I was first introduced to Roam Research and subsequently acquainted with the concept of “Zettelkasten,” a notion whose theoretical novelty may be debatable, yet whose systematic approach to note-taking profoundly resonated with me. It especially piqued my interest due to its potential to alleviate my note-taking woes.
This composition serves as an introductory exploration of “Luhmannian Zettelkasten Notes” after delving into “The Zettelkasten Method” by Sebastian Prölz, with certain sections drawing from summaries on Douban Reading Notes. Image credits have been duly attributed to their respective sources.
Luhmannian Zettelkasten notes categorically encompass three types: Fleeting Notes, Literature Notes, and Permanent Notes. Through the accumulation of Literature and Permanent Notes over time, a note network system evolves from the bottom up. The pivotal aspect is the sustenance of referential interrelations between notes, giving rise to an autonomously growing neural network-like knowledge structure.
The exponential growth of information, propelled by rapid technological advancements, has rendered us incapable of deciphering the intricate tapestry of their relationships. We expend substantial time accumulating these fragments, unwittingly transforming into “busy digital hamsters.” Simultaneously, the inundation of information and fragmented allocation of our mental resources renders us increasingly inept at contemplating the information we encounter deeply, let alone constructing our own knowledge framework.
Conventional note-taking methods primarily revolve around thematic or categorical classifications, resulting in fragmented information. Retrieval depends heavily on the cognitive capacity for search and integration within the brain, akin to an “archive.” Moreover, limited by one’s cognitive prowess, it is challenging to establish connections, intersections, and analogies among notes, impeding the formation of a comprehensive knowledge framework.
Luhmannian Zettelkasten Notes eschew dependence on specific themes for classification, opting instead for connections through references, keywords, and tags. This approach facilitates the establishment of links between notes, transforming isolated knowledge fragments into a cohesive web. Through continuous accumulation, it constructs a network system of notes, enabling us not only to gain a holistic perspective on our existing knowledge framework but also to unearth concealed correlations among disparate topics. It empowers us to explore fresh avenues in our research endeavors.
The recording of Luhmannian Zettelkasten notes predominantly encompasses three note types: Fleeting Notes, Literature Notes, and Permanent Notes. Ultimately, only Literature and Permanent Notes find a place within the confines of the note card box.
Fleeting Notes: These notes serve as repositories for impromptu thoughts, unrestricted by content format or length. They act as memos for the ideas that fleetingly cross your mind. However, periodic organization of these notes into Permanent Notes is imperative.
Literature Notes: These notes primarily document the salient information and key points you wish to retain during your reading endeavors. They require meticulous curation, your own paraphrasing, brevity, and detailed citation information. Literature Notes serve as the building blocks for your Permanent Notes.
Permanent Notes: Forged through the refinement and synthesis of the two aforementioned note types, Permanent Notes encapsulate an idea or viewpoint. They are succinctly expressed in your own words, accompanied by necessary citation information. Most of the content in these notes, with slight modifications, can be readily employed in your specific writings, effectively breaking down extensive writing into manageable sections stored within each Permanent Note.
The crux of Luhmannian Zettelkasten notes lies in Permanent Notes, which evolve from Fleeting and Literature Notes through careful processing. As you peruse your Fleeting and Literature Notes, contemplate their relevance to your research, current ideas, or interests. This phase’s objective transcends mere ideation collection; it entails ongoing substantiation and deliberation. During this stage, you can reference existing themes within Permanent Notes to aid in resuscitating related information.
Key points to ponder during this phase include:
- How does new information corroborate, contradict, align with, or complement my existing knowledge?
- How can I amalgamate these ideas to generate novel insights?
- What inquiries stem from these new ideas?
As answers to these queries crystallize in your mind, commit each new idea, comment, or perspective to a Permanent Note, adhering to the conventions of coherent and concise articulation. Include requisite citation information to ensure that these notes remain comprehensible and employable beyond the original source. These notes are poised for direct integration into specific writing endeavors, requiring minimal modifications.
Take care not to neglect the establishment of interconnections between Permanent Notes during the recording process. Additionally, consider employing numerical sequences, labels, or similar mechanisms to facilitate organizational sorting among Permanent Notes.
Once this phase concludes, you can delete the corresponding Fleeting Notes and transfer Literature Notes to your note card system. These notes can be discernibly distinguished through rudimentary categorization methods.
Sustained Feeding: Consistently nurture your notes over an extended duration. Reflect upon core questions related to your focus, thereby discerning new themes or associations within Permanent Notes. Continuously refine interrelationships among Permanent Notes.
Intrinsic Topic Development: Foster themes, questions, and research topics organically from within the system. Assess the current landscape, identify gaps, and detect emerging questions. Challenge and bolster your arguments through extensive reading. Modify and advance your perspectives based on newly acquired information.
Engage in extensive note-taking, evolving your thought processes. Allow your interests to guide you, opting for the path most likely to yield profound insights. Utilize your existing notes as the foundation. Even if your note card box initially holds no content, you need not commence from scratch. Your mind is already teeming with ideas to scrutinize, viewpoints to challenge, and queries to address. Refrain from brainstorming for a singular topic; instead, inspect your note card box to identify existing note chains and clusters of ideas.
Should a more promising idea take form, do not tether yourself to a prior notion. The more intrigued you are by a subject, the more you read and contemplate it. Consequently, your note collection expands, inspiring additional questions and ideas. This new material may align with your initial interests or signify an altered focus—such is the power of insight.
After a considerable duration, you will amass a substantial reservoir of ideas to ascertain a writing theme. At this juncture, your theme derives from your existing reservoir, not from unforeseen ideas literature may provide. Reflect upon the inherent connections of this theme, collate all pertinent notes (most will have a predefined sequence), and transpose them into an outline software, arranging them in a logical order. Identify redundancies and extraneous elements. Do not await the culmination of your note accumulation; instead, actively contemplate. Allow ample time for reading and note-taking to refine your ideas, arguments, and structure.
Transform your notes into an initial draft. Do not merely copy notes into your manuscript; transmute them into a coherent narrative, seamlessly integrating them into your argument’s context. Simultaneously, derive your argumentation from your notes. Scrutinize your argument for vulnerabilities, striving for refinement or alteration.
Edit and proofread your manuscript. Give yourself a pat on the back and commence writing your next piece.
These delineated steps might convey the impression of composing one paper or article at a time. In reality, you will not be confined to a single idea; rather, you will concurrently work on numerous ideas at varying stages of development. This, indeed, constitutes the genuine advantage of the Luhmannian Zettelkasten note-taking method.