Scrivener for Grad School

Hiya Fellow Scriveners!

I have been trolling the boards for a few days trying to get some ideas and although some touch on things close to what I am wondering, none go too far in depth to what I need. I posted before about To-Do apps and got such amazing responses I figured I would pick everyone’s brain again.

I see many posts about using Scrivener for Thesis/PHD writings but I’m wondering if anyone used Scrivener in their classes, like for taking notes and such. I am currently on break from class and am trying to come up with a workflow that incorporates thesis research plus class notes (most of my instructors distribute power points). Currently I have been working like this:

  1. Make notes in the power points themselves
  2. Export said pp’s as a pdf
  3. drop exported pp’s into Scrivener research under a binder for that particular class
  4. Compile class notes for tests, writing, etc. in Scrivener

This is working but I feel like there could be some tips, or perhaps a database system (like Devonthink) to store the PP’s and class notes seperatly from my Scrivener folders. I’m trying to accomplish NOT having a gagillion folders all over the place and a more centralized location for stuff per semester and keep my Scrivener folders for actual writing.

I’m hoping this makes sense and I’m really looking for more detailed ways to incorporate DT & Scrivener to be productive. I’m not 100% sold on DT so any options, ideas, or just general ways all of you have your workflow set up would be greatly appreciated.

Hope this makes sense :blush:

Instead of storing reference files (PP, notes, etc) in the reference section, you could store those things outside of Scrivener, and use the Inspector/References section to drag file links to your scrivener entries.

As for storing all those PP files, notes, or whatever, you could do that within the OS file structure. As long as you are good about linking the files to your scrivener pages, that may be sufficient to elegantly find whatever you need. Alternatively, there are multiple programs to store and organize files. I prefer EagleFiler, since all files within its database are easily accessible and searchable by the OS.

That’s a good method, and you can also make any word in a Scriv file link to an external file by using the Add Link command. You might want to try DT Pro, because it will add links from its files/items to Scrivener, and the search and organizing capabilities of DTP are excellent. The Concordance and other AI features let you search for text strings in masses of materials.

Another usage scenario: I use Scriv for teaching literature and history courses. Each course has its own Scrivener project file. The Research folder holds folders for each week of the course. I line up the items: pdf, rtf, jpg, web links, and proceed through them. Works better than slides, and there’s less of a learning curve than with apps like Curio. You could use this method for talks or just arranging study materials.

I mostly use DTPO as my repository for research materials – Scrivener becomes unwieldy when it has a lot of material in it, and DTPO’s search is far superior (all sorts of sophisticated possibilities, such as looking for a word that is five words before another particular word, or ten words after it, etc.). You might like to look at this very well known (if rather old) article about DT: … 00230.html

And there is another specifically about history, which has some useful ideas: … esearch-i/

There is also an interesting series of posts about academic workflows for the mac here:

Lots of useful stuff, and links to articles by Brett Terpstra on tagging stragegies, other articles by MacSparky and MacDrifter etc.

My own personal experience is that it takes ages to come up with a good workflow – and then when you find it, you have to change it because some new piece of software comes along that introduces new possibilities, or you discover a new idea from someone else. I think you have to treat it as a continually evolving process. Even if the software didn’t change, one’s own needs would probably change.

Incidentally, I used to use EagleFiler, but quickly abandoned it because DT was so much more sophisticated. It takes some effort to get used to it, but I think the benefits make it worthwhile.

Best of luck with it!

PS: take a look at these: … rinciples/ … revisited/

Wow guys thanks so much for all the info!

I am seriously leaning towards DT, especially after all the usefulness links. I also just came across Curio in the last few hours…any thoughts on that one?

I like the interface and menu bars of DT but the incorporated templates for notes and mind maps make Curio seem attractive. So any input or knowledge about Curio and workflow would be groovy as well!


Thanks again!


DevonThinks Pro has to be the best program for storing references and finding links between references. It is my dumping ground for things that I need to remember. Admittedly I am not using it to its full potential,but I find what I need.

Curio is an interesting beast. I have used it to hammer out ideas or just simply plan things. Drawing mind maps and concept maps area easy with the program. With Scapple in the horizon I am not sure how useful Curio will be. I also like to use it as a giant whiteboard to see what things stick. Admittedly there is a great deal more to this program but, for me it fulfils my “pre-writing” stage -the I have no idea how to begin or what is important stage.

You might also be interested in circus ponies notebook. I love Scrivener for writing, but sometimes I need a little bit more fine grain control of what I am writing, especially if I am unfamiliar with the topic. Circus ponies notebook provides a surprising powerful, granular outlining environment. Sometimes seeing the sheer numbers of files in Scrivener shuts my mind down. Collections help, but sometimes I just need a more powerful set of blinders. These posts should clarify my point: … -projects/ … s-writing/ … -outlines/

(The last link compares scrivener to circus ponies notebook)

DT has templates for notes, under the Data > New From Template menu. I don’t usually use templates, because I prefer to work out my own ways of doing things. (Have a look at some of the naming conventions for notes – it can be useful to know what a file is about without having to open it – and it is useful to be able to group small nuggets of information with similar items. Don’t think you have to keep stuff together in a single file because you heard it all in a particular lecture or seminar. True, you need to record where the information came from, so that you can cite it, but similar ideas are the things that need to go together. Old piece of advice from an old school teacher of mine: “Put together what goes together”. If you need to develop an argument about something, you need to have all the ideas that are relevant to that argument in the same place. Or you need to be able to collect them together when needed – which DT will do.)

I started using Curio about two months ago, so I don’t know it very well, but I have used it extensively during that time. I would say (stating things a little crudely) that it is an “ideas processor” not a store for data. It lacks the search tools that are essential when you accumulate a lot of material. My DT database for my last project had around two million words in it, and was never remotely troubled by that – it would still find things in the blink of an eye.

I am presently using Curio to gather and organise all the material and ideas for a new research project. The great thing about doing this with Curio is that I can have photos, pdfs, mindmaps, lists and all manner of things scattered around (or rather, arranged according to importance and / or similarity) and create visual cues for linking or differentiating items. Once I have organised the material, some of which comes from DT, some from Sente, and some from other places, I will probably move everything to Scrivener to write out the proposal. I think Curio’s paradigm of the gigantic electronic whiteboard is very apt, and I am finding it very useful for the brainstorming and organising part of the workflow.

DT has different strengths, and offers different possibilities. You can send practically anything to DT, using a service, or dragging things to the Sorter (where you can also make quick notes, if you want to) and the plug-in for Safari means that you can instantly clip anything from a web page and insert it into your DT database. You can even save the whole page, if you want, either as web archive or pdf. The ways of organising and finding material in a DT database are numerous, and the only way to learn about them properly is to use them. Crucially, DT has a lot of flexibility, and one of the things I have noticed about it is that the database tends to change shape as your understanding of your subject develops in subtlety and complexity. Not many tools are capable of doing that. They usually stand in the way, rather than growing and changing with you.

Another possibility is Tinderbox, but that is quite a challenge to use to the full. I feel that it is excellent as an analytical tool (for text), but not as good as Curio when it comes to organising thoughts – though I’m sure that many would disagree with that. It is just that in my case I like the possibility of using pictures and all sorts of other ways of presenting the information on the same page.

Just to return to templates for a moment, I have come to see the value of doing most things in plain text, and using MultiMarkdown. It gives maximum portability, and along with Marked (Brett Terpstra), FoldingText (Hogbay), or ByWord, you can do remarkable things with it. Combine it with OpenMeta tags (which are supported by DT) and you have a pretty good system. I tend to use nvALT for quick notes, and the plain text and MMD system, with tags, fits into that, too. Having been through several software revolutions in my “career” I know how useful it is to have one’s data in a format that can be re-used with minimum effort.

Oh, and if you want a mind mapping program, try MindNode. I think there is a free version. I’ve been using mind maps since I saw Tony Buzan on TV in about 1970. MindNode is a better implementation than the mind maps you get in Curio, which are not proper, Buzan-style mind maps.

Good luck, Martin.