Roam Research is one of the best (if not the best) pieces of software for writers, academics, and thought leaders to take notes and manage their knowledge. The problem is that not many people know how to take full advantage of Roam and all its functions. For that, you need to put deliberate effort into learning it, preferably having someone holding your hand in the process.
Academic Mastery With Roam is a digital course for academics on how to use Roam Research efficiently. The course was created by Maarten van Doorn, a Ph.D. in philosophy and one of the top Medium writers with hundreds of thousands of views on his articles. In his course, Maarten walks you through his research and writing process and shows you workflows that you can then replicate in your own work.
In this review, I’m going to cover exactly how the course can help you master Roam, who it is for, and what you should and shouldn’t expect from it. By the end of reading this page, you will have a good understanding of whether Academic Mastery With Roam is the right online course for you.
If you want to quickly jump to any section that’s particularly relevant to you, use the handy table of contents below:
Table of Contents
- Summary: Academic Mastery With Roam Review (FAQ)
- The Pros & Cons of Academic Mastery With Roam
- What Is It Like Inside the Course?
- Additional Bonuses of Academic Mastery With Roam
- How Can You Get the Most Out of Academic Mastery With Roam?
- The 7 Main Benefits of Academic Mastery With Roam
- How Maarten’s Course Helped Me Adopt a New Perspective on Learning
- Academic Mastery With Roam: Is It Worth the Price? And for Whom?
Alright, let’s get started!
Summary: Academic Mastery With Roam Review (FAQ)
1. Who is the person behind this course?
Maarten van Doorn is the creator and teacher of this course. At the time of writing this review, he’s a PhD candidate in philosophy and one of the most successful Medium writers. In 2021, he received the Outstanding Doctoral Student Award. He also coached dozens of people one-on-one in using Roam Research.
2. What’s inside the course?
Academic Mastery With Roam is a video course hosted on Teachable. It consists of six modules walking you through a research and writing process Maarten designed based on the Zettelkasten method. You’ll learn the nitty-gritty of Roam’s various functions and extensions, and how to use them in your academic work. More than this just being about taking and organizing notes, the course teaches you how to create your own knowledge management system. It also covers how to study effectively, and how to turn your notes into publishable written output.
3. How much does it cost and what are the alternatives? Is it worth the price?
Academic Mastery With Roam costs $159. It’s the more favorably priced one out of the two available courses on Roam Research that are designed specifically for academics. For more general online courses on Roam, you can check out this page.
Given how much content Maarten provides, I feel like you’re getting a lot here for your money, especially considering you’ll get 50% off with our affiliate link. That said, ultimately, you’ll have to be the judge of the value of this course. Luckily, you’ll also have 30 days to make up your mind.
4. Is there a money-back guarantee?
Yes. You have 30 days to request your money back and there will be no questions asked.
5. How long does it take to complete the course?
In the live version of the course, the modules were designed to take one week each. That said, the course is completely self-paced, so you can do it in your own time. The total length of all video material amounts to about 6-7 hours. Compared to many Roam Research courses that only have 1-2 hours of videos, it means that this one covers quite a lot!
Also, keep in mind that this isn’t one of those courses that you complete once and for all. You’re likely to review the material many times to study those aspects of Roam you’re currently working with.
The Pros & Cons of Academic Mastery With Roam
Before we go into the details of the course content, I want to give you an overview of the biggest advantages and downsides I found in it. This will give you. an initial overview of what you should and shouldn’t expect from Academic Mastery With Roam.
- The course is extremely well-structured. You may not realize this in the beginning, as Maarten seems to be “dumping” a lot of information right off the bat. But there’s a reason for it and that is to give you an idea of what Roam Research can do. As you go through the course, you’ll gradually learn how to get those same results in your own work. Maarten also “zooms out” on the course content quite a lot, giving an overview of where you currently are in the course. I found this helpful for consolidating my knowledge about Roam.
- This course is suitable both for beginners and somewhat experienced Roam users. In many modules, you can choose your “level of entry” depending on how advanced you are in using Roam and designing your knowledge structure. As a complete beginner, you can also decide to take the course in its most basic scope first and skip some of the videos. You can then come back to them later to expand your command of Roam.
- The course was created by a successful online writer and academic who won an Outstanding Doctoral Student Award in 2021. He also coached dozens of people one-on-one in using Roam. I can’t think of someone who would be more qualified to explain the architecture of knowledge, as well as the mechanics of learning and note-taking.
- Long-term, Academic Mastery With Roam will give you much more than fluency in using Roam as software. It’ll help you build your personal knowledge management system, which you will likely use well beyond the context of academia.
- It has a 30-day money back guarantee. This means you’re buying this course risk-free because one month is definitely enough time to verify if Maarten’s approach works for you. If it does, I’m sure you’ll be more than happy with what you paid for the value you’re getting!
- No additional accountability by default. As someone who expects added accountability from buying online courses, I found there weren’t enough assignments to complete as a form of “homework.” Because the course is self-paced, it’s also up to you to divide lessons over a period of time – which may be a challenge. That said, Maarten is now offering access to his online community as part of the course, which may be one way to get that accountability and motivation!
- Lots of new terminology to learn. Several new concepts will be thrown at you right from the start. Maarten explains Roam’s functionalities from the academic angle: making arguments, collecting evidence, linking supporting and objecting claims, etc. This will probably be no big challenge for academics who work with logic principles on a daily basis. For a blogger like me, it required an extra bit of effort.
- No lesson on keyboard shortcuts. These can make working in Roam much faster and also, Roam allows you to customize your key commands. Luckily, this is something you can easily find online without paying, including guides on how to customize your keyboard shortcuts in Roam.
What Is It Like Inside the Course?
Academic Mastery With Roam is hosted on Teachable, one of the most popular e-learning platforms. This makes it very straightforward to navigate. Here’s how the course will look on your desktop:
On the left, you have a sidebar that displays the course’s curriculum. In the main column, you’ll see a video with the lesson you’re currently watching, plus links to additional resources underneath. You can also post comments under each lesson if you have questions, suggestions, or doubts.
Most of the videos simply show Maarten’s Roam screen which he uses to present the lesson material. By the way – looking at the dates of some of his notes will show you that he’s been using Roam Research for a long time! Occasionally, Maarten will show his face (usually in a short video where he summarizes the module) or give a slideshow presentation – for example, when he explains the Zettelkasten method.
Zettelkasten is the foundation of the system Maarten will teach you in the course. First used by a prolific German scientist Niklas Luhmann, it’s a system for making interlinked notes and, by extension, enabling innovative thinking and synthesizing research. This is central to what Academic Mastery With Roam course is about.
Rather than just teaching you how to use a software tool, Academic Mastery With Roam helps you develop a complete system for reading, studying, note-taking – and finally, producing quality written output based on all that.
Here’s a brief overview of how this is broken down into six modules.
The first module is a tour through Roam’s user functions. It shows you what edits you can make in the text, how you can link text blocks together and embed them in different places, what a Roam graph is, and many other things. After this module, you’ll get a sense of what’s possible with Roam (although the understanding of how to make it happen comes later ;))
Some of the key takeaways from Module 1:
- Creating, linking, and tagging blocks and pages
- Text formatting within Roam
- Using Roam templates and extensions.
The second module focuses on effective reading strategies. Maarten speaks about why most popular reading techniques are inefficient for retaining information (although they seem to be). He also introduces the first steps to start building your Roam’s knowledge database.
Some of the key takeaways from Module 2:
- Mental processes to “run in the background” that will help you remember what you read
- Learning to install Zotero (a digital reference manager) and integrating it with Roam
- Learning how to import chosen content from pdfs, websites, Readwise, and Twitter into Roam.
The third module is all about effective studying. This means translating the content of your highlights into your own words – which, as Maarten teaches, is important for a few reasons. Mainly, it’s crucial for remembering and better understanding what you read, so you can later use it in the context of your own academic work.
Some of the key takeaways from Module 3:
- The importance of spaced repetition when it comes to retaining information,
- Setting up a spaced repetition system in Roam, so you can actively learn from your notes,
- The Feynman technique to deepen the understanding of your research topics.
The fourth module introduces the Zettelkasten method and explains the principles of taking smart notes. You’ll learn how to make them relevant for your future self, as well as how to organize them and structure your knowledge database in Roam.
Some of the key takeaways from Module 4:
- Becoming familiar with different types of notes and how to use them,
- Learning how to use keywords to file your notes
- Learning how to dissect what you read into atomic smart notes written in your own words.
The fifth module expands on the relationships between your notes. It adds information on how to make relevant connections between notes so, as Maarten puts it, they can start “talking to each other.” This is where you really start reaping the rewards of the Zettelkasten method by discovering ideas and lines of thought that were previously inaccessible.
Some of the key takeaways from Module 5:
- Learning how to create explanatory and argumentative connections between notes,
- Building a smart notes template that you can keep using in the future,
- Introduction to the complete Roam workflow based on everything you learned.
The sixth module is all about turning your notes into publishable text. This is where everything comes together and you get final tools to produce excellent written output based on your Roam notes.
Some of the main takeaways from Module 6:
- Learning how to outline your paper or book in Roam,
- A cool feature in the Discourse Graph extension that allows you to visually plan the content of your paper,
- An export workflow in Roam to create your bibliography much faster.
Additional Bonuses of Academic Mastery With Roam
Throughout the course, there are a few nice add-ons you may not expect. In my opinion, they add to the learning experience, making the material even richer. Here are a few simple but cool features I appreciated:
- Recordings of live workshops. In between each module, you’ll find a recording from a Q&A Maarten did with his students in the live version of the course. In there, you’ll hear people asking questions you may have had yourself. It can be helpful especially in the second part of the course when you’re actively building relationships between notes and need some additional explanations.
- Live Q&A every last Tuesday of the month. This is your chance to ask Maarten a question in person! 😉
- Lots of cool additional resources. If you feel like taking a bit of a break from videos, be sure to check out the “Useful Resources & Our Community Forum” (the second lesson of the course). In there, Maarten lists various resources: from links to other experts’ articles to specific guides on installing extensions and implementing bits of code, to a graphic representation of the complete workflow.
- Subtitles to highlight the most important points. In his videos, Maarten uses selective subtitles to highlight the key parts of what he’s saying. I found it super useful, as this gives my brain cues to pay extra attention to what’s most important.
- Displaying the course material in the form of Roam notes. As Maarten goes through the course content, you see everything he’s saying summarized in the form of Roam notes. This gives you a better understanding of how Roam can be used for a complex task, such as designing an online course.
- Effective reading and memorization techniques. This course really is about effective learning – and using Roam is a big part of that. Throughout the course, Maarten explains really valuable practices, like the Feynman technique or spaced repetition, that you can use anywhere and anytime – not just when working with Roam.
- The Zettelkasten method is explained in depth. Zettelkasten has become a bit of hype, but I’ve rarely seen it explained with the kind of depth that Maarten provides in his course. For me, this was the first real opportunity to understand what lies at the core of Zettelkasten ( i.e. fostering the connectivity of thoughts and exploring relationships between them, rather than just their content).
How Can You Get the Most Out of Academic Mastery With Roam?
The main advantage of Roam Research over other popular note-taking apps (like Evernote or Notion) is that notes can be linked together and then discovered in new contexts. It’s not about making hierarchical bullet notes that you then dig through when you need to find something. When you’re proficient with Roam, the notes you need appear in the relevant places because you designed them to do so!
While this is a game-changer, it also takes time to learn how to design that system in Roam. This may be the most important disclaimer when entering the Academic Mastery With Roam course: Don’t expect the benefits overnight.
Learning Roam is a long-term investment, and the longer you’re using it, the more returns on that investment start to compound. The more interlinked notes you have, the more Roam adds to your thinking and writing.
Knowing this, I recommend that you start using Roam Research the moment you enroll in Maarten’s course. If you’re not sure if Roam is right for you yet, don’t worry – the first month is free. But it won’t do much if you’re just studying the course material without applying it. You need to have access to Roam!
You can put the course material into practice in two ways:
- Start doing your academic work in Roam, alongside studying the course. Your notes don’t have to be perfect straight away. You’ll see that Maarten also has notes from way before he developed his system, and even though they may lack some aspects he now prioritizes, they still support his overall Zettelkasten.
- If you’re not an academic or don’t have an ongoing research project you can apply this to simply make notes about the course. The benefit here is kind of “meta”- you’re using Roam to learn Roam! 🙂
Also, my personal way through the course was not to get too attached to the linear structure of it. For example, the first module contains a few lessons on functionalities that I wasn’t able to digest in the beginning. So, I dropped them and came back to them later after watching other modules and having gained some basic fluency in Roam.
Be prepared to watch some lessons a few times, at different stages of your learning. Chances are, they will gain new relevance after your command of Roam has improved.
The 7 Main Benefits of Academic Mastery With Roam
Maarten’s promises about Academic Mastery With Roam aren’t small. On the course’s landing page, he says that if you learn his system, you’ll remember everything you want, think better, and write effortlessly – among a few other things.
Sound like a bit of a long shot? Maybe, but taking that Maarten’s used his method to write most of his Ph.D. thesis in 10 months, it seems like he knows what he’s talking about.
Here are the seven biggest benefits you’ll likely to experience if you take the course and study it diligently.
1. The efficiency of your learning and writing will improve.
This is a no-brainer. If you do what Maarten teaches, you’re pretty much guaranteed to become a better thinker and writer. That’s because his Roam system is designed to streamline certain processes that otherwise slow down your research. A good example is when he explains what to do with the highlights you import into Roam. You need to process them rather than just copy-paste them. The latter, in Maarten’s words, “doesn’t get you retention of the material and it doesn’t get your mastery of the material in a way sufficient for you to be able to write about it.”
2. You’ll get insights about your research topic that you wouldn’t come across otherwise.
There are only so many links between pieces of information that your brain is able to hold at any given moment. When you use Maarten’s system in Roam Research, you effortlessly create and record more of those links. As a result, you may discover completely new angles from which to view your subject matter.
3. Your memory will improve.
One cool thing about Academic Mastery With Roam is that it teaches you how to learn. The course ventures way beyond just recording pieces of information in Roam. It teaches you to do it in such a way that your retention of information and understanding of the topic improve along the way!
4. You’ll end up with your personal Wikipedia.
Another tangible benefit of taking this course is that, by doing it, you’ll end up with a well-organized knowledge database that’s relevant to your research interests. This is a really great asset that you can refer to anytime in the future, not just for the purpose of one specific project.
5. You’ll unlearn a few unhelpful studying habits.
As Nir Eyal once said, “living the life we want requires not only doing the right things, it also requires that we stop doing the wrong things that take us off-track.” This is one other benefit you’ll reap after taking Maarten’s course. You’ll stop doing the wrong things in your research and learning that give you an illusion of understanding – but that really just distract you from deepening your knowledge
6. You’ll understand Zettelkasten and the principles of taking smart notes.
Zettelkasten is a learning system that’s praised by many academics and other knowledge workers. It allows you to organize complex ideas in a straightforward manner, record them, and connect them together. The Zettelkasten relies on atomic smart notes. Once you understand the principles that make them so smart, you’ll be able to record information in a brand new, more effective way.
7. You’ll see all the above benefits compounding exponentially over time.
Roam may be hard to get started with and as many people note, it has a “steep learning curve.” The good news is that once you get a gist of it, any material you add to your Zettelkasten increases its value exponentially. Once you reach a certain point, there’s really no going back because the value of all your notes linked together in Roam becomes far greater than just the sum of their content.
How Maarten’s Course Helped Me Adopt a New Perspective on Learning
I’ve been an online writer for over four years now. The more I wrote, the more I had trouble digesting and compiling all the research I’ve continued to do. So, when I first heard of Roam Research, I was thrilled. I subscribed immediately, expecting a quick return on my investment.
But months have passed and I grew frustrated. I was still paying the subscription fee, but it felt like the money was wasted. I struggled to make notes in Roam because I simply didn’t know how to use it. All the available functions overwhelmed me and so, I ended up making notes that felt pretty much useless.
Despite the promises about Roam being a tool to leverage my thinking, it didn’t do that for me. Eventually, I canceled my subscription because I wasn’t seeing much progress.
It wasn’t until I found Maarten’s course that I picked it up again. I’m still by no means a proficient Roam user. I’m learning it, and the learning curve is steep indeed. But after Maarten’s course, I managed to change my perspective on learning and building my knowledge base in Roam.
My main two takeaways are about shifting my perspective to more long-term:
- Learning Roam takes time. I’m taking that time now to understand all the Roam’s various features and then figure out how to apply them to my work. Also, it’s okay if I don’t understand everything. It’s the grasping of the philosophy behind Roam and Zettelkasten that matters.
- My Roam database will become more valuable over time. Right now, I cannot draw much from my notes as I haven’t put a sufficient amount of content in. But I can already see how this will build up over time. I’ve become more patient in waiting for the biggest rewards to appear in a few months, or maybe rather, in a few years’ time.
Academic Mastery With Roam: Is It Worth the Price? And for Whom?
There are lots of resources to help you learn Roam Research. Many of them seem quite solid. However, they typically offer a general overview of Roam’s functionalities without focusing all that much on the context in which you’re using them.
Academic Mastery With Roam is special in the way that it’s designed with academics in mind. It presents Roam’s functionalities in the context of making scientific arguments, supporting claims with evidence, and constructing an academic discussion that incorporates these. This saves you time that you’d otherwise spend on (1) learning Roam’s functionalities and then (2) figuring out how to apply them to the context of your research. Maarten’s already done that for you and packaged his expertise in the form of a well-structured course.
With that said, don’t anticipate this course to be fast and easy to complete. It’s definitely not enough to just passively watch video lessons to learn Roam. The only way to take full advantage of this course is to study it alongside using Roam Research, so you’re putting what you learned into practice.
Academic Mastery With Roam is a course well worth taking, especially if you work in academia. You’ll need to trust Maarten and put in a good few hours to grasp the basics. But if you do, you’ll see the benefits of Roam quickly. You’ll build your very own knowledge management system and develop a workflow that you can then use in your research, writing, and beyond.
As Maarten put it, this course will allow you to go from “I have a bunch of papers to read” to “I have now synthesized the literature and have a set of promising angles to attack my research problem from.” I think that’s an accurate description of the journey you’ll take if you decide to enroll. Overall, I can recommend this course!
I hope you found this review helpful, and if you do decide to take Maarten’s course, you’ll get 50% off with our unique discount code (affiliate link). Thank you, and happy researching and writing!