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Choosing a font for thesis

Discussion in 'Design and Graphics' started by cazlar, Sep 10, 2006.

  1. macrumors 6502

    Hi all, I'm currently in the middle of writing my PhD thesis (Science/Genetics) and was thinking about the final product. My department specifies "Courier or Times preferred, 12pt", but as everyone uses Times New Roman I'd like to have something a little (but not too) different.

    I started out with Palatino, but at 12pt it does look a bit large and "childish" (I guess I could knock it back to 11pt?). I've also tried Hoefler Text out but my supervisor complained that the numbers looked all wrong. That's a shame as I like Hoefler Text otherwise.

    Any ideas for another serif font that looks nice and professional? I'd like it to be one that I didn't have to pay for if possible (I am still a student for the time being after all)!
  2. macrumors regular


    What are you writing your PhD in? LaTeX? Word? Something else? Personally, I recommend LaTeX, its fonts, regardless of typeface, are extremely clean, and it renders ligatures (e.g. ff, fl, ll) properly. You will find a more professional look from ALL of the fonts offered that you will from any other word processing or typesetting application. Plus, it's free.
  3. macrumors 6502

    I'm also writing a PhD thesis - and agree Palatino does look large and childish - but you know it's nice to read.

    I'm currently writing drafts in times new roman 12 pt - as it is uniform and letters are close together for easy reviewing and editing - however Palatino is the official font for my Uni's letters and correspondence and it does look pretty sweet.

    Whilst there are distinct rules for line spacing and margin setting - I've found there is some latitude given to choosing a font - and I'm wrestling with it too - but I'm leaning towards Palatino at this point in time.

    I'm also bound by using MS Word alone (like you may be cazlar) as nothing else comes close (yet) for academic work - track changes etc and moving edits between depts and supervisors etc before it's all PDF'ed
  4. macrumors newbie

    If you want something professional you generally have to pay for a decent one. (or go via other methods that I will not talk about here ;) )
    Fonts like Adobe Caslon are classics. The Bondi sets are very, very nice.
  5. Moderator emeritus


    I'm really surprised you are permitted to choose a font. Mmmm, I'm pretty sure at least that my university does not.

    For what it's worth though, I like Palatino at larger sizes... I have used it a lot for posters because it used at least to be the official font in our style guide, and so it matched the logos and so on. And I was pretty happy with it.
  6. Guest


    Sabon, an exceptional font for body text.
  7. macrumors 6502

    Thanks for all the input!

    I'm afraid Word is what I'm using. I know lots of people suggest LaTeX, but my lab uses Word exclusively, and its a bit hard to switch for interoperability etc. I've made it a point to do all my figures etc in Pages though (although Word seems to not like PDF input, so I have to go PDF -> high res TIFF -> Word). Except for the extra time/hassle to do that, it's worked quite well and I haven't had any issues with figures spontaneously "moving themselves" as everything is in-line with the text.

    Palatino has also my been my favourite for ages. Most of my essays during undergrad university were with Palatino. I've just given Baskerville a go. First impressions are that it's not bad but perhaps a little "light". I'll look into Caslon and Sabon next.
  8. macrumors regular


    I have to say I've never heard of a science/technical lab that didn't allow LaTeX, anyone ever run into this?

    That is unforunate. In the meantime, Times New Roman may bore you to tears, but at least it'll be easy on the eyes for everyone and look the way everyone expects.
  9. macrumors 6502

    Well, it's probably not that it's not allowed, I'd just be surprised if anyone else in the lab had ever heard of it, let alone used it (and at this stage, with most of it written, I'm not going to try switch!).
  10. macrumors regular


    Has it become that esoteric? It's very commonly used in my department. I wouldn't blame you for not switching with most of it written, that's a task not worth the effort.
  11. Moderator


    Staff Member

    Hey! My dissertation was typseset in Palatino using LaTeX (I can't recall if it was 11 or 12 pt.), and it doesn't look childish at all. Has it really been 10 years since I wrote the thing?

    EDIT: Sabon looks like a nice font. I might just pick it up as a nice alternative to Times New Roman. Thanks!
    Also, LaTeX use depends heavily on the field of choice, quite common in Physics, Math and Computer Science, less so in other fields. FWIW My wife did hers in Wordperfect 5.1 on a '286 notebook. :p

  12. macrumors 68040


  13. macrumors member

    I used Palatino at 10 pt for my PhD thesis. Or was it 10.5 pt?. And Word (98 at the time). You may give the linespacing in the body text some extra "air" if you like.

    Stick to Word if you know how to use it. LaTeX - as I understand - is rather "unstandard" and "difficult" for most users but as balamw wrote, good for people needing to write something about chemistry, mathematics etc. Overkill and even a bad choice for me since I wrote about architecture. A PhD does not necessarily require complex math...

    I recommend you - unless you already are a power user - to look through Word's help and figure out how to properly use end- and footnotes, automatic page references, indexing etc etc. Now is the time when Microsoft's "bloat" are coming to good use! :)

    My approach to illustrations was the same, making them in separately (in FreeHand and exported to eps was the choice then). And I made most of my illustrations full page (or spread) to make it easy to "block" the space in Word, avoiding most of Word's lousy layout capabilities.
  14. macrumors member

    :eek: :eek: :eek:

    Go wash your mouth with soap!

    :D :D :D

    Seriously speaking, a body text in serif is usually much easier to read than a sans serif.
  15. macrumors 604


    I can't believe no one has suggested Comic Sans. :p
  16. Moderator


    Staff Member

    Just to note that that's not quite what I said. ;)

    LaTeX happens to be common in certain fields, but that's definitely not all it's good for! I wish everyone could and would use LaTeX for any document that is written collaboratively. It's just so much easier to track changes and keep formatting consistent accross the whole document. Plus you can see exactly what's in the document and don't have to worry about hidden content.

    I hate working on a Word or PowePoint document to find out that my collaborator has decided that they will format the section manually instead of using the underlying style, even if they have tried to mimic it.

  17. Moderator emeritus


    Every once in a while I see a presentation at a conference that was clearly done in LaTeX. Never could be accused of being the most beautiful presentations in the world. No Keynote. But they're nothing if not consistent. I do have to say that. There is some benefit to the idea of establishing a style and policing it rigorously. Word allows you to do that, but it doesn't really *help* you....

    We used to use New Century Schoolbook in a news journal we did, but now when I look at it on this Windows computer, at least, it looks awful. Hmmm...

    But then I actually think TNR is a perfectly usable font. Which should get me shot. :eek: :D
  18. macrumors 68000


  19. macrumors 6502

    I just got that! :)
  20. macrumors 6502


    Take a look at Before & After magazine's free article on "What's the right typeface for text?". It's the third one down. Good luck!

  21. Moderator


    Staff Member

    Chicago, this is a Mac site after all and all the old timers can reminisce... :D

  22. macrumors regular

    Joking aside...

    Stick to what they suggest. Which, to be honest, means Times Roman. Don't kid yourself - how many people will actually read your thesis? Your examiners and that will be it. And they should be paying attention to the content, not the form. After that, it will sit in the University library until the end of time, gathering dust. That's what happened to mine (printed on a daisy wheel printer before the invention of Apple...)
  23. macrumors regular


    I would never use Palatino for text unless I had a good reason, and your thesis is a poor reason. Hermann Zapf designed Aldus
    as a close relative to Palatino specifically for setting text.

    I would look at Sabon, or it's relative Garamond. I've always been partial to Adobe Garamond. As for me I usually set my papers for my MA classes in Adobe's Berkeley Old Style, but that's just me, I tend to like fonts from Fredrick Goudy. Also Berkeley bears some reasonable similarity to Time NR, but is just different enough to matter. I was a freelancer for a long time so I collected a lot of faces I liked (and charged them off to you know who).

    And if anyone asks just tell them you were thinking about the readers and you wanted to make their lives as easy as possible. :cool:
  24. macrumors regular

    geez, does phd thesis mean something different in australia? you sound like a second-week college freshman. Write your damn paper! the department prefers times or courier so use one or the other.

    oh and did you know omg Courier letters are all the same width and so ten pages of courier is like twelve pages of times new roman!!!!

    actually i take it all back, it is a time-tested procrastination technique to hit up your favorite forum and ask for font advice :) good luck, and make sure to post the thesis here once you're done!
  25. macrumors regular


    Actually it gave me the chance to prove how much I think I know... :rolleyes:

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