Tracing back lines of thoughts - looking for best practices

Hi everyone!

I arrived to Obsidian a couple of weeks ago and it looks like I finally found what I was looking for.
While importing and developping my library of thoughts, a question came up. So I wanted to see if maybe someone here came across the same question and developped a good method/practice that I could learn from.

Here is the context:
I use my collection of notes for personal thoughts extracted from journals, as well as for ideas and topics I work on professionally (artistic/academic) and to feed my passion for philosophy. The sources of ideas and thoughts are, as you can see, very diverse - and I just love how they start to connect even more since I started using Obsidian.

The problem is, I often develop thoughts and ideas without knowing in which context they will be used at later points. Which means that I need to keep track of where the thoughts came from even after many levels of association and development. Let’s say for example, I come from a literature note, which combines with a journal note and creates a new insight. Right now, it’s relevant to me just because I love insight per se. At a later point, after many more steps of associating, it might be relevant again in an academic context. I guess it would be important to be able to trace back the whole line of thought, back to all the “parent notes” that combined into that insight.

Until now, I have used a footer part of my notes that always contain the source of the thought. This is always a link - either to a literature note, to a journal entry or to an original permanent note. In case of synthesis notes, where I combine two or more notes together, both or all of the parent notes will be shown there.

Now let’s say, I create a new note deriving from a synthesis note, a new literature note and yet another journal entry because the combination sparked new insight. I will put as sources the three notes mentioned above, but it will still contain thoughts from the parent sources of those notes. This could become relevant at some point - be it to trace back my thoughts and deepen them, research more about the context, for academic correctedness or legitimation or any other reasons.

If anyone of you has a good system in place for doing so, I’ll be happy to read your inputs!

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Have a look at the Breadcrumbs Plugin (the Parent-Child Hierarchy could be a starting point and you can add other hierarchies to custom fit your needs).

You might want to look at the Breadcrumbs wiki - in particular, the section on Transverse Notes which might be of assistance in automatically building the chains for the notes you already have in place see

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For those kinds of relationships, I use the Excalibrain plugin and parent-child-sibling-friend relationships in the YAML.

Thank you very much for your answers!
I am looking into both plugins to figure out which one best fits my needs.

One more question: can either plugin (or both) show several “generations” up and down? So not only parents but great-great-grandparents as well? And can either plugin (or both) deal with, say, 3 parents to a note and their respective “genealogy”?

I do the same, except I put the links on top. In your description, it seems to work in helping you trace back your thoughts. What is the problem you are looking a solution for? Or what would you like to improve?

After a few years these are my rules. I have gone from more elaborate setups to actually super simple. I struggled a lot with navigation, linking and finding back content.

  • no folders, this only lead to categorization stress (is it a journal entry or Todo item or note for a project? Who cares!)
  • no tags, instead i only use notes (searching for a tag = viewing backlinks of a note). I like the UI better (a note in the centre of the screen instead of a bunch of Search results on the side), it allows me to write down notes and comments about the tag (MOC)
  • first line contains links and sources.
  • time-sensitive notes sich as todos, journalling, blogs, meetings, etc are named “yymmdd” and are called articles. They are generally only written once.
  • evergreen notes such as bookmarks, book summaries, maps of content, “tags”, topics and knowledge are named “”. They are updated with new insights. I call them “Topics”

Topics are like tags, but because they are notes they really help navigation. You can use dataview to render a list of the backlinks i believe (i have a custom web component that I use both in obsidian as wel as The top line of any note often contains the relevant topics and sources.

I also learned that i must make effort to organize notes (and in particular topics!), Otherwise i only dump thoughts in, but they become hard to navigate as they lack links to relevant topics.

Also, instead of having both folders, tags and links to navigate, i simplified it all to topics. Like folders, there can be a hierarchy. Like tags, there can be multiple. It has everything you need without locking you into a fixed (folder) hierarchy!

Yes Breadcrumbs trail view will give you that. I have some note sequences that involve multiple “generations” even further back than your "great-great-grandparents.

Here is a sample from the wiki I linked to previously:

I prefer the grid view but at times switch, but both provide what you are looking for I think.

Thank you very much!