I’ve never tackled a document as big as a PhD thesis before and I knew from Day 1 that my usual approach (start at the beginning, write to the end, panic, rewrite) would NOT work, so I’ve been road-testing different workflows to see what works for me.

Others have kindly shared their academic workflow models and thanks to their recommendations I have (for this Year 1 Draft stage) settled on EndNote for bibliography management and Scrivener for draft/notes management. (Fortunately Scrivener is available with a 30-day trial, giving a lot of time to decide if it’s a good $30-$40 investment, and I already had EndNote.)

I prefer being able to keep things in separate smaller documents and work on them in isolation, but this led to problems when I was only working in Word. I’d had to develop a pretty arcane document-naming system to keep the .docs in order in my Writing folder, for starters. Flicking between different document windows was a pain, and then copy-pasting sections into the master document at the end and trying to format them all together was occasionally traumatic.

So Scrivener is REALLY helpful for me. It lets me see all of my little documents in the binder list, and flick between them in a single browser window. There are lots of other features I haven’t figured out yet (there is a good tutorial included in it which I worked through in February, but as I’ve not had to use all of them yet I’ve forgotten!). Scrivener doesn’t really produce a finished formatted document, but keeps all of your draft sections in order, lets you move sections around easily (drag and drop), and will compile and export a final draft document for you to beautifulize in a separate publishing program*.

One particularly helpful thing is the 30-day trial period which equates to days of use rather than calendar days- as I said I’ve had Scrivener since February, but I have only used it for 23 days in that time so still have a week left in my trial period. This means I’ve been able to go a week here and there working in other programs or doing other tasks, but still not feel rushed in evaluating the program.

I’ve also been testing it with EndNote because I am all about doing references right the FIRST time (burned once, shame on you, burned twice…) – It’s actually pretty simple to get my EndNote references into my Scrivener draft. All I need to do is right-click>copy the reference from the EndNote list, and right-click>paste into Scrivener; I use this cribsheet to add in page numbers etc as needed. I’ve tested (many times) on how the bibliography and in-text citations compile and appear when transported back into Word: no worries.

*I know this means I will (at this stage) still be doing the final formatting in Word but I’m keeping an eye out for other software which might be less rage-inducing. Any recommendations would be much appreciated!

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