages as you want in a notebook. Use to take notes and organize documents, images, websites and more in a user-friendly program with a great visual interface. (For PCs)

GrowlyBird Notes

The closest approximation to OneNote for the Mac--and it's free.Growly Notes lets you capture everything you’re interested in, all in one place. Pages can contain almost anything: formatted text, images, movies, audio clips, PDF files, tables, lists, web and file links, and drawings you create in Notes. There are no rules for where things have to go: put an image beside text or under it. Draw shapes on top of other notes. Put two snippets of text right next to each other. Click anywhere and start typing.


Omeka is a free, flexible, and open source web-publishing platform for the display of library, museum, archives, and scholarly collections and exhibitions. Its “five-minute setup” makes launching an online exhibition as easy as launching a blog.


A.nnotate is an online annotation, collaboration and indexing system for documents and images, supporting PDF and MS Office formats.


A reference manager for Mac and iOS users. Bookends can perform Internet searches to retrieve references and associated pdfs or web pages, or immediately find and import references for which you already have the pdf.