We had a little discussion going on in this post where two readers commented that they prefer to print out manuscripts and mark them up physically. This is a bad idea that all trainees should break themselves of. First off, shame on you printed paper types, you’re ruining our planet. Okay, that’s a bit harsh… but, secondly, and more seriously, as your career progresses those stacks of paper are going to get completely out of control and you will not be able to stay organized. Invest in a PDF organizing program (I suggest Papers) and learn to annotate the PDFs in a systematic way that can help you write. Write your annotations to those PDFs in such a way that you can cut and paste those ideas into manuscripts, grants and reviews to make yourself more efficient.
Allow me to give an example.
I am currently writing 3 grants and 2 reviews. I used my annotated notes organized in the past year on Papers to cut and paste almost an entire review (and not a short one) in one day last week. All I really had to do was write an intro and discussion and make some short transitional statements. I am going to write the background and significance section on a grant today and I am completely confident that it will be done because all my notes are in place and ready to go (neatly organized into Paper’s folder options).
You may recall that Physioprof made a fuss some time ago about becoming an efficient writer being one of the most important factors in being a successful PI (and I’m sorry but I cannot find that post again). Few commented on that fact but it is of the utmost importance. The sooner you get started on setting yourself up to be an efficient writer the better off you will be and the faster your career will advance. I will never believe that printing and marking up a manuscript is the best way to go. Make use of the technologies that are available to make yourself more efficient and start doing it now. You will thank yourself for the rest of your scientific life!