Zettelkasten Forum

Using a zettelkasten-like system as a QDA memo system

Hi there!
I've been lurking on this forum for a while, drawing inspiration for optimizing my own textfile-based workflows. While I don't exactly follow the zettelkasten protocol to the letter, I have borrowed many principles and techniques in my own personal knowledge management system.

My dissertation work comprises a qualitative analysis with a dataset comprising various kinds of records, including interview transcripts, audio/video (un-transcribed interviews + 'naturalistic' observations), PDFs, images, web archives and scanned notebooks, all systematically organized on dedicated drives. While I have been maintaining broad-level memos and a journal as I collect data and sift through it to devise sensitizing concepts, I need to be more systematic about my memoing procedure as I dive down into the nitty-gritty of my data and with more refined research questions in mind. One of the key reasons why I haven't implemented a zettelkasten is that I haven't had a clear purpose or scope that I felt was suitable for building one around, but this seems like a problem that might actually be resolved through use of a zettelkasten-like system.

I have already come up with some tentative grammar/syntax that I might use, and which I expect to evolve as I go along with my work (see below). I would appreciate any feedback from this knowledgeable and experienced community!

My most significant concern, however, is that I've been using MaxQDA as my primary working environment until now, and it lacks support for importing memos. Not that it would necessarily matter, because its memo-writing/retrieval features would not really support the kinds of things I want to do. For instance, they don't support tagging, they don't allow linking between memos, and they don't even support markdown (RTF only :[ ). Everything is basically stored in an SQLite database, with symlinks to the media stored on my external drive. Despite these drawbacks, in my opinion it is the best QDA software out there for various other reasons, and I am already committed to working with it, primarily for qualitative coding (I have grand plans to wrangle the coded data into a graph database at some point, but we'll see how that goes...).

So I'm wondering if any of you have had experience using zettelkasten or similar systems specifically for crafting memos as part of a qualitative analysis or grounded theory project, and whether you might be able to weigh in on how I might implement this effectively. Got any tips for re-integrating my memos into subsequent or parallel workflows? Got any ideas for templates that might prove useful? Have you experienced any problems when working with external media, especially audio/video that requires timestamps to be specified? Do you know of any macros that you think might be useful?

Tentative plan

  • Use tags (#) to specify relevant sensitizing concepts
  • Refer to bibtex keys when relating ideas to published sources
  • Precede references to documents, cases, people and variables with $ to index discrete entities for more effective lookup and retrieval
  • Use templates (called by hotkey) to include and format media timestamps automatically and when called for
  • I'm not as keen on linking between individual memos, mainly because I've never done it before, and I'm unsure about how structured I should be, i.e. whether I should come up with some rules or processes to follow, and what those might look like
  • Account for different kinds of links or predefined facets by following a consistent pattern to denote semantic variation, i.e. {_link:TypeA}[LinkedMemoID]); has a convention already been devised?
  • Track changes using git to help see how my ideas evolve over time
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