Help: Multiple interpretations, and when to stop digging?
Hello Zettelkasten friends,
How do you make notes on an experimental study when you have multiple interpretations of it? For example, here is a note I got from "Human memory: A proposed system and its control processes":
Montague, Adams, and Kiess (1966) found that associating a word — called a Natural Language Mediator increased recall rate. Specifically, when people forgot the NLM assigned to a pair of nonsense words, retention rate was negligible. In contrast, when people remembered the NLM assigned to a pair of nonsense words, it allowed them subjects to remember the word pair at 70% success rate.
Associating this note to my own experience in learning strategies, it leads me to two interpretations:
- I was right in my experience that memory techniques still need to be rehearsed. They act like NLM's as used in the study, so when you forget your memory techniques, you've basically "burned the bridge" to remembering the encoded info -- making it harder or even impossible to retrieve it
- This could also be an example of chunking, or organizing information into a single retrievable unit, because the NLM used in this were assigned to the pair of words
Actually, there is a third -- that is, simply associating doesn't lead to perfect retention.
And of course, this quote came to my mind:
If you read a book, you mostly read secondary literature. That means that you read a text that is about texts. Scientific reviews, self-help literature, history books, you name it. Most of what we read is second-hand knowledge. In the beginning of my Zettelkasten work I once read all the studies mentioned in footnotes of a book on nutrition that was famous back then. I was quite surprised at the bias and flawed approaches of the authors. So I pledged myself I would never rely on someone else’s interpretation of phenomena. (See first example.) To this day, I am happy with that pledge and its consequences. It takes some time to process a book, but with the barbell method of reading I am happy with my productivity.
I started to get influenced by Sascha's stance on this when a year ago, he mentioned that the time you're spending here is enriching your knowledge, or "educating your Zettelkasten." This led me to notice that a lot of books out there (especially Essentialism, please AVOID that one and just read the studies referenced) cite a lot of scientific papers yet having a shallow level of interpretation -- not to mention a skewed one to fit their narrative.
But what if you're interpreting it yourself and you have multiple interpretations? How do you approach or think about this? [Edited this question -- see TL;DR]
Also, while this is a primary source, sometimes these authors also interpret other papers to fit their own narrative. I think this creates a tendency to misinterpret the cited paper, so by that assumption, you'd have to dig deeper to the primary source to determine the truth. But then again, I suspect that this quest of digging will lead you eventually to papers from 1930's or something. If your goal isn't to become an expert in this research field, this could easily be impractical, so here goes the question:
What are some of your heuristics to determine when you should stop digging?
- How do you make notes on your multiple interpretations for experimental results? New question: Can you give examples of your notes from these different 'layers of evidence'? One problem I have is naming my notes 😂
- If your goal isn't to become an expert in this research field, what are some of your heuristics to determine when you should stop digging?
I figured this was a stupid question -- the first question was answered here: https://zettelkasten.de/posts/layers-of-evidence/
Your notes should always reflect those different layers of evidence. They build on each other, not only in an abstract way. Either a note belongs to one of the layers, or it itself is divided according to those three layers. In the first case, it only contains phenomena, interpretations, or integrations. The notes are then linked to each other: An interpretation note links to a phenomenon note as reference, the integration notes link to the interpretation notes. In the second case, the note contains a description of phenomena at the top, followed up with the interpretation of the phenomena and the integration into the bigger picture. [...] It is not always possible to be that clean. But take it as an ideal to strive for. It is also a tool for thinking which is not an incidence. The Zettelkasten Method is the concrete manifestation of the abstract principles of good thinking practices and knowledge creation.
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