Zettelkasten Forum


Do you sometimes skip over literature notes in your workflow?

How important is the literature note aspect to your workflow?

I think that it's occurred to me that my struggle with literature notes, in part, stems from the fact that I'd think it's important that I always use them, but sometimes (maybe even a lot) I feel like I just don't need them.

Just to note, I am an audiophile, so I listen to a crapload of audiobooks and podcasts. That means I'm also typically on the run. While I do sit down and write notes on what I listen to at times (those typically being lit notes), that doesn't happen all the time, and when I think about making literature notes for every instance of my learning experience, it kind of feels like a drag. What I end up doing instead (among other techniques) is bookmark with keywords or phrases and sometimes I'll just rewind those 15-60sec to get a better sense of what I was taking in. By the time I get to writing, it's likely already in zettel format, depending on how soon I get to the writing (or how easy i comprehend what I was taking in) and I typically keep in mind the atomicity and autonomy evaluations to writing them.

Do you guys just find yourself skipping the literature note section sometimes and going straight to the zettel?

Comments

  • @jellis said:
    How important is the literature note aspect to your workflow?

    I think that it's occurred to me that my struggle with literature notes, in part, stems from the fact that I'd think it's important that I always use them, but sometimes (maybe even a lot) I feel like I just don't need them.....

    Do you guys just find yourself skipping the literature note section sometimes and going straight to the zettel?

    This partly comes down to the question "What is a literature note?". My understanding is pretty simplistic - a literature note is a note on which you record a single reference (might be a book or technical article or some other article on a web site). The point is to cite the reference properly and perhaps (possible but not necessary) to summarize what is in the reference. That summary might just be an expansion on the title of the book or article, or it might be a listing similar to a table of contents. But I believe the intent is to just communicate what is in the book or article, not to comment on the contents.

    Then, when you create one or several Zettels providing commentary or your own ideas (distinct from and in response to those in the book or article), you can link to the literature note.

    I see this as being really helpful for those who are researching particular topics, for whatever reason - schooling, work, self-study, etc. In my case, that doesn't apply so much and I find it is simpler for me to just provide a "references" section at the end of a zettel and provide the citation there. I understand that isn't the most organized or perhaps even ideal way to do it, but it works for me.

    So I'm with you - most of the time I don't feel like I need literature notes and I just go straight to creating one or more zettels. But I always make it clear in the zettel when an idea belongs to someone else (by direct quotation or by just stating that) and when I'm commenting on an idea or (on the rare occasions when it occurs) providing my own thoughts. I say the last, meaning it to be droll, because almost every thought in our heads is intimately connected to something we have read or been taught. We stand on the backs of Giants, and all that, even if we have forgotten.

  • I take a more mixed approach to my literature notes. As a scholar who works in several disciplines (and also as someone who tends to use The Archive as a place to formulate compressed versions of ideas that I expand later in my text editor), some of my literature notes will have two or three references, because I'm giving myself an entry point on a topic. Other literature notes will feature a specific quote that I know I am going to use in a longer piece later, again with the proper source.

    Both of these examples given, however, it may be worthwhile to add that I don't consider these notes to be a separate category in my ZK. Even notes where I am writing my own thoughts on a topic may still have footnotes pointing me to other sources.

    Observations logged here: write.as/via-poetica

  • @jellis The meaning of "literature note" in your post eludes me. I do the same thing you describe, though: I find an interesting quip/anecdote/... in a podcast, then I create a note with a full reference and put it in my Zettelkasten. -- It sounds like you have a separate layer of notes somewhere, but I want to work with the stuff I capture, and to work with it, it has to become part of the Zettelkasten, so that's what my processing step produces: a Zettel. :)

    Author at Zettelkasten.de • https://christiantietze.de/

  • Thank you all for responding!

    @GeoEng51 I like the simplicity behind your definition of a literature note. It does, however, sound to me like a reference note. For your workflow is there a difference?

    In my workflow each of my zettels have sources/references when necessary. I do, however, question what it means for an idea to be yours when nothing is new under the sun. I've been struggling with this, particularly with ideas you come up with, forget about, and then find it in some book you read. Do you cite them for it? Is that saying it's their idea? (not to get off topic)

    @Sociopoetic In my workflow, I've been concerned with literature notes being overly abundant because I take in a lot of content. I don't have them in my main ZK, but I have been experimenting with new ways I can source content from a podcast (or YouTube Channel, etc) in my zettels.

    @ctietze I don't think I actually mentioned how I take literature notes, and as I re-read what I wrote, my idea of a literature note has not very clear. I think my idea of literature note is mainly a summarized content of some text, audio, video. So I'd be focused on trying to jot down anything I found interesting and some key points of the content I'm consuming. To my knowledge it isn't different from lots of other people's ideas of it, but I think it can get tedious for every podcast and video I learn from, so my original post was meant, in part to show how I work around having to sit down and take those kinds of notes, but as I read the responses, maybe I was being too rigid about how to think about literature notes.

  • @jellis said:
    Thank you all for responding!

    @GeoEng51 I like the simplicity behind your definition of a literature note. It does, however, sound to me like a reference note. For your workflow is there a difference?

    In my workflow, each of my zettels have sources/references when necessary. I do, however, question what it means for an idea to be yours when nothing is new under the sun. I've been struggling with this, particularly with ideas you come up with, forget about, and then find it in some book you read. Do you cite them for it? Is that saying it's their idea? (not to get off topic)

    I've only been at this for a few months and my Zettelkasten only has about 150 notes. So my "experience" does not run deep. I don't make much of a distinction between different kinds of Zettels, with the exception of structure notes (which I use sparingly). Otherwise, for me, a zettel is a zettel is a zettel. It typically has one idea, written in my own words, but it might also contain one or two short quotes, and it will almost always have tags, connections to other notes and often external references (citations, web pages, etc.).

    If I'm reading a good resource book or article, and I want that information in my ZK, then it will get included as one or several zettels (following the principle of atomicity), likely also linked into other zettels that contain my comments on what I have read or that contain related ideas. When I'm creating those zettels, I don't think to myself "this is a literature note"; I just think "this is a zettel; how can I write it succinctly and in my own words?".

    As to whether or not there are any original ideas under the sun, you know how long that question has been debated. My answer must be "yes", because I know as a race that we have made progress in so many areas of knowledge. But am I myself capable of a truly unique thought? I believe so - I think I had a few when working on my PhD, for instance, and a few others over the years. I also believe they are uncommon, perhaps even rare. Most of my time is spent learning and thinking about what others have already discovered.

  • @jellis, I'm curious: what use do you make of what Ahrens calls "fleeting notes"?

    Here's an idea: If your goal is to capture something that you will later process as a Zettel, then your method of capture may not matter. You could even record audio notes of your reflections on a podcast which you then transcribe, edit, and elaborate on during a dedicated processing time you schedule. In this way, it may not be "literature notes" per se, rather notes meant as a space to capture your thoughts before being processed into something more permanent.

    Observations logged here: write.as/via-poetica

  • @Sociopoetic I definitely make use of fleeting notes. Its an interesting and useful categorization. I use a range of avenues, from Google Keep to physical index cards strategically laying around the house for me to jot ideas on. The only downside is the risk of losing track of ideas being they can be in any given area.

    In my workflow, I've implicitly combined my fleeting and literature notes as one broader category, which is, for lack of better words, "not-permanent" or "incubating".

    I'm only a few months into learning about ZK and these frameworks that build on the idea, like Smart Notes, so I admit I have in the past thought about applying these concepts like literature notes pedantically. I've been looking at other's examples of literature notes, from this forum to those using Roam and Obsidian and they all appear to have no problem keeping them in their respective archives; I don't think I've been comfortable doing that with my archive of zettels or "permanent notes". That is not to say that I wouldn't have them in my ZK, but I'm more careful about what I wish to include.

    I think that what I have a problem with when it comes to literature notes (or how I conceptualized it) has to do with its usefulness in the long run. So, when I said I was worried about overly abundant literature notes, I was really referring to all these notes that I will probably never make interesting use of. I can look back at some of my past literature notes, and beyond the ideas I can turn into zettels, the rest of these notes are discardable, because some (or most, all) of the context is lost. When I visit a literature note, I don't just want to be merely reminded of a time that I visited this one article or podcast; I'd like to think that I can reuse the note at a later date, as well. I've realized I may not end up doing that with most of them, especially after extracting the ideas that I found interesting, so I've been experimenting with other ways to remind myself of that episode or that podcast/channel, without necessarily having what I thought of as a literature note.


    You know, I never once seriously considered audio notes because Idk how to reasonably do that. The farthest I've gone was text to speech technology. I should consider that, esp. when on the go. Thank you.

  • @jellis et al: Gotcha. I know it has been said before, but in the end all that matters is: do you put it into your Zettelkasten, or is this just part of a preparation step and will be discarded?

    Back in 2009 I used to categorize notes that talked about material from e.g. books as "reference" notes. But this distinction proved to be useless in practice: it was just another Zettel that I could use in my web of thoughts. So the base distinction is zettel/not zettel, rather than picking one of {zettel, reference note, literature note, fleeting note} and have all of them live happily next to each other in some funky 90s sit-com way.

    Author at Zettelkasten.de • https://christiantietze.de/

  • @ctietze said:
    @jellis et al: Gotcha. I know it has been said before, but in the end all that matters is: do you put it into your Zettelkasten, or is this just part of a preparation step and will be discarded?

    Back in 2009 I used to categorize notes that talked about material from e.g. books as "reference" notes. But this distinction proved to be useless in practice: it was just another Zettel that I could use in my web of thoughts. So the base distinction is zettel/not zettel, rather than picking one of {zettel, reference note, literature note, fleeting note} and have all of them live happily next to each other in some funky 90s sit-com way.

    Ideas and thoughts are not interested in their own origin when they mingle with each other. :)

    I am a Zettler

  • @GeoEng51 said:

    This partly comes down to the question "What is a literature note?". My understanding is pretty simplistic - a literature note is a note on which you record a single reference (might be a book or technical article or some other article on a web site).

    This is the issue for me. I am not sure how to go about writing a literature (not bibliographical) note using Zettelkasten. I don't think an adequate description of how Luhmann went about it is provided.

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