Mendeley Tip: Notes and Annotations

One of the best features I love about Mendeley is the notes and annotations. As a supporter for paper-less research, I don’t print out journal articles for reading since I started the dissertation journey or rather since I found Mendeley. Thanks to Mendeley, my paper-less journey has been such a bliss. So, if I have to read on screen, how am I going to take notes or make comments on the articles? Of course, sometimes I still use paper to write notes but that’s very rare occasion now.

Mendeley Desktop has this cool feature where I can just write notes while reading the article. Just click on the Notes tab on the right side (with the article opened), it will appear side by side with the article. I found that to be a very useful function to my literature review process. I like to write notes about the important ideas that I’ve found in the article while I read it.

I segment my notes into sub-headings that will go into my synthesis matrix later. I can even format my notes for easier reading. I know some people like to highlight on the papers while reading. You can also do so on Mendeley Desktop. Just select Highlight Text or Highlight Rectangle. However, highlight alone won’t be very useful if I couldn’t  mark or ‘post-it’ the page where I highlighted. Here’s when annotations are useful.

Just click Add Note and a ‘post-it’ will appear where the description can be added. The notes will also appear under Annotations where you can easily see on which page some important highlights or notes have been left. Click on the Pages/Notes under Annotations and it will bring you directly to the page itself. This is most useful if you have long articles or books to read and you want to make it easy to refer back to important pages without flipping page by page.

If you are new to Mendeley or didn’t use these features before, I hope you can try them today and see if these features help you better in your literature review process. If you have better suggestions on using Mendeley in your research, I’d love to hear them. Until the next tip, happy research! 🙂


24 thoughts on “Mendeley Tip: Notes and Annotations

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  1. I had no idea! Did it take you a long time to learn how to use it?

    Thank you SO much for sharing. I try very hard not to waste paper but, sometimes, I really need to make notes. This sounds just what I need.

    Did you get your own licence, or did you get it through your university.

    Seriously helpful. Thank you!

    1. Ana,

      I’m glad now you know. Hope you will try it and see if it works for you. If you have problem with Mendeley, just let me know and I’ll try to help 🙂

  2. that doesn’t tell how to locate them when needed __how to find a pdf u annotated to day or a specific annotations 30 days later if u annotate 3 pdf a day (out 300 pdf)

    1. I think it’s a good idea to have search function within all notes/annotations. Maybe that’s what Mendeley will look into in the near future 🙂

      1. Jennifer,

        Thank you for responding. How do you print then notes entered into the notes field? See image below from your site. The section where you began to type notes does not seem to print when I export to PDF with notes.

  3. Kevin,

    So far I can’t find a way to print my notes on that box where I typed. What I used to do was copying all those notes into my literature review matrix instead of printing them from Mendeley. However, I have yet to check out the latest version of Mendeley Desktop and check out if they have made improvement on the notes section. I’ll share later when I find more. Sorry I can’t help you much for now.

  4. There is a really simple yet robust tool for extracting highlights, notes and images from your pdf-files available at: . Not only it supports various advanced features like exporting to DOC and TXT formats, but it also allows you to send extracted highlights into your Evernote account or email. All desktop browsers and operating systems are supported. We are in cloud, so no installation is needed. Try it out.

  5. extracts all your highlights and annotations from multiple PDFs into a single report from which you can click through to the PDF containing each annotation.

    If you sync your tablet/ipad with your desktop using something like dropbox, then all your ipad pdf annotations will be reportable from your desktop.

  6. Hi Jennifer, thanks for the article!

    Wanted to add that the web version sometimes hides the Notes function until you hover over the Details bar in the top right-hand corner. It then displays a Notes tab. Was jubilant when I found the Notes function, love it!

  7. Hi Jennifer,
    Thanks for this! I’m new with Mendeley and it’s exciting to know its features because it does make my life easier.

    However, do you have any idea why my Add Note function is greyed out? I’m not able to add any Post-It to my PDF.

    Thanks in advance!

    1. Dear Jaja,

      So sorry for late reply. First of all, thank you for your message. I’m glad you have started using Mendeley but I didn’t encounter the problem you faced before. The fastest way to get a quick solution is to contact Mendeley Support either through Twitter or email. They are really efficient in helping all Mendeley users. I will also see if I can find anything about this problem. Thanks.

  8. New to Mendeley here in 2016, so assume I’ve downloaded latest version. Does anyone know how to download/organize GENERAL NOTES from the side field?? I see that was not an option in 2013. Highlight cursor is way too erratic to go the other route.

    1. So sorry for late reply. I’m now not too sure most of the functions in Mendeley as I haven’t been much in touch with it. I will try to find out and see. Thanks.

  9. Hi Jenn, would you share what you had written in notes section? I saw your write definition and rationale. What else you write inside note for each paper you read?

    1. So sorry for late reply. I overlooked the comment section. When I read each article, I will find the important notes about the theme I want for literature review. So basically, I have definition, rationale, pedagogy, skills, challenges and lastly I will write citeable notes that I can directly put into my literature review. All these greatly depend on how you want to structure your literature review. You can also refer to my synthesis matrix where I normally transfer these notes to the matrix. Hope this helps. Thanks.

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