Scrivener & qualitative research

Just wondering if anyone has used Scrivener during the research phase of a qualitative project? I suspect that I’m better off just using it for the writing phase (and I will definitely be using it for that!), but thought I’d ask those with more experience before I get too far in.

I am aware of how broad “qualitative research” can be. Specifically, I will be preparing for, and analysing, focus group interviews as part of a larger mixed-models project. But my question goes beyond the focus groups, it has to do with the ongoing “process” documentation that is part of the whole qualitative approach.

I’m also doing qual research – specifically in the area of social/organisational psychology, but working on historical data (from the First World War). This involves transcribing original documents (for which I find Scrivener’s split editor panes very useful – the original photo or PDF goes in one pane while I type in the other). But having just “discovered” Devonthink, I’m finding that my focus is moving away from Scrivener and towards Devonthink. I suspect that a lot depends on the size of the project and the amount of material, but I am finding that with hundreds of documents running to tens of thousands of words, Devonthink is very helpful when it comes to organising and keeping track of the material. I’m doing a lot of textual analysis, and I have used TAMS analyzer a little, but I find I don’t need the strict coding it uses. Basically, I think that if you have a fairly large project, Devonthink is worth trying out, and it does integrate with Scrivener pretty well. I will certainly do all my writing in Scrivener, but all of the work of keeping track of the data is now handled by Devonthink. Quite a few other people seem to use this approach (to judge by what I have read on these forums) and having tried it, I can see why. For me, a crucial advantage is that Devonthink will index a PDF without importing it. That means that I can have all my literature managed by Bookends, but still have the text of the articles available to search in Devonthink – and the latter can be set up to automatically index any PDF that Bookends downloads and puts in its Attachments folder. I suppose the advantage that Devonthink has over Scrivener in this kind of research is that it is easier to find or make links between different files, documents, materials, etc. The advanced search functions are interesting, for example enabling you to find words that are NEAR certain other words (you can configure the distance by number or words). This makes searching far more sophisticated, and in qual research I think it is potentially an extraordinarily useful tool, though I haven’t really had time to make proper use of it yet.

Sorry if this is a bit hurried and disjointed, but if you need a clearer account I will try and oblige. And I’m aware that this does also seem a bit like advertising for Devonthink – I can only say that I have been struck by its potential in the short time that I have been using it, and I think it would be worth trying it out. I certainly wish I had found it earlier. It may not suit your project, of course, but as Edison is supposed to have said, it is also valuable to know what doesn’t work. And I still think Scrivener is the best when it comes to actually composing the text, despite the lack of a proper footnote capability (thanks to Apple’s lack of support for such a feature).

Best of luck,

Martin BB.