Organize by concepts or by sources/courses/classes?

Hi, so I’m a student and therefore I have courses to take. I was wondering how I should organize my notes because I study outside of school (self studying) and within school. Should I organize by my courses (lets say I have one course like computer science) or should I organize it by concepts (try to make each concept within the study a seperate page)

So let’s say I’m in a Computer Science class and I also study from a concept from an external website. From an external website, let’s say I study “Binary Trees” so I create a page for it. Now, let’s say in my Computer Science class, I come across this exact same concept. How would I organize these notes? Would the “Binary Trees” page fall under the source of the external website, or would it fall under Computer Science?

How would I also organize notes of a specific concept (let’s say Copywriting) and I form my knowledge of this concept from a bunch of different sources? How would I keep track of all those sources too?

Sorry if this is a lot or a lot of these are beginner-level questions, I’m fairly new to Obsidian so I’m not sure if there is some easy solution to this I’m missing. Thanks!

In this case, I would recommend looking into the PARA Method (it’s a Google search away).

It is easy to get into AND eventually to make what is most comfortable for you.

It really depends on what your goal is.

Hope that helped. Definitely hit me up if you have more questions.


To clarify, what you are thinking with “Now, let’s say in my Computer Science class, I come across this exact same concept.” is probably because you’re thinking in Zettelkasten.

If you were to go chase a more Zettelkasten like approach, then put everything in one folder.

It would force you to stop thinking in topics and categories. And, Start thinking in stand-alone ideas/concepts/patterns. That way you can link notes across areas and knowledge.

I recently came across this write-up that might interest you. My Zettelkasten: An Author’s Digital Slip-Box Method Example (Using Plain-Text Software) – Love Your Work, Episode 250

And, this video, if you are more a visual learner. Zettelkasten Smart Notes: Step by Step with Obsidian - YouTube

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Ah, the edits make sense! Thanks for the comment! I have to admit, I was 5 minutes in the video thinking this wasn’t going to work and my question was probably misunderstood, then after I kept watching it clicked. I’ll definitely look into this further for my system. Thanks again!

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I’m in a similar position as a scholar. I do history of philosophy. That means that sometimes I write about a single author/text, sometimes about a topic, sometimes about multiple authors.

So, e.g., say I’m reading the Xunzi and a passage about ritual gives me an idea. The note I make could be key for

  • A paper on that passage of the Xunzi,
  • A paper on ritual in the Xunzi more broadly,
  • A paper comparing the Xunzi and the Daodejing on ritual,
  • A non-historical paper on ritual itself.

So where do I put my note? The great thing about Obsidian is that I can do all of the above. Here’s my procedure:

  1. I make a separate, atomic note on that passage.
  2. I make a literature note on the Xunzi, and link to the note in #1 there under a heading for the right chapter. This means that if I’m ever wanting to write about that chapter, I find the note.
  3. I make an topic note (or “MOC”) on ritual in the Xunzi, and link to the note in #1 there.
  4. I make a project note for my potential paper comparing the Xunzi and the Daodejing, and link to the note in #1 there.
  5. I make a project note for my potential paper on ritual itself, and link to the project note there.

Now I have a single note that can be found wherever it’s needed. It’s more work than just jotting down notes but not much more, and it pays off in the long run. I’ll probably never actually write all the above papers, but thinking about all of them gets me in the right mindset for intellectual productivity.

So for your example, I’d create a standalone note on Binary Trees. Then think where you’ll need to see that content in the future:

  1. If that external website is important to you (e.g. if you need to cite it for a paper), make a lit note for that website and link to the Binary Trees
    note there.

    • (If it’s not important to you, then who cares where you got the concept from? copy/paste its URL in your original note and leave it at that.)
  2. If the point where you covered it in class is important (e.g. for test prep), then make a note for your class, make a heading for the appropriate week/unit/etc., and link to the Binary Trees note there.

You can do all this in folders, too, but you can’t put the same note in multiple folders, so you have to at least supplement with links.

Thank you! By any chance, would your system work when dealing with other smaller projects? Such as homework questions?

I believe JAndrews approach is still relevant. Also with smaller projects.

If you make notes on an ‘atomic’ scale–distilling a larger idea into smaller pieces–it does not matter what the size of the project at hand is.

You don’t need to ‘organise’ them.

Unless you want to. You could use concepts like “index notes”, “Maps of Content (MOC)” etc.

Let’s use a bit of imagination.

I imagine my Vault to be a forest. The trees are the notes. Every tree has also ‘directions’ to the location of other (relevant) trees.

When I need to answer homework questions, I walk towards the tree that is likely most relevant. (An index note could tell you to ‘start to walk here’.)

At the tree, I write down what I read and walk down the path laid out for me. (Shoulder pat for my past self!)

Once I have answered the question I repeat the process.

You can do the same with papers that you need to write. Walk up the first few trees, go down the path and see what comes out.

Once you discover new information plant a tree to a random location in the forest. It would be helpful if you put directions to other trees that might relate.

Slowly grow your forest in the process.

Main takeaways:

  • Plant trees with the (atomic) knowledge you gather over time. No need to plant them in sections of the forest.
  • I don’t always make ‘literature notes’ if the idea is described clean enough in the source material.
  • Unless your forest is HUGE do you really need an index to find the first tree that you need? I just search for a relevant keyword in Obsidian. Or take a look at the graph view for something that catches my eye.
  • There is no need to ‘put it under …’. They are your trees and your forest. Your personal knowledge. Add a source to keep track of where you got the info from. (For referencing it in a paper, for example.)

EDIT: Clearer sentences.

As realistic, practical example.

I’ve just started writing an article with the working title “A PMs Understanding of Company Growth is Crucial for Building Exceptional Products”

  1. Opened Obsidian’s Search and wrote: “company growth”. A list of notes popped up. One of them that says it takes three types of people to grow a company.
  2. I click that note and see I linked up other notes covering ‘company vision’, ‘entrepreneurship’, ‘tactics vs. strategy’ etc. etc.–All from different sources. (Books, webinars, Youtube, articles, research papers …). I open them too.
  3. I repeat the same thing with another keyword.
  4. I take these notes to inspire me writing an outline.
  5. Start writing it all out. (While peeking at the notes. They are my own words anyway.)


The reason I can do this is because I didn’t discriminate. Didn’t categorise or ‘tag’ them. (Not in a traditional sense.)

It helped me create new ‘ideas’. Combining ideas from IT, entrepreneurship, and philosophy (or psychology? :thinking:).

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For sure. I use the same structure to write blog posts. Those are just 1-3 notes instead of many notes. Even before obsidian I did similar things on MSWord, etc. to write term papers- a set of notes on a book would turn into an email to a professor archived in Word, which would turn into a short assignment, which would turn into a term paper.

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