10 Best Practices in Scrivener to save your “tomorrow self” [Thesis writing]

Scrivener for Thesis Writing Header

Scrivener for Thesis Writing

Doing my PhD part-time and now in my 5th 8th year means that I am often grappling with practices, ideas and material that I last looked at looooong time ago. Even a short break these days seems to allow my brain to get rusty and I don’t have the same confidence or quick memory recall that I had a few years ago (aging? kids? who knows- I just know its slower).

So, I’m embracing this – I’ve realised that its so important to start with good research practices from day 1 – so that you are saving your ‘tomorrow self’ that will have to come in and try to figure out what you were thinking /doing.

I’ve compiled a list of top “self-savers” for that I’ve either managed to do or wish that I had done!

  1. Use Keywords consistently to tag sub-sections of Literature Review notes: This may mean writing a physical list of tags that you will use and limiting to those or reviewing your tags from time to time
  2. Be clear on what you are using side writing for : Project Notes – Document Notes- Inline Annotations – Comments – Footnotes- Custom Meta Data. You can read this post on how I use these different features.
  3.  Be a Smart User of Scrivener Search:  I’ve started to create my own tagging system within my notes – I use the @ symbol combined with a word (for example, @needsreview) and then I save this as a search.
  4. Keep a writing Journal: I recommend you do this in Project Notes but you could also create a file that you log your writing on.  You could have an unexpected break and it is tricky to come back and figure out you last thoughts.
  5. Use the inbuilt backup features: If you don’t know how to do this- then watch this about Snapshots and read this about the full back up options.  I guess there is little sympathy for those who lose all their thesis work in this day and age of cloud storage.
  6. Write [& don’t get stuck on Scrivener features]:  Scrivener has so many features and options and bits and pieces that it can be the ultimate procrastination tool and it can feel overwhelming in the beginning learning curve….but it’s main job is to allow you to write.  If it starts to feel too much – then stop. Hit Compose Mode and just write.  A few pomodoros at least. Your tech curiosity or Scrivener problems can be solved later- ask a question on the Forums or FB page, probably someone will have a quick solution for you. But don’t spend your precious writing time mucking around with Scrivener too much. Just write.

Well, I was meant to come up with 10 Best Practices, but this was as far as I go today. And given this post has been in draft mode for 3 years, time to let it out. If you’ve got any more best practices ideas, please add to comments.


Remember Scrivener has a free 30-day trial period. You can download Scrivener with an Education Discount via this link (Note: purchasing via this link gives me a commission about equal to the cost of a cappuccino)

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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 thequalitativeresearcher.net
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One Response to 10 Best Practices in Scrivener to save your “tomorrow self” [Thesis writing]

  1. CS-Cart.com says:

    I fully agree with you, thank you for the post.

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