Writing up your research with Scrivener

As I was looking for an application that would allow me to use my Ipad as a writing device, I randomly came across this fantastic software called “Scrivener” by Literature and Latte. While there is no Ipad application available yet, my first experience with Scrivener was so convincing that I dropped google.doc and word (PC and iPad versions) to write my thesis directly in the software.

Here is a description taken directly from the Literature and Latte website:

Scrivener is a powerful content-generation tool for writers that allows you to concentrate on composing and structuring long and difficult documents. While it gives you complete control of the formatting, its focus is on helping you get to the end of that awkward first draft.

For years, my writing process has been as follows: I would normally use a mind mapping software to plan my project outline and subsections. I would then create a distinct document for each chapter or relevant subsection (either in Word, or more recently Google.doc/Google Drive for remote access, collaboration, and automatic backup). While my structure was very clean and organised at first, my system did not handle structural changes very well such as moving, adding or removing content. Unless I would constantly manually update my mindmap plan, it would soon become obsolete and I would tend to lose track of the “big picture”. Furthermore, when I wanted to retrieve snippets of work that needed relocation, I often had to switch between documents and search within the text manually or with the “find” function.

With Scrivener, all my texts are in the same project “binder”, broken down in navigable and malleable folders and subfolders. These are also found listed in a ubiquitous left panel table of content. This sort of “dashboard”, allows me to find my bearings in the ever-evolving/transfigured thesis structure, as well as to keep a conducting thread while writing.

These are some of the Scrivener features I find particularly relevant to my thesis work:”:

Research Folder: I drop my important annotated articles, reading and supervision notes in there, as well as relevant web links;

A snapshot function: Allows you to “clone” the text before undertaking important  structural changes, avoiding irreparable mistake and loss of prior versions;

A synopsis feature: Can serve as an helpful reminder of the intent/aim of a section to be written;

A compilation function: Allows you to “mount” in part or in whole  your text and exports them in different formats such as doc, pdf or html;

A virtual cork board: Enables you to pin ideas to be further developed or evaluated;

I also enjoy the auto-save/automatic backup functions as well as the text tagging/labelling and text annotation features.  And the list goes on…

It is possible to try Scrivener for free (Windows or Mac OS X versions) for a 30 days period. The trial period is based on actual use – meaning you can try Scrivener for several months (and potentially get “hooked” like me) before having to purchase it. After that, the software is available for about £25 for an educational license (depending on your operating system).  If you are tempted by Scrivener, I highly recommend investing a couple of hours in undergoing the full interactive tutorial which will walk you through some of its unusual but very handy features.

I am hoping however that they will come to develop both an Ipad and a cloud-based version (so to facilitate remote access and collaboration). At the moment, I am using dropbox for remote access and sharing.

Posted under PGR students, Research, Useful links

This post was written by Annie Blanchette on October 10, 2012

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