From article to concept

I’m starting a new project, and I’m using Scrivener to organize my notes on the articles I’m reading (they are organized in Bookends). I am at a point where concepts are starting to become evident, but I am somewhat at a loss to know how to organize these, and how to relate them to the article notes. Perhaps I should add that I am a longtime user of Scrivener (one published book, multiple articles, and a second under review by publishers, all written using Scrivener), and also an enthusiastic Scapple user. In fact, I am starting to dream about having access to Scapple inside Scrivener. I know this has been suggested before, and I know I can load a Scapple document into Scrivener to view, and I know the design philosophy does not envisage combining the two… so this message goes on the Wish List in the sense of posing the question to other users - how do you deploy Scrivener to handle this aspect of the research process?


Not sure if this exactly deals with your question. But as the structure of a piece develops in my mind, and in my Outline and/or Corkboard or Draft/Binder, I mimic the structure in the Research folder. Then I tuck notes and articles/clippings under the headings in that folder, following the Outline or Draft structure carefully. The intention is that then the piece will more or less write itself. It never does, of course, but placing research documents in the most logical order in a mirror of the outline of the piece itself helps a great deal. (This is a simple steal from the historian Steven Berlin Johnson’s recommended use of DevonThink, and should work for fact-heavy fiction too.)

Hugh, I don’t think that’s quite what I’m looking for. Generally I write with a clear organization in mind ahead of time, and the research - notes on articles, trial writing, etc., - fits easily into that organization. This time I am exploring a new area, and the organization is emerging as I read. Logically, each article is a single document. But typically each article involves several concepts, and I’m not sure how to develop the concepts in Scrivener, or how to link them back to the articles. I can, for example, create a synopsis and then examine the articles as cards on the Corkboard. But that’s still one concept (or at least one synopsis) per article. I can drag cards into Scapple, I can drag highlighted text from the notes on each article into Scapple, but they lose any link to the document they came from.

Right now, I have the Scapple document imported into Scrivener. To edit it, such as by dragging a document, I clink to open it in Scapple as an external editor. I’m thinking about splitting the article documents into subdocuments that correspond to different concepts, then playing with them in the Freeform Corkboard.


That would definitely be the most natural way to use Scrivener, and how it was designed to be used. The Binder outline can function as a “file manager”, and with certain things like PDF files that is how it must work—but the foundation of the software is built around the premise that writing a long piece of text works better when you have that text broken down as far as it is comfortable to do so, rather than having to use arbitrary chunk sizes that emerge when using a simple single-document editor and files and folders (i.e. it would be more convenient to put the whole article into one single .docx file so that you can print it without opening 20 small files and pasting everything back in the right order—twenty sub-files that need to be combined into a single print job or file is not even remotely a problem with Scrivener). If you find yourself looking at “a card” and thinking how nice it would be to see the content of that card on a corkboard (or corkboard type thing, like Scapple)—then you’ve probably got your answer. :slight_smile:

And remember that if you do prefer a more file=file approach for long-term storage, the Documents/Merge function is there for when you’re done with those twenty pieces as pieces.

Thanks, Amber. And I’ve also started to use the colored Keyword Tags on the notecards; something I’ve not explored before. Each keyword is a concept, and I can apply several to each card = notes on an article. Now I’m trying to see how to select for a specific keyword, but I imagine search can do this.

This, in my view, is the mark of quality software: that it continually affords new ways of working, although anyone can start with the basic word-processing (as do those of my students who’ve bought Scrivener on my recommendation).


That’s certainly what Scrivener aims for: easy to learn but with a lot of depth if you need/want it. Thanks for the recommendations you’ve been making, as well, that is always appreciated! :slight_smile:

Yes you can set up a keywords-only search using the Project Search tool’s magnifying glass menu—but the easiest way will be from the Project/Show Project Keywords… window.