Tip 1: Taking notes
Taking notes on scraps of paper, without complete and accurate reference to the citation, is a recipe for disaster. Frequently researchers find that despite their best efforts, they have copied a citation incorrectly, or incompletely, and are now unable to locate the source. It is always easier to locate the correct information if you know where you copied it. In some cases (commonly when the reference is from a book chapter), it may not be possible to relocate the reference without this information, and usually not in the time frame required.
It is worthwhile interpreting your notes as you go along, so that they are not merely a transcript of what you have read, but contain an intellectual element.This not only helps with your later writing, but also reduces the danger that you have unknowingly plagiarised another author's work. In writing your dissertation or research report, you need to have linked and integrated any such ideas and concepts with your personal knowledge framework.
You might also want to add notes regarding the usefulness of the reference, or add keywords to represent areas covered which may not be immediately obvious from the title or source (e.g. chemical names, processes, theories, methodologies, relevant chapter in thesis, software etc.).
Tip 2: Recording authors' names
It is also handy to establish a consistent format for recording names, to prevent the occurrence of several versions of the same name. This is particularly important where there may be more than one entry for the same author (see examples below).
Bob F. Samuels
Samuels, Bob etc
A good rule is to include as much information as possible!
Tip 3: Recording search strategies
It can also be useful to record the 'success' of your search strategy (especially when searching electronic databases), so that you can revise your strategy, or return to it at a later stage. Some people annotate their search strategy as they conduct their searches, noting the database used, the date searched, and the number of records retrieved.
Tip 4: Current awareness services
Current Awareness Services are available from a number of databases (as well as from publishers and websites). Such services are useful in keeping you up to date with literature in your field. As new resources are added to various databases, current awareness services automatically notify you of relevant citations or table of contents.