Zettelkasten Forum


Glad to join the zettlers group! Have a few questions for you.

Super glad to be part of this community of top-level researchers! Hope to become as good as you soon.

I have a couple of questions, however;

  • I don't want to start with a digital zettelkasten, so I've started the process of acquiring a novelink box and index cards from Amazon. But info online is considerably vague. I know I'm to use my fleeting notes for quick ideas or notes as they come, then my literature note is for learning purposes before transferring to my permanent note, then finally transfer singular ideas into my zettels. My question is how do I use this while reading a book or taking an online course? What do I need to transfer between these notes? How do I know I'm taking the ideal note? Do I look at it from the context of why I'm studying the note/book/course, or I'm to maintain an open mind?
  • Also, I don't know if there are copywriters in this group, but how can I use this method to boost my research ability? How do you use your zettelkasten system to research?

Thanks for your answers!

Comments

  • I would suggest you read the blog posts about the Zettelkasten method. There is a ton of information there. I don't know where these ideas about "fleeting notes", "literature notes" and "permanent notes" come from, but as I understand it they were not part of Luhmann's method. I just take notes, and that is it. There is no such thing as an ideal note. There are notes that are useful, and others that are not. As you get used to the method you will discover what is useful to you for your work, and it may be different from what would be useful to somebody else, working in a different field.

  • @MartinBB Thank you. I'll keep your words in mind as I continue on my zettelkasten journey.

  • Welcome to the forums.
    Here are a few helpful links to prior discussions that might answer your questions.

    Card-based zettelkasten

    Book reading tips

    Will Simpson
    I'm a zettelnant.
    Research areas: Attention Horizon, Productive Procrastination, Dzogchen, Non-fiction Creative Writing
    kestrelcreek.com

  • Hi @Olamilekan ! I am new to the ZK forums as well.

    I have been using Zettelkasten for the past year and a half, and definitely understand a few of your struggles. I definitely appreciate your desire for simplicity, and I can completely understand why keeping an analog system with pen-and-paper is appealing. Several of us do some hybrid of a digital and paper system, but the most important thing for you to do is to start somewhere.

    I know I'm to use my fleeting notes for quick ideas or notes as they come, then my literature note is for learning purposes before transferring to my permanent note, then finally transfer singular ideas into my zettels.

    A lot of people wrestle with these three terms: "fleeting notes," "literature notes," and "permanent notes," but regardless of what you call them, you need to find the best way to actually use your notes—however you decide to classify them. The most organized and consistent system in the world won't do you a bit of good unless your notes are succinct and useful to you later down the line!

    Niklas Luhman used to to keep relatively short and concise "literature notes" on the cards in his reference box. His actual "permanent" note box contained the "zettels" I think you're referring to. Like @MartinBB said above, a lot of people like to use these specific terms to mean very different things, and when you're first getting started, it's easy to become overwhelmed by the nomenclature. Again, push through this initial friction, and start simple.

    Your philosophy about note-taking will change as your note-taking system changes you. That's a very good thing, and it means that you are learning how you learn best. Let your zettelkasten shape your thinking as you allow your thinking to shape your zettelkasten. Luhman used to say that working with his notes was as simple as having a conversation with his slip-box!

    My question is how do I use this while reading a book or taking an online course?

    It doesn't matter if it's a book, and article, a lecture, or a documentary. The system still works. Start by taking short notes to collect your thoughts.

    A little while after finishing each chapter (or the book as a whole if it's somewhat short) or each lecture and convert those short notes into more relevant notes for yourself. Make sure to use your own words as often as possible. Take ownership of the knowledge you have gleaned from the book or class. Try to implement your own insights into these notes.

    Lastly, try to identify key ideas from the book/lecture as a whole. Draw each of your notes together into themes and groups, and then, try to create separate atomic notes on each of those themes. These notes will be the bread and butter of your zettelkasten.

    I highly recommend that you check out the Getting Started articles on zettelkasten.de. You may find them helpful.

    What do I need to transfer between these notes? How do I know I'm taking the ideal note? Do I look at it from the context of why I'm studying the note/book/course, or I'm to maintain an open mind?

    All you need to "transfer between" your zettels is a source reference and links to other notes already in your system. The main idea is that you don't want to think of your individual cards as lines in an outline; instead, think of them as nodes in a graph—a graph that includes insights from more than just one book or article, but from the entirety of your research.

    Keep an open mind. You know that you are taking a good note if you could pick up that note on its own, read it, and understand the insight without relying too heavily on any other notes or the source material from which that insight came. As you write a new note, ask yourself the question, "Am I making this note as succinct, as atomic, and as useful to my future self as possible?"

    This is what people mean when they say that good notes are atomic: the content of each individual "permanent note" in your slip-box should be as useful as possible on its own.

    Keep your notes simple, and take them in your own words. You don't want to rely too heavily on direct quotations from source material. If you can write a note in your own words, you can more easily plug-and-play that note into different contexts; if the note is too rigid and bound to the original source's context, you won't afford yourself enough flexibility to link that note in the future.

    You don't need to be too concerned, in other words, about having a perfect hierarchical outline of the entire book. In fact, you want to find out which core ideas have the most value to you, and with patience and practice, you will know what's important to you because your zettelkasten will tell you.

    Also, I don't know if there are copywriters in this group, but how can I use this method to boost my research ability? How do you use your zettelkasten system to research?

    I use my Zettelkasten every day to feed my own interests. Often, I can jump right in and pick up from where I left off. The more notes you have, the easier this will become for you too!

    Start taking notes and ask yourself, "How is this useful to me? How does this relate to what I already know? Why will the future me get excited about this note 18 months from now?" If you can easily answer that question, that means that you are aware of how that new knowledge fits into your current understanding of your research interests as well as where you might want to take your research in the future.


    My biggest advice to you is to try, to fail, and to explore new ways to improve as often as possible. Recognize that nobody is grading you on your ability to keep a "perfect" system for yourself.

    A lot of learning happens when you are able to recognize that your system is only as good as the care and attention you feed into it. The more you go back and refactor your notes, the more you think about the things that are important for you. When you "fail," it's a win-win: you get the opportunity to reinforce your graph of ideas while also rehearsing and reviewing past insights that are meaningful to you.

    Keep with it; it's worth the trial and error. If something sticks out to you in your system, see where it leads you. Maybe you take more notes on that thing; maybe you refactor the notes that you already have. Maybe, as you learn more, you will discover how trivial and insignificant that thing is! You will never know until you start playing around with your thoughts on paper.

    I can tell you from my own experience that if you are anything like me, you will soon discover how versatile zettelkasten is: you will learn more efficiently, ask more challenging research questions to yourself, and ultimately enjoy the knowledge work you engage in.

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