I have been absent from the blog for quite some time (yes over a year 🙁 ) But I am back to write about…my dissertation writing process. Future posts will be back to our fave topic of Mormon history. However, I know many of us are writers, researchers, and scholars and are regularly engaged in some form of writing.
Now, this is not a prescriptive post about how to write the dissertation. In fact, it is far from it. Instead, I am going to share some of the tools that were and are essential to my writing.
Scrivener. At first I was very hesitant to jump on a whole new word processing program, but soon I learned that Scrivener had many of the features that I wish MS Word had. With Scrivener, you can create:
- an index card bulletin board of different sections of your draft:
- a split screen mode that allows you to edit several documents at once (I use this one the most!)
- a full-screen mode
- etc. Check out the video tutorials here. I will admit to buying the idiot’s guide to scrivner because I was overwhelmed at first.
Having the ability to have two documents open in the same window really corresponds with the way I have always tended to write. There is always a point when I “compile” my whole scrivener document into a RTF and start working in Word toward the end of the drafting process, but this mostly involves copyediting. The more I have come to realize my writing process is messy and involves many different writing platforms, the easier it has been to get it done. It is messy but there is order to the madness. Scrivener runs about $45.00 and there is a free trial.
Coggle: If you need to actually map out your writing, this is perfect for brainstorming and organizing chapters, smaller sections of chapters, conference papers, and other writing projects. You use it in browser windows and can save files easily on Google drive. Plus, if you like a lot of color, this is for you.
PDF Connoisseur for the iPad, iPhone, and Mac. Since we now work at a time when the archival documents and scholarly articles & books are becoming more and more readily available in electronic form, I have attempted to embrace reading on a computer screen. I struggled with this a lot. I started using my husband’s ipad, tried a bunch of different apps, and finally discovered PDF connoisseur. There a whole of different ways to “annotate” the pdf making it much easier for someone like me, who loves plain old writing on paper, to mark the PDF—underlining, highlighting, and taking notes on the margins.
I actually draft a lot by hand before turning to the computer. I recently discovered these notepads (which are simply legal pads turned the other way). Something about it makes it easier for me to sketch out my ideas. They also remind me of giant notecards.
Organization by post it. My last chapter has been very difficult for me to break down organizationally. After many false starts over the weeks, I finally spent a week going over old half written drafts and then broke each paragraph down on a post it, marking each point I know I want to make.These are my favorite kind. I spent my weekends in the library putting post-its all over my study carrel. I probably seemed insane to the undergrads.
Or maybe that was the kitty notebook I kept it in…(I swear it was a joke present!:)
Please share your writing, research, and project tools in the comments. I want to know about them!