Scrivener for Thesis Writing: Setting Up a Thesis Structure using Scrivener Template

Scrivener for Thesis Writing

Scrivener for Thesis Writing

Here we are at the beginning. Before proceeding I highly recommend that you’ve downloaded Scrivener and spent a few hours undertaking the Interactive Tutorial and/or watched some Literature and Latte YouTubes (at least watch the Introduction one). This will give a good idea of what Scrivener is capable of.
I’m going to cover two ways to start writing a Thesis Structure in Scrivener. The first method will be starting a brand new document in Scrivener. This post is focused on using Scrivener’s standard template.
The second method will be importing and working from a Microsoft Word document that you’ve already started.  This method is covered in this blog post.
Remember, these documents will most likely change. Your thesis will evolve, some bits will be scrapped, some chapters will become so big and unwieldy that you’ll divide them up – this is ok.
Method 1: Setting Up Your Thesis Structure directly in Scrivener. 
Step 1:
Scrivener comes with inbuilt templates.  We are going to use the template Non-Fiction -> Non-Fiction with Sub-Heads.
I recommend namely this project
Alternatively, if you are using a shared computer include your name
This is what it will look like:
Scrivener for thesis writing using academic template

Standard Scrivener Template Introduction page

Now the this website ( recommends populating more chapters with generic text such the Chapter Introduction and Conclusion.  You can do this but I don’t yet recommend it.
Step 2: Organising the Front Matter.
‘Front Matter’ is the standard first page that will accompany your draft thesis (kind of like a cover page). This template has a page called ‘Title Page’. This title page uses placeholders that will automatically generate text when you compile (that is, export or print) your work.  We are going to turn the ‘Title Page’ into  a ‘Front Matter’ page- essentially because it should be out of the way for thesis writing (rather than sitting up the top next to ‘Manuscript’)
  1. Go to Project -> Meta Data Settings and insert your thesis title and your name. Write down a real name for your thesis (not “draft thesis” but “An examination of X issue using whatever theory” type title)
  2. Rename the ‘Title Page’ document ‘Front Matter’ (either double-click or right-click rename)
  3. Tweak the text on the Front Matter Page. You could add more Placeholder Tags (for instance, to automatically generate the current date with <$Modifieddate>), delete ‘agents name’ and replace with your Supervisor’s Name.  Tip: You can find all the Placeholder Tags in Scrivener by going to Help – > Placeholder Tags
  4. Delete the documents titled ‘Contents’ and ‘Foreword’
  5. Move the ‘Front Matter’ document down to just above the Trash. You can do this by drag and drop.
Popping all this information onto a ‘Front Matter’ page matters because when you are taking your work out of Scrivener, you can use to include it or leave it via a simple button. I’ll cover this in another post but for now, just know that it is there and will be useful.
Step 3: Creating Folders based on your Thesis Structure
This step will depend if you have a good idea what your thesis will look like.  Some universities/disciplines are very prescriptive and you may well already a set structure that you must follow. Others will have more flexibility for the thesis structure.  Regardless of whether you are following a predetermined structure or figuring it out as you go along, there are some essentials as to what the thesis structure should look like / do.
I suggest that you read these posts
I recommend using a single folder to contain a Thesis Chapter.  To create a Folder- you can either (a) Duplicate an existing folder or (b) create a folder from scratch
(a) Duplicate an existing Folder by selecting the folder, right click and choosing ‘duplicate’
How to create duplicate folders for your thesis

Right-Click to access Duplicate Folder

(b) To create a folder from Scratch – you just click the ‘Add Folder’ icon on the bottom left of the Binder
Folder Creation in Scrivener

Create a folder using the +Folder button

Step 4: Add Sections to your Chapters[Folders]
Each Folder should essentially contain a Chapter of your Thesis. Now you might be ready to add sections. At the first draft stage, these can contain as many sections as you want. You have a couple of choices at this stage
  • Leave the folders empty:  to be filled as you are ready to write the sections
  • Create the Sections now:  based on a rough idea of what you want to write in each Section
  • Import some material from elsewhere: For example, an Nvivo report, a Literature Review you’ve already written.
I’m going to leave this up to you.
Step 5: Structure is done!
Any questions please ask in the comments section.
If you know someone trying to write their thesis or dissertation and they are not using Scrivener, please share this post with them.
Next I suggest
  • Setting Your Thesis Writing Targets
  • Setting up the backup options

About Sarina Kilham

I'm a Doctoral Researcher at the Institute for Sustainable Futures, University of Technology Sydney. Trained as a social scientist and with a Masters in Sustainable Agriculture, I'm interested in farmer's experiences of growing feedstock for biodiesel production. My research has focused on biodiesel production in Brazil and Timor-Leste. Also on Twitter @sarinakilham and blogging at
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1 Response to Scrivener for Thesis Writing: Setting Up a Thesis Structure using Scrivener Template

  1. Pingback: Using Scrivener for NonFiction (with links) | Carrie Cuinn

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