Feedback on approach to studying information heavy texts

Hello everyone!

I was hoping to get some feedback on my approach to organizing/studying notes from extensive texts. I am currently doing a residency in Pathology, and one of our foundational textbooks is called Robbins Pathologic Basis for Disease.

My approach right now is to create pages (e.g., [[Chapter 1 - The Cell]], [[Chapter 2 - Cell Injury]], etc.) and, within these pages, write out what I think are the essential parts of that chapter. It’s also important to note that I write out each block as a flashcard as I sync my notes to Anki for studying purposes as we write a large exam towards our final year which is heavily based on this text. An example of a block would look like this:

Two most common forms of DNA variation in the human genome and def: #card

  • Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs)
    ** Variations at single nucleotide positions.
    ** Almost always biallelic (only two choices exist at a given site within the population such as A or T)
  • Copy number variations (CNV)
    ** Different numbers of large contiguous stretches of DNA; 1k to millions of base pairs.
    ** They can be biallelic, duplicated or deleted

My main concern is around combining this information with future learning. For example, there will be cancers that result from SNPs, and I imagine it will be helpful to link the cancer page to a page on SNPs rather than to a block in a page that refers to a book chapter.

Instead of writing my notes within the book chapter page, I could write references to pages and write the note there. For example, instead of having the block on DNA variation, I would create a page link like [[DNA Variation]] and then fill out that page with information from the book. The actual book chapter page only having a reference to [[DNA Variation]] rather than having the note typed out there. But that seems like it would take a lot more time as I would be creating all these pages, guessing what will be important in the future.

I would appreciate any thoughts this community has on my approach and any suggestions! Reading this myself is a little confusing, so let me know if anything needs to be clarified!

Thank you

1 Like

Hi. I don’t fully follow your description, but one advice is:

Separate the note-taking phase from the note-organizing phase.

  • Note-taking takes place whenever something comes.
  • Note-organizing takes place whenever you can find some time.

Note organizing includes note rephrasing. Actually,

Serious note-organizing is the best way of learning on your own, as it forces you to read, rephrase, and of course think about each note within its relevant concepts. By the time you understand a note enough to organize it with confidence, you have also learned it.

Therefore, don’t avoid this phase, just don’t do it during note-taking.

During note-taking, don’t bother with the exact position of each note (may be a chapter or a journal or any page), rather bother with its references, so that you can find them again (I would not create a separate page for each chapter, but this is of secondary importance).

Mind that:

You can reference a page even if it doesn’t exist.

You could write it like this:

- [[Single-Nucleotide Polymorphism]]s (SNPs)
  - ...
- [[Copy Number Variation]]s (CNVs)
  - ...

This would create the references in the database, without creating the files. Do the same while keeping cancer-related notes.

During note-organizing, visit the referenced pages (SNP and CNV), see if they have enough linked references and transfer (cut-n-paste) the notes where they really belong. As about their previous position (i.e. their previous context), it is up to you whether you want to keep:

  • a reference (for less noise)
  • an embedding (for less clicks)
  • nothing at all (if that context has no value)

I left DNA variation for the end. It is ok if you reference that too, as it does deserve its own page. However, I suspect that a better organization would have it referenced from within SNP and CNV. But I don’t understand Genetics, so don’t take my word for it.


Thank you for talking about note-taking vs note-organizing phase!

As I think you are suggesting, I will try taking notes and later focus on consolidating that information into pages focusing on a topic.

Thank you for the thoughtful reply!