Niklas Luhmann
Niklas Luhmann

How To Take Smart Notes: 10 Principles to Restructure Note Taking

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The book is filled with knowledge and insight. In the following article, I will review the top 10 tips to take “smart” notes, according to Ahrens.

Ahrens is a lecturer on Philosophy of Education at the University of Duisburg Essen. He assists students, academics, and professionals focused on managing time, decision-making, and personal development.

The evidence is evident. Instead of trying to squeeze as many pages as is possible from one concept, How To Take Notes is smart. Notes packs as many ideas as it can on every page.

In identifying the fundamentals that endure in the face of time, despite the massive changes to the technology that underlies it, we can better understand the fundamental nature of creativity. Our focus should be on acquiring the art of taking creative notes and writing more thoughtfully and comprehensively, utilizing our potential.

Luhmann’s slip-box

Luhmann was a 20th-century German sociologist (1927-1998).  An avid note-taker, author as well as and academic. In the early years of the academic life of his professors, Luhmann realized that a note is only as valuable in its context as the connections, associations, and connections with additional data .Ahrens’ note-taking method was inspired by Niklas Luhmann

Niklas Luhmann

He devised a basic system that was based on index cards. He identified as”his “slip-box” (or zettelkastenin German). It was created to link notes to the most diverse possible situations as it was possible.

Luhmann did not believe in the alphabetical categorization in his notebooks and specific categories such as those of the Dewey Decimal System. Luhmann intended his notes to be not used for a specific project or book but rather for the entire duration of research and reading. He designed his slip-box as an information database for research made up of index cards ( Zettel) that were “thematically infinite” that could be endlessly expanded anywhere.

The index card that Luhmann made during his 30-year career. It’s about Gleichheit (“equality”). Notice the red number in the lower-left corner, which indicates the possibility of a branching subject. You can access a complete list of notes from Luhmann in the electronic Database managed by the University of Bielefeld. Source: Marvin Blum

While it initially appeared to be a simple filing system made of index cards, the slip-box evolved into an equal partner during his work. Luhmann described his system as his second memory ( zweitgedachtnis), also known as alter ego or the memory of reading ( lesegedachtnis). He said that it constantly amazed him with new ideas that he didn’t realize he had. Due to this, he claimed a dialogue took place between him and his Zettelkasten. As he built the notes he had accumulated as he accumulated them, he set off on an impressive series of successes that would be one of the prominent sociologists and scientists in the twentieth century.

The very initial notecard Luhmann added to his slip-box. It was that was marked with a number 1 at the top-left corner. The notecard begins “1 Introduction. It should be attempted to present the principles and the criteria in the clearest way feasible so that their lack of sufficiency and insufficiency is evident.” Source the Taking Note blog]

Here’s how it was done:

  • Luhmann noted interesting ideas or ideas that could be useful that he came across while reading on index cards.
  • He only wrote on the reverse of each card to avoid the necessity of flipping the cards over. He also only had only one concept per page to ensure they could be used in a variety of ways
  • Each index card had the number in a sequence, beginning with 1. If the new source was introduced to the area, he came across something that could be added to it and added more index cards that had letters as suffixes (1a 1a, 1b, 1c, etc.)
  • The branches were identified with red, as near as is possible to the point that the branch started
  • Each of these branches may even have separate branches. The card that was issued to the fellow German sociologist Jurgen Habermas, as an example, was identified as 21/3d26g53.
  • When he read the books, he would design new cards and update or add remarks for existing ones. make new branches with old cards and create new connections between cards from different “strands.”


The book’s subject matter

How to Take smart notes is a book about note-taking for academics, students, and non-fiction writers.

It will help readers adopt “a solid and easy external structure to think about that considers cognitive limitations.” When we adopt the same method, Ahrens says that we’ll be capable of “efficiently converting our ideas and findings into persuasive written works and accumulate an impressive collection of intelligent and interconnected notes throughout the process.” He makes a convincing case that turning thoughts into words isn’t only helpful for writers but is beneficial to anyone who wishes to improve their thinking skills and learn.

Through writing, Ahrens is able to communicate in concrete terms about a particular creative process while also formulating universally applicable conclusions. Instead of being a “graveyard of thoughts,” they could become an endless source of ideas rich and interconnected that we can draw from regardless of where our interests take to.

Principal #1: Writing isn’t the result of thinking; it is the channel through which thinking occurs.

The process of writing doesn’t begin as soon as we sit down to write each paragraph on the page or screen. It begins much earlier when we write notes as we read and listen to the audiobooks or podcasts that we listen to and the fascinating conversations and experiences we’ve had.

These notes are an outcome of the research we’re doing. Even if you’re not trying to develop a big idea, You need a method to manage your ideas and track the information you’re consuming.

If you wish to understand and keep something in your mind for the long haul, you must record it in your notebook. If you are trying to comprehend an idea, you must translate the idea in your terms. If we must do this writing, why not utilize it to create materials for future publications?

Writing isn’t just to express fully articulated opinions but also to develop opinions worth sharing in the first instance.

Writing is an excellent way to enhance your thinking abilities because it requires readers to take on the content on a higher level. Having read more doesn’t necessarily indicate that you’ve got better or more thoughts. It’s Iike swimming lessons that you must learn by doing it and not just studying it.

The difficulty of writing and studying is, therefore, not just to be taught, but rather to comprehend, since you already know the concepts you are familiar with. If you can comprehend the meaning of something, it is tied to a web of related concepts and meanings, which makes it easier to recall.

For instance, you can be aware the arteries have red, and veins appear blue. However, when you realize the reason they carry oxygen-rich blood to other parts of the body and veins transport oxygen-deficient blood returning to the heart, it has any meaning. Once we have made this connection between concepts and reality, it’s impossible to fail to be able to remember it.

The issue is that the significance of something may not be clear. It calls for an elaborate explanation. We have to translate, copy or re-write, compare, define, and contrast an idea on our terminology. It is necessary to check the concept from multiple angles and address questions such as “How does this concept fit with other things I’ve seen before?” and “How can this be explained using the idea?” or “How does this theory compare? To the previous one?”

It is complicated within the confines of our minds. We require an external medium we can express ourselves, that is, writing, which happens to be the most efficient and efficient one invented.

Principle #2: Perform what you do as if writing was the only thing you care about.

The second principle takes the first one by adding: Do you think writing is all you care about.

In the sciences and academia, most research is directed towards eventual publication. Ahrens states in his article that “there is no secret knowledge within academia. The idea that you keep private is just as valid as one you’ve never had.”

The research goal is to generate public knowledge that can be tested and scrutinized. It must be recorded. Once it’s written down, the writer’s intention does not matter; only the words printed on the page are essential. That is why we must broaden the notion of “publication” beyond its usual narrow definition. Very few people ever publish their research in a journal of academics or even on blogs. However, everything we record and share with another person is considered knowledge. For example, notes we share with a loved one or homework assignments we send to an instructor, emails we send to colleagues, and the presentations we give to clients are considered the information available to the public.

It could be an unorthodox idea. Should we make public the theories we’ve recently encountered, thoughts that aren’t formed, or theories we cannot prove? Do we need more people expressing half-formed ideas and theories on the internet?

The most important thing is the principle of working as you think that writing is all that is important. An apparent, concrete reason for consuming information changes how you experience it. You’ll be more attentive, more interested, more meticulous, and more demanding. You won’t be wasting time writing down every detail, trying to create a flawless list of everything said. Instead, you’ll strive to master the fundamentals as quickly as you can to reach a point at which open-ended questions pop up since they are the only ones worthy of writing down.

The majority you live your daily life in will alter when you act like you’re trying to publish. You’ll think differently and become more focused on what is most relevant to the argument you’re constructing. You’ll ask better questions and not be content with a lack of explanation or leaps of logic. Naturally, you’ll seek out opportunities to present your work because your feedback will move your thinking to the next level like nothing else. You’ll be able to begin acting more carefully, taking steps beyond the content you’re reading, thinking about the implications and possibilities.

The best way to improve your skills is to practice them. Method of improving at everything and, in this case, you’re actively doing the most fundamental thing of all that is thinking. Even if you don’t write a single word, it will be a massive improvement in all aspects of your thinking if you approach everything as if there is nothing to be done other than writing.

Principle #3: No one starts from scratch.

A significant and harmful misconception concerning creativity claims that it is born with nothing. The blank page and the white canvas the dance floor empty The most romantic and universally appealing aesthetic motifs appear to be a sign that “starting with a blank slate” is the very essence of creativity.

This belief is reinforced by the way writing is usually taught. The students are taught to “pick an area of interest” as the initial step, conducting the study, analyzing, and discussing it before concluding.

But how do you choose an exciting topic before reading about it? It is essential to engage in the field of study before thinking of a compelling topic. The decision to research one topic over another does not come out of the air. It’s usually based on an interest or knowledge. In reality, every intellectual endeavor begins with the idea already been developed.

That’s the pressure that lies at the core of creative writing: You must conduct your research before choosing what topic to write. Ideally, begin research long before the deadline, which means you will have weeks, months, or even years of information to use when you have decided about a subject. This is why an external method to document your research is crucial. It doesn’t only enhance your writing skills but helps you write them.

All this research requires writing. We accumulate a growing reservoir of externalized thoughts while we read. When it’s time to create, we’re not following a haphazardly-constructed plan that we have gleaned from our brains. We take notes and go with our interests and our curiosity and intuition. These are shaped by the actual act of reading, thinking about, making notes, and discussing. There is no need to look at a blank screen and the unattainable task of “thinking of something we could create a story about.”

There is no way to indeed start with a blank slate. Whatever they think of must be based on prior knowledge, experience, or any other information since they’ve never taken action on this knowledge and cannot trace the ideas back to their origins. They’re not armed with evidence or reliable sources. Because they didn’t take notes from the beginning, it is necessary to start from scratch with something entirely new (which could be dangerous) or go back to their initial steps (which is tedious).

It’s not surprising that almost all writing guides begin in “brainstorming.” When you’re not able to have any notes, you’re stuck with no choice. However, this can be similar to a financial professional informing a person who is 65 years old to begin saving for retirement – way too small, too late.

Notes can help you get away from the conventional linear way of writing. It lets you collect details from non-linear sources, mix them until patterns begin to emerge, and transform them into linear text for others to read.

You’ll be able to tell you’ve made this change when the issue of being unable to find enough material to blog about gets replaced with the issue of having more for you to think about. When you arrive at the final decision on the topic of blogging, you’ll have to make that decision repeatedly and again every step of the way.

Principle #4 : Our tools and techniques are only as valuable as the workflow.

Writing isn’t an exact process does not mean that we can do it randomly. It is essential to have an organized process that can be repeated to organize, collect, or share our ideas.

Writing is usually taught as a series of “tips and tricks” that are brainstorming ideas. Create an outline, follow three-paragraph structures, repeat the key points, use examples, and set a deadline. Each in its way may seem sensible; however, without the overall view of how they work together, they create additional work that they cannot save. Each technique is an independent project without taking the entire thing further. In time, the entire array of techniques is shattered because of its weight. Only when all work is part of a more extensive process is it more significant than the totality of its components. The best methods won’t be effective when they are employed in contradictory ways. This is why the slip-box doesn’t have to be a separate method. It’s the system by which all techniques are connected.

Sound systems don’t include options or features. They remove all complexity and distract from the most crucial task that is thought. A focused mind and a solid note-taking system are the most you need. All else is clutter.

Principle #5: Standardization enables creativity

Ahrens makes a powerful analogy of how to ship containers’ inventions revolutionized trade in the international market to show the significance of note-taking in writing today.

Container shipping is an easy idea to ship goods in standard containers instead of loading them on ships randomly, as was the norm. It took a few unsuccessful attempts before it became a success since it wasn’t really about the container itself, that is, after all, nothing more than a container.

The full potential of the shipping container was realized after the entire process of the supply chain of shipping was altered to accommodate the container. From packaging to manufacturing, to delivery designs of the ships, cranes, harbors, and trucks, all required to align themselves with moving containers as swiftly and efficiently as possible. When they did, the international shipping industry exploded, creating the conditions to allow Asia to become a significant economic force and other significant developments.

Many people keep notes, if all, in an ad hoc random manner. If they come across a good phrase, they mark it. Suppose they would like to add a comment and write it on the paper in the margins. If they come up with a great idea, they will write it down in the notebook they have close by. If the article seems significant enough, they may take the time to save an article. They will have types of notes in numerous formats and locations. When it’s the moment to compose, they’ll undertake a vast project to gather and organize the various notes.

Notes are like containers to store ideas. Instead of inventing a brand new method to record notes for every book you study, you should use a uniform and consistent format each time. It doesn’t matter the type of notes included, what subject they pertain to, or which media they were taken from. It would help if you treated every note in the same manner.

The standardization of notes lets a large number of notes accumulate in one location. Without a standard format, the bigger the collection becomes, the more time and energy must be spent navigating the growing differences between the notes. A standard format eliminates unnecessary complexity and takes second-guessing from the equation. As with LEGOs, the standard notes can be easily moved around and arranged into endless combinations, but without losing focus on the information, they are made of.

The same concept applies to our processes to process our notes. Note that no stage in changing ideas into completed pieces of paper is challenging. It’s not that difficult to make notes at all. Also, turning a set that contains notes to form an outline is extremely difficult. It’s also not too difficult to convert a working outline filled with pertinent arguments into an outline. Then, polishing a well-thought rough draft to a final one is a breeze.

If each step is easy, how come we can find the whole writing process so complicated? Because we are trying to accomplish all of the steps in one go. Each of the tasks that comprise “writing,” such as writing, thinking, forming thoughts, connecting ideas by separating terms, finding the right words, arranging and organizing, editing, revising, and correcting, need completely different attention.

It requires intense focus and attention to detail, whereas selecting the words to write down may require a more flexible mind, free of distraction. To find fascinating connections in notes, we are often in a relaxed, curious mindset, while when we put them in a logical order, our mental state will likely be more severe and focused.

The slip-box hosts the majority of the above process. It’s a place in which distinct work batches can be created, edited on, and stored until the time when we’re ready to apply the same kind of focus. It intentionally creates a distance between us and the work we’ve created, which is crucial to evaluate it neutrally. It’s much simpler to shift between the roles of creator and critic when there are clearly defined boundaries between them, and you aren’t required to be both simultaneously.

By standardizing and streamlining the structure of our notes and the processes we use to use them, we can bring the core work into focus by focusing, thinking, writing discussions, discussing, and sharing. This is a valuable kind of work, and we can now perform it more efficiently.

Principle #6: The work we do improves when you are given high-quality feedback

A workflow is like a chemical reaction. It may feed off itself, creating a positive cycle where the joy of understanding a text inspires us to complete the next project, which assists us in improving what we’re doing. This results in it being more likely that we take pleasure in our work and so on.

Nothing drives us more than improving our job. We can only get more effective when we are willing to let our works be exposed to top-quality feedback.

Conclusion: there are many kinds of external and internal feedback, such as feedback from colleagues, teachers, social media, and reading our writing. However, notes are the only kind of feedback accessible when you require it. This is the only method to exercise your thinking and communication abilities repeatedly per day.

It’s easy to think that we comprehend a concept until we attempt to explain it in terms. Every time we attempt this, we master the fundamental ability of insight: discerning the essential parts from those that aren’t. The more we master this, the more effective and enjoyable reading we can enjoy.

Feedback can also help us modify our expectations and predict the amount we could complete in an hour or day. Instead of settling down to the preliminary work that is “writing,” we dedicate each day to concrete projects that are accomplished within a reasonable amount of time like writing three notes, reading two paragraphs, reviewing five sources to write an essay, etc. After each day, we will know precisely what we did (or did not achieve), and we can alter our expectations for the future accordingly.

Principle #7: Work on multiple, simultaneous projects

When you are involved in several simultaneous projects and pursuits in mind, all the power and potential of an outside thinking process can be realized.

Consider the last time you have read the book. Maybe you read it for specific reasons – perhaps to learn more about the subject you are interested in or gain ideas for a project on which you’re working. What’s the chance that the book has the specific information you were seeking, not other information? Very low, it seems. There is a constant flow of ideas that are new. However, only a tiny fraction of them will be relevant and relevant for us at any given time.

The only way to determine what insights a book has is to go through it; you may be able to read it and take notes efficiently. Taking a few minutes to write down the best ideas you come across – regardless of whether or not you’re aware of what they’ll be utilized – dramatically increases the likelihood that you’ll “stumble across” them shortly.

The power to increase the chance of future unexpected encounters is significant, as the most exciting concepts are often ones that we didn’t anticipate. The fascinating topics are those we don’t intend to learn about. However, we can be aware of this fact and set ourselves up for a higher likelihood of successful “accidents.”

Principle #8: Arrange your notes according to context, not by subject

If you’ve started collecting notes about your reading, how do you arrange your notes?

The standard error is to arrange them into ever-more specific subtopics and subjects. This makes it appear less complicated but eventually becomes overwhelming. The more notes you accumulate, the smaller and more narrow the subtopics get, limiting your ability to discern the meaningful relationships between these. If you follow this method, the more extensive the collection of notes, the more inaccessible and less valuable they are.

Instead of organizing according to topics and subtopics, it is more efficient to organize by contextual. In particular, it is the context within which it is used. The primary consideration in deciding on the best place to place something is “In what context would I like to find this?”

Also, instead of putting things following the place they came from and putting them in a folder according to the place they’re headed. This is the main distinction between organizing as librarians as well as organizing as writers do.

A librarian inquires, “Where do I keep notes like this?” Their goal is to keep a list of information that is accessible to everyone. This means they must use the most evident categories. Notes could be filed on a psychology research paper within “misjudgments,” “experimental psychology,” or “experiments.”

This is well for libraries. However, it is not suitable for writers. There is no pile of notes arranged in a uniform way under “psychology” that will be simple to transform into a piece of writing. There isn’t any variance or disagreements from which an interesting argument could be made.

A writer might ask, “In which situations would I be most likely to come across the notice?” They will file it in a document they’re writing or a conference they’re attending, or in the ongoing work. These are immediate, concrete items, and they aren’t abstract categorical categories.

The process of organizing by context requires some thinking. It’s not always evident. A book on personal finance may be intriguing to me for entirely different reasons if I’m an official writing a political speech or a financial adviser trying to assist a client or an economist developing policies for monetary policy. If I discover a unique technology, it might be helpful for different reasons, depending on whether or not I am working on an engineering book, a towering structure, or a rocket booster.

Writers do not think of the one “correct” location for an information item. They can deal with “scraps” that may be reused and reused in other places. The scraps of paper from one writing piece could become the following elements. The slip-box is a thought tool and not an encyclopedia; therefore, completeness is not a factor. The only gap we have to worry about are the ones in the final draft we are trying to write.

In preserving all the products from our work, we can collect everything we may require in one location. This strategy provides the future you with all the resources they require to operate as efficiently and efficiently as is possible. They won’t have to search through folders after folders looking for the resources they require. They’ll already be doing all the work.

Rule #9: Always take the most intriguing path

Ahrens observes that in most cases, students do not fail because of a lack of skills but a lack of personal connection to the material they’re learning.

“When even the most skilled students fail the course of their education, this is of the time because they don’t comprehend the purpose behind the things they were expected to be learning (cf. Balduf 2009). They are also incapable of connecting their learning to their own goals (Glynn and others. 2009) or cannot conduct their research in their criteria (Reeve as well as Jan 2006 Reeve 2009).”

That’s why we need to spend all the time possible doing things that we find fascinating. This isn’t a way to indulge. It is an integral element in making our work more sustainable and prosperous.

This is contrary to the standard way of planning we’re taught. We are instructed to “make plans” early and thoroughly. Success is determined by how well we follow the plan. Changes in our interests and motivations can be dismissed or repressed if they disrupt the program.

Scientific history is filled with stories of discoveries that were accidental. Ahrens gives an example of the group that discovered DNA’s structure. It began with a grant, but it was not a grant for research into DNA. They were given funds to discover a cure for cancer. While working together, they followed their intuition and passion and developed the actual research plan along the way (Rheinberger 1997). If they’d stuck to their original plans and stayed true to their original plan, they wouldn’t likely find a cure to cancer and certainly wouldn’t have discovered the DNA structure.

Plans are designed to make us feel more in control. But it’s much essential for us to remain in control, that is, having the ability to direct our work toward what we believe is exciting and relevant. According to a study conducted in 2006 by psychology professor Arlen Moller, “When people felt a sense of independence in their decision of what they would like they would like to focus on and when to work on it], their enthusiasm to complete their tasks did not seem decreased” (Moller 2006 1034) when we have the option of what we want to do and when it’s not the same amount of willpower to accomplish it.

Motivation for us is based on a steady forward movement. In the creative process, there are questions that change, and new directions develop. This is the very nature of understanding. We don’t want to adhere to a rigid process that’s prone to disruption by the unplanned. It is essential to make tiny periodic adjustments to keep our enthusiasm motivated and work in sync.

By breaking down the writing process into distinct steps, receiving instant feedback on each step, and always taking the route that will give the most understanding, the unexpected insight can become the primary driver for our writing.

Principle #10: Keep contradictions in concepts

Utilizing the slip-box is a natural way to save ideas that seem in contradiction or contradictory.

It’s simpler to construct an argument through a lively discussion about the pros and cons rather than a long list of one-sided arguments and perfectly appropriate quotations.

The only criteria we have for the quality of data we should save is whether it is connected to ideas already in use and contributes to the debate. Disproving or contradictory data becomes extremely important if we concentrate on open connections. It frequently leads to new questions and new avenues of inquiry. It is thrilling to witness one data point completely alter your perception can be thrilling.

The biggest threat to independent thinking isn’t any other authority outside of us, and it is our internal inertia. We must discover ways to overcome our confirmation bias: our tendency to accept only those facts that support our beliefs. We should be regularly confronting our mistakes, errors, and misperceptions.

In taking notes on various sources and using the form of objective documents that are not in our minds, we develop the art of discerning the accurate picture and then describing it clearly and in a factual manner. When we save concepts that don’t match one another and don’t necessarily align with what we’ve already thought, we learn to create subtle theories over time rather than quickly leaping to conclusions.

Through playing around with a concept by stretching, reimagining, and reworking it, we are less enthralled by the way it was initially presented. We can take certain elements or elements for our use. With so many possibilities to choose from, We are no longer frightened by the risk that a new concept will weaken existing ones.

The 8 Steps to Making Smart Notes

Ahrens offers the following eight steps in writing notes:

  1. Make fleeting notes
  2. Make literature notes
  3. Make permanent notes
  4. Now add your new permanent notes to the slip-box
  5. Develop your topics, questions and research projects bottom up from within the slip-box
  6. Decide on a topic to write about from within the slip-box
  7. Turn your notes into a rough draft
  8. Edit and proofread your manuscript

He points out his research reveals that Luhmann did have the use of two slip-boxes. One is his “bibliographical” slip-box that included brief notes on the text he was reading and attributed the source. The other “main” slip-box included the ideas and theories he came up with based on other sources. Both were wooden containers that contained index cards of paper.

Luhmann identified three types of notes that were placed in his slip-boxes: brief notes, literary notes, a literature note, along with endless note-taking.


Fleeting note
Fleeting note

 The brief notes are quick informal notes of any idea or thought that occurs to you. They don’t have to be meticulously organized and should not be. They’re not designed to convey the idea in all its detail. However, they serve to remind you of what’s within your mind.


The other type of note is called”literature notes. “literature note.” When he was reading, Luhmann would write down on index cards the most important things he couldn’t bear to forget or believed he could incorporate into his writing. He would also write the bibliographic information on the reverse.

Ahrens provides four suggestions for making notes on literature:

  1. Be very selective about the things you choose to keep
  2. Make sure that the note is as brief as is possible.
  3. Make use of your own words instead of copying quotations verbatim
  4. Note the bibliographic information on the source
  5. Make permanent notes


The permanent notes constitute the 3rd kind of note and provide the long-term information that gives the slip-box its value.

The first step is to go through the two types of notes you’ve made note cards or literature notes. Ahrens recommends doing this every day until you completely forget what the notes comprise.

While you are going through them, consider how they connect to your current research, ideas, or interests. The aim isn’t just to gather ideas but rather to build arguments and discuss them over time. If you’re looking for help to refresh your brain, examine the current subjects in your slip-box because it is already filled with exciting items.

Here are some questions to ask yourself when you convert your flimsy and literary notes into permanent ones:

  • What does the latest information confirm, contradict or strengthen my knowledge?
  • How do I mix ideas to create something entirely new?
  • What kinds of questions are raised by these concepts?

If you think of the answers to your mind, note every new thought, suggestion, or thought on your note. If you’re writing on paper, only note on one side so that you can quickly review your notes without flipping them over.

Note these notes permanently as if you were writing for someone else. In other words, write in complete sentences, provide your sources, provide explicit references and try to be as clear and concise as possible.

After this step is completed, When you’re done, dispose of (or erase) the notes that you took in step one, and then keep the notes on literature from the second step into your slip-box of bibliographic notes.


Now is the time to add the permanent notes you’ve created into your slip-box. You can do this by filling each note with an associated note (if it’s not related to any other notes, place it at the end).

Alternately, you could:

  • Include hyperlinks from (and out of) related notes
  • It is then added to an “index,” a different type of note that functions as a “table of contents” and an entry point to the essential subject, which includes an organized collection of hyperlinks related to the subject.

Each of these strategies is a method of creating an internal path to your slip-box. Similar to hyperlinks on websites, they provide you with various ways to link ideas to one another. Through hyperlinks, you can discover new perspectives and perspectives that are different from the place you began.

Luhmann took his notes with attention to detail and was not too different from the style he used in the manuscript he wrote. The notes he wrote would often be part of the existing threads of thought. They would also include hyperlinks to other notes nearby and within distantly related areas. Rarely, a note would remain on its own.

5. Develop your topics, questions, and RESEARCH PROJECTS RIGHT up from within the SLIP-BOX

With so many standard notes organized in a uniform format, you’re at liberty to create concepts in the “bottom-up” manner. Examine what’s there, what’s missing, and what issues arise. Seek out gaps you can fill with further reading.

If and when needed, a different kind of note that you can make is an “overview” note. These notes offer a “bird’s eye perspective” of an area developed to the extent that a larger perspective is required. Overview notes can help you organize your thoughts and are thought of as an intermediate process in the writing of the manuscript.

6. Choose a topic to write about within the SLIP-BOX.

Instead of thinking up an initial topic or thesis, it is better to look through your binder and search for the most intriguing. Your essay will be based on the information you already have and not on an unfounded idea of what the text you’re about to study might have. Make links between your notes and gather all relevant notes about your researched subject.


Do not simply copy and paste your notes into a book. Translate them into something more coherent and integrate them in the context of your argument. If you notice gaps within your arguments, you can fill holes or modify your argument.


All you have to do is improve your version until you’re ready to be published.

Making notes and connecting them should not be viewed as just maintenance. Finding meaningful connections is a vital element of thinking. Instead of searching our memory, we browse through our slip-boxes and make concrete connections. When working with actual notes, we ensure that our ideas are built on thoughts, facts, and verifiable sources.

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