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

by Sönke Ahrens

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4881243,645 (4.09)4
The key to good and efficient writing lies in the intelligent organization 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.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
This book explains the slip-box or Zettelkasten method, which is a note-taking and personal knowledge management system. It's a good overview of the method (with several genetic concepts being repeated over and over), but there are relatively few details or concrete examples. You'll learn:
• What are slip-boxes, and how you can use it to capture and organize your notes, facilitate a writing project, accelerate your learning, and manage/grow your knowledge. Specifically, you’ll learn about the different types of notes, how to file/cross-reference them, and how to connect and expand your ideas and insights.
• What are common mistakes/hurdles in note-taking, learning and writing, and how the slip-box or Zettelkasten method can help to overcome them.
• What are the 4 principles for smart note-taking, and the 4 tools you can use to start transforming your workflow.
Book summary at: https://readingraphics.com/book-summary-how-to-take-smart-notes/ ( )
  AngelaLamHF | Oct 28, 2022 |
A five star non-fiction book has ideas that link to existing knowledge but expand, interpret, and connect in new ways. The author does that with smart notes. Although there is "technique" in this book, the most valuable writing is the linkage to prior research and thought on how we learn and work. ( )
  deldevries | Mar 31, 2022 |


One of those books I wished I have read 10 years ago.

I will highly recommend this book to learner who are avid reader, who want to use note-taking as a tool for thinking critically and learn better. Although book is written with publish-or-perish academics as main audience, but it really applies to learner in all walk of life.

The book debunks the following myths for me:

- Writing starts with staring at a blank page
- Highlighting, underlining passage, copying quote is effective learning
- Sorting knowledge into modules and topics is the best way to teach
- One should take note relentlessly, and never throw them away
- One should file notes by topics
- Brainstorming works
- Top-down approach to writing a research paper does not have biases
- Writing paper has to suck

And in return, the author provides you a simple antidote to the above, the Zettlekasten, what he calls "the shipping container of the academic world". It was invented by Niklas Luhmann, an extremely prolific German scholar, who started an academic career as a mere reader of literature that he was interested in. He ended up publishing 58 books and hundreds of articles in his life, including the revolutionary "The Society of Society". According to Luhmann, with his Zettlekasten, he never feel that pouring out high quality research output is hard:

I only do what is easy. I only write when I immediately know how to do it. If I falter for a moment, I put the matter aside and do something else.

If you read, and took a lot of notes, but feel that your existing process has friction, or your notes never seem to pay dividend after the ink is dried, read this book now.
( )
  footgun | Feb 28, 2022 |
The Zettelkasten (aka slip-box) note-taking method, developed by the brilliant, prolific Niklas Luhmann, has recently garnered much popularity online. As a note-taking, information preserving, memory fearing individual myself, I couldn’t help but be curious. It's a simple and effective idea: form connections between your atomic notes to create a specialized and personal knowledge-graph from which you can gain further insight into chosen topics. Simple to grok, but not to put to practical use. I suspect it took the advent of the computerized world to popularize the method - I can't imagine many people would succumb to the tedium of cataloging physical note cards, maintaining the links between them, and storing them carefully in boxes, as Luhmann famously did.

This book seems to be the definitive explanation of the method and a little more. Ahrens does a great job of explaining the intricacies of the method, providing numerous psychological and literature-supported arguments why it works - although, at times, he divulges in topics that didn't quite convince me in their relevancy to the method. In these occasions, they came across as padding, conjured up no doubt from the depths of Ahrens' own Zettelksaten. The bit of advice that I took the most away from was on the habit of 'active reading' - having a notebook at your side while you read, jotting down whatever key ideas you take away, in your own words - ostensibly to transplant later into your zettelkasten.

Ahrens makes it clear from the get-go that this method particularly works its magic for those who aim to write academically or non-fiction, and offers much advice regarding this. This is disappointing; not all of us necessarily want to write non-fiction or produce anything out of the notes, but rather just want to hold the information well and in an organized fashion. I wanted to use it to store whatever interesting ideas I came across while traversing the vast info spheres of the internet, and also the light non-fiction reading I do sparingly. In this case, the advice seems slightly misplaced, so I'll have to experiment a bit with the method and make it my own. For now, I'm using the FOSS desktop app Zettlr, a simple and functional markdown based editor, though for a premium, the web-app Roam Research is a great option as well and is what Ahrens himself currently uses. The method definitely requires patience and discipline, and it might not be for everyone, but, regardless, I'm convinced: the Zettelkasten is the absolute best note-taking method. ( )
  cpalaka | Jul 14, 2021 |
What a long title for such a short book! A short book – but not an easy one. Ahrens is clearly an academic and this heavily footnoted book, full of citations and references, actually tells a simple story.

It’s the story of Niklas Luhmann, a German academic who was known for being incredibly prolific. He published 58 books and hundreds of articles during his 30-year academic career — and his work is considered to be serious intellectual work at the highest level. How did he do it? Luhmann used a system known as the “slip-box” — basically a lot of short notes that referenced one another.

That system has become the flavour of the month among personal productivity geeks who are ready to move on beyond “getting things done (GTD)”, the “seven habits”, “eat the frog” and the others. To give it its proper, German name — making the system sound more exotic and geeky — Luhmann’s system is called “zettelkasten” and there are web pages galore that give a more concise explanation than this book. ( )
  ericlee | Apr 17, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
"a very convincing meta-reflection on writing as not what follows research, learning or studying, but as the very medium of all work"

"argues very convincingly why it may be worth reconsidering old habits and use systematic note-taking as a means of thinking and writing itself"

"misses the opportunity to reflect on the very conditions of academic life that create a demand for a book like his own in the first place"
 
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The key to good and efficient writing lies in the intelligent organization 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.

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