Scrivener Software for Senior Thesis Writers

One of the English Department senior seminars, "A d–d mob of scribbling women": Nineteenth-century American Women Writers, had been on hiatus since 2003, but in response to departmental need, Professor Lisa Gordis brought it out of retirement and revised it first as a general seminar and then as a senior seminar. The revision of the course focused on scaffolding of the thesis writing process, and included the use of Scrivener software. Scrivener is an inexpensive program that is designed to manage large writing projects. It is very flexible, allowing writers to break down larger writing projects into sections, to view those sections as easily movable text, outlines, and index cards, and to collect research materials in the same file. Professor Gordis has been teaching Scrivener through mini-workshops built into seminar sessions, and has been available during office hours for students with further questions. Scrivener makes the process of managing a large research and writing project easier. Moreover, learning to work with this flexible tool encourages students to reflect on their own writing processes, to think more productively about structure, and to revise more actively as they write. Student responses have been positive so far; one student wondered why she had never heard of this software before, as she felt that she had been waiting all her life for this tool.

After the seminar is concluded Professor Gordis will share the results of the experiment, especially with faculty who participated in a Willen seminar last spring on Scrivener. This project also supports the Barnard curriculum review's attention to the senior experience and to writing pedagogy over the full four years of college and across the disciplines.