7 LaTeX Tips for Writing Your Thesis or Dissertation
  • 4-minute read
  • 30th January 2022

7 LaTeX Tips for Writing Your Thesis or Dissertation

LaTeX (pronounced lay-tech) is a system for document preparation widely used in mathematics, science, engineering, and linguistics. It allows you to create beautifully presented academic work and is especially useful when you need to include formulas, footnotes, bibliographies, or tables of contents.

LaTeX provides ready-made commands for formatting so that users can focus mainly on the content of their academic writing.

In this post, we’ll share our top tips for creating complex LaTeX documents professionally:

  1. Choose a LaTeX editor
  2. Decide on a template
  3. Follow a tutorial
  4. Break up your main file into smaller ones
  5. Use % to insert comments
  6. Learn to understand error logs
  7. Have a professional proofread your LaTeX document

Read on to learn how to best use these tips.

1. Install a LaTeX Editor, or Access Online

As LaTeX files are plain text, they can be created in any text editor (like Notepad), but it’s easier to manage long documents if you use specialized LaTeX editing programs like TeXmaker, TeXworks, or Overleaf.

To make the code easier to read, these tools show the text in different colors. They also have features like auto-complete commands and a PDF viewer so you can see what your final document will look like.

2. Select a Suitable Template

With LaTeX, you don’t have to worry about layout. Simply pick a template for the type of document you’re writing (e.g., a resume or a thesis).

If your university doesn’t provide you with one, you can look online for free templates. Most LaTeX editors come with standard templates.

3. Start With a Tutorial

If you’ve never used LaTeX before, you should start with a tutorial to familiarize yourself with the basic commands and learn how to import packages to get more features.

A short tutorial will teach you enough to write a simple LaTeX document. Once you get more advanced, though, you might need more commands. You can probably find everything you need with a quick Google search.

4. Split Your Document Into Multiple Files

Your thesis or dissertation is probably the longest document you’ve had to write in your academic career so far. With LaTeX, you can split your main file into smaller chunks.

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For a thesis, this would normally mean creating a separate .tex file for each chapter. With the commands \input or \include, you can insert these files into your main file.

5. Use the “%” Command to Insert Comments

If you’re a programmer, LaTeX probably comes naturally to you. But for others, it’s tough to look at multiple pages of code at once. This is where “%” comes in handy.

Any text you type after the % symbol won’t appear in the final document. So, you can use “%” to remind yourself what a particular section of code does, or as a way to find your way around:

{\small text} % small font size

You can also use “%” to “switch off” some of your text lines. This is handy if you want to debug your document, as you can easily switch them back on if needed.

6. Find Out What Error Logs Mean

It’s helpful to learn the meaning of standard error logs so you can easily fix simple errors. An error log looks like this:

[filename]:[line number where error occurs]:[description of error].[incorrect content]

If you can’t easily identify the error, you can contact experienced LaTeX users by joining an online community like TeX—LaTeX Stack Exchange.

7. Expert LaTeX Proofreading

Although most LaTeX editing programs include a basic spell checker, you still need to have your work proofread by a LaTeX expert. Our team at Proofed is experienced in handling .tex files, so your LaTeX documents are in good hands with us.

You can even put our service to the test by sending us 500 words for free proofreading.

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