As you’ve no doubt discovered, writing is much easier when you have all your notes and research material to hand. This is one of the many reasons I love Scrivener, as the Research folder helps me keep everything together and display it alongside my writing. The split screen feature means I can easily refer to a journal article as I work, and also quickly copy across the quotes that I’m discussing:
Scrivener can also display webpages, images, audio, and even videos. When you import a file, Scrivener actually takes a copy, so you don’t need to worry about messing up your original version (please note, this increases the size of your Scrivener project file). To import files into your Research folder, right-click (Ctrl-click on Mac) on it and choose Add. You can also use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+Alt+j, or drag and drop a file from Windows Explorer or Finder on a Mac.
You can create sub-folders within your Research folder, for example, ‘Journal article’, ‘Data’, ‘Interviews’, or ‘Conference papers’.
Split-screen mode in Scrivener
Once your research material is imported, you can display it alongside your writing. Click either the vertical split or horizontal split icon above the editor and you’ll see two panels.
As you start clicking through your various documents, they can have a tendency to pop up in unexpected places. It’s very annoying to accidentally open a journal article in the window where you’re trying to write. To overcome this problem, click the tiny document icon just below the formatting toolbar and choose Lock in Place. Now your document won’t budge unless you unlock it again.
The bar across the top of your document (normally blue) now turns red to indicate that it’s locked. To unlock it, just click the icon again and uncheck Lock in Place.
The Inspector displays the details of whichever panel is currently selected. If you want it to reflect only your main document, make sure it’s selected then click the tiny padlock icon in the bottom right-hand corner of Scrivener.
Using meta-data in the Research folder
You might have already used statuses in your Draft folder to denote your progress on a particular document, e.g. First Draft, Revised Draft, Final draft, etc. Well, you can also assign a status to the documents in your Research folder. This is useful for flagging whether a journal article is yet to be read, or if you need to transcribe an interview from an audio file. I use a ‘To be added’ status for journal articles I haven’t already discussed in my writing. With the corkboard view, I can quickly see exactly what needs to be done.
I can also use the synopsis (the virtual index card) to jot down the key points of the article, or to make some notes on how I’m going to engage with it. That way I don’t have to keep opening and rereading the article to remind myself what it’s about.
Here’s an example of an audio file that I imported. The controls are at the bottom for playing and pausing, and I can add notes and a synopsis. As with my journal articles, I can also add a status, e.g. ‘Transcribed’. You might want to apply a label, too, such as one that links your audio files by theme.
Researchers often ask me at workshops whether this method involves duplication of effort if they’re already using Evernote and Zotero for managing research material. The short answer is yes; in my longer answer I explain that the effort is minimal, and the reward significant. It’s simply a case of copying notes from Evernote into Scrivener, which takes a matter of seconds. There isn’t yet a way to integrate Scrivener with either Zotero or Evernote, but that isn’t a good reason to ignore such great tools. A solution doesn’t have to be perfect, it just needs to offer significant benefits. That’s exactly what Scrivener does.
To find out more, take a look at my ebook How to Write Your Thesis with Scrivener.