Thanks for your reply. Hmm, great question. I’d say I don’t really use atomic notes, as such. I have my highlighted notes, which are long notes with highlights from books with tags added to each quote to suit the quote’s topic (e.g., writing, assessment, phonics, etc.) and rhetorical purpose (e.g., definition, example, solution, etc.), and then I trust the search functionality to find each quote when I need it. I initially followed the How to take smart notes approach, with fleeting, literature and permanent notes, but once I could search for a specific quote so easily, I figured it was adding an extra step to take the quote and put it in an atomic note. I also initially had an index note with a similar set up to what you explained (descriptions of the quote/note), which let me see quickly what I had on different topics, but I haven’t missed it in the months that I’ve stopped using it and not having to write the descriptions has saved a lot of time. In a way, my current approach has the potential to limit my vault from being a ‘conversation partner,’ since I now have to know what I’m looking for before searching for it. But I usually know what I need next, so it hasn’t really been an issue. In a way, the use of tags and searching allows each quote to operate a bit like an atomic note, even though it’s just there, in the long highlight note with all the others.
I would be incredibly happy if someone developed a plugin that allowed the tag system to work like it does in Roam (filtering the tag list based on what tag you select to only show other tags that are used on the same lines/blocks - the more tags you select, the shorter the list of tags becomes). I’d probably pay money for a feature like that, since it ‘would’ allow for conversations with my vault, revealing connections I never knew were there.
Anyway, yes, I try and get multiple papers into my vault each day, filled with highlights and tags, then, when I’m ready to write about a topic, I create what I call an ‘ideas note’ where I dump and reorder all the direct quotes I need for an output, then I create what I call a ‘crucible note’ which is where I summarise and recontextualise the quotes in the associated ideas note into my own words and mix in original thoughts. So, all the novel thinking and connecting still happens, but not until I’m actually ready to write an output. Initially I was summarising and putting quotes into my own words after highlighting every source, which was very time consuming and frankly unsustainable since I may not even need it for an output. It took so long to process a single article, so while it did help me to think in new and interesting ways, it didn’t really keep up with my workflow as an academic. My current approach is much more streamlined and I’m sure wouldn’t appeal to many people using Obsidian because it doesn’t really rely on many of Obsidian’s key features. But it’s helped me to become a more prolific reader, writer, thinker and learner, so that’s good enough for me.
All the very best with everything. I’d love to hear about your approach to this PKM work. How brilliant that you’ve found this while working on your PhD. I feel like all the reading I did for my PhD back in 2021-2014 is largely forgotten and wasted now. Oh well!