Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Writing Tip: Scrivener, the Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread-That is if Sliced Bread Could Help Your Dissertation Writing.

We all need help writing our dissertations. Writing a dissertation is daunting. Luckily you are not the first to do it and there are some really nice, if not well known, writing tools out there. Here I review the Scrivener writing software program. Scrivener was designed for fiction writers, but it is also a great PhD dissertation writing tool.

A writing tool that makes draft management easy

Microsoft Word is great for writing a letter or even a 10-page paper. But when you sit down to do serious writing, such as writing a dissertation, Microsoft Word is a totally inadequate dissertation writing software. There is simply no good way to organize your different drafts and subsections while using Word.

Most dissertations are well over 100 pages and contain 4-8 chapters, with countless subsections. And these chapters and subsections are rarely (if ever) written in the order that they appear in the submitted dissertation.

Instead most of us write subsection as we feel inspired or as the data comes in. Then we gather subsections, slowly piece them together, edit, reorganize, and write more as we go.

This is an actual screen shot of the folder containing my various dissertation drafts.
This is after I got smart and started labeling the drafts by date instead of just draft 1,2,3, etc. 
Still a colossal mess though. Scrivener can help you do better.

But this kind of fluid, draft driven writing can lead to numerous writing folders and subfolders. Each containing a myriad of files labelled: "Draft", "edited draft", "final edited draft", "final final edited draft", and so on... Making finding the most recent draft annoying.

Scrivener writing software allows you to apply higher order labels on files such as "to do", "first draft", "revised draft", "final draft", and "done" without changing or copying the root files. Furthermore, these higher order labels can be easily upgraded (with a right click) as you progress from "first draft" though "done" without creating numerous new files.

Scrivener also allows you to take "snapshots" of a document before you make any changes. This is great if you are not sure you want to commit to your changes. Thus Scrivener make it easy for even the laziest (me) organizer to keep her writing folder clean and organized.

Scrivener lets you label your files "draft", "done", etc easily 
without clogging up your desktop folders.

A writing tool to make organizing subsections easy

If you decide to change your organization scheme in Microsoft Word, you are forced to painfully copy-paste everything into the new order -- a process begging for mistakes to be made. Scrivener has a better way. In Scrivener you can visualize your subsections as notecards on a corkboard, and then easily rearrange them by clicking and dragging.

Stop copying and pasting sections. It is a good way to mess up.

A writing tool you can afford

Originally Scrivener was only available for Mac users. But now it is also available for Windows. The Scrivener people called Literature and Latte also offer a very generous 30 day (non-consecutive) trial period. The Scrivener people give you this long because they know you will be hooked after 30 days and buy it. I am not the only academic to think this. But do not worry, when you do decide you are hooked, it only costs $40.

That would be ~53 Cup Noodles soups to you.

Have any of you used Scrivener for your dissertation or other writings? 

Other useful stuff: I cannot get into, nor do I know about, all the cool things Scrivener can do. For more information check out "5 "best' Features of Scrivener for Writers" and the Scrivener webpage, Literature and Latte. To learn how to use all of Scrivener's bells and whistles check out the Scrivener Absolute Beginner's Guide and the help forums on Literature and Latte.

Non-Disclaimer Disclaimer: I am in no way associated with the Scrivener people. I am just a happy customer.


klicka på länk said...

Thanks for everything guys!

Albert Barkley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
les privat said...

thank you for wonderful post ...