Access research data for many writing projects

Hi Folks,

i am new to Scrivener. I was searching the forum and other online resources but haven’t found an answer to the following question.

Is there a way to build up a research database of e.g. pdf articles and websites that can be used in any draft?
To be more vividly. I found a scientific article on the internet. Within the article there are two statements (A and B). I know that I will use statement A in the first article. About B I am not sure jet. Is there a way to mark this statement B in some way that when I am writing the second article in a year from now and I vaguely remember that I sometime has read somewhere about statement B, that I can open a search and find that statement B in the article stored in the research folder of the old first article?

Or do I have to have a research database (a spreadsheet in the simplest form) outside of Scrivener? :question:

Cheers, Karsten

I suppose you could mark up the PDF (Shift-Cmd-H on selected text will highlight it), but that’s not Scrivener’s forte, it only has rudimentary access to PDF editing and viewing. It may be a matter of taste, but I myself prefer to put these kinds of things into individual files in a common place, well, commonplacing in fact. :slight_smile: For that I think Scrivener is ideal because each snippet of text you add to the project Binder can be tagged, organised into folders and collections, annotated upon with notes, described with a synopsis—etc. You might not need all of that—but even just one of those things is going to be better than a yellow highlight in a PDF in my opinion.

What I am getting at is this: should you be required to remember which article an idea came from years after you’ve read it, or is the idea itself the thing you want to preserve? For myself, it’s nearly always the latter, and if I do want to remember the article for context I can easily drag the PDF into the snippet’s References table—just like I could drag the snippet as a reference to the Statement B snippet into the piece of manuscript that refers to Statement A. With a system like that you can safely forget about the details of finding it. You have the statement you dimly recall referred to directly in the Inspector relating to the piece of text it relates to, and that in turn leads you back to the article if you need more than the bit of text you copied and pasted into it last year—and all of this works in the other direction as well, given how References back-link automatically by default. If you view the PDF file, in its Inspector you’ll find a reference pointing to the Statement B snippet, and all other snippets of text you saved while reading it. The Reference list for the PDF thus becomes an index of notable selections and other cross-references.

In case that still isn’t making sense, think of it this way: you thought of using a spreadsheet for this, in Scrivener, each item in the Binder can be likened to a “row” in a spreadsheet, especially if you use the Outliner mode instead of Corkboard. Only in this case, the “row” can exist directly within the same ecosystem that your manuscript does.

As should be obvious, this can be a rather big topic with a lot of different ways of doing things, so if you have any questions with the above just let me know, I’d be happy to explain things better. I may be referring to things you’ve not come across yet such as keywords and references.

Hi Karsten, I’ve done it both ways: using the Finder as my database and importing just the articles I need for each project; and (more recently) importing all my source documents (in my case, a few months’ worth of press releases that will be used in various stories) into a single Scriv project and writing different drafts using some of the same material. I liked the latter because I just like working in my custom made Scrivener setup more than switching back and forth between Finder and SCriv, but either way works for my purposes.

For yours, however, I might counsel keeping your sources in the Finder so that you can use more specialized PDF editing software. then again, maybe could do that editing as the material comes in, and then import the edited PDFs into Scrivener?

Please let us know what you decide and why, and enjoy Scrivener!

I used DevonThink a lot before I discovered Scrivener, so this is where I keep my research. I think it would be possible to copy the subset of information in DevonThink to Scrivener if needed. This would probably work well if the information I researched is fairly complete. It might be more difficult to keep several information stores in sync if you continue to add research material while you write the draft.

You will find lots of discussions around DevonThink in the forum; there should be some that describe how people use it in conjunction with Scrivener.

Happy searching and researching,

Personally, I just have Devonthink and Scrivener both open side-by-side. You certainly could drag a subset of the Devonthink database into Scrivener, but for me that just seems like extra administrative work.


I do exactly what you are describing, as part of my job as a researcher, but I use different apps for different things.

Research articles (references) in the form of PDFs I search for and store in Papers3, which has a built in search function which you can use to search for text in the pdf and/or in your annotations.

Ideas, which usually have to do with possible future research projects or articles or grant proposals, etc, I keep in some kind of task manager. I currently use 2Do because it fits my need and is available for both Mac and iPad, but it could be any task manager.

Then when I start sketching what is to become e.g an article, or a grant proposal, I switch to Scrivener. Sometimes I put a copy of some really important pdfs in the Research folder, if I need to check them rather often during my writing. Or I might put results from statistical tests there.

I don’t believe in using only one tool for everything. I use specialized tools for every single thing I do, specialized apps, for the same reason that a good carpenter uses lots of different, specialized tools. A carpenter wouldn’t try to find the ultimate Swiss army knife, to replace all the specialized tools.