Zettelkasten Forum

Should every note be assigned DIRECTLY to a structure note?

So, I've recently decided to abandon folgezettel ids and start looking more at structure zettels, mainly thanks to reading @ethomasv article on folgezettel.

One question that occurred to me as I was messing around with and thinking about structure zettels was: "Should every note (or at least the base level ones) be assigned DIRECTLY to AT LEAST one structure zettel?"
It seems obvious that notes should be linked in such a way that none of them is "orphaned" from the rest of the network and you want to provide some entrance points via structure zettels. But is that enough? You end up having a few main notes which are connected to structure zettels and the rest just "hangs" from them, so to speak.

One of the things I liked about folgezettel was that every note would end up being a part of at least a rudimentary structure just by being there without much effort.
And I believe I remember @sfast saying something once about assigning every note to a structure zettel.
I feel that perhaps that this might have been what I was lacking with structure zettels originally. I wasn't providing enough structure, too shy with using structure zettels, I let too many things "hang".


  • It is basically the same principle. With the Folgezettel technique you have to give each note a place. With Structure Notes you need to give each note a place. There is just no force with the later.

    I am a Zettler

  • edited October 2020

    I'd say every note should be connected to at least one other note. I also treat every note as a possible structure note itself, whereby I end the note with


    • Link to Related Note 1
    • Link to Related Note 2
    • Link to Related Note 3

    To me its less about having access to the structure note at the top layer and more about having pointers to related content. For you, I'd say it depends on how you navigate your notes when you go to pull up information or write about a topic. Do you click through multiple links or only venture 1-2 links away from a structure note?

    P.S. What is the ethomasv article you mentioned?

  • @Nick said:
    I also treat every note as a possible structure note itself (...)

    It happens quite naturally to me when a note grows. More and more links, subsections emerge and force me to push the content a layer down. The original note becomes a structure note and the content is encapsulated in other note with just the links and the link context leaving behind.

    I am a Zettler

  • I am glad you were inspired by the post :blush:

    I keep structure notes to keep track of some broad topic, like if I am reading a book or a scientific article, I will take notes in one place, once I am done, I will revise that one note and break it down into atomic ideas, those ideas will be transferred to individual notes - zettels, and main note will be an overview of ideas, like a reference of some sort, so a structure note with links to individual zettels which are summaries of what I've read. Other notes, inspired by these Zettels, like my own thoughts, arguments, questions, will be linked to zettels that prompted them, but not to the main structure note.

    Second type of structure notes are keyword notes, so they don't emerge from some reading material, but from a zettelkasten itself. So if I see that a topic is starting to develop, I name it with some keyword and then I add notes related to that keyword to that structure note so that they will be some sort of a future outline. And one note can be assigned to more than one keyword. I have a tag "waiting keyword" for notes that don't fit to any existing keywords, but I am waiting for more related notes to get a cluster and to be able to define a topic or a keyword.

    I think that as long as your notes are linked to something, they are fine, whether it's a structure note, tagging system, or just regular zettel-to-zettel links :smile:

  • @ethomasv How do you think about "keywords". In my practice of ZK, I use some tags (not all of my tags, just some) as keywords. But it sounds like you have another way of doing it? If so, could you explain your practice a bit more and why you do it that way?

  • edited October 2020

    Thanks for all the answers! This is very helpful.

    I Would like to second @GeoEng51
    And while we are at it I would like to ask: do you have any special naming convention (like perhaps a prefix) for the keyword notes, or do you just use the name of the keyword?

  • @GeoEng51 , @Shandi

    For example, if I am taking notes about Zettelkasten (picking this since I can assume we are all familiar with the topic) and at the beginning my notes will be structured based on the source I am reading, like books, articles.
    1. So I will have a note titled like Book Title by Author and the content of the note will be notes prompted by that material.
    2. Once I finish it, I go back and then I bring together all notes that tackle the same idea.
    For example, if the Author talks about how to link notes in 5 scattered chapters, and I have 8 notes about that, I will bring them closer and summarize them into one note. Or if it is too broad and contains a few smaller ideas, then I will create one Zettel for each idea.
    3. Those Zettels will be new notes, and inside the Book note notes about these ideas will be replaced with links to corresponding Zettels with a short title.
    4. When I first start to explore a new topic it is hard to define keywords, but as I dive deeper it becomes easier, so I won't use a tag #Zettelkasten, but something more specific like

    #Linking in Zettelkasten
    #Folgezettel concept
    #Bottom-to-top organization of Zettelkasten
    #Zettelkasten workflow ideas
    #Basic principles of Zettelkasten
    #Zettelkasten principles in practice

    at this point keyword is just a link, an empty note, it will have just backlinks to Zettels.
    5. When I gather a couple of dozens of notes around a keyword, I go through the notes associated to it and arrange them a bit into an outline. So I will go through a list of linked Zettels and add a short explanations or just arrange them into some structure. It doesn't have to be perfect, just a little more structured. And as the theme develops more and more, structure will grow on its own.

    I am not using tags that much, because I don't find them very useful as the number of notes grows. I have to spend too much time reading through the notes to make some sense of what I am looking for or what is meaningful to me. Keywords are like more specific tags, titles of some sort. And as they collect more notes around them, they become structure notes, and eventually an article, or paper or whatever :smiley:

    For naming conventions, I am using Z: for Zettel notes S: for structure notes and K: for keyword notes for the sake of easier search. And in my physical Zettelkasten I just have dividers in the box to keep them separated, keywords are organized alphabetically.

    I hope this helps!

  • @ethomasv Ah - that makes sense. Your keywords are like a special kind of tag, perhaps a more descriptive tag or a tag that is actually a title, and you limit the number of zettels with which you use that keyword. That gives you all the flexibility of using a tag, as well.

    I use @Will 's KeyBoard Maestro script that produces a file in my ZK directory listing all my tags and how many occurrences of each tag that I have. Occasionally I have a look through the list of tags, and if any tag has too many occurrences, I break it down into 2 or 3 tags and "retag" the zettels accordingly.

    I like the idea of introducing a structure note later in the process when it makes sense to do so - that is how I approach it as well.

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