I’ve been refining a system for taking literature notes in Dendron, which complements keeping citations with Zotero. My systems remain perpetually in flux, but this is at least my most current write-up, if not my most current approach.
Dendron is an extension for the text editor VS Code. If you prefer a “what you see is what you get” tool, you might prefer a note-taking alternative like Zettlr or Obsidian. But if you appreciate the extensibility and customization enabled through VS Code’s vast set of extensions, Dendron’s the best note-taking tool I’ve seen yet. Here’s more on beginning-to-use-dendron.
- Zotero is a free citation manager. Although I’ve used alternatives years ago, I can’t imagine ever moving away from Zotero.
What’s a literature note? Sönke Ahrens, the author of How to Take Smart Notes suggests splitting your references and your notes.
He actually suggests a few levels of notes:
- Fleeting notes: records of your thoughts written anywhere that’s ready-to-hand; you’ll go through these later to see what’s worth putting into a more permanent system
- Literature notes: very short, selective notes about what you read, written primarily in your own words. He suggests keeping these, along with the bibliographic information, in a single place.
- Permanent notes: longer notes written as a method of processing your fleeting notes & your literature notes, with an eye toward your own purposes.
Ahrens suggests making links between permanent notes, which is something Dendron is designed to do.
I plan to write more about structuring these literature notes in Dendron.