Lesson 3: Indentation for association

Indentation is one of the fundamental aspects in Roam. It’s the feature that allows block references and queries to work. In other words: indentation helps you to find stuff in Roam.

The idea of indentation is simple: anytime you hit the Tab key, the block your cursor is in moves to the right. Indenting a block nests it under the block above, creating a parent-child relationship:

Parent and child blocks

Let’s walk through the example step-by-step:

  • Block A is a parent block; B and C are children of A;  block D is a grandchild of A.
  • Block B is a child of and it’s in the same branch as blocks C and D.
  • Block C is a child of A and the parent of D.

Why is this important? As we’ve discussed in the previous lessons, Roam is a networked note-taking tool that works with links. We also discussed that Roam has no hierarchy, which is actually nuanced. As you’ve probably deduced by now, hierarchy in Roam happens at the block level.

By associating blocks, you create a branch that you can navigate. Let’s turn the example above into links and navigate to the linked references of block D, which we’ll name Child D:

By going to the page of Child D, we can see this hierarchy it’s in: first up is Parent and child C and then Parent A.

By clicking on one of the parents, the whole branch becomes visible, highlighting the block that served as entry point into the branch:

Block hierarchy expanded

That’s the basics of indentation! It’s not much more complex than this, but it opens up a world of possibilities.


Now that you understand links and indentation, start writing your notes by freely linking to pages and nesting related blocks (paragraphs).

Even if you don’t know yet how to retrieve information using filters and queries (will be the in next lessons), it’s a good habit to link and associate blocks.

Additional resources

Need some more pointers to wrap your head around the indentation in Roam? Check out this video by Roam coach R.J. Nestor:

Indent with Intent: Fundamentals of Roam Research


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