Are literature notes necessary if we have automatic universal backlinks?

Literature notes are secondary and separate, but are they necessary at all? Are they only necessary because you might want to start a walk through your notes from a specific reference that happened to come up, and it’s awkward to find all the notes which refer to a specific reference?

In other words, is this just a hold-over from the physical Zettelkasten? If we have a system which easily allows us to see—perhaps without even asking—all the notes associated with a reference, would we still need to keep literature notes at all?

One reason to advocate for literature notes is that it would create an opportunity to explicitly curate key durable notes associated with a note. This might be important for cutting through the noise, especially if a reference is mentioned frequently.

Would such curated associations even need to be textual? Is it sufficient to form metadata-only associations? Advantages and disadvantages of using notes to form associations in content

Related: How should note tagging practices change with ranked link visualization?


Luhmann, N. (1992). Communicating with Slip Boxes. In A. Kieserling (Ed.), & M. Kuehn (Trans.), Universität als Milieu: Kleine Schriften (pp. 53–61). Retrieved from

Last updated 2023-07-13.