Organizing Your Writing Projects: A Review of Scrivener

By: Shawn Gonzalez

If you’re looking for a practical holiday gift for the dissertation-writer in your life (or yourself), consider the word processing software Scrivener. Scrivener is designed for drafting large, complex projects that involve frequent revision and rearranging. It differs from other word processors by allowing the writer to easily move between the note-taking, planning, and drafting stages of a project.

Most word processors offer a single way of looking at a project: sequentially, from start to finish. However, Scrivener allows writers to compile a variety of documents related to a single project and look at those documents from different perspectives. In Scrivener, you can easily shift between notes, outlines, draft sections, and comments within a single window. The program also offers a variety of split-screen options that are particularly useful to writers working on smaller computer screens.

I would particularly recommend Scrivener to students just beginning the first draft of a dissertation. The ability to compile all of your research and notes in a single location is especially helpful when trying to figure out where to start. My one caution would be to avoid doing a lot of formatting in Scrivener, because elements like footnotes sometimes transfer poorly when you export your completed document to another program.

Scrivener offers an extended free trial, and then costs $40 to download. It is available for Mac and Windows.