As I’ve noted in a number of posts, I am a fanatic about research.  Before I had Scrivener, I had many files scattered like land mines in my Julius file.

This post deals less with the techy side of the program, but how I organize my research so that it is at my fingertips all the time. This way I don’t have to be flipping back and forth through my files, Evernote, or my bookmarked pages on my browser.

As you can see–click on the image, it will open to another window and it will be larger–I like to play around with my icons. I tint the folders and I change the look of the icons. In a previous post, I showed how to change the icons, but I’ll save you the trouble to find that post and show you again:

To change the icon, point your curser on a folder and right-click; go to Change Icon. From the list choose whichever icon suits your need.

I’ve chosen numerous icons to distinguish each folder to avoid confusion. The conversation bubble folder has my elevator pitch; the clapper board holds my unused scenes. The picture icon folder has all the details of my characters; and the map folder has all the locales where Julius takes place.

I’ve added three more folders and that’s from the research I’ve culled from the internet and other places. I selected the book icons for Marx and Russell Kirk. For any news articles about the financial crisis I selected the bar graph.

I also have a number of To Do tasks in the research folder and you can see I’ve selected the check mark icon. This file includes the templates for the synopsis in various formats, i.e., four page summary, two page, one paragraph, and so on, as well character synopsis.

The remaining two folders are from Scrivener’s template, which provides template sheets for a character and setting sketch; the sample output includes samples of how a manuscript is formatted for a novel, paperback, and e-book.

Scrivener allows you to import web pages, text files, photos and even videos within the binder. I’ve imported photographs of how my characters look like and numerous photos of where certain scenes take place. An important thing to note is that Scrivener makes a copy of the file. Your original file is still in its folder that you saved within your files and the copy or photo remains untouched.

To import from the Internet, select Research. From the File Menu, select Web Page.  In the address box, type in the URL. In the Title box, type the subject of your research. Click okay.

The imported page appears in the research folder with a Web icon. Click on it to view it in the editor pane. If the page is updated, you won’t see any changes, but the hyperlinks work.

Let’s say I want to import a photo from my Macbook Pro’s Finder files. Once again, go to File Menu, select Import, but this time choose Files. A window will drop down showing your finder’s files, select any file you want and then hit Import.

In this case, I selected a photo and as you can see in the editor pane that I’ve typed notes about this specific photograph and its part in the story.

On the corkboard it looks like this along with the index cards that summarize the setting sketch:

For articles that come from the web, I prefer to turn them into PDFs instead of having the web pages. It’s easier to manipulate, especially if articles from newspapers run over to more than one page. When I’m referring to these articles, I use Scrivener’s nifty split screen feature, but I’ll leave that for next week’s lesson.

So that’s how I organize my research using Scrivener. Feel free to share how you organize your own research.


  • Thanks for this! I’m still discovering cool things that Scrivener can do. I didn’t know it could save web pages. I like how you structure your research folders.

    Looking forward to the next lesson 🙂

  • Rebeca, thanks for your discussion of how you use Scrivener. It’s pushed me to write a (long!) post about how I used Scriv to write The Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook, a massive project that would have driven me around the bend if I hadn’t had Scrivener. You’re right about using PDFs from websites instead of importing the sites. I recently figured that out: having come from PCs, I hadn’t figured out, early on, that it was possible to go direct to PDF from viewing a website (a standard Mac trick). I was just delighted to be able to import web info at all!

    Here’s my way too long account of how I used Scrivener to organize my process. I hope it makes sense. It evolved over several years.

      • @RebecaSchiller Thanks, Rebeca. I’ve been aware of HAND/EYE Magazine and the beautiful work happening there. Right now, I am swamped with deadlines. Maybe get back in touch with me later–in a few months? I’d think an article about some aspect of rare-breed sheep would be a good fit. There are undoubtedly other possibilities, too!