Key Concepts

The shared tools and processes described in these docs are organized around a few key concepts. Understanding these concepts will help you to appreciate why we devote all the effort to setting up and implementing a common toolbox.

Research is about building knowledge through new insight and understanding. Your research should be …

Well digested 🥕

Anything of value that you learn must be written down in your own words–and thereby interpreted, explained, and added to our “collective brain” or knowledge ecosystem. Doing this makes the useful products of research accessible to your future self and to others. Undigested information (in the form of books or journal articles or raw data sets) can be fun and satisfying to collect on the shelf, but is mostly useless until it is consumed by identifying important ideas and putting those ideas down in your own words.

Bite-sized 🍪

In order to manage the complexity of gathering, digesting and organizing what you are learning, knowledge is best processed and stored in bite-size pieces–i.e. “notes”. Part of digesting information into useful knowledge resides in linking these discrete pieces together as a means to see and develop new connections between initially disparate ideas. Organizing your research in bite-sized pieces also makes larger, complex projects feasible and less daunting.

Cooked from basic ingredients 🌾

Any system for research and writing designed to digest, organize and connect information and knowledge over the long-term must be resilient and adaptive to change (organizational, technological, etc). Too many of the software platforms, file formats, and other tools in common use for research and writing are pre-packaged and pre-processed convenience products that lock us into inflexible and ultimately unproductive ways of working. When we build from basic ingredients (like simple text files with minimal markup), we can easily produce knowledge products in multiple formats simultaneously across a range of media (print, web, etc), while retaining full control over our content for the future.

You’ll learn more about the details of these tools and processes as you work through the docs.