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PowerNotes: Using PowerNotes

PowerNotes is a web app that helps with online research -- gathering and keeping track of source materials, staying organized, and creating a research outline.

How to Use PowerNotes

Now that PowerNotes has been added to your browser, you are ready to begin working. Check to make sure that PowerNotes is active by clicking the PowerNotes extension logo in the upper right corner of your browser window.

Power Notes Extension

If it isn't active, be sure to click on the "Enable PowerNotes" button before continuing.

Power Notes On

The first step is to create a project. Click the PowerNotes icon in the lower right-hand corner of the screen.

Power Notes Logo

This will pull up a window on the right side of your browser. At the top of this new window, next to the PowerNotes logo, is the name of your current project.

Power Notes Side Bar

You will likely begin with a default project already created for you. Click the drop down arrow and select "+ Create New Project...".

Power Notes Create New Project

This will pull up a new window in the center of your screen where you can input the project name and the project description. Click the blue "Create" button to finish creating the project.

Create new project window

Research & Note-Taking

Transitioning from Researching to Writing

Project Outline

One of the most important parts of PowerNotes is the Project Outline. The Project Outline is a great way to manage your project, and it offers options that are not available in the PowerNotes sidebar that comes with the browser extension.

Project Outline

To access the Project Outline, you will first need to enable PowerNotes in your browser. If it is not already enabled, click on the PowerNotes icon in the upper right corner of your browser window (shown below).

Power Notes Icon

Then click the "Enable PowerNotes" toggle (shown below).

Power Notes On

Then click the PowerNotes logo in the bottom right corner of your browser.

Power Notes Logo

This will open PowerNotes on the right side of your browser. Click on the "Project Outline" option. You will be taken to a site for your project in a new tab in your browser.

The new page should look something like this. At the top of the page, you have the title of your project and its description. Below, there are two symbols. The one on the left is the "Sharing" icon (see "Sharing your Project"), and the one on the right is the Export option (see "Exporting from PowerNotes").

Power Notes Outline Site

Power Notes add comment

Before your project topics are listed, you will see an area labelled "+ Add Project Comment" (shown above). Comments you place here—which could include anything from your thoughts, a list of ideas, a quotation, or a link—are not attached to any of the project topics that subdivide your project. This means this is a great place to put things that you're not sure where they should go, or things that may be relevant to the entire project as a whole and not applicable to a singular topic.

Power Notes topic

Below the section for project comments, there is a section for the different topics in your project (shown above). Next to the topic labeled "Background", there is a symbol of three vertical dots. This allows you to make edits to a topic (shown below). This allows you to delete topics, but also to move or copy topics between projects, which could be useful if you have several projects that build upon each other.

Topic option

To the right of each topic is an area to "Add Freeform Note". This will be discussed in more detail in the "Gathering Sources" section.

Add Freeform Note

To the right, this panel (shown below) allows you to sort and manage your project.

Sort by

The "Sort By" option shown on the left sorts the information on the entire Project Outline page. By default, the overall page is sorted and subdivided based on the topics in your project, meaning any quotations, notes, etc. that you've gathered are shown as being part of whichever topic you had assigned it to. If you wanted to sort the quotations, notes, etc. that you've gathered by date, source, or editor instead, you can select that here.

sort by topic

There are several reasons you may want to do this. In the case of sorting by date, you would be able to sort your work on your project by the date in which you gathered that information. When the project is small, this may not seem useful, however, if you have a larger research project, this may become very useful.

Sorting by source could be very useful if, for instance, you wanted to see all of the quotations you've obtained broken down by which source they belong to instead of which topic they've been grouped under, which could be necessary if you are using a single source to argue multiple different topics within your paper, or if one source is cited multiple different times.

Sorting by editor will sort your Project Outline page by which of the editors on your project added each individual piece of information. If you are sharing your project with multiple other people, and you want to see which work you, or one of your peers, has contributed, this would be a good option to select.

The next section (shown above) allows you to manage topics and project details. If you select the square next to each topic, only that project will be shown on the outline. You can also add topics by selecting the option in the bottom left. You can get more advanced options by selecting the cog symbol in the upper right corner. A new window will be opened (shown below).

Manage topics

This page mainly allows you to add or edit topics. As it describes:

add or edit topics

"Hover over the topic you want to edit. change colors by clicking on the colored circles. Reorder topics by dragging and dropping. Add topics here or in the extension while doing research."

It also offers a tip: "You can add outline formatting to your topic names (I, A, 1, i, etc.)."

If, for instance, you wanted your project to be structured linearly—1. Introduction, 2, 3, and 4 being body paragraphs, and 5. Conclusion—you could do this by following their tip.

If you click the "Project Details" option to the left, it will bring you to a new page.

Edit project

This page does not do anything complex, but it does allow you to change your project name and description if you need to.

The last portion (shown below) of the Project Outline page is for filtering out what content is shown on the Project Outline screen.

Content Filters

Under "Content Filters", deselecting the "Highlights" option will remove any highlighted text you have selected as a quotation. See "Gathering Sources" for more information on highlighting text and creating citations. Deselecting "Notes" will remove any notes you've added to your project from view. Deselecting "Citation Info" will remove being able to see formatted citations from view, usually below highlighted text.

Under "Card Filters", deselecting "Sources" will remove any sources and their associated information from view. This is different from deselecting just "Highlights" or "Citation Info" from before because it removes everything associated with sources from view, not just the highlighted text or the citation itself. Bookmarks are a way to mark pages and sources you would like to return to later. Deselecting Bookmarks will remove these from view (see "Gathering Sources" for more info). Deselecting "Freeform Notes" will naturally also remove those from view.

Lastly, there's an option at the bottom to remove any comments you or any of your project contributors have left from view.

Gathering Sources

The first step to gathering sources for your project is, naturally, to find sources. One of the best places to find this information would be to use Lanier Technical College's A-Z Database list. For the purposes of this tutorial, the "Academic Search Complete" database will be used. It is the second database listed on the A-Z Database page.

A-Z Database List
Alphabetical list of Lanier Technical College Library's databases

"Academic Search Complete" is a collection of multiple different databases ran by EBSCOhost and as such has a large amount of academic sources available for use. When you open the link to "Academic Search Complete", you will be given a variety of options for searching for sources.

First, at the top of the page, you will have options that allow you to make very specific searches for sources.


Under "Select a Field" next to each search field, you can specify what type of information you're searching for. Many of these are incredibly specific and won't be necessary for the vast majority of people, however, some of these are important to consider. For instance, if you're trying to find the work of a particular author, choosing the "AU Author" option would make the most sense. As would selecting "TI Title" if you were looking for an article that had a particular title. Or selecting "SO Journal Name" if you are trying to find sources from a particular academic journal.

Select a field

It is also important to note that "And", "Or", and "Not" options are available for the second and third fields. This allows you to include or exclude results as you search for multiple things at once. You could, for example, perform the search below:

Boolean terms

This would give you results that are about geology and the pacific northwest but exclude results that are talking about the state of Oregon.

Below the search area, there are even more specific options available. Not all of them are worth discussing in detail, but some are valuable to know.

Search example

Selecting "Scholarly Journals (Peer Reviewed)" will limit your results to academic journal articles.

Scholarly Journals (Peer Reviewed)

It is likely you may run into circumstances where only an abstract or a small portion of a source is available. To avoid including these results, you can select either "Full Text Available Online" or "PDF Full Text".

Full Text

As for using PowerNotes to gather sources, you will first want to make sure that PowerNotes is activated in your browser. An explanation of how to do this is shown at the beginning of the previous section, "Project Outline".

Gathering quotations and citing sources is very streamlined within PowerNotes. Simply use your mouse to highlight the text you would like to save, and a window for your project within PowerNotes will open up. Click the topic you want to save a quotation to.


After selecting the topic, you will be prompted to add any notes you would like to add to go along with your quote. This could be used to add context you need to remember, your thoughts and feelings about what you've read, or even leave a note for yourself on how to use this quote later when you write your paper. Click the green check mark when you are finished.

This should work with both PDF and HTML documents, however, PDF documents will need to be loaded in your internet browser. If a PDF document does not work with PowerNotes, it may be because the PDF is lacking OCR functionality.

New topic source

If the PDF is lacking OCR functionality, PowerNotes will display an error message like the one shown to the left. Click "Process PDF" to add in OCR functionality.

PDF convert

After processing, the red error message will change to green. Click "Download PDF" and open in your internet browser with PowerNotes equipped. The PDF should now be usable.

PDF convert

The quotation will be added under the topic you selected in the PowerNotes sidebar. Click the "Confirm citation" button in the lower left corner of the quotation box. This will allow you to confirm the details of the citation so that way you do not have to do this when you make your works cited or references page at the end of writing your paper, saving you quite a bit of time.


This is not universally the case, but because the source in question was taken from Academic Search Complete, PowerNotes already has the citation information pre-formatted from EBSCOhost itself.

If the citation is not automatically generated, it is possible to fill out the information manually. Note you can also change the format to whichever citation style is required for your class.

If the information is not automatically generated, and you require a DOI for an academic source, generally one can be located on the information page for a source.

Clicking "Source Notes" on the top right will allow you to add in notes if you did not already or if you need to make alterations.

Citation information

If you want to add in notes that are not attached to a particular source, you can do so by using "Project Comments" as described in the "Project Outline" page, or you can use Freeform Notes.

Click this option to add in a Freeform note. It will be added to the topic that it is created under.

Freeform note

It will provide you a space to enter in the text for your note (shown below).


Click the three dots to the right to delete the note, move it to a new topic, or copy the note to another project.

If you feel that you may need to repeatedly return to a single source, or if you feel that you may want to use a source but aren't certain if you would like to cite it just yet, you can use bookmarks to save the page the source is on to make it easier to return to later. You can find the "Add Bookmark" option at the bottom of the header in the PowerNotes sidebar.

Add bookmark

Article from a website

Citing a non-academic source, like the website shown above, is shown below.

website source

Here, some text has been selected, as it was in the academic source example shown earlier in the section.

New topic

Here (above) is the quotation in the side panel. Click on the quotation symbol in the bottom left corner to "Confirm Citation". This will bring up a new page in the side panel.

Much of the information presented here will be generated by default by PowerNotes as it scans the page for the required information to generate a citation. Clicking the format drop down will allow you to change the citation style to the one required by your class. Click "Detailed Citation Information" at the bottom of the page.

Detailed Citation Information

Under the "Detailed Citation Information" section, you can see what information PowerNotes has used to generate the citation, and change any of it if it is incorrect. If you wish to manually create your citations, you can do this in the regular "Citation Information" section by typing in the "Citation" box.