Best MSc thesis writing software?

Discussion in 'OS X' started by VNM, May 28, 2010.

  1. VNM
    macrumors member

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2009
    #1
    I'm starting the process of writing my MSc thesis (microbiology), and want to know the best program to use. I have access to both MS office and iWork 09, and have heard a bit about LaTex. I also have parallels running so Windows7 programs are another option.

    Recommendations?

    Also, are there any packages to add scientific terms to the dictionaries of Pages or Word so that it doesn't think they are misspelled (rather than entering them one by one)?

    Thanks
     
  2. macrumors Core

    miles01110

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    #2
    How much time do you have? Depending on how fast a learner you are, LaTeX takes a solid 2 weeks-1 month to "master." It's especially handy for equations, which may or may not make a difference to you.

    Otherwise I'd just use whatever I was comfortable in, which probably means Word.

    Whatever you use, keep multiple backups of the file. Sign up for DropBox...
     
  3. macrumors 68030

    .Andy

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    Jul 18, 2004
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    #3
    I would give it some thought before starting with latex from scratch. Although it is arguably a perfect time to learn to use it. With your choices make sure you think about compatability issues with your proofreaders - it can end up pain very quickly having multiple versions and multiple file formats requiring conversion. Also a reference manager is a must in your decision. It will save you so much time.

    Good luck with it though.
     
  4. macrumors G4

    flopticalcube

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    #4
    The choices haven't changed much in the 20 years since I wrote mine. Latex (tex) or Word. I did mine in Word on a Mac II.
     
  5. macrumors 6502a

    Phatpat

    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2003
    Location:
    Washington DC
    #5
    I used Word 07 in boot camp, though that was because of other software I needed. I agree with miles, use what you're comfortable with. I bet you could create a nice looking thesis with Pages 09, I'm sure Word 08 would work fine, and I know nothing about latex (it always seemed like too much effort to me, but some will swear by it).
     
  6. VNM
    thread starter macrumors member

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    Nov 21, 2009
    #6
    Thanks for the advice, didn't realize LaTex took that much time to learn. Since it shouldn't be too diagram heavy, Word should suffice, but still looking into other programs.
     
  7. macrumors G4

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2002
    Location:
    USA
    #7
    Allow me to echo the comments made by others. Your thesis is an important educational and career milestone. It is not the time to experiment with your writing tools. Your choice of software should be based on two criteria:
    1. Ability to share files with your professors--particularly those on your thesis committee.
    2. Your own personal comfort.
    The first thesis that I saw written on a Mac was written using WriteNow. By this standard, Pages is massive overkill. What this gets down to is that virtually any word processor that can embed graphics in a document will be more than adequate. You can bet dollars to donuts that your professors use Word. Lacking evidence to the contrary, Word is my recommendation.
     
  8. macrumors demi-god

    oblomow

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    Apr 14, 2005
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    Netherlands
    #8
    LaTeX, if you want to do anything fancy with formula's, math etc. I did mine in LaTex 20 years ago, and would do it again if I had to. Word (and others) lure you into thinking about the final presentation and forget about the content.
    LaTex ( or any other editor that has to 'process' the text) forces you to think about the content and the logic ordering of your thesis.
     
  9. macrumors G4

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    USA
    #9
    The OP is a microbiology student.
     
  10. macrumors regular

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    Jul 5, 2008
    #10
    check out Papers from mekentosj.com to organise your articles. You can search various databases from within the application and download articles, then read them in full screen or tabbed. It has folders, smart folders and search facilities. It tries to be 'itunes for pdfs', and it does a good job, but isn't perfect- the note-taking facility is pretty basic, just a text file attached to the entire pdf rather than comments attached to particular sentences, as far as i can discover. Steep discount for students, too!:)

    Also Scrivener is excellent for writing large text projects as it makes it very easy to restructure your projects and, via the 'split screen' facility, allow you to view other pieces of text whilst you write. It's far easier managing big projects on Scrivener than by using a normal word processor.

    I've got a dissertation to do this summer as well and Papers-> Scrivener-> Pages/Word (just for layout) is my basic workflow.
     
  11. VNM
    thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2009
    #11
    I actually looked into Scrivener today, watched a few tutorials and gave the trial a shot. Nice setup for breaking the thesis down. I couldn't find it in my brief search, do I still need to do a table of contents myself or am I not seeing that feature?

    I've set up iDocument with all my pdfs, but will see if other programs do a better job.

    Thanks for the advice everyone
     
  12. macrumors demi-god

    oblomow

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    #12
    I saw that, but don't know enough about microbiology to tell if it includes formulas ( chemistry, some math, statistics?)
     
  13. macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jun 5, 2007
    #13
    There's nothing like LaTeX and a good template (in fact... it's all about your template/design)

    I just finished my msc thesis, which I obviously did in LaTeX... and I'm very happy with the astounding result ;) and so are people who take a look at it :p
     
  14. macrumors 65816

    telecomm

    Joined:
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    Rome
    #14
    Take a day to work through the relevant parts of the Not So Short Introduction to LaTeX, then decide if you like the output. Learning LaTeX is much like learning HTML - if all you need to do is italicize or set the occasional word in boldface there's really not much to it, and if you need to display complicated equations the output is great.

    Adding BibDesk to manage your references is a great complement to LaTeX. Basically you'd create a database of your sources in BibDesk, then your body text can include code like

    Code:
    blah blah blah \cite{Jones:2004}
    and then at the end of your document insert the code to generate the bibliography, something like
    Code:
    \bibliography{bibliography}
    and voila, a bibliography that includes entries for all of the works you've cited using the commands above.
     
  15. dyn
    macrumors 68000

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    Aug 8, 2009
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    .nl
    #15
    It is not about what software you use but about which file format you use. Do not use a file format that makes it easy to edit the file because that will get you into a lot of trouble. I've seen a lot of people that unknowingly made things like words, sentences, paragraphs, pages, etc. disappear. Word is also known for it's compatibility issues regarding formatting; it mostly goes wrong. If you want people to read what you created use something like pdf and make sure they can't edit it. By doing so you want be blamed for missing words, sentences, pages, layout, etc. Something like pdf is the safest way of letting people read your thesis and making sure that whatever you put in it is still there and is shown the way you meant it to be. If they want to comment on the document they can do that in person, per mail or annotate it in the pdf.

    For writing the document simply use whatever you like.
     
  16. macrumors member

    Joined:
    May 27, 2008
    #16
    Here's another vote for LaTeX. I did my dissertation in it, and am glad I did. While it does take a looooooong time to master, it's fairly easy to get up and running with it.

    Another important thing about LaTeX is that the online community is very much like the online mac community: awesome. There are tons of places online to find help for whatever you need.

    The worries about sharing are minimal. Typically, one generates a pdf as output when using LaTeX. Who can't read a pdf file? Moreover, if you need to submit something as a WORD document, there are programs that will turn the pdf file into a doc file. Such programs are not perfect, but they do a decent job.

    Also consider this another vote for Papers. FANTASTIC application.
     
  17. Moderator emeritus

    mkrishnan

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2004
    Location:
    Grand Rapids, MI, USA
    #17
    I agree with MisterMe... it's a thesis, and one should focus on the science and art (or whatever else is involved) and not the software. Unless it involved a lot of formulas and equations (in which case LaTeX would get more and more favorable), or one actually didn't know how to use Word, I don't see a good reason not to use Word.

    As a separate argument, theses (and dissertations) aren't that long or that cumbersome... fancier software for long writing projects gets more and more useful as these factors increase in the equation. I think it's different when something is going to be 300-400 pages or longer, than the 50-150 pages a thesis or dissertation is going to use.

    Finally, as an addition, if you're going to pick up a tool, you might also consider instead picking up EndNote instead. It's a package that works in concert with Word and other apps to manage references. It can do a lot of useful things like translating a citation between different cite formats (e.g., end notes vs. encapsulated references, different style guides' ways of formatting references, etc.). Now I didn't personally use this software at all (for either my thesis or my dissertation), but my friends who put the initial investment into swear by it. The nice thing, too, is that it becomes more and more valuable over time, since your citations stay in it and remain available to use in future journal articles, etc. There's also a similar OSS app, although it doesn't seem to do as much.
     
  18. VNM
    thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2009
    #18
    I've started writing in Scrivener, following outlining my lit review, methods and results. Will probably finish it up in Work or Pages for formatting. I'll check out the reference managers recommended and see which I like best. Thanks everyone for your recommendations.
     
  19. macrumors 601

    Compile 'em all

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2005
    #19
    TexShop. Wrote my MSc. thesis with it (in Computer Engineering). I didn't have any equations whatsoever but the output looked amazing. Latex also makes you focus more on the content instead of the layout.
     
  20. macrumors member

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    Nov 1, 2009
    #20
  21. macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2010
    #21
    Personally, when I started making my thesis, I have used Visual Basic as my program. But remember that the software should be easy to use for planning your thesis as well as preparing to write it, writing it and finishing the paper. An easy to use program is what you want and need to produce a quality thesis that has proper grammar and quality content.
     
  22. macrumors G4

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2002
    Location:
    USA
    #22
    I may not have heard everything, but I must be reaching the end of the list. Using Visual BASIC as a word processor. What will Windows users come up with next? OP, please don't follow this example.
     
  23. macrumors 65816

    telecomm

    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2003
    Location:
    Rome
    #23
    Seriously!

    If you're writing anything the least bit technical, you'll want to be using FORTRAN.
     
  24. macrumors 603

    gauchogolfer

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2005
    Location:
    American Riviera
    #24
    Sounds like you've got a good workflow there. EndNote gets my vote if you're still looking for a reference manager. I used LaTex and BibTex for my PhD dissertation, but that was in physics and had quite a few equations and figures. For me, the best thing of LaTex was not the way it handled equations, but the way it handled figures and their captions/references.
     
  25. macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2010
    #25
    personally, my own favorite is the outliner. It took me a matter of minutes to learn to use one, and for me to realize just how deceptively powerful they could be.
     

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