Is Obsidian a good solution for me?

Hello all,

I appreciate that this sort of stuff probably gets asked a lot but I am very overwhelmed by the number of notetaking applications that might be able to help me. I understand I’m on the Obsidian forums so the answers may favour Obsidian but I feel like members here are going to have some suggestions as to what may be best for me.

I am just starting a PhD (I’m in the initial phases) and I’m eventually going to be reading a lot of papers. I knew of the existence of Evernote and I thought my workflow could become something like this:

  1. Find paper (in PDF).
  2. Save paper to HDD, import paper to reference software such as Medely/Zotero.
  3. Read paper and highlight initial points of interest.
  4. Use application such as Evernote/Notion/Obsidian to make notes on paper. Contain my own thoughts about where it might link with my own project.
  5. Tag the note file with author and key concept.
  6. Come back to the note at later stage.

I imagine this is quite similar to what a lot of people use this kind of software for but I am overwhelmed as to which specific application I should use. After doing some light researching of my options, I definitely think Evernote, Obsidian and Notion seem like the best (and most affordable) solutions.

I would like to be able to have my notes synced between my desktop and laptop so that I can write things down where ever I am.

The learning curve to Obsidian seems higher than that of Evernotes and Notion seems like more of a “do it all” life planner.

What should I be using?

Thank you.

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I’d say it depends on your field. I’m doing a phd in neuroscience, and with the amount of papers I ‘should’ be reading, skimming is the best option. Taking notes is simply far beyond what I have time for. Instead, the articles and presentations I make are my notes as then I’ll do ‘directed’ reading instead of skimming the surface waters.

I use Paperpile for papers. A simple click in the browser and everything is saved - pdf and metadata ++. Mendely and others can do this too. I’ve tried annotating and marking pdf’s but it’s simply too much, too slow.

So think carefully on your day to day usage. Unless you’re a diligent reader/notetaker and that’s how you like to read and the amount you need to read is managable, Obsidian is good. If not, you might just end up with a huge backlog which is demotivating by itself :stuck_out_tongue:

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Hard to say, really. @andresni framed it quite well. I am using Obsidian for the thought collection and association, Mendeley for citing in Manuscripts and PDFexpert for reading and marking, since you can then export all your highlights in a collection into your thinking hub of choice. In my experience it really helps a lot if you enjoy working with your apps. I like mendeley, because it works nicely with Word and reading is possible on the ipad. I used Evernote for quite a while but became a hoarder instead of a digester of knowledge. Avoid that in your own best interest :wink:

Welcome @amperland!

To add to the existing replies, I’ll say that, in my opinion, note-taking is very personal. It might depend on your field and on what you want to take out of your notes, but there’s no better way to find that out than to start. I’ll try to point you to a few resources in the forum that might give you ideas of how other people use it:

I personally do this with Zotero + Obsidian which helps me automate a few things of that process. My original post is here: Zotero plugin to export metadata and notes to markdown (although beware, it’s a bit old and my workflow has changed a bit. I should probably write a follow up!).
I also wrote a few tips on how to use Zotero (and mdnotes, the plugin I wrote for this) over here: Zotero best practices.

@tallguyjenks has also made a video of how he uses this:

There are also a few plugins that could help with that if you don’t feel like using Zotero:

I also recommend taking a look at the post by @PhDResearch, particularly his interview, to get a glimpse into another possible way to approach taking notes:

Other related threads:

Finally, feel free to reach out to us in the #academia channel in the Discord server!

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