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Organizing notes

by Michael Nielsen on February 6, 2008

If you’re working on a big project, how do you organize notes related to that project?

Certain outstanding writers – Steven Pinker, Richard Rhodes, or Malcolm Gladwell come to mind – pepper their writing with apposite stories drawn from thousands of sources. I’ve often wondered how they do it. Is it all from memory? Or do they have some way of filing interesting stories and facts as they read in such a way as to assist in their later use?

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  1. I use my own little research wiki: I couldn’t live without it anymore.

  2. Michael Nielsen permalink

    Jurgen: After experimenting a bit with wikis, I started using emacs muse mode, which I’ve found works better for me. Of course, it’s not so easy to use collaboratively.

    I don’t find either wikis or emacs muse all that good for taking notes on books, though – too unwieldy, and means I have to use my computer as I read.

  3. Tim Ferris wrote quite a motivating blogpost about taking notes. Something which I’ve started to do somewhat more religiously. I think that the very act of becoming a note taker is a step towards having a good mental bank of information.

    See here:

  4. Michael Nielsen permalink

    Thanks for the pointer, Jonathan. I read Ferris’ blog, but had forgotten that post; it’s a good one.

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