Literature/Reference Notes in Obsidian

Hello, I am reading How To Take Smart Notes for the first time.

How do people tend to handle Literature and Reference notes in Obsidian? When Sonke Ahrens discusses the topic I understand it to mean that these notes should not be kept in the same space (Vault?) as permanent notes.

What are common SOPs here? Do people keep their Reference notes alongside their Permanent notes and then just filter them out when they don’t want to see them?

Thank you,

Hey Austein, I use Obsidian primarily as a literature and reference repository that I push whatever scientific papers I’m reading into notes. 95% of my library is a blob where each note is a scientific reference with maybe 5% of higher-level notes that link together several of the scientific references into a bigger idea. I keep everything in a single vault that has a few folders for note origins. Note that it didn’t start getting useful for the higher-level notes until I had stuffed 100+ references into the blob, otherwise you’re writing notes specifically for the higher-level note and it can become busywork.


That’s a great question. I just keep them in my vault. Ahrens’ model, IIRC is to have lit notes only be lit notes, write fleeing notes as you read that cite the lit note, and then turn those fleeting notes into atomic notes and delete the fleeting notes. Lit notes, fleeing notes, atomic notes are all kept separately rather than being integrated into a single storage medium. Am I remembering that right?

Personally, I just leave my lit notes in my vault, and write my fleeting notes directly into the lit notes. After I finish reading something, I look over my fleeting notes and decide which ones should be split off into their own atomic notes, which ones should remain in the lit notes as notes on this text, and which ones should simply be deleted.

The second of those three options is where I depart the most from normal ZK methodology. I’m a text guy: I think by reading, and I spend as much time studying particular texts, eras, or authors as I do thinking about ideas in the abstract. Taking in other people’s thoughts and thinking my own thoughts are inseparable processes for me. So I need to have the ability, not just to connect ideas to each other, but to connect texts to ideas and texts to texts. Having permanent lit notes, with not just a citation but my own running commentary on the text, linked to atomic and MOC notes and integrated into my vault, is the solution that works for me. YMMV.

This also means that I don’t really tag my lit notes in any special way (other than the title being the BibTex citation key)—I have no reason to ever want to distinguish my lit notes from my “own” notes (e.g. in a graph), because my lit notes are my own notes.


Really interesting answer. Thank you for taking your time. Makes sense to me. I can see why you want to see and engage with those lit notes just like any other.

I keep them in the same vault as well, but started eventually putting them in their own folder (otherwise there were just too many in the vault). I tag them as I do my other notes, and if I have an idea about them, just reference the appropriate lit note.

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Thank you @atiz - good info here.

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I keep them in the same vault but in a separate Sources folder from the permanent notes.

Source notes (aka lit notes) are named using a citekey format e.g. meadows2008 Thinking in systems (S.2103232143).

That source note in turn links to the atomic notes that were generated from it, so it becomes an outline/moc of its own ideas.

Any note that draws from that source includes it in the references section at the end, like so:

... note contents here...

# References
- [[meadows2008 Thinking in systems (S.2103232143)]]
- ...