Need Advice for indexing paper journals

Looking for suggestions around indexing external/unscanned paper journals. I have several years of paper bullet journals, and I’d like to index them in obsidian in some fashion so that I can search by various topics (places, date, people referenced, etc).

My first thought is to do something like:

  • Create a note for each paper journal that I’ve indexed to serve as an index.
  • Process each journal: for every place that has a piece of noteworthy information, add a tag to the note and reference the page number. For instance, if I have an entry on page 132 of my 2019 journal referencing an interesting story about a place I visited in Greece I might then create several tags in the note along the lines of “#greece #travel #history 132: Sanctuary of the Great Gods”

Does anyone have any pointers for a way that I might do this?

Sorry, I don’t really have anything to offer, other than it is a live issue for me. I keep paper journals/notebooks - I find handwriting on paper with a nice pen helps me think and retain information (and gets me away from the distractions of technology). In some pastoral situations sitting with a notebook seems less intrusive than an iPad.

I use a referencing system (e.g., NB1/23 = page 23 in notebook 1). I want to refer back to my notes (and often do), but indexing is an issue.

Jonathan Edwards kept an index in each of his paper notebooks. If he continued a topic later, he would include a reference at the bottom of the previous journal article, so providing a ‘trail’ through his notes. Not so different to a Zettelkasten, just a couple of centuries earlier.

I write note references in my Bible margins, which effectively acts as an index to my notes. However, the challenge is for everything else, not scripture related. I need to create my own index.

The only way I can think is to have a long file exactly as you suggest which acts as the index. It might be possible just to reference the first item for each topic, and in your notebook reference any subsequent items. Having a master index across and separate from notebooks makes sense, in that a topic may appear in several notebooks. An alternative to your approach might be to include all references together e.g.,

Sanctuary of the Great Gods #greece #travel 132 794 1044 1045
The benefits of journalling #pkm #journals 133 401 1211

I’m still struggling to find the most efficient and effective way. What I’m doing at the moment is:

  • I create references with keywords in EndNote. I’m using EndNote already about 15 years and have several huge EndNote libraries so I’m not going to change this. Plus if I’m writing the final paper in Word, EndNote does all the formatting of the references for me.
  • If I make an EndNote reference to a paper journal or book, I add a short description with the location in the “Notes” section. For instance shelf number, box number, …

In Obsidian I made a simple template with in the YAML header an empty alias: [] and a prefilled tags: []. And at the bottom two sections: “## relations” and “## sources”

  • prefilled tags are about the status “fleeting note”, “permanent note”, “definition”, “quote”, “person”. When I start a new note, I just delete and keep the correct status.
  • I also add the correct topic or category in the tags: []. In your example this would be “Greece”, “travel”, “pkm”, “journals”

If I would be going through a pile of paper journals, I would:

  1. Make a fleeting note about the main topic per journal article.
  2. Add relevant tags and put one or two short sentences in the body.
  3. Add a wikilink to related topics under the “## relations” section
  4. Put the reference in EndNote and copy and paste this reference under the “## sources” section.

The result so far is a bunch of linked notes, tags and concepts.

When I’m working on content, I go through the fleeting notes, read the journal articles in detail and rewrite the fleeting notes as permanent notes.

I hope this might help to find a workflow that works for you.