In this area, I prefer using Zotero for collecting, ResearchRabbit for expanding scope, Hypothes.is for note taking/annotations which I then pipe into Obsidian for revising, cross linking, and further writing/revisions. Depending on the project, some of it may be more analog with index cards similar to Victor Margolin’s process.
To show the general benefits, I’m copying and pasting from my own prior notes and writing:
ZK is an excellent tool for literature reviews! It is a relative neologism (with a slightly shifted meaning in English over the past decade with respect to its prior historical use in German) for a specific form of note taking or commonplacing that has generally existed in academia for centuries. Excellent descriptions of it can be found littered around, though not under a specific easily searchable key word or phrase, though perhaps phrases like “historical method” or “wissenschaftlichen arbeitens” may come closest.
Some of the more interesting examples of it being spelled out in academe include:
- Thomas, Keith. “Diary: Working Methods.” London Review of Books, June 10, 2010. https://www.lrb.co.uk/the-paper/v32/n11/keith-thomas/diary.
- Webb, Sidney. Methods of Social Study. London; New York: Longmans, Green & Co., 1932. http://archive.org/details/b31357891.
- Eco, Umberto. How to Write a Thesis. Translated by Caterina Mongiat Farina and Geoff Farina. 1977. Reprint, Cambridge, MA, USA: MIT Press, 2015. https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/how-write-thesis.
- Sertillanges, Antonin Gilbert, and Mary Ryan. The Intellectual Life: Its Spirit, Conditions, Methods. First English Edition, Fifth printing. 1921. Reprint, Westminster, MD: The Newman Press, 1960. http://archive.org/details/a.d.sertillangestheintellectuallife. (Particularly ch 7 if I recall correctly)
- Allosso, Dan, and S. F. Allosso. How to Make Notes and Write. Minnesota State Pressbooks, 2022. https://minnstate.pressbooks.pub/write/. (The first half of the book on notes is most useful in this context; see also https://boffosocko.com/2022/08/02/how-to-make-notes-and-write-a-handbook-by-dan-allosso-and-s-f-allosso/)
- Ahrens, Sönke. How to Take Smart Notes: One Simple Technique to Boost Writing, Learning and Thinking – for Students, Academics and Nonfiction Book Writers. Create Space, 2017.
For academic use, anecdotally I’ve seen very strong recent use of the general methods most compellingly demonstrated in Obsidian (they’ve also got a Discord server with an academic-focused channel) though many have profitably used DevonThink and Tinderbox (which has a strong, well-established community of academics around it) as much more established products with dovetails into a variety of other academic tools. Obviously there are several dozens of newer tools for doing this since about 2018, though for a lifetime’s work, one might worry about their longevity as products.
I study many of these methods from the viewpoint of intellectual history (and not just for my own use), so I’m happy to discuss them and their variations ad nauseam.
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