Roam-ish Zettelkasten

Hey team, this is my first post here after lurking and learning a little bit. I’m a university student studying psychology, but I’ve got a bunch of other interests and I love the idea of melting them all together in a Zettelkasten in Obsidian. I’m still a little out of my depth, but I’ve sort of cobbled together a system I’d love a second opinion on.

I want to start by saying I don’t want to copy Roam and that I prefer Obsidian, there’s just a couple of neat things Roam does that if I can roughly emulate then I’m happy with and some of these steps are based on ideas from that programme.

So my system at the minute is based on a mixture of stuff I’ve seen on YouTube from Curtis Mchale, Shu Omi, and from How to Take Smart Notes. The logic I’m playing around with is the difference between Roam’s atomic bullet and Obsidian’s atomic file.

  1. Read book, highlight passages. I’m using Zotero and Zotfile so I can do this on my iPad and then export/import them.

  2. Extract highlights into Zotero. Copy the source code of that to preserve links to pages within the PDF. This is in HTML which is less readable than markdown but it’s convenient enough that I’m willing to take the hit.

  3. Create a note in Obsidian called yyyyMMddHHmm Book Title. YAML block at the top with an APA style reference (just my preference, no function), the [[author]] and some #keywords. Big heading with the title of the book, then there are two main H3 headings in the file: literary notes, and highlights. These might be divided by H2 chapter titles if that structure is useful.

  4. Paste the exported highlights from Zotero and split the pane. Preview mode on the left, editor on the right.

  5. Cluster/Rewrite the highlights in my own words, checking understanding as I go. Here’s the roam copycat: each of these notes is written in H6. This looks nicer in some themes than others. This allows each note to be searchable and linkable, like a block reference.

  6. Once completely done (or done with a chapter if the book is hefty), then start going through those H6 notes and converting some into [[permanent notes]] just by putting brackets around the note except the hashes, but still keeping them there for formatting. These are any notes that I might want to further write about. I also add a time stamp UID to the beginning of these.

  7. Split the pane, format that new note based on whatever preferred template, add keywords and relevant links, keep it atomic.

  8. After finishing the book, put a short 1-2 paragraph summary at the top of the book note.

All of this allows me to keep my literary notes as useful context without them cluttering my system but also without them being a step removed (Another folder/vault/stuck in Zotero). Because they are all headers, they are all individually linkable if I just want a quick concept and can be easily converted if they become worthy of their own evergreen note based on future learning/focus.

At the minute I’m studying a lot of neuropsychology for uni. Some of the info I have is from studies and other sources, but a lot of the required reading is from one or two textbooks. This allows me to tidily keep all of my notes, still have them usable and within reach, but not clutter my graph with each and every definition that I learn/study.

I hope I’ve explained that understandably; everything else is standard Zettelkasten stuff (lots of interlinking and context tagging).

I’m new to markdown and zettelkastens and knowledge management in general, so sorry if this comes across as teaching grandma to suck eggs, I just don’t want to spend ages with a system if y’all can spot holes in it from a mile away, so all feedback is appreciated!


This sounds like a very structured approach. Would be nice to see this in a video as well, or illustrated. Anyway, if it works for you it’s good.