ZK / ROAM_REFS vs reference/literature notes


It is my understanding that Zotero is a great tool as a bibliographical reference. I have it installed along with the Better Zotero tool and have a .bib file kept up-to-date automatically when I add references to Zotero.

I’ve also got the .bib file set as my global bibliography for org-cite so I can add citations inside files, such as [cite:@LastTitleYear], using org-mode’s org-cite feature. So far so good.

I have a point of confusion on literature vs. reference notes and usage of ROAM_REFS.

My understanding from the org-roam manual is that ROAM_REFS are intended to be unique.
I used to think this meant that a note could be used as a unique identifier for a paper.

Then I realized that each literature note could have a subset of a text, e.g. an exact quote, and that made me think that maybe a unique ROAM_REFS could be a citation for a paper including a page number – and that maybe that’s just a hell I have to deal with when I do org-roam-ref-find and see all the similar completions.

So at this point I’m trying to keep in my head a clear separation of concerns between Zotero’s job (having unique bibliographical references), the purpose of the ROAM_REFS key (which seems to be “a unique bibliographical reference”) and having multiple references to the same text (maybe different page numbers, etc.)

Could someone help me understand where my reasoning is incorrect/flawed/missing something, or where “everything is correct, it’s flexible, it’s giving me the choice of doing whatever I want, I just have to choose a structure for myself” ?

Correct. You say you used to, but this is the conventional way. The “unique identifier for a paper” is the cite key that you put in your bib file such as “ackoffDataWisdom1989” from the example of FILE 3 in our previous exchange. You probably let Zotero generate cite keys. When you use a cite key in ROAM_REFS for org-cite, you prefix them with an @ as we discussed.

Not conventional if you use bib’s cite key — the granularity of each entry in a bib file does not go down to the page level for written materials (e.g. see Entry types of BibTeX onWikipedia). You usually add page(s) as a “locator” like “[@ackoffDataWisdom1989 pp. 9]”.

Perhaps the diagram I did a while ago might help.


What’s not illustrated in this diagram is ROAM_REFS.

So what’s ROAM_REFS for in this context? It lets you have backlinks. You use it to designate a node as the “canonical node” for the bib entry with using the cite key in the bib file. (Org-roam User Manual).

This old post might help. ROAM_REFS used be ROAM_KEY. The intended use should be the same.