Zettelkasten Forum


Gap between wish for simplicity when writing zettels and need for rich text in academic texts?

As I see it, there is a potential gap between the wish for simplicity when writing zettels, and the need for options and tweeks when writing longer academic texts. I will try to explain what I mean.

The philosophy behind zettelkasten is basically trying to extend our limited human cognitive ability through distributed cognition. The (simple) ideas we get are externalized so that we humans can focus on what we are better than the computers at: finding creative links between these (simple) ideas, and through these creative links come up with new (more evolved) ideas.

Now, if you are an academic like me (I am a PhD student) at one point or another, you need to write a longer essay or thesis in which you set out by defining research questions and a suitable methodology. What is given then is that the output requires a rich text file in which the metadata of the resources we have used should be included.

So, from the ideas we get, and how we link them, to the new ideas and how we use them... moving on to finalizing a thesis, which are the steps involved here and what strategies and tactics should we use? This is the essential question.

For myself, I have started to use The Archive as my zettelkasten for ideas I get from reading texts and attending seminars. For each event/text that I attend or read, I create a structure note to describe in short WHAT I have read/attended, WHY I have read/attended this, and then I LIST the ZETTELS from this event/text below with a title of what idea they contain. In this way I both record the context of where these ideas occurred and also the content of the individual ideas. My philosophy is then that when I read or attend something else and get similar ideas, I can either re-use a zettel (if the idea is almost the same but from another angle) or link this new zettel to the former one. In this way I save both the context of the ideas and the ideas themselves.

Now, when writing a thesis one starts out from creating an outline and then one realizes that one needs to learn more about methodology X, theory Y and concept Z, in order to proceed. As one reads about X in one book and two articles, one documents the event and the zettels in one’s zettelkasten of choice.

My question is now, at what point and how do one go about starting to write about methodology X, theory Y and concept Z in one’s text editor of choice, and how do one link the zettels from one’s zettelkasten to the project in one’s text editor? It would be nice if these two systems (zettelkasten + text editor) could easily communicate with each other, but can the zettels be written in markdown, while the text editor is in TEX format? Does this create a problem? A related question is the metadata in the zettelkasten. I use Zotero and this format @andersson2007 in The Archive when referring to an article. Is it possible to use The Archive, Markdown and Zotero in one’s zettelkasten, and then Sublime Text, LaTeX and BibTeX in one’s text editor? What are the advantages and disadvantages. Grateful for all input!

Comments

  • @joachiedere said:
    at what point and how do one go about starting to write about methodology X, theory Y and concept Z in one’s text editor of choice, and how do one link the zettels from one’s zettelkasten to the project in one’s text editor? It would be nice if these two systems (zettelkasten + text editor) could easily communicate with each other

    I consider the zettelkasten and the text editor to be totally different systems (functionally differentiated), so I see no need to link them, to allow them to communicate with each other directly. If you "link" zettel notes to notes in your text editor (that is what you're asking about, right?), wouldn't that effectively include your text editor in the zettelkasten system? Except that the text editor would only be a kind of zk annex, without all the functionality available in The Archive. Isn't the solution to make new zettels on subjects x y and z, either before or after you've written about them in your text editor? That's my process, anyway.

  • edited December 2018

    They do not communicate as part of the Zettelkasten Method. Of course, you are free to diverge it and share your experiences. :smile:

    I use the ZKM to think in written form. I write to produce texts. That are very different actions, though they look similar on the outside. The flow is only indirect: If I do research on a topic for a text I feed my archive with the results before I include them in the text. If I write a text I later break it up and feed the parts to my archive etc.

    But you can always link via the ID. You could, for example, reference a structure note in your thesis if you want to include the content later on.

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