Capacities for Students

The game-changing approach to student notes

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This is an overview of how I’d set up Capacities as a student right now. It’s based off my experiences as a student of course, where I was a humanities student. I’m not sure how well it would work for STEM.

This article also assumes knowledge of Capacities. Check out my other youtube videos or articles for more on Capacities if you’re getting started.

Let’s start with structure

Tags as folders

I recommend having one tag per module. This lets you see everything at a glance, and you can still filter/sort and choose how you view this.

This is a far better answer to managing your knowledge than a folder. With tags, everything is in front of you and easy to access. You can have multiple tags too which removes the unnecessary siloing of information that using folders forces on users.

Here is my IR Theory tag (module 1 of my masters) showing content from a few different objects, shown in the wall view with the content preview removed from each card (part of the newly launched small card customisation feature)

This means it could be tagged with multiple modules, as the content you learn in one module will almost certainly come up again throughout your degree (I just quit my masters before I could prove this in a screenshot!)

MOCs?

Currently, I recommend using tags if you plan to create a MOC (Map of Content). Using the one tag per module method provides you with the option to create a MOC later, if you’d like. I never had this need, hence why I didn’t start making MOCs until after my masters.

I personally found that the flexibility of the tag view shown above was enough for me to review my work. But again, if you want to create a MOC it’s easy as you’d already be tagging the work. I show how to create MOCs here.

Objects

Objects are the organisational structure of content in Capacities. Each piece of content belongs to one of your objects. You connect the content with links.

So what objects do you need?

You need objects for your inputs (lecture notes and readings), you need objects that hold the interesting/pertinent content you extract from those things, and you need objects that hold your outputs (e.g. essays)

My advice is to categorise the types of information you see come up in your lectures and reading and then build objects around those. You don’t need one for everything though, that can get tricky so it’s about finding the balance for you. This is subject dependent.

What I did

As an international relations student, I was given huge lecture notes, lots of reading and then I’d watch documentaries as a different way to consume information. These all lived in my media object, with a tag to denote what type of media it is.

media object and media type tags

All of those things are inputs from which I’d hear about the same themes (e.g realism, sovereignty, states), people, events, institutions etc. I needed a place to put all the different information and viewpoints about those things, so they went in their own objects.

I put institutions in the themes object, as I didn’t have enough notes on them to make them standalone. I then tagged them with #institutions. I should have just made a collection of them. More thoughts on structuring Capacities here.

I had most of these objects as a student too.

Then I was given assignments, mainly essays, so I had a ‘writing’ object too.

Actually taking notes

As a student, your task is to transform inputs, such as lecture notes and readings, into outputs, which in my case were essays. You need to be able to understand what you’re being told and work with this information, developing it, critiquing it, working it in with other perspectives to eventually be able to create a well written output.

Here’s how I’d do that.

1. I’d go to my lectures and take lecture notes (input)

This can be done on any app or by hand. The point is it will be messy and will be tidied up later, so I personally wouldn’t put this in Capacities but to each their own.

2. Tidy up those notes

The primary goal is to make sure I understood what was said. I’d create summaries, fill in knowledge gaps with other sources if needed (more inputs), and just generally make sure everything makes sense.

This would definitely go in Capacities (new media entry, tag with lecture notes (the media type) and then tag with the module). If I’d taken notes by hand, I’d recycle them at this point, as everything I need is now in Capacities. If you don’t want to recycle them, scan them, save as pdf and upload that to Capacities. Tag with the module name.

3. Linking

Then once the text is tidied up, I would start linking. This is the beginning of processing these inputs. I’ve taken the time to digest the content so I am confident the links I’ll add will be useful.

What am I linking? Anything that is contextually important to my studies. People, events, definitions. These correspond to the other objects I have set up. This starts the networked note-taking approach by linking content together, and it means you always know the source of your information.

linking in Capacities, and choosing which object it goes to

4. Synthesising what you’ve learned

Over time I’ll get lots of links to these things and I can use the backlinks to summarise what I know about specific people, events or definitions.

So the topic of realism came up in lots of my readings/notes, so I would link any time it came up in a useful/new way. I can then go to the realism page, see all the backlinks and use them to write up my understanding of realism based on the inputs I’ve read.

backlinks used to summarise the work on a topic that comes up all the time in IR studies

I’d repeat this process for every lecture in every module and for all of my readings too (except change that media type tag of course, as they’re not lecture notes).

Over time, you’ll see that multiple lectures in multiple modules and multiple books are all talking about the same topics, people, events, and the back-linking habits here will help your knowledge constantly evolve and grow over your degree.

It also gives you a solid start for your assessments (outputs) because you understand what you’ve learned and you’ve read around the subject, and all of your understanding is easily accessible through Capacities.

What about the daily note?

Capacities timestamps everything, so the daily note isn’t needed to be the hub you work out of like it might be in competitors such as Logseq.

In Logseq I used to link whatever I was working on in a day in the daily note, but Capacities does this for me so I don’t even have to think about it.

What I was doing in Jan. The calendar glitch is to do with the screenshot software, not Capacities.

Overall, your specific note-taking method is personal and will evolve, but Capacities is a good choice for these experiments because it allows for structure, but also linking and connecting.

It’s also pretty flexible. If you realise your content would fit better in a different object, just use the object switcher to change it. Tags are flexible, collections are flexible.

All of this is a better way to work as a student than folders because it’s building long term knowledge that you can draw on throughout your studies. This is much more efficient than saving notes to a folder you’ll never open again.

I wish I did this in my undergraduate degree. I’d have felt more confident, I’d have understood so much more, and it would have been a much more efficient use of my time. It took me 5 years to realise this, but I put these lessons into place in my masters and it worked great.

I hope this makes sense, please ask any questions you need (here or on any socials (@pkmbeth) or via email at [email protected]). I can always publish extra articles/clarifications.

If you want to use Capacities as a student but need some help getting started, I have a course here, and students get 50% off. If you’d like to purchase with this discount, send me an email at [email protected] and I’ll send you the discount code.

If you want to see in depth articles on my student workflows here are some free links:

Thanks for reading!

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