Zettelkasten Forum

Reading tip: Hunting for signal words in texts

Something a bit special -- in a chat, I dug around reading recommendations to become a better reader and filtered for English sources.

Here's one where I once found a list of signal words in text, e.g.: schema, model, allegory, analogy, hypothesis, metaphor, representation, simile, theory.

Keith Oatley and Maja Djikic (2008): Writing as Thinking, Review of General Psychology 1, 2008, Vol. 12, S. 9--27.

This is but a piece of the overall Zettelkasten puzzle. Was nice to see English terms for a change back when I read this. Sascha and I practiced hunting for definitions and arguments etc. for a while but I just haven't found any other English source at that time.

Notably absent from the Oatley/Djikic article: a reference to Luhmann :) http://luhmann.surge.sh/learning-how-to-read

For trivia, here're the titles of the notes I created that reference this book:

  • 201306171859 Notes promote thinking about feelings
  • 201306160915 Pen as thinking machine
  • 201306160913 Analogy of note-taking to the Turing machine
  • 201306160908 Note taking makes thinking easier
  • 201306160853 Models necessary for thinking and cognition
  • 201306160850 Signal words for model building in texts

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


  • I been having the intention of taking this one step further and looking for a Calibre app plugin that allows me to do a keyword search of my entire e-book library. I already shamelessly do this using the shadow z-library to get an idea of future books I might want to read.

  • Signal Words. Stolen!
    Marded2 has a feature that supports this for documents that can be opened in Marked2 called "Keyword Drawer." It will highlight categories of keywords in a variety of colors. It is a feature I miss in The Archive. Multi-word searches in The Archive work only from the Omni Bar, and the ⌘G (find next) only works for on the first term in a multi-word search. Which Marded2's keyword drawer does a superior job handling the type of searches where you are searching for a set of search terms like 'signal words".

    I tried a boolean search in PDF Expert and had no initial success. I switched to Acrobat Reader DC, and it simply took all the terms and looked for any mention of any term in all the PDFs in my media directory. It took about 20 seconds and returned 54 documents with 414 instances! It is effortless to review each hit then.

    More trivia. Here are the titles of notes created reading Keith Oatley and Maja Djikic's Writing as Thinking. Timeless!

    • Book and Pen Thinking 201910211559
    • Writing Projects Mental Models into the World 201910211727
    • My Job as a Writer 201910211743
    • Schema as Mental Model of Thinking 201910211711
    • Writing Is A Type Of Thinking 201910211628

    Will Simpson
    “Read Poetry, Listen to Good Music, and Get Exercise”

  • I am not so sure if it is a useful technique to apply, but should be rather used as an exercise to sharpen the mind while returning to just intuitive reading later on.

    I am a Zettler

  • @Sascha, you are right in the slipperiness of applying an automated algorithm technique to reading. It might help sometimes; sometimes, it detracts. It can be the proxy that pushes you towards success. Life is what it is, and we shouldn't wait until "in the mood" to read. We shouldn't wait until we are in the mood to exercise before going to the gym.

    The goal is it learn and absorb ideas. Joyously anticipating the intense alignment that comes suddenly and unbidden when losing contact with temporal worries.

    Maybe subconsciously, we look for words or phrases when we "just intuitive read" that signal the feeling of absorption into the flow. Reading doesn't click if it doesn't push us into the flow. I'm suggesting that maybe there might be some sort of way to surface what we do automatically subconsciously into conscious activity.

    Will Simpson
    “Read Poetry, Listen to Good Music, and Get Exercise”

  • @Nick said:
    ... looking for a Calibre app plugin that allows me to do a keyword search of my entire e-book library

    Try this: Install the Quality Check plugin, summon its menu, and select "Search ePubs…".

    Per the plugin's own description, this feature lets you "search across your ePubs for ad hoc criteria to find text or specifically named items using regular expressions."

  • @dgbeecher very cool tool, worked instantly, only problem is Epubs only make up half my library. The other half of my books are in PDF and mobi format.

  • Writing as Thinking looks like a fantastic read! Printing it now.

    This is my favorite quote in it so far (first paragraph): "Here we propose that a pen is a machine to think with." 😁

    Scott P. Scheper
    Website | Twitter | Reddit | YouTube

  • @Nick -- I forgot that limitation of the plugin. Too bad! Since calibre makes it easy to convert other formats to ePub (and keep both files side-by-side without complicating your library organization), that could be an option for the mobi files. Would be harder to do this the PDFs. Another option I've experimented with is indexing my entire library folder in DEVONthink (an excellent app for Mac you may have heard of) -- but this involves its own inconveniences. Hope you find some method that works for you!

  • @Nick -- not sure if you saw, but calibre v6 (released a couple weeks ago) now supports full text search across the entire library: https://calibre-ebook.com/new-in/fifteen

  • @dgbeecher I did not, thank you so much for letting me know, as I never got around to finding a working solution to my problem.

  • Thanks for the notice, @dgbeecher! That's super useful. I'm running Calibre on a server in another room; it comes with a web frontend/server to read ebooks online. The full text search sadly only works from inside the GUI, not the web frontend. Yet. Fingers crossed this will be added :)

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

Sign In or Register to comment.