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One of the things that has been keeping me busy lately has been going back to school for a Masters degree. It’s an educational degree in Learning and Technology, and the classes are online. Which has been great, because I have been able to keep working (teaching) at the same time as I am learning new stuff about teaching and learning online. Taking online classes to learn about teaching online classes is oddly meta, and very rewarding.

Hatley Castle

Royal Roads University offers not only an excellent education, but is a cool-looking place to get a degree.

One of the things about an MA is the amount of writing required, as you may already know. It’s funny, but if I had thought about how I could write my way through school instead of sitting exams, I’d have done this much sooner. I’ve been writing in one way or another my whole life, so this degree seems like the natural progression of things, and at the right time in my career. With all the writing, however, comes the large amount of research and planning that is necessary for each document. And keeping track of the research, quotes and references, and academic journal articles is a large part of the task. I’ve always liked to plan out my writing in advance, and this is no exception.

A huge part of my workflow has been using the writing software Scrivener. I can’t say enough good things about it. So much so, that it’s the focus of this blog post. I’ve never been a fan of Word, and Scrivener has been instrumental in helping me to plan out each part of every paper and assignment. I’ve been using it for years, as it’s genius lies in being open-ended enough that I can use it the way I want. From building specific topics on index cards, and arranging them on a cork-board, to compiling the final draft, and exporting it to word or PDF, I’ve got it open on my computer all the time. I’m writing this blog post with it, in fact. The other great feature in Scrivener is the pre-formatted templates for academic style. I’m using the APA style template, and as soon as I open a new document with it, it’s automatically set up with the correct formatting, including title page, appendices, and reference pages. All I have to do is a bunch of research (!), collect it in folders in the Scrivener ‘binder’ on the left side of the screen, start typing notes onto index cards on the right, move them around until I’m happy, and once the writing begins, most of the hard work is already done. I know what I want to say, in what order I want to say it, and what research I’ve got to back it up.

In this way, it helps encourage the best practice for how a report should be written. Research, Planning, more research, writing, and editing.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

So if you want to look into something that is more than just a word processor, I recommend Scrivener. It’s not from a great big huge company either, so you can feel good about supporting something that was created independently by a writer. I’m using the Mac version, which was around first, but now there is a PC version as well, so no excuses! Check it out at http://literatureandlatte.com/