It has been three years into a PhD programme and only recently did I start keeping a PhD note and I must say it has been completely a research changing experience. I hope I make myself clear when I say a PhD notebook. By a PhD notebook, I do not mean a record of meetings and seminars. By a notebook I mean a handy source to pen down thoughts, ideas and almost anything that comes to mind anytime.
I would not be surprised, if after reading the first paragraph itself you would feel what is new about this and this is something you have already been doing from the beginning itself. I started late and took quite some time to accept the fact that it is ok to have scribbled notebook that may not have all pages interconnect to each other.
Even If You Already Have That Notebook, Find These Tips Handy and Useful:
1. Keep Only One Notebook: You may get multiple ideas during the day and they may be belonging to different components of your research. If you try and follow the task of keeping different notebooks for each type then you end up adding your task of sorting and compilation and taking care of the subset ideas. I have found having one notebook, with me at all times, as a much better idea, from the smallest to the most out of the box ideas, I put them down at one place. I have one notebook to preserve and refer to, at the time of sorting and taking care of documents.
2. Carry It Along Everywhere: the best of thoughts and ideas come at the most unexpected of places and times. If you do not carry it with you everywhere, you would defeat your entire purpose of keeping a notebook as you may end up using pieces of paper and they would be difficult to preserve and compile. It is easy to always keep a notebook with you handy. Make it your partner in your research journey.
3. Do Read Them Again: This is the last tip but certainly a very effective tip. Going back to read your notes from time to time may be a great idea. When you have a lot of pages built up, it may not be able to build up the connection with all that you wrote a few days back. To be able to maximize the connectivity and retention with your notes, it is important to read and re read them , even if just quickly, from time to time to be able to get the best out of them and use them I your research for what you actually thought to use it for.