Scrivener for keeping PhD work organised and tidy

This is just to share my discovery that has helped me immensely in my work and that I hope will be of use to others. 

One of the main challenges that I have faced in my PhD so far was keeping my PhD work organised and tidy. Before, I used to keep everything on my laptop in one folder proudly titled ‘PhD’. However, very soon the folder turned into a real mess and I noticed that I started loosing track of what I had in it. Looking for a solution, I by chance came across Scrivener, a programme originally designed for novel writers. That day changed my life. Ok, let’s be modest, it changed my life as a PhD student.

The basic idea of Scrivener is that it allows creating big projects like novels with multiple sub-documents like chapters, scenes, etc. inside a single file. Of course, I am not writing a novel but all my transcripts, reflections, reading notes, etc. needed some overarching structure and I thought why not put them together as a single book.

I’ve been using Scrivener for my PhD work for half a year already and here are my highlights:

1. It indeed helps me to be more organised and tidy in my work.

2. It helps me see the progress and stay positive. I see how new ‘chapters’ get added to my ‘book’, and this reassures me that I am indeed progressing and sooner or later will be able to put 80,000-word manuscript on the table.

3. Scrivener allows integrating audio with word processor, which makes transcribing easier.

4. Scrivener is a computer based programme so I don’t need to worry that my data is somewhere there in the ‘clouds’.

5. The programme has a fantastic distraction free composition mode, which I found helps me to speed up in my writing.

6. …

7. …

I have a lot to say about Scrivener but will say no more. I really do not want to sound like a sales person. I’ll just leave the link: and let you explore the programme yourself.


  • Sutraphorn Tantiniranat

    Thanks Olga. It’s always good to be organized. I’m trying to arrange my fieldwork data and have been thinking (not doing yet) about putting everything on MAXQDA (a software I bought) on my laptop. I learned the way from attending a workshop on Qualitative Data Analysis software last year, but the problem is, like Susan said, I’ll have to carry my laptop with me all the time 🙁

  • Susan Dawson

    Thank you for sharing this Olga 🙂 I’ve had Scrivener on my computer for nearly a year now and have begun to use it a little (mainly inspired by you!), but it hasn’t become part of my essential toolkit yet. My biggest issue is that because it is computer based, it’s not mobile – at least not in my case because I don’t have a laptop. There is no iPad app, or online app so I am limited to working on it at home. I can really see how it helps keep everything in one place though (which I don’t have!) and I do find it useful for getting ideas down on paper.