help for tracking and compiling theme in chronological journal


I’d be grateful for some help setting up my first real and longterm project in Scrivener so I can start writing relatively quickly and learn the rest of the software with time. I’ve played with the IOS version earlier in the year, and have spent some time with the various support tools for the MAC version but I still haven’t found a good way to accomplish what I want to do.

I want to be able to track a couple of themes or topics while I enter notes from several years of travel and personal journals in a Scrivener project. The project with be organized chronologically, but I’ll be entering information in whatever order I find the notes and journals. I’d like to be able to compile text relating to each theme into a separate document at regular intervals for printing and review, and possibly to extract for a new project somewhere down the line.

Labels are interesting, however, it looks like they need to be attached to an entire document, whereas for my purposes it would be more feasible to mark text within a document rather than start a new document whenever the theme comes up.

Is there a best way to do this?

Thanks for any help. Learning software is a difficult process for me, but Scrivener appears to be really worth it.

This sounds very similar to a workflow I’ve been using.

I start by splitting the editor into two windows side by side. I open the source document (the journal) in the left window and lock it (opt-Cmd-L). Then I make new documents in the binder, one for each theme. The first three documents, I open in the second editor, and the two copyholders attached to each of the editors. (To load a document into a copyholder, you option-drag the document from the Binder into the title bar of the editor.)

So I end up with the source document locked in the left editor, and three other theme documents to the right and on the bottom of each editor. The copyholdershave a draggable split, so I drag them down so only the title bars are visible until I need them.

I go through the source document and copy text referring to a certain theme, and paste it into the appropriate document. You end up with a compiled list. If you want to be more exacting, you can copy in the date of journal entries and other data into the theme documents as you work.

If you need to track more than three themes, you can create additional theme documents in the Binder, and then open them in Quick Refernce windows. You do that by selecting the document in the Binder and pressing the space bar. All the Quick Reference windows are listed in the Windows menu.

Hope that helps.

All Scrivener metadata is assigned at the document level.

popcornflix’s suggestion will work, but you could also split the document into chunks after entry, and assign appropriate labels or keywords to each chunk.

Note that metadata is inherited. For example, if you assign a custom date field to an entry, then split it, each of the child documents will inherit the date field.


Thank-you Katherine and popcornflix for your replies.

I should have specified that almost all of the text I want to enter is handwritten in individual journals, notebooks, or stapled sheets of looseleaf that are currently scattered in a number of boxes, bags, and other assorted containers. Other text is found in emails and what was salvaged from a failed journaling application experiment. There are also photographs contained in mobile devices and other platforms. Since this spans about 12 years, it’s a longterm project and a little overwhelming which is why I’m so happy to have found Scrivener.

I’ll be typing in the notes that are worth keeping in the order in which I find them, so I’ll be going back and forth in time plugging in extra information here and there. I was hoping to be able to tag or otherwise mark text as I’m typing that pertains to certain themes (eg. spirituality) so that I could quickly gather the theme’s information into a separate document on occasion for review before having finished the whole of the project. The text could contain references to people, conversations, locations, etc. I’d also eventually be adding research to fill in some gaps as well as photographs and drawings (eg. of a location that was visited).

From what I understand, labels can be assigned to a document, but not to text within a document. I was hoping some option would exist that would allow me to, let’s say, highlight a relevant paragraph and tag it as “Theme A” while I’m typing a two-page entry for a document titled January 30th. Once every few weeks, I could extract all the text of the project tagged “Theme A” into a separate printable document for review.

I may need to look at this in a different way. I’ll first follow up by acquainting myself more with the keyword functions. Any more suggestions are most welcome.

And thank-you again, Katherine and popcornflix, for your recommendations. I have a lot to learn.


Try using Styles. (Assuming you’re in Scrivener 3.) That’s the only mechanism I can think of that assigns a searchable name to a block of text within a document. All of Scrivener’s metadata is applied at the document level.


I think you need a database for this, rather than Scrivener. You need to track the text, images, metadata and tags separately , and be able to compile reports based on your search criteria. That’s what databases do.


Read about Scrivener’s Inline Annotations feature. They’re searchable. You could tag a paragraph or section…

Thank-you for the suggestions. I’m following up with the interactive tutorial and manual. :slight_smile:

As far as the writing is concerned, I think the use of a combination of features will give me what I need to keep track of the themes. Different themes will lend themselves better to tracking with different features. It’ll be a good learning experience.

I see now that organisation of the images and other media will have to be addressed separately, probably with database software as was suggested above, though that doesn’t bring joy to my mind. :frowning:

Thanks again. I really appreciate this feedback.