Best Research Note Card Software: 4 Top Choices

Research note card software helps you organize your notes and bibliography in a digital format, so you never lose a reference again.

When you learn how to write a research paper in high school, note cards are a major part of the process. Students write their outline points on index cards, so they can more easily organize them when they are ready to write. Research note card software performs the same function but in a digital model.

Serious writers who learned the benefit of using cards as students and want to continue their note-taking and organization methods as adult writers can tap into this software to more intuitively keep their thoughts organized.

This guide will help you choose the right software to help you write.

Top Research Note Card Software Options

Best research note card software

As you begin your search for note card software, start with these popular choices:

1. Scrivener

Who It’s For: Scrivener is ideal for writers creating long-form works, like dissertations and books. It also works well for scriptwriting. 
Pricing: $45

Research Note Card Software: Scrivener
Scrivener lets the writer use templates to guide writing and notecard creation

Scrivener tops the list of note-taking and writing software because of its robust list of features. This software can become your entire workflow, organizing not only your research but also your writing. 

Scrivener organizes notes and research along with the manuscript for a project all in one place, combining it into a digital binder you can easily navigate. When you are writing, your research is always readily available. It even supports digital index cards.

It also lets the writer use templates to guide writing and notecard creation. Scrivener is available for both Mac and PC. It also has a mobile app for Android and iOS. 

  • All in one content-generation tool
  • Ideal for long documents
  • Everything all in one place
  • May have too many features for simple note taking
  • Has a tough learning curve
  • No free version

2. OneNote

Who It’s For: OneNote is ideal for people who need to share their research with a team, making it a good choice for business people.
Pricing: $69.99/year

Research Note Card Software: OneNote
This app has the option to create To Do LIsts for yourself or your team

With Microsoft OneNote, a cross-platform app you get when you purchase Office 365, you get the option to create digital notes through your Microsoft OneDrive.

In addition, this app has the option to create To-Do LIsts for yourself or your team. It integrates well with MS Office products and apps, and it works with the Apple stylus.

To make the most out of OneNote, you should have an Office 365 subscription. If you have Office 365, you will find that this tool integrates the best of all of the note-taking apps with the products you use. It has collaborative functions through Microsoft OneDrive.

  • Creates digital notes quickly
  • Easy to use with little learning curve
  • Free app
  • Works best with Office 365, and may not work well with other apps
  • Lacks formatting options for note cards
  • Rich text formatting is sometimes lost when pasting into OneNote from Outlook or Word

3. Evernote

Who It’s For: Anyone who does online research and who stores multimedia resources can benefit from the flexibility of Evernote.
Pricing: Free to ₱162.90 per month

Evernote has built-in tagging and search features so you can retrieve your research more easily

Evernote is one of the more popular note-taking apps on the market. It allows you to capture, organize and store your notes on a phone or web browser, including both Android and iOS options and Windows or OS X desktops browsers.

Evernote allows you to capture ideas in pictures, store articles you want to look at later for potential annotations, and even put photo notes or audio recordings in the app along with your text files. 

It has built-in tagging and searches features so you can retrieve your research more easily. This multimedia platform is what makes it so helpful in note-taking.

  • An affordable option for note taking
  • Multimedia research storage
  • Compatible with iOS, Windows, Mac, Chrome, Edge, Safari, Android and others
  • Often does not retain the formatting of the text
  • Can slow down on older devices
  • Requires premium paid version for offline access

4. Zotero

Who It’s For: Zotero is ideal for writers who need to organize and access online research. It also has collaboration features, so students or workers working on collaborative projects can share their libraries with each other.
Pricing: Free to $120/year

Research Note Card Software: Zotero
Zotero automatically fills note cards with material as you research, saving you time

Zotero is an independent, open-source project which means it is free of charge. When you are doing online research, Zotero helps you keep it organized. Create digital note cards to save searches, collect sources to cite and create bibliography cards.

The intuitive nature of Zotero earned it a spot on this list. It automatically fills note cards with material as you research, saving you time. It also has the option to sync across your various devices, so you can access your research whether you’re on your computer, iPad or phone.

  • Free note generation program
  • Integrates with MS Word
  • Fast to learn
  • Reliant on users for fixing bugs because of open-source design
  • Requires Zotfile plugin to work with PDFs
  • Works better with MLA format than APA style

Want more? Check out our guide to the Zettelkasten method.

The Final Word On Research Note Card Software

With so much research at your fingertips due to the World Wide Web, you need a notecard system to keep it all organized. Apps and digital systems give you the power to organize that without cumbersome paper files. The right app or software program will help you keep research notes, bibliography information and more organized and accessible.

To choose a research note card system, consider what you will use it for. Choose a system that handles the reference material in the format you use, and move forward confidently knowing your research is always accessible as you write.

FAQs About Research Note Card Software

How can I use research note card software effectively?

Research note card software can take the place of your paper note card system to organize your annotations and research cards in one place. Some programs are multimedia programs that can store videos, audio files, PDFs, web pages and more.

Many have templates to automatically put note cards into MLA or APA format.

What is the best note card app for collaborative projects?

If you are doing a collaborative project, Zotera and OneNote work well. These note-taking apps let you easily share your project with others.


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