I like to “map” papers when I’m feeling braindead — when I’m too tired or too mentally exhausted to do things requiring extensive thought. This consists of loading relevant details for a paper into a mind map and then looking up all of the references I found interesting and adding them to my Cite-U-Like library.
I am feeling a bit tired today, and I just finished mapping a paper. By my timer, it took about 55 minutes for an 8-page paper. This is a pretty substantial amount of time (about 6.875 min/page). However, it allows me to browse or search a complete list of the relevant facts from papers I’ve read. This is much, much faster than re-reading each paper, and much more powerful than trying to keep track of all of the salient details in my head. I haven’t timed how long it takes me to map a paper before, and I’m going to try to remember to do it more. I’d like to get an average pages/minute. Of course, the times will be longer for “interesting” papers and shorter for less-“interesting” papers.
What do you do to keep track of important information from papers you’ve read?