Is the zettelkasten method useful in technical disciplines?

I wonder if the zettelkasten method contributes significantly to work success or knowledge management in technical disciplines such as engineering, robotics, and computer science?

Background: I ask myself this question because for me, it is unclear how beneficial it is to work with the zettelkasten method in these disciplines. From my point of view, in order to gain knowledge and publish new results via papers, it often comes down to conducting experiments or presenting theoretical proofs in these areas. This seems to be a major difference to more “purely text-based” disciplines, such as sociology, where the zettelkasten method has been used very successfully.


From my experience in mechanical engineering, it gets a little tricky to implement because, as you said, you have to emphasize experimental results.

I’ve actually implemented something that is loosely based on zettelkasten while I’m conducting my PhD and it’s been pretty useful. My notes are split by “nature” (lit notes for processing litterature, lexicon for definitions, memos, quotes and original ideas). This forms the knowledge base upon which I rely to establish protocols or justify ideas in publications. I try to use Tiago Forte’s progressive summarisation to go from source to original ideas.

I then keep a lab notebook in which I quickly jot down anything that happen during experiments thanks to QuickAdd. It is set up in such a way that it forms a complete timeline that I can then review and build upon.

Hope this helps, figuring out a PKM system that works for you takes time.


when you compare against more philosophy-based discipline, and especially when you think about engineering experiment results, it is likely that you think zettelkasten seems less relevant. but zettelkasten itself is about developing idea (this word is a bit abstract, so for engineering-focused, essence or gist of the finding) and act as personal knowledge base. btw, to me, developing idea here means capture and connect.

logging results/outcome will be tedious using any tool, and perhaps not the purpose of zettelkasten (the gist of the outcome might be a zettel though). but the designing or planning for the experiment would benefit from it. you would have null hypothesis to test against. which means you should capture the literature note and the idea/alternatives you develop that warrants the experiment.

the basic premise that i has to rewrite what i find (from literature note) with my own words, forces me to really understand the subject matter or idea. connecting it to other related notes helped me to further enhance my comprehension.

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