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Programming in LaTeX for Social Scientific Document Preparation

Constantin Manuel Bosancianu
manuel.bosancianu@outlook.com

Central European University

Constantin Manuel Bosancianu is a postdoctoral researcher in the Institutions and Political Inequality unit at Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin.

His work focuses on the intersection of political economy and electoral behaviour: how to measure political inequalities between citizens of developed and developing countries, and what the linkages between political and economic inequalities are.

He is interested in statistics, data visualisation, and the history of Leftist parties. Occasionally, he teaches methods workshops on regression, multilevel modelling, or R.

  @cmbosancianu

Course Dates and Times

Course Dates and Times

Friday 3 March: 13:00-15:00 and 15:30-17:00
Saturday 4 March: 09:30-12:00 and 13:00-14:30
7.5 hours over two days

Prerequisite Knowledge

No prerequisite knowledge is required to attend this class. As long as you’re familiar with how a basic text editor works (Notepad, Gedit, SublimeText, Notepad++, even Vim or Emacs) you’re good to go.


Short Outline

The course presents LaTeX, a widely-used document preparation system, in an accessible way to an audience of social science graduate students. This will be a hands-on class where we go together through all the steps required to produce a commonly encountered document: a conference paper. By the end of the course, you should be able to create by yourselves an academic paper in its entirety: text, tables and graphs, references and footnotes. We will also briefly see how other software (e.g. R/Stata) integrate with LaTeX to make your work easier, and how it can be used to produce large-scale documents such as dissertations, an area where it remains unsurpassed. As fundamentals are the most important, topics such as presentation slides or typesetting math equations will not be covered. All participants interested in using LaTeX in the long-term for papers, dissertations or handouts can benefit considerably from the class.


Long Course Outline

The course aims to present LaTeX, a widely-used document preparation system, in an accessible way to an audience of graduate students in the social sciences. LaTeX is an open-source alternative to software such as Microsoft Office, letting you create a wide array of document formats: conference papers, books or dissertations, letters, presentation slides, and even handouts. It is free and can handle without any problems large documents (over 150 or 200 pages) with graphs, tables, footnotes, and cross-references. It does document or text formatting based on templates and pre-defined rules, freeing the user from all concerns apart from the content itself. Finally, it does not have issues with software versions, or document compatibility, making it an ideal environment for collaboration.

This is structured as an applied class, where we will go together through all the steps necessary to create a typical document encountered in graduate school: a conference paper. By the end of the class, participants should be able to use LaTeX to create by themselves a paper with all its elements: title, text, tables and graphs, references and appendices, table of contents. We will see a brief demo of how LaTeX can be integrated, in the case of quantitative analyses, with software such as Stata and R, so as to produce high-quality, publication-ready tables of results with minimal work. Finally, we will go through the use of LaTeX for dissertations and other similarly large documents, and how smoothly it can handle cross-references and complex document structures. Special attention is given to tricks users can rely on to troubleshoot problems by themselves, with the use of web forums and textbooks. This should allow participants to continue progressing with LaTeX on their own, even after the Winter School is over.

In the first session, we will gain basic familiarity with how LaTeX works, and learn the most basic aspects of document writing: using the template for a conference article, adding section headings and paragraphs, formatting the text, and changing the document margins. Finally, participants will see how to get additional features for their document through the use of LaTeX packages. These constitute necessary steps in any document and the goal of this section is to show that they can easily be performed with LaTeX in an intuitive way. Participants will also learn how to make basic use of TeXStudio, an intuitive, free and feature-rich interface for LaTeX.

In the second session we focus on how tables and images/graphs can be added to our practice paper. Starting from very simple examples and gradually building up, participants will learn how LaTeX can build complex table structures (e.g. regression results). We also go through how to include figures and images in the paper, and format them based on our needs. In this session I will also demo the ways in which R and Stata can be paired with LaTeX, so that analysis results can quickly be exported in the proper format. This does away with the need for manual copy/paste, reduces mistakes, and saves precious time for users.

In the third and final session we devote attention to the final components of an academic paper: adding citations and managing the bibliography. Here we also discuss how to use cross-references (to tables or graphs) in the body of the paper so as to make complex documents more manageable. Finally, I will show how easy it is to create in LaTeX lengthier documents, such as dissertations. This truly represents a strong reason for participants to adopt LaTeX in their work, as other document editing software pale in comparison to LaTeX’s abilities. We conclude the course with a short demo of how to design slides for presentations, and converting LaTeX files to common formats such as HTML or RTF, for use with other software (including Word).

Due to time constraints we are not able to cover the following topics: the use of LaTeX for writing mathematical formulae and equations or how to create graphs and charts natively within LaTeX. Furthermore, the topics of creating slides, and converting LaTeX files to HTML will only be presented as a short demo (perhaps 15 minutes each). The focus will constantly be on creating an academic paper from beginning to end in LaTeX, and on giving students the troubleshooting skills to advance on their own with the software. This is an introductory class, and therefore is bound to disappoint potential participants who already have introductory knowledge of LaTeX (e.g. have written at least a basic document with it) and wish to learn advanced features.

No prerequisites are needed to attend this class. Familiarity with HTML or any other markup language would help participants understand quicker how LaTeX works, but is not essential to be able to adequately assimilate the material. Given that LaTeX operates with identical commands for any operating system (Mac, Windows, Linux) there are no restrictions on who can attend from this perspective. For each session I have indicated a set of readings, but these are not mandatory given the practical nature of the class. Even so, participants are encouraged to use these readings as reference texts and helpful resources when embarking on using LaTeX on their own.

 

Day Topic Details
Note Below you can find the schedule for our three sessions. I intend to cover in-depth all three topics mentioned below. At the same time, if participants have a special request regarding a particular topic we can be a bit flexible in reapportioning time between topics, or replacing one of the demonstrations in the third session with it.
Friday Basic document editing with LaTeX

We’ll discuss what the strengths and weaknesses of LaTeX are compared to software alternatives. We’ll focus on how to create a simple article, change text formatting and adjust the document formatting.

Saturday morning Tables and images in LaTeX

I’ll demonstrate how easy it is to create tables of results and add graphs/images to your document. I’ll also show how statistical software (R/Stata) can work with LaTeX to quickly produce tables of analysis results.

Saturday afternoon Bibliographies, cross-references and dissertations with LaTeX

We’ll see how to add citations and a bibliography to the document and how to use cross-references in order to make the document structure more manageable.

Finally, I’ll show you how to easily the knowledge you gained so far translates to creating other document types, such as slides (!) and dissertations

Day Readings
Note

As this is more of a practical class, there is no need for mandatory readings. We’ll learn the software by using it, stumbling upon errors, and finding out how to solve or bypass them. However, if you wish to have a “textbook”-like companion for the class, please check the reading suggestions below. The text is easy to go through, as it includes numerous screenshots.

Use these suggested texts as helpful assistants and reference materials if you have further questions or need to remember a particular procedure.

Friday Kottwitz, Stefan. 2011. LaTeX Beginner’s Guide. Birmingham: Packt Publishing. Chapters 1, 2 and 3 (pp. 9-104)
Saturday morning Kottwitz, Stefan. 2011. LaTeX Beginner’s Guide. Birmingham: Packt Publishing. Chapter 5 (pp. 121-150).
Saturday afternoon Kottwitz, Stefan. 2011. LaTeX Beginner’s Guide. Birmingham: Packt Publishing. Chapters 6 and 7 (pp. 153-188), 10 and 11 (pp. 227-264).

Software Requirements

A LaTeX distribution (I prefer TeXLive 2016) and the most recent version of TeXStudio that can be found on their website (http://www.texstudio.org/).

Please note that if you want to work on your own laptop during the sessions, then you will have to install the LaTeX distribution on your own, before the class starts. You have instructions available here: https://www.tug.org/texlive/quickinstall.html. Please also install TexStudio, or any other text editor that you prefer to work with.

TeXLive 2016. Alternatively, MiKTeX 2.9.6022 (or newer, available only for Windows machines) is also fine, as long as the students have the necessary network permissions to install additional packages, as may be required.

TeXStudio 2.11.0 or newer.

Pandoc 1.17.2 or newer (http://pandoc.org).

 

Hardware Requirements

No requirements. Any computer that has the above-mentioned software will work.

Literature


If you’re interested in additional materials, please check the following books:

  • Kopka, Helmut, and Patrick W. Daly. 2004. A Guide to LaTeX and Electronic Publishing. Boston, MA: Addison-Wesley
  • Mittelbach, Frank, and Michel Goossens. 2004. The LaTeX Companion. 2nd edition. Boston, MA: Addison-Wesley
  • Syropoulos, Apostolos, Antonis Tsolomitis, and Nick Sofroniou. 2003. Digital Typography Using LaTeX. New York: Springer.

Recommended Courses to Cover After this One

<p><br /> <strong>Summer School</strong><br /> Introduction to R<br /> Introduction to Stata</p> <p><strong>Winter School</strong><br /> Introduction to R<br /> Introduction to Stata</p>


Additional Information

Disclaimer

This course description may be subject to subsequent adaptations (e.g. taking into account new developments in the field, participant demands, group size, etc). Registered participants will be informed in due time.

Note from the Academic Conveners

By registering for this course, you confirm that you possess the knowledge required to follow it. The instructor will not teach these prerequisite items. If in doubt, contact the instructor before registering.