I'm an undergraduate who is going to be a Ph.D candidate this fall. After reading papers extensively for writing the literature review, I realize details in some papers, though I totally understand them at the moment I read them, are almost forgotten when I try to cite these papers.

I wonder what's your habit to keep track of the papers you've read (for long-term retrieval).

3 Answers 3


If you want to remember something long term, spaced repetition is a good way to remember it.

I interact with hundreds of papers per year. Trying to remember them all is futile. You should prioritize.


There are various methods to keep track of your readings; a spaced repetition is not necessarily indispensable.

My preferred approach is: to annotate, to collect excerpts, and to tag these excerpts so that one can find them again when one searches by keywords.

Citation managers such as Zotero offer these functions.

I personally use a digital 'Zettelkasten' (TiddlyWiki) for this purpose.

Both Zotero and TiddlyWiki are open-source and free.


Statements that are not excessively technical can be written in the appropriate Wikipedia article, while citing the article as a source. To some extent, Wikipedia can thus be used as a shared guide to the literature.

Of course, you need another solution for the technical details and personal annotations: see the other answers.

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