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Citation Management Tools: PowerNotes

What is PowerNotes?

PowerNotes is a web-based research management application. PowerNotes is a tool to help you save, annotate, organize, and cite sources you access from databases and the Web. PowerNotes helps you take notes on and keep track of your online sources, create a research outline, avoid accidental plagiarism, and more.

With PowerNotes, you can...

Capture online source material

Annotate online sources while you read

- Create citations

Organize sources  

- Download the outline and notes

Tutorials & Other Helpful Guides

- PowerNotes' Get Started.

PowerNotes Video Tutorials

Tips, Tricks and Hacks

Using PowerNotes to Research, Draft, & Argue the 1L Brief

Install & Register

Install the PowerNotes Chrome extension (you can also install the Chrome extension on the Microsoft Edge browser) or Firefox extension, then follow the prompts from the extension to create your account. If you’re a student, remember to sign up with your school email address in case your school currently has, or purchases in the future, premium access. 

NOTE: PowerNotes has removed their free version, however, they do offer a 14-day trial before requesting you select a membership.

When you create an account, we will send a verification email to the address you used to sign up. Just click on the verification link in that email and you will be all set. If you didn't get an email, be sure to check your spam folder.

Enabling and Disabling the Extension

To enable (or disable) the extension, click on the “P” icon in the extension tray in the upper right navigation section of your browser window and change the switch to ”Yes” (or “No”). This is how you turn PowerNotes on when you are researching and off when you’re browsing or doing other activities.

Adding Highlights and Annotations

Using the PowerNotes Extension, located in the bottom right corner of your browser, you can highlight text in articles, both in PDF form and on a Webpage, and add it to your library. 

Use your cursor to highlight text in the article. Once you highlight text, a menu will pop up with generic topic names (Background, New Topic). Select a topic to categorize your highlight. 

After you have selected a topic, you’ll see the notes box appear. In this box, you can type any notes related to the passage you’ve highlighted. There is no limit to the notes you can take. 

You can easily change the Topic name by hovering over the title and clicking the small pencil.


Once you have done this, your highlight, notes, and source link will appear in the sidebar. 


Using Computer Files

If you would like to use PowerNotes on a PDF that's located on your computer's hard drive, you will need to give the browser permission to access stuff on your hard drive. To do this you will have to go to chrome://extensions/ and scroll down to PowerNotes and check the "Allow access to file URLs" box.

Then just open the PDF you want in the Chrome browser by using CTRL+O (for a PC) or COMMAND+O (for a Mac) in a browser window. You can also find the PDF in your computer’s files by right-clicking on the file and selecting “open with” Chrome.

Using Academic and Legal Research Databases

If you're conducting legal research on HeinOnline, Westlaw, or Lexis, the copy button becomes "Copy with Citation."

For Westlaw or Lexis, this will open their copy with the citation dialog box.

If you're using HeinOnline, the text and citation will be copied to your clipboard. From here you can paste directly into any document. It is also important to note that you will need to change the image to the document’s text using the paper icon in the HienOnline image toolbar. Then, highlight the text you want with PowerNotes and either save it by selecting a topic or copy it with a citation.

For more information on how to use PowerNotes with HeinOnline, click here.

Creating Citations with PowerNotes

Once you’ve highlighted and saved a passage, PowerNotes will automatically capture the citation information provided by the source and provide you with a formatted citation.

Automated citation generators are not always going to get it right, so check to make sure the citation is correct.

Generating Citations for Different Types of Sources

PowerNotes gathers citation information a little differently depending on the type of source.

General web pages and most academic databases

For sites like news sources, blogs, databases, etc., PowerNotes gathers the metadata necessary to put together a citation. Note that not all websites put all the info you need in their metadata, so you may need to add omitted information.

PDFs from academic databases

The database provider hosting a PDF usually provides the information you need to automatically generate the citation. So just highlight the passage, and the citation should be there. If, for some reason, the citation field is blank, and you have a DOI or ISBN for the PDF, you can enter it manually by clicking on the link just below the URL in the citation pane. 

This will take you to a citation pane that will allow you to manually enter the DOI, ISBN, PMID, or arXiv. Once entered, just click the refresh icon above the right side of the citation field to generate the citation. If you don’t have any of those identifiers, you will need to enter the citation manually.

Source Notes

At the top of the citation pane, you’ll also see a Source Note tab. Source notes are a great place to add commentary, extra details, and analysis regarding a source. You can also add additional source note text boxes by clicking on the “+ Add another text field" link found below the last text box in the pane. For example, you may find it beneficial to add a field labeled “Search Results” and add a note about how you came across this particular source.

Citations in the Project Outline

Any citation that you create and save will appear attached to your notes from that source in your Project Outline.

In your Project Outline, you can quickly view all of your citation info by showing citations using the filters on the right side of the project outline page.

Editing Citations

PowerNotes will gather information on most websites to generate a citation. Every website, however, can provide different data pertaining to citations, so you might have to add or update some information if it’s insufficient or incorrect. 

At any time, you can edit the citation in the Citation field, or copy and paste one in, or manually type it into the citation field. To access and edit the citation, look for the Citation icon (large gray or green quotation mark) that can be found in two places:

  • Note-taking Popup - the Citation icon is found at the bottom of the annotation popup that appears after you’ve highlighted and categorized something.

  • Browser Sidebar - the Citation icon appears after each quoted highlight in the project sidebar.

Clicking on the Citation icon associated with a particular highlight will allow you to view and edit the associated citation information in the PowerNotes extension sidebar. Here, you can also change the citation's format by using the format drop-down menu to select the specific citation format.

To choose what format all your citations will automatically appear in, click on the settings gear in your Project Outline. 

PowerNotes currently offers 10 citation formats. If you don’t see the citation format you want, just ask us to add it. When you click on the gear button, you will be shown the list of options to select from. 

After making any changes, click the Save button below the citation.

Using your SideBar Outline

Looking at your PowerNotes SideBar, you will notice that initially your project will be labeled “Project Name," you can easily change this later on. Below that, you’ll see a filter and a link to your project outline. You can access your project outline by clicking on the “Project Outline” link, which will open up the PowerNotes website with a full-page outline where you can reorganize snippets, filter topics, edit your notes, and download all your research as a Word, Excel or a .RIS file.


You can expand or collapse the sidebar by clicking on the PowerNotes icon (to expand) or “minimize” icon (to collapse) in the lower right of the browser window. You can also adjust the width of the sidebar and move the minimized sidebar around your screen if it’s in your way.

Using Topics to Create Hierarchy in Your Outline

PowerNotes is designed to encourage students to take a second organizational step to easily transition from a topical to a conceptual outline, which can then transition more easily into a first draft.

When you have done enough research and have an idea of how your paper might be structured, you can use PowerNotes’ flexible topic naming to create a hierarchy. Think of topics as the headers and subheaders of your research paper. Simply add an outline heading letter or number to the beginning of your topic name to indicate its place in your paper’s hierarchy.

You may not know what your topics will be when you start your research, so PowerNotes makes it easy for you to add and edit topics as you go. You can quickly add a topic as you research by clicking on the “+” icon at the bottom of the topics menu that pops up after you highlight. So as your knowledge of the subject matter increases, you can reorganize your research accordingly.

Organizing your Topics

Once you establish your conceptual topics PowerNotes allows you to reorganize your highlights and notes easily to ensure that the underlying source material best supports the related concept. You can reorganize any passage by dragging and dropping it into a new place or by clicking on the menu in the upper right of any passage and selecting a new location for it.

Managing your Projects

Projects are the highest level of organization. If you're working on multiple research projects, you can quickly switch projects by selecting it from the dropdown menu at the top of the extension sidebar next to the PowerNotes logo. You can also quickly create a new project by selecting the “Create New Project” link at the bottom of that dropdown menu. All content and topics in the extension sidebar will change to match the selected project.


Clicking on the PowerNotes logo at the top of the extension sidebar or on a project outline will take you to the project dashboard, where you can access all project outlines and create new projects.

As you create additional projects they’ll populate your projects dashboard. To access a project outline click on the project title. You can also delete projects by hovering over the project on the project dashboard and clicking on the trash can icon underneath each project card.


Downloading your work

When you are ready to start writing (or you need to turn in your outline), you can download your outline to .docx (which can be opened with Microsoft Word or Google Docs). You can also export your data to .xlsx (which you can open with Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets).

The format of the .docx download will largely mimic your project outline with extra white space so that you can write around your materials. The format of the .xlsx file will have your topics across the first row and your sources down the first column with the highlights and notes in the corresponding cells.

Citation information that has been checked and saved (as indicated by a green quote icon) will be exported to .docx. Citation information is not currently exported to .xlsx.

Downloading a Bibliography

Saved citation information can be downloaded when you decide to export your work. Click on the download icon under the project outline title to export your work to a word-processing file, spreadsheet, or .RIS file. Note that the download to a word processing or .RIS file that can be opened in Google Docs or MS Word, will only export saved citations, meaning those citations where the Citation icon is filled in and green.

It is worth noting that an RIS file is a universal source metadata file that you can import into other citation management tools such as EasyBib, Zotero, EndNote, and RefWorks to create a bibliography.


If you want to save a page to read for later, you can bookmark it. With the PowerNotes extension enabled, navigate to the page you wish to bookmark. In the extension sidebar, click on the orange outline of a bookmark to save a page. Bookmarked content will accumulate in it’s own Bookmarks topic.

You can add notes to bookmarks as well as reorganize them in your project outline by dragging and dropping or filing bookmarks to other topics. Bookmarks can be deleted by clicking on the bookmark icon again in the extension sidebar when on the bookmarked page or in the project outline.

Freeform Notes

If you want to add notes from a non-digital source, a topic sentence idea, question, or anything else into your project, you can use the Freeform Note feature.

If you’re working in the PowerNotes Extension, you can add a Freeform Note:

  1. Click on the “ + ” icon to the right of any Topic name in the extension sidebar

  2. A blank note card will appear below the Topic name

  3. Type your note

If you’re working your Project Outline, you can add a Freeform Note:

  1. Click on the notepad icon to the right of any Topic name

  2. A blank note card will appear below the Topic name

  3. Type your note

Add Images to a Project

With the PowerNotes extension enabled, right click on an image and select “Save image to PowerNotes” from the menu. You’ll be prompted to file the image under a topic and have the option to add a note. Can’t right click or want to capture more than just an image? Click on the purple, square icon next to the bookmark icon at the top of the extension sidebar. This will allow you select exactly what you want to capture by screenshotting it. Once you screenshot what you would like to add to your project, you’ll be prompted to file it under a topic as well as be given the option to add a note.

Both methods will save source information for the image or screenshot. Images will appear as thumbnails in the extension sidebar and project outline. Just click on them to see a larger version.

Changing Highlight Color and Contrast

The color of your highlights can all default to yellow or they can be set to match the color of your topics. To select a preference, right-click on the PowerNotes extension icon in your browser’s toolbar. In the menu, click “Settings”. A settings page will appear.

On this page, you can also change PowerNotes to be displayed in High Contrast mode.


 PowerNotes will allow you to save pictures and organize them within your outline.  If you cannot right-click and save the picture, you can simply use the “take screenshot” feature to capture a portion of a web page and save it in your outline.


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