Optimal location for Reference Notes

As a newcomer to both Zettelkasten and Obsidian, there are a few principles I’m still trying to get my head around. One is where to store Reference (Literature) Notes.

The impression I have is that most people store them in the same vault as their Zettels. If that is best practice, how can it be done in such a way as to avoid the Reference Notes becoming entangled with the Zettels? Given that the Zettels are the most important part of the system, doesn’t having them enmeshed with links to lower grade notes (i.e. not analysed for connections and deeper meaning) just result in confusion and a degradation of quality?

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Great, very clear question.

So, you are right, that the vast majority of people (that I know at least) keep their reference notes in a separate folder in the same vault. I actually go even further, keeping all of my writing, newsletter notes, etc and my zettelkasten in a single vault. So, go figure.

I’m guessing by “entangled” you’re talking about noise from a global search of your notes, right?

The basic assumption is that your zettels will vastly outnumber your reference notes at some point, so the amount of noise will be nominal. That said, when searching you could use the “path” function, or simply not care. Bc I use Obsidian for my writing, and bc my zettelkasten is for my writing, as well, I actually welcome other files coming up in searches since it often jogs some other thought that I might want to work on or explore. The “noise” is actually good, imo.

That said, if you really wanna keep things super separate, you can do the separate vault thing, or some people use Zotero as a reference manager (Ahrens refers to this in HTTSN).

But, if you’re just starting out, you might give it some time and see if this is an actual issue, or more of a “but what if” issue. Good luck!


That’s very helpful. Thank you.