Complete beginner needs referencing help

I have just discovered Scrivener and plan to use it to write up my PhD thesis - it seems to have a lot of features that are going to be useful. BUT
I am having a real problem getting my head around how I am going to do the referencing (footnotes etc.) I do not come from a programming/development background, so anything a step beyond WYSIWYG is daunting for me! (I have previously used Endnote, that is about as sophisticated as it gets).
Is there anyone out there willing to walk me through this, holding my hand, and explain the most painless way to work with footnotes and references in Scrivener? I am doing a humanities based topic, so I don’t need anything too complex like formulas etc, literally just footnotes with biblio details and page numbers.

Many thanks in advance!!

Well, I hope someone with some genuine knowledge comes along and supplements this response with a decent answer, but in the meantime, to get you going…

I use bibliography software called Bookends. In that you get together your bibliography file. You can (I think) import your existing Endnote data. You can search the web and draw in information from sites like Amazon or Google scholar.

In the preferences of Bookends, you can set you preferred word processor to Scrivener (though it’s not precisely a word processor).

Then, when you are working in Scrivener, and you want to insert a reference, you type the Apple Key, Shift and Y which opens Bookends. Then you select the reference you want and press the Apple Key and Y. This switches back to Scrivener and inserts a placeholder reference into your text. You can add in your exact page references inside the brackets if you need to.

Later, you’ll probably output from Scrivener to a word processor. I have Mellel, for example. In the output file, the placeholder references are still there. When you’re happy that everything is as it should be, you use the “scan” function in Bookends, to scan the document, which means that it replaces the placeholders with formatted references, and produces a bibliography. At that stage you choose what style of formatting you need (e.g. Turabian, Harvard, or whatever).

I tried another application called Sente, which seems to work in precisely the same way as Bookends. The main advantage (that I could see) was that it is much prettier. The main disadvantage was that it was a lot more expensive. I think Endnote works fine with Scrivener, but I’ve never used it.

Anyway, as I said, I’m far from expert in all of this, so I too look forward to a more complete and accurate response to your question. In the meantime, however, you have this one.

Good luck,


The Scrivener-Mellel-Bookends is an extremely good solution. You can also buy Mellel and Bookends together at a discount rate. See the producers Website for info. The only drawback is that you might not want a new word processor, or you might find Mellel a little quirky at first, as it’s a powerful application, but a little hard to master at first. Bookends also seems to play well with Pages and the latest MS Word version (I haven’t personally tried them).
The reason why you need a word processor is in the scanning feature of Bookends, and it works more or less as follows:

  • You write your text in Scrivener, adding bibliography placeholders as you go along, without worrying at all about their formatting (whether in the text body, in footnotes, in a bibliography lists); and don’t worry about specifying “ibid”, either, you’ll do that later. Just write, cite, and go on.
  • You adjust your manuscript in a word processor, where you will “scan” the bibliography references in order to transform them in proper, edited and readable references. Then, if for some reason your publisher tells you not to use the Turabian notation but the Chicago one, changing all the references in your manuscript will be a snap.

Thanks folks. I would really prefer not to get another word processor at this stage - Word does what I need it to do (and anything tricky formatting/typesetting wise I will do in InDesign). But I would love to get away from EndNote (esp. as it doesn’t seem to gel with Mac). I will check out Bookends and see if that is what I need.

Anyone else who can contribute, please feel free! I really need the advice.


I have used EndNote for many years and have zero problems with the current Mac version, EndNote X1. If your university has a license, it’s quite cheap and certainly very powerful. The integration with Scrivener is seamless: just Cmd-C to insert a place-holder reference, like this: {Junkin, 1986 #157}. When you export to Word, it will convert those to foot or end notes, as you prefer. Endnote allows you to write long abstracts and comments on each entry, and include URLs where relevant. So it’s really a database in which you have all your evidence and ideas, keyed to a citation that will be properly formatted in MLA or APA style, or what you will.

I don’t know what problems you’ve been having with EndNote, but be sure to get the latest Mac version and try it out.


If you use the search function you will find quite a lot of threads about Bookends and such in this forums.

For example, this one fresh from this morning: [url]].

Thanks Druid, I probably just need the latest endnote version.