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How to Take Smart Notes: One Simple Technique to Boost Writing, Learning…

by Sönke Ahrens

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1053188,089 (4.23)1
"The key to good and efficient writing lies in the intelligent organisation of ideas and notes. This book helps students, academics and nonfiction writers to get more done, write intelligent texts and learn for the long run. It teaches you how to take smart notes and ensure they bring you and your projects forward. The Take Smart Notes principle is based on established psychological insight and draws from a tried and tested note-taking-technique. This is the first comprehensive guide and description of this system in English, and not only does it explain how it works, but also why. It suits students and academics in the social sciences and humanities, nonfiction writers and others who are in the business of reading, thinking and writing. Instead of wasting your time searching for notes, quotes or references, you can focus on what really counts: thinking, understanding and developing new ideas in writing. It does not matter if you prefer taking notes with pen and paper or on a computer, be it Windows, Mac or Linux. And you can start right away."--Page [4] of cover.… (more)
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Could have been much much shorted. Very much felt like a book that was artificially extended for a publisher's benefit. ( )
  ehussong | Jun 3, 2020 |
A core of really good ideas here, though I think even this short book could have been a quarter of the length and not lost much. Essentially:

1. When taking notes, don't organize them in top-down categories—instead, link them to each other and allow structure to emerge organically.
2. Rephrase research material in your own words to test your understanding, soon after reading it.
3. Use the act of note taking and your archive of linked notes as an external brain—not for remembering facts, but for making connections between existing ideas and generating new ones.

Mostly pitched at students and academics, but I can see the approach here working for many classes of knowledge workers. I'll certainly be trying it out for a bit.
  thegreatape | Jan 7, 2020 |
This is a book that delivers more than it promises. It is about learning, thinking, organizing, coming up with new ideas, and using tools to help us do these things. It is not as simple as it promises, but worth some effort to understand the few but subtle concepts about taking, storing, and using notes.
Ahrens first describes Zettelkasten, a paper, pen, and card file method developed by the sociologist Niklas Luhmann in the last century, before digital tools, which he used throughout his career to produce a large body of important work.
Ahrens also describes ways to combine various current-day digital tools to replicate Luhmann's system. It's not always clear, without careful reading, which system he is discussing or which digital terms refer to which of Luhmann's descriptions.
In a Zettelkasten, German for card box, a series of short notes go into one file system, organized three ways, by the equivalents of trees, tags, and links. Its goal is to help find connections and ways to generate output that is not apparent from the input.
It is much like the Feynman journal method, but more formalized and easier to explain. The system grows the way our thoughts grow, it is individual for each person, and acts as a way for us to remember and reconsider, and present our thoughts. The method is bound to become more popular when more applicable digital tools are developed.
The book includes much up-to-date information on how to best read, study, learn, and write. It is valuable even without using a Zettelkasten itself. ( )
  mykl-s | Mar 16, 2019 |
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