Using the notes features in Mendeley

In this post we will explain how you can highlight, make general notes and in-text annotations within sources in your Mendeley library.

Woman sitting reading at a desk.
Photo by Praveen Gupta on Unsplash



Mendeley is a reference management tool that allows you to save and annotate PDF journal articles and other sources. You can find out more about Mendeley here. A great thing about making notes using Mendeley is that you can access them by signing into your Mendeley account anywhere and view them online.

After adding the PDF of a journal article or other source you can use Mendeley’s note making and highlighting feature to capture your thoughts about the source or to summarise the key points. Mendeley has two features that can help you take notes on a source: in-text annotations and general notes.

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Highlighting and in-text annotations

Highlighting and in-text notes are both tools within Mendeley’s PDF reader. To highlight and make in-text annotations follow these steps:

  1. Open the PDF within Mendeley. To do this click the PDF icon in the to the left of the record in the centre pane, as shown in the screenshot below:
The central pane in Mendeley Desktop showing records with attached PDFs and PDF icon highlighted.
PDFs attached to record in Mendeley Desktop

2. This will now open the text within Mendeley’s PDF reader.

3. Select the highlight icon in the top of the screen. You can also select the colour you wish to highlight in by clicking color icon next to it. Once done, drag over the text you wish to highlight, as shown in the screenshot below:

Highlighted text in Mendeley’s PDF reader.
Highlighting in the Mendeley PDF reader

Tip: Why not try using different colours to represent different things you want to pick out? For example; use yellow to highlight the author’s analysis and pink to highlight weaknesses in the argument.

4. To add an in-text annotation click the note icon at the top of the screen. Next, click on the text where you wish to place the note.

An in-text annotation added to a paper in Mendeley’s PDF reader.
In-text notes in the Mendeley PDF reader

Tip: You can consider in-text notes like an electronic post-it note; you can capture your thoughts about a specific piece of the text and find the note easily when you return to it.

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General notes

As well as making in-text annotations you can write general notes about your source. If in-text annotations are like post-it notes, think of the general notes feature as your cover sheet. Here you might summarise the source or leave yourself a reminder on how you might incorporate the source’s ideas into your own work. To add general notes follow these steps:

  1. Select the source you want to make notes on by clicking it in the central pane, as shown in the screenshot below:
Record selected in the central pane of Mendeley Desktop.
Selecting a source to make notes on in Mendeley Desktop

2. Click on the notes tab at the top of the right-hand pane, as shown in the screenshot below:

The notes tab selected in the right-hand pane of Mendeley Desktop with an example of general notes.
Selecting the notes tab in Mendeley Desktop

3. Make notes!

Tip: You can see in the screen sot about that by clicking on the notes tab you can see both the general notes you have made as well as the in-text annotations. Clicking on the top of the in-text annotation opens Mendeley PDF reader at the point you made the annotation.

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Mendeley’s PDF reader and note-making features are a great way to keep your notes and reading all in one place, particularly when used alongside its reference management features. As everything is stored in the cloud you are able to access your papers and notes anywhere you are connected!

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Further support

Other relevant posts:

Other support channels:

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