Effective Researching

October 30, 2019

Robert Greene reads between 300 and 400 books to write one. You can feel the depth of his research process in the end result. The author of Mastery uses flashcards and a category system to manage all the accumulated ideas.

One idea per flashcard with a short quote or description, and post-it labels to aggregate similar topics. He then stores all the cards in shoe boxes, and a few months later he starts drafting.

I think it’s an interesting research methodology. I’d like to adapt it to my own process.

When I come up with a book summary for Sipreads, I take notes by simply synthesizing the core idea behind each paragraph. Then I use the section titles to give structure. I read twice. The first time to get into the book. The second time to analyze it.

I have a more effective method though, the one I came up with during my year at Stockholm University. It was all about memorizing big chunks of lectures, dividing each material into easy-to-digest bites was key.

I merged three methods - SQ5R, mind-mapping, and flashcards - to get an in-depth perspective of any document. I already wrote about it in a previous post, but I want to focus on how the three fit together.

The result of the SQ5R technique is a list of questions and answers. Writing is asking questions, and each meaningful part of a book answers one. Finding those questions is understanding what problem the book is solving.

Each pair can easily be written in flashcards. The problem is you usually end up with tons of them and it’s not easy to go through the full stack. That’s where mind-maps become useful to give you an overview. Each leaf of such mind-map is a flashcard, and each internal node is a label. This way, we obtain a digitized version of Greene’s research methodology.

I’m currently adopting this method in my future book notes, so don’t forget to subscribe to Sipreads to see the end-result on November 15.