PowerNotes vs. Web Clippers



How PowerNotes is different from web clippers

Unlike web clippers, PowerNotes is designed to facilitate the academic research process, from collecting content to first draft preparation and attribution. With PowerNotes, researchers:

  • seamlessly gather and organize online content and add notes, while simultaneously saving source links and citation information

  • automatically organize content into a research outline that they can evaluate and reorganize in a structured and methodical way 

  • download their outline to Word to start their first draft or share their work for instructor or peer review

  • export their sources’ citation information via RIS file to any reference management platform to generate a bibliography


Web Clippers Generally

Web clippers (WCs) are designed for saving personal information from the web, and facilitate the gathering of information through a browser extension. In particular, we want to focus on two WCs:

  1. OneNote: Many schools receive OneNote as part of their license for the Microsoft Office suite of software. OneNote is essentially a note-taking platform that allows users to add information “clipped” from web pages to their notes. OneNote syncs across multiple devices if the user has a Microsoft 360 subscription.

  2. EverNote: One of the first web clippers, EverNote has a large and differentiated user base. EverNote bills itself as “Your second brain” where you can “Save everything.” EverNote provides syncing across two devices for free, and to more devices in one of their paid tiers.


Unlike PowerNotes, OneNote or EverNote generally do not:

  • comply with the latest cognitive science research related to screen reading

  • allow complex organization and reorganization of passages

  • gather citation information from sources


The Big Difference between PowerNotes and OneNote/EverNote

The most important distinction between PowerNotes and WCs is one of purpose. PowerNotes facilitates the entire source-based writing process, while WCs are designed only to accomplish the initial step of the process -- gathering information -- which they fail to do particularly well.

PowerNotes uses the latest cognitive studies to minimize distractions many researchers experience when using web-based sources. By reducing distractions, PowerNotes fosters deep reading and synthesis of information from multiple sources. For details on our research and how we implemented these reading features, click here.

PowerNotes’ interface allows researchers to highlight, annotate, and save content as they read and without disrupting their reading flow. Gathering passages, the fundamental building blocks of source-based writing, is streamlined, intuitive, and does not distract the researcher from reading and analyzing the source on their screen.

While WCs allow users to gather content generally, their interfaces are not designed for research, and gathering passages is anything but streamlined, in some cases requiring 10+ clicks to save and annotate a single passage. In the end, gathering passages using WCs is slower and more cumbersome than copying and pasting into a separate document, to which most students will default without better alternatives.

Watch these videos of the steps required to save the same passage/annotation using PowerNotes, EverNote, and OneNote.

As the videos show, performing the same function (saving and annotating a passage) requires the following amount of time:

  • PowerNotes: 9 seconds

  • OneNote: 23 seconds

  • EverNote: 27 seconds

All those extra seconds add up when researching, which probably explains why a PowerNotes survey of 985 undergraduates revealed that just 2.44% use EverNote or OneNote:


It’s also important to understand that PowerNotes does much more for the researcher in those 9 seconds than OneNote and EverNote do in more than twice the time, including:

  1. Organizing the passage into an outline based on the category the researcher selected. With the WCs, the passage is saved into a disorganized folder based on the time and date the researcher clipped it.

  2. PowerNotes gathers the URL for the source as well as the citation information so the student can create citations, or export their citation info to a citation manager like RefWorks or Zotero in a .RIS file. The WCs gather URLs but do not gather citation information in any way.

  3. For legal research sites like Westlaw, Lexis, HeinOnline, and Bloomberg Law, PowerNotes captures the full citation provided by the database as soon as the researcher saves a passage.

In summary, PowerNotes and WCs are different tools for different jobs. PowerNotes is a holistic platform that helps researchers with the complex and daunting source-based writing process. WCs, by contrast, are designed for saving personal information from the web, but not much more.