Zettelkasten Forum


How to Write a Note That You Will Actually Understand


imageHow to Write a Note That You Will Actually Understand

A Zettelkasten is a personal tool for thinking and writing that creates an interconnected web of thought. Its emphasis is on connection and not mere collection of ideas.

Read the full story here


Comments

  • edited October 2021

    Wonderful post! I can feel my Zettelkasten power increasing with the gained knowledge!

    However, one thing confuses me. When you say "explicit form," what do you mean by explicit? Is the form shown in the Zettel, or only clear when you read the content?

    For illustration:

    Explicit content-wise

    # 202110080750 Buffer note and idea index - Analogy
    #idea_index #buffer_note

    There are similarities and differences between a buffer note and an idea index.

    A buffer note [[202110080728]] and an idea index [[202108270927]] are alike.

    They are both an unstructured storage of items useful for a future endeavor. A buffer note stores Zettels relevant to a future writing project. An idea index keeps ideas or topics so you can write about them.

    Additionally, they have a similar convention. They both include a unique identifier and an idea.

    By the way, in the idea index, the unique identifier is the page number.

    There are two distinctions.

    Firstly, the idea index lacks context in its convention.

    And lastly, they serve different purposes. A buffer note is there to make it easier to add Zettels to newer versions of a text. An idea index aims to help identify and learn about the big ideas in a text.

    Explicit as in shown

    # 202110080750 Buffer note and idea index - Analogy
    #idea_index #buffer_note

    There are similarities and differences between a buffer note and an idea index.

    1. Objects being compared

    A buffer note [[202110080728]] and an idea index [[202108270927]] are alike.

    1. How they are similar

    They are both an unstructured storage of items useful for a future endeavor. A buffer note stores Zettels relevant to a future writing project. An idea index keeps ideas or topics so you can write about them.

    Additionally, they have a similar convention. They both include a unique identifier and an idea.

    By the way, in the idea index, the unique identifier is the page number.

    1. Where they are different

    There are two distinctions.

    Firstly, the idea index lacks context in its convention.

    And lastly, they serve different purposes. A buffer note is there to make it easier to add Zettels to newer versions of a text. An idea index aims to help identify and learn about the big ideas in a text.

  • edited October 2021

    Thank you - there is good advice in this post. I believe @Will said that we should start each zettel by answering the question: "What is the most important point about this idea?". This is similar to putting an abstract at the beginning of the zettel, as suggested in this post.

    When zettels are short (say ~ 100-200 words, exclusive of metadata), that is about all you can accomplish anyway. Combined with a good title, you have a pithy statement of an idea. This alone is a good enough reason to strive for short zettels.

    Here is an example of one of my pithier zettels:

    When zettels are longer (say >300 words), such as when we need to address contrary or competing ideas, more structure is necessary. Sascha's advice then becomes very useful.

  • However, one thing confuses me. When you say "explicit form," what do you mean by explicit? Is the form shown in the Zettel, or only clear when you read the content?

    The later. It is an old post. So, I was not as able to pinpoint why something worked and another not. I could re-formulate this section by referring to having a route-model in mind if you write about someting.

    If you write an argument down have the model of arguments in mind. If you write about hormones have a model of hormones in your mind (in my case: a stock-flow-model which I learned from Meadows). Etc.

    I am a Zettler

  • edited October 2021

    @Sascha Ah, makes sense. Thank you for the clarification. :smile:

    It may not be useful, but I'd like to share my thoughts on the term explicit:

    • Explicit form. The form is shown without reading the content.
    • Implicit form. (Antonym of the term.) The form is shown only by reading the content itself.

    Implicit may be a more suitable choice of adjective.

  • @Sascha said:
    How to Write a Note That You Will Actually Understand - A Zettelkasten is a personal tool for thinking and writing that creates an interconnected web of thought. Its emphasis is on connection and not mere collection of ideas.

    Every Zettel about hormones has the same form:
    1. Header
    2. One sentence to describe its basic character
    3. When it is up-regulated
    4. When it is down-regulated
    5. The effects of its change in concentration
    This is how I structured the Zettel:
    1. Header
    2. General Overview
    3. The regulation of the inflow
    4. The regulation of the outflow
    5. The effect of the stock

    Hi @Sascha you mention "up-regulated / down-regulated" and "the regulation of the inflow" , "the regulation of the outflow" and "the effect of the stock". I am unsure how the terms apply to the structure of a Zettel, other than incoming and outgoing links. Please can you elaborate - Thanks

  • @Carriolan said:
    Hi @Sascha you mention "up-regulated / down-regulated" and "the regulation of the inflow" , "the regulation of the outflow" and "the effect of the stock". I am unsure how the terms apply to the structure of a Zettel, other than incoming and outgoing links. Please can you elaborate - Thanks

    The terms apply to the content of the note. If I create a note about an hormone I use the stock-flow-model by Meadows as a base to structure the note content. If something gets so complicated I'd move some of the content out to other notes and leave links to that notes which would push the original note further towards being a structure note.

    I am a Zettler

  • Thanks - so in summary the body of a Zettel should be structured / segmented, so that new ideas may be refactored to either existing notes or new notes without the necessity of rewriting the original note - Makes sense to me.

  • edited November 10

    @Carriolan said:
    Thanks - so in summary the body of a Zettel should be structured / segmented, so that new ideas may be refactored to either existing notes or new notes without the necessity of rewriting the original note - Makes sense to me.

    Yes. But this is not something that could be called part of the Zettelkasten Method per se. Rather, it is a byproduct of having a coherent model of the type of content you produce and adhering to it (updating is necessary).

    This note is a good example. If I had no access to the meta-model (Stock-Flow-Model derived by Meadows Book), no experience in learning and thinking about hormones and signaling within the body (I even expect to make some mistakes leaving the rough realm of hormones and diving more into the fine realm of intracellular signaling) and no/little experience in learning something pretty unfamiliar I wouldn't have been able to come up with a note structure that is robust against time (and therefore new information).

    Learning this is pretty similar to training: Doing heavy squats should improve your sprinting which is valuable if you are a linebacker in football. But the further you move from the specific to the general the less pronounced the training transfer will be. Unless you are a high-level athlete with little experience or past training history in heavy compound movements. Then you'll feel a big improvement (big is another difficult word to understand because 3-5% for is huge for an expert but small for a beginner, for example).

    Being able to connect the Zettelkasten Method with your domain specific skills and knowledge is one of the major bottlenecks of ones endevaour to make the Zettelkasten Method work for oneself. Typical failure profiles are:

    1. Being an expert in a domain with high intuition and low meta-cognition.
    2. Being a beginner in any domain (which means that you need to both: Becoming an expert in the domains you want to learn and then making the connection between the Zettelkasten Method you don't understand yet simultaniously)

    In some way, it is easier to learn the Zettelkasten Method as a Student in conjunction with writing a seminar paper than being an established expert with established yet mostly intuitive and idiosyncratic workflows.

    So, yes: You are correct. But why you correct needs this text wall for elaboration. :)

    EDIT: This sparked a re-writing as a blog post. So, thanks for that. (Publishing depends on how fast the editing team can get to it)

    Post edited by Sascha on

    I am a Zettler

  • Right, so your 'Structured' Zettel, which I would call an 'enabling technology' is not part of the Zettelkasten methodology itself, but is an emergent idea from your Zettelkasten.

  • edited November 10

    Exactly. :)

    I am a Zettler

  • EDIT: This sparked a re-writing as a blog post. So, thanks for that. (Publishing depends on how fast the editing team can get to it)

    Oh no, that's me :)

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

Sign In or Register to comment.