Need some help in templating a good Zettelkasten

Hello guys! I have been using Obsidian for roughly 2 months now and I must say that I completely love it! I am at my 4th year in my engineering education, and have had a high workload through these two months, so I simply took the advice to just start writing, and I am now getting to the point where it feel like I should start structuring my Vault better.

My structure right now is based of folders, I have a folder for each subject and I build my Vault of lecture notes and projects. As an example I had a course called “Methods of Research”, and one lecture could be about Measurements and Uncertainty in Reseach. I then built theory block of lets say “Central Limit Theorem”, “Correlation”, etc…

I love the way how easy the backlinking makes planning from the standpoint of lectures, as I just backlink concepts mentioned and then I’ll start working on the building blocks mentioned above once I need them. However, the folder structure is getting a bit isolated and/or messy once the different courses starts to link. I know the large graph is mostly for fun and to see the progression, but I am really intrested in the zettelkasten approach.

Some variants of the zettelkasten approach that I think would fit my purpose is the

  • IMF method (Indexing, Mapping & Frameworks) found Here
  • SCTO System (Sources, Compendiums, Thoughts, Ontology) External Article

So my structure would most likely look like this:

  • MOCS
  • Lecture Notes
  • Projects
  • Litterature Sources
  • Framework (emerging from lecture notes & projects)
  • Components & Theory (emerging from lecture notes, litterature sources, projects & frameworks)
  • Guides (Emerging from projects and litterature sources and could be seen as a framework I guess)

Since I mostly just been writing I have almost exclusively linked notes with backlinking, and some hashtags. So I have no clue in how I would approach this in regard to making valid templates and would really appriciate some help in pointing me in the right direction and share your experience if you think this structure looks decent, if you would change the structure, add anything, or if you feel like another approach could be valid in my case!

Thank you for reading

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In my opinion your hesitations are totally normal. I started doing PKM around the same point as you did, but it took me a few years to start to feel like I had any control over the mess. Don’t worry though, there are way more resources to learn from now than there was back then, so you should be able to kickstart your note taking in no time.

I don’t have an opinion about a particular structure. I’ll just write down two pieces of advice that I think might help you at this point.

  • It should be very obvious and quick to file things. If your structure has ambiguities (i.e. I wonder if this note should go in folder X or Y), it will become difficult to file, and that’s no good. Folders related to classes tend to be unambigous, but I see you already have a Lecture Notes folder, so that’s great.
  • Think about the retrieval scenarios. Taking notes is nice and satisfying (to the people hanging in this forum at least). But in the end, they are there to support our daily lives, our projects… So my only rule when I file something is that it should be retrievable when I need it. If a folder helps you retrieve a note quicker, that’s good. If it doesn’t help in that regard, maybe you can do without the folder?

My own PKM has folders for very specific “types” (Contacts, Papers) because it helps me retrieve them. Otherwise, I put everything in the root. I know it feels messy, but I learned to embrace it and I found it makes it easier to file notes. To ensure retrievability, I use backlinks.

As for template, I don’t use very many. The ones I use are there to support retrievability and ease of use. For instance I have a “Journal Entry” template for when I want to write a nice note about a project. The only thing in that template is a prompt to ensure I make a link to one of my project pages. That way, when I want to see all my notes about a project, I can look at the backlinks of the project page.

Hope this helps

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Thank you for the reply David,

I have actually recently started to embrace the madness and put all the “component notes” in the root folder, I manage really good just to navigate my way through with the local graph view from the lecture folder, however I want to build a long lasting system and connect the learning in a way that I don’t feel is possible to rely on a course structure if you are following me!

I am not so familiar for the PKM methodology but I guess that is what I am doing right now, I got course folders with lecture folders and project folders, a zotero library which I haven’t really gotten started with, an obsidian folder and a personal growth/hobby folder.

However, I am up to 410 notes and 145k words so I am afraid I will sit for weeks during the summer re-organizing the structure if I do not start to use templates soon, hehe…

It would be cool to know if there is any possibility in having two different graph views, one could have a zettelkasten structure and one could have a PKM/folder structure, i.e. one would be easy to find course specific material and the other one would be better in the long run!

About restructuring, my sad truth is that my notes last longer than my “methodologies”. So my strategy is that, whatever my methodology is, I always have a backup plan or a way to resurface the note even if my methodology changes. Obsidian is very good for that: even if you change the way you organize your folders, you can always rely on a full text search if needed. The rest, links, backlinks… are just a way to resurface information quicker.

For the two different graph views, what you could do is use the filter field (click the gear on the top right). If you put path:Zettelkasten/ in the filter field, the graph view will show you only notes inside the Zettelkasten folder.

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So far I haven’t had that issue, but I can see how that could happen in the long run, my intention is to create as many MOCs as needed, that is something that is really nice with having a canvas homepage, you can never run out of space for MOCs I guess :sweat_smile:.

Also read on the reddit about a dude that is developing an AI search engine, so if you for example search for “car” and have a note called “Ferrari” that would appear, however I am not sure if he had an estimated release date, so that is something that i’ll try to keep an eye out for. As I am dyslexic I tend to shuffle letters so having a good structure is extremely important for me!

Thank you for the tip about the Zettelkasten pathway, I’ll see if I can see a good structure whenever I have the time :slight_smile: .