I started using Scrivener in April 2014. Out went Microsoft Word, in came the Greatest Writing Tool Ever. Just thinking about all the time I previously spent engaged in NEVER ENDING SCROLLING in Word makes me feel queasy. The most popular post on this blog is undoubtedly “How I use Scrivener for Academic Writing“. I wrote it in 2015, and so far its been viewed over 20,000 times. In that post, I wax lyrical about my love for Scrivener. I explain how I’ve used Scrivener to write journal articles. And then, tucked away at the bottom, I make a throw-away line about resolving issues with citations (which I later did). I say I that I need to get to the bottom of the citation problem because I’m determined to write my PhD thesis in Scrivener. Fast forward two years and I am staring at my part-written thesis. This post looks at how I’m using Scrivener to write my thesis.
It jumps straight in, so if you need to know more about Scrivener basics please read this post first. And if you want to know more about my PhD research, take a look at this. And woe betide you miss this major health warning: As I’ve said with all my Scrivener blogs, this is not the definitive guide to how to work with Scrivener. It is merely how I use Scrivener. I’m still very much a beginner. This is what my thesis looks like, at a glance. On the left hand side you can see the folders making up the thesis. I have named each folder in line with traditional thesis sections and chapters. Outline). The outline shows me each folder, my total word count for each folder, my target word count. There is also a column called ‘progress’ but this doesn’t come into play unless you expand the information in the title (I’ll show you this in a moment). Straight away you can see that I’ve spent most of my time on my literature review. I’ve given that chapter an arbitrary target word count of 20,000 words.
I’ve written nearly half of that so far. I often go to this overview of my thesis when I have an “I Haven’t Done Anything! I’m So Far Behind! ” sort of day. If I click on the folder marked ‘Chapter 2: Literature Review’, this is the view I get. Instantly you can see that I have a number of sections and even a sub-folder within my literature review chapter. I have written about my objectives for the chapter and how I searched the literature. I have then started to produce my literature review. As you might have noticed, this part is still very messy. At the moment, it is more like a collection of notes. I create new sections, and I move existing sections around constantly. For me, this is the beauty of Scrivener. NEW TEXT), type a whole load of text, and then grab that section and move it anywhere I want. For example, if I wanted to move the section called ‘1970’ all I need to do is click on it and pull it down to where I want it to sit.
No more cutting and pasting swathes of text, changing your mind and then having to re-paste it back in. With Scrivener, I’ve moved entire chapters around (and moved them back again) in seconds. If I click on the section called ‘1970’, this is what I will see. I can go straight into that section and start editing on the right hand side. If I want to be reminded of something I’ve written further down, I can use the split screen option. More about that here. I’ve written about that here. My mind likes to jump about. Barely a day goes by when I’m not re-writing, re-assessing, and re-factoring ideas and information in my head. This happens mostly when I’m walking about. Or running. I’ve ‘written’ entire articles when on a run. So I move things about in Scrivener a lot. I ‘dump’ ideas in there. I write and re-write. Sections that now reside in my methodology chapter, started out in my literature review. How do I keep on top of this change?