Working through my note-taking process

I’m 60% through How to Take Smart Notes and I’m itching to figure out how this is going to work for me. My main question at this point is, “How am I actually going to implement this method of taking smart notes?”

Fleeting Notes

Capture fleeting ideas by hand in a pocketbook or via the daily note in Scrintal.

These should be processed at the end of the day.

Literature Notes

Using your own words, write brief and selective notes about the content that might be useful to your own thinking or interests.

“The literature note captures your understanding of the text.”

These notes should be kept with bibliographic details in the reference system.

Possible reference system 1

  • A designated literature notes notebook
  • For physical books
    • While reading, use sticky notes to capture thoughts on parts of the text that stand out to me. Consider highlighting the relevant text with a sticky tag and reviewing those tags at the end of the chapter/book. This way, there isn’t a break in the continuous reading experience to write down literature notes. The con here is that I likely will forget my initial thought thus defeating the purpose of the literature note being recorded in the first place. This may vary based on the type of book that I’m reading (casual fiction vs non-fiction or philosophy).
    • Alternative: Write literature notes in the notebook and reference the page number. These can then be reviewed to make permanent notes. Pros: I don’t have to use sticky notes/tags and all notes are in one place.

“Different independent studies indicate that writing [literature notes] by hand facilitates understanding.”

Possible reference system 2

  • Consider adding them directly onto cards on my Scrintal desk — how will I easily differentiate between literature notes and permanent notes? I don’t want to be doing unnecessary tagging or card color coding. Doing this the analog way will work for now.
  • Sample reference with linked literature notes: Bakewell, 2017
  • Permanent notes can have number identifiers showing their sequence while literature notes are not numbered.

Possible reference system 3

  • To be able to differentiate between the bibliographical slip-box and the main slip-box, I can consider using another application like Obsidian for literature notes only and Scrintal for permanent notes

Note sources

  1. Books
  2. Physical
  3. E-book
  4. Articles
  5. Conversations
  6. YouTube Videos
  7. Podcasts
  8. Films

Permanent Notes

Questions for making permanent notes:

  • What does this all mean for my own research and the questions I think about in my slip-box?
  • Why did the aspects I wrote down catch my interest?
  • How do your fleeting and literature notes relate to your own thinking and interests?
  • Is the new information contradictory, correct or supporting what you already have in the slip box?
  • Which of the references are familiar?
  • Can you combine ideas to generate something new?
  • What questions are triggered?
  • Is this convincing?

“Write exactly one note/card for each idea and write as if you were writing for someone else: Use full sentences, disclose your sources, make references and try to be as precise, clear and brief as possible.”

“Write notes with an eye towards existing notes in the slip box.”

“Add links to related notes.”

“Make sure you will be able to find this note later by either linking to it from your index or by making a link to it on a note that you use as an entry point to a discussion or topic and is itself linked to the index.”

Project notes

Temporary notes related to a particular project

Includes outlines, drafts, reminders and to-dos


Used to find notes in the slip box

“Refer to one or two notes that would serve as a kind of entry point into a line of thought or topic.”

Keywords can be used as tags that show up in the index. They should be carefully chosen.

The index should only contain the entry point notes.

Notes processing routine

  • Review fleeting notes and literature notes
  • Make permanent notes
  • Link permanent notes to Index

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