Organising Notes

As I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, staying organised is pretty important in medical school. If you’re not organised from early on, you’ll probably never find the time to actually organise it all properly, and you’ll suffer for it for the next 5 years when you can never find anything! So, how best to organise it?

Also, regardless of how you want to stay organised, a laptop/computer is almost essential for uni now… things could be a bit of a nightmare without one. Perhaps thats just because I’m so used to having one now thought! I would definitely recommend a laptop over a desktop computer as you can get pretty good spec laptops now for cheap.


Hard copies:

Writing notes and keeping them in folders is a pretty traditional way of doing things. However, it tends to be quite an expensive way of organising things. By the time you buy enough pukka pads, folders, dividers and polypockets to last you through the year, the price starts to add up a bit. On top of that, if you keep all your notes, it can take up quite a lot of space. By the end of first year, things might not seem too bad, but by the time you finish third year, you’ll probably have a couple of bookshelves full of stuff!

Another thing to note, using hard copies of notes it a bit slower when looking things up for reference compared to using a computer, where a quick search will find the document you’re looking for. However, in folders, you could be looking for half an hour or so before you find the precise thing your looking for!



Ctrl+F is your friend on the computer and lets you search through PDFs very quickly This is brilliant for online versions of textbooks as well which come as PDFs or whatever. Also good for searching within a document for a particular topic you want to revise. It’s gotten to the stage now where if I’m looking up a real-life textbook, I’m looking for the ctrl+F shortcut to find stuff in that! Also, it’s easy to organise multiple levels of folders on a laptop to allow you to cruise easily through your notes to find the stuff you’re looking for.

Downsides to using  laptop is the risk of losing your data. This tends to happen at the worst possible times e.g. my laptop died on me 2 weeks before Christmas exams this year. To combat this, I would say back things up on USB, ext hard drive or a cloud based service (e.g. dropbox) – these can be lifesavers – NEVER use JUST a usb stick – these are most prone to breakages and are most prone to going missing. You can always print notes off as well if you want both.

Another annoyance is when you get handouts at tutorials etc. which are odd to file electronically – I’ve just scanned these in to file them with the rest of my notes but this is less than ideal.

Also, using a laptop is space saving, and you can easily carry all your notes with you from the desk in your bedroom to the library or home for the weekend without a second thought.


I personally use a laptop and find it great for quick referencing. From day one I also meant to print off all my notes but never actually bothered. Then I planned to do it in the summer between 1st and 2nd year but never found the time and since then my mountain of notes has been ever-growing and since then, its never happened! So, don’t make my mistake and stay on top of things from the start!

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4 Responses to Organising Notes

  1. Sophie Equi says:

    Hi there

    Thanks so much for this post. It’s really helpful and I’m sure the information you’re passing on will help lots of people! Anyway, this seems a bit of a daft question but I thought I’d ask anyway. Basically my laptop functions perfectly… apart from the fact it doesn’t work unless it’s connected to a power socket. Are there such sockets in the lecture theatres/tutorial room?



    • Hey – not a daft question at all!

      In the lecture theatres, there aren’t any power sockets, but actually, not very many people take their laptops to their lectures – I’ve never done it and just take rough notes on paper during the lecture and then write it all up properly when I get home.

      For tutorials, there is almost always power sockets around, so you should be fine from that point of view, but again, most people just go for pen and paper for that kind of stuff!

  2. Natalie says:

    Hi – Have you ever used Evernote It’s a great notetaking tool that you can use on your laptop, you can also access online and there apps for various smartphones so you can access on the go. You can create different notebooks to organise things, but the really helpful thing is that you can tag every note you make which makes it easy to find things.

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