The questions I had when making a zettelkasten system for myself

What were the components of Luhmann’s Zettelkasten System?

  • A Reference System to collect various references
    • Reference Notes
      • Contains bibliographical details of a book
      • It can also contain a brief summary of what the book is all about
    • Literature Notes
      • Notes written in response to the things you read
      • Written as phrases, taking it away from the context of the book
  • A Thinking system
    • Fleeting Notes
      • A place to capture ideas that fly by through your head
      • A place to capture highlights from books and articles and other sources
    • Permanent Notes
      • Ideas that needs to be further explored
      • This can come either from literature notes or fleeting notes
  • A Creation system
    • Project Notes
      • This is where you create your outlines
      • Perform the assembly of various permanent notes
      • Comparing and contrasting existing notes to develop your argument


  • What exactly is a fleeting note? How and when do you process a fleeting note?
  • How does Sonke manages his bibliography? or reference notes/literature notes? How can it be implemented in roam and obsidian
  • How to go about atomising the literature notes? Should the literature notes also exist as an atomic notes or the literature notes from a book goes to single larger file.
  • When is a permanent note born?

    Current Assumptions

  • Fleeting Notes are the ideas and bits that comes to you randomly and out of context and might have some potential solution to a question that you are seeking or perhaps start a new line of thought all together. It can be a question, a statement, a revelation or a piece of information
  • Sonke uses Zotero. I haven’t explored that option. For now I add the meta data for a book or others resources manually into the literature notes that I create. Luhmann’s reference system does not seem to be atomic in nature. I think logically it is much easier to put all your literature notes from one source to a single page. I am yet to make that a habit as I pull from various sources at the same time. ( Incremental Reading). Roam, Obsidian and Logseq do give us the option to make it templates (for inserting meta data). I believe there are ways to integrate zotero into these apps. Will have to find out later.
  • A permanent note is born when a literature note or a fleeting note has enough potential for you to explore and make a thread of sensible or reliable chain of thought/arguments.

Return to Zettelkasten

Notes mentioning this note

Here are all the notes in this garden, along with their links, visualized as a graph.