Should you use MS Word for a thesis, dissertation or assignment?


You might have written your assignments or an undergraduate project in MS Word, Google Documents or OpenOffice and you cannot see the point of learning another piece of software. Although I believe Citavi/Zotero/Scrivener can dramatically accelerate students’ academic writing, these tools might not be for everybody. At the end of the day, everybody thinks, writes and organises knowledge in a different way.

Generally, if you are a linear thinker, comfortable with MS Word and you have already written a research project in MS Word, you might be better off with the devil you know. The same might apply if you are in the middle of your project. Changing and improving your workflow at this stage might not be advisable. It might take you longer to write your dissertation with MS Word, but you will finish it eventually! You might have a look at simpler tools such as CintaNotes, Evernote, OneNote. They are likely to increase your productivity without unnecessary disruption in the process with which you are already comfortable.
However, if you are about to start writing PhD thesis, Master dissertation or assignment and you are frustrated with your present workflow, switching from MS Word to Scrivener or Citavi  is strongly recommended.  To write 80,000 words of PhD thesis you will have to read hundreds research papers and books (my PhD library consisted of 4,000 documents).  Taming the thesis requires a well-thought approach which prevents you from getting drowned in all your notes, papers and books. The same applies for Masters dissertation which is smaller in a scope but still requires excellent knowledge management.
Finally, if you are an international student writing a thesis/dissertation or assignment in your second  language, you should strongly consider using Scrivener/Citavi/Zotero etc. The cognitive load related to reading/critical thinking/writing in a second language coupled with problems related to organising, managing knowledge and information might have disastrous consequences for you academic performance. In my opinion learning academic software and improving methods of organising knowledge is the critical factor in academic success.