Difference between "References" and "Research"?

I’m not understanding the difference between References (at either the Document level or the Project level) and the Research folder, i.e., why you would use one rather than the other. I have tons of research that I access for grant writing - articles, reports, fact sheets, websites, etc. and I don’t know where to put them, where they “belong”…I know how to use them but not why. And is there an advantage to linking to files on my computer by alias versus adding them to Scrivener?

:frowning: Can anyone give me some advice on this? Thanks!

There are definitely advantages to linking over importing, though it should be made clear that you can link to resources in the Binder as well, via the [b]File/Import/Research Files as Aliases[/b] menu command. So the choice between these two tools is not so clearly divided by import vs. linking. The choice is more one of clutter management, I would say, and the specificity of the research material to particular aspects of the draft (or tertiary to imported research). As well, I would say the line is not drawn so clearly between accessibility of the information within the interface itself. Supported file types (that is, types that Scrivener can view when you click on them in the Binder) can be dragged from a Reference table into the header bar of an editor and be viewed there in a split as though they were imported. For other items, you can tap Spacebar to open them in Quick Look. So having an item in the References list doesn’t automatically mean they are less useful; in some ways they are even more accessible to the keyboard, if that is your cup of tea.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself for each piece of research:

  • Does this pertain to only one very specific part of my draft? If so, then References might be more useful because they will be contextually elevated to that specific portion of the Draft by virtue of being in its Inspector, rather than located somewhere else in the Binder that you might not even have visible. Of course, you can create Reference links to other Binder items at all—so the key point of this question is whether the research “matters” to anything beyond this section, since importing does not exclude References.
  • Does it pertain to larger, more abstract portions of the draft? Importing it, either via full import or linkage is probably the best choice then. Keep in mind once you do establish the resource in the Binder, you can then Reference link it to any section in the Draft that would benefit from it. So you don’t lose out specific contextual highlighting by importing. Another subtle “power feature” with internal references like these is the trick of renaming an internal ref’s URL to “*”. This adds it to the item’s Header Bar Icon menu, meaning you get quick access to it whenever you need—even without the Inspector open.
  • Will I need this file on multiple computers? While there is no hard distinction between linking vs. importing in the Binder—there definitely is no alternative for References. They will always be links, so if you move around a lot and you anticipate needing this resource no matter where you go—fully importing the item will reduce how much external file management you have to bother with. Note however that one could definitely establish a “complex” of files around the .scriv project using a service like Dropbox that would still afford portability, without needing to import into the project itself.
  • How much “clutter” am I willing to put up with in the Binder? This is more of a strategic question, and also dependent upon how much research you have in terms of sheer quantity. Do you have tens of thousands of files? Scrivener is an apt organiser, no doubt about it, but maybe you’d like to keep its various organisation features more focussed on your WIP and a few core select resources. Using References can reduce Binder clutter since all of them are distributed amongst individual small pieces of your Draft. A lot of authors writing in academic fields like to use an outboard organiser like DEVONthink Pro, Together, or EagleFiler—in addition to Scrivener. Most of these integrate nicely with Scrivener—especially in the References pane.

Now, having established that this isn’t a linking vs. importing thing, to answer that question specifically and separately: the main considerations there are whether you need to keep something outside of Scrivener, either to keep it easily externally editable (though you can easily open stuff in other programs from the Binder, it’s more difficult to work outward in since imported resources will be “hidden” from you on your Mac). A compound of this is if you anticipate frequent addenda to the original resource. Once you fully import, you fork the file. There is now a copy on your drive and a copy in Scrivener. If you receive updated charts, or annotated PDFs from a colleague, then these won’t update the stuff in Scrivener. If they had been linked, then they would be.

The largest consideration in my opinion is project size bulk. Importing gigabytes of research data into a project is effectively saying, “I can’t keep this backed up very easily”. And considering that your WIP is embedded with your research, that can be a dangerous way to live. Even if the program functions flawlessly, and your computer as well, backups also protect against human error. A tidy project file can be backed up routinely every time you close it (Scrivener does this for you automatically) without any undo delays, and you can produce as many redundant “milestone” backups as you want without feeling guilty about eating up your drive space. So if your research has a lot of file size bulk, that’s an important consideration. Linking to a research file has no major downside in terms of usability. It will act just like an imported document in terms of Scrivener’s UI itself.

The other consideration briefly mentioned above is portability—that applies to both communal distribution (like Dropbox) and deliberate transfer (like Flash drives). Stuff you import into a project is guaranteed to be available to you no matter what computer you sit down to. If you use more than one computer on a regular basis, that can be a big factor.

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Thank you SO MUCH for such a substantive reply…NOW I know how to use my research. Thanks!

You can easily overload Scrivener with database material.
That’s why many writers on the forum prefer to keep all
Research files in DevonThink Pro, and references in a manager, like Endnote.
When writing in Scrivener, I use either URL links to sites on the Web.
Or DTP’s Edit: Copy Item Link to call that item from its database.
Endnote will also store URLS, and plugs into Scrivener plus word processors.
Both products are worthy investments for research writers.
And students or educators get discounts.

Not sure whether right place to ask, but shouldn’t each entry in the Document References also appear in the Project references pane as each document is part of the bigger project? Thank you.

No - it’s up to you what goes in document references and project references. If all document references appeared in project references it could be overwhelming for projects with lots of references.

All the best,

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