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Workflow on Mac (Mountain Lion) for PhD Thesis

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Posted by Hugh
Aug 15, 2012 at 06:16 PM


Peter wrote:
>I would be interested in
>posts that detail the challenges and promises as one navigates, imports-exports
>(and when) across such tools in their workflow!
> >Cheers,

I’ve never written a thesis as such, but I have written various long-form factual pieces. This is the sort of workflow I recommend (distilled from the advice of many others):

Structuring > Drafting > Formatting/polishing, plus Data Managing and Storage, Citing and On-the-fly Note-taking:

- Structuring: Tinderbox, OmniOutliner Pro, Neo, or a mind-map programme (apart from MindNode, there are several others including NovaMind, MindManager for the Mac and the new/old champ, Inspiration). Curio is excellent as a virtual whiteboard, but better for fiction than fact (as are SuperNoteCard and Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat software - though I’d love to try using it for a dissertation!). Scrivener’s outliner plus corkboard is also a candidate. Export via OPML to…

- Drafting: Scrivener. Export via Scrivener’s .rtf or .docx exporters to…

- Formatting/polishing: MS Word (better on Windows than the Mac), or, on the Mac, Nisus Writer Pro or Mellel (both of them favourites with academics, so I’m told). I don’t think Apple’s Pages is regarded as appropriate for academic use.

- Data Management and Storage: DevonThink (best for large volumes of data, and for filing, searching and simply getting the data in), Eaglefiler or Together. DT seems to be the choice of academics.

- Citing: Bookends, Zotero, EndNotes, Sente etc. It’s well-worth consulting the Scrivener forum for this: there are several threads on this topic and posters there who’ve recently finished their dissertations, and as far as I can see Bookends and Endnotes are their favourites. Whatever you use, it needs to play well with Scrivener. I should also experiment.

- On-the-fly Note-taking: my favourite is nvAlt too (although there’s a Scrivener scratchpad).

There’s a running debate about how, in the middle of drafting a thesis with Scrivener, you send individual chapters to your supervisor, and then receive back comments and embody any amendments demanded. It’s well written up in several threads on the Scrivener forums. Some people evidently round-trip Scrivener > Word > Scrivener, and some even apparently manage to “sell” Scrivener to their supervisors. But others make major supervisor-induced changes in Scrivener using its dual-editor feature, and then move over entirely to Word (or equivalent word processor) for final detail and polishing. For these purposes, MS Word’s “Track Changes” and “Comments” are powerful features, although Scrivener has two types of comments and footnotes and I’ve read that Word “Comments” can be imported into Scrivener; personally I’ve never tried to do this.

I hope all this is useful.