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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

Friday 2 March
13:00–15:00 and 15:30–17:00

Saturday 3 March
11:00–12:00 / 13:00–14:30 and 15:00–16:30

Prerequisite Knowledge

None. As long as you’re familiar with a basic text editor such as

  • Notepad
  • Gedit
  • SublimeText
  • Notepad++
  • Vim
  • Emacs

you’re good to go.


Short Outline

LaTeX is a widely used document preparation system. This hands-on course presents it in an accessible way, guiding you through all the steps required to produce a conference or class paper. By the end of the course you should be able to create an academic paper in its entirety: text, tables and graphs, references and footnotes.

We will also look briefly at how other software, such as R and Stata, integrate with LaTeX to make your work easier, and how LaTeX can be used to produce large-scale documents such as dissertations, an area where it remains unsurpassed.

Learning the fundamentals of this software is the primary aim of this course, so I will not cover topics such as presentation slides, handouts, and typesetting math equations.

If you are interested in using LaTeX in the long-term for papers, dissertations or handouts, you will benefit considerably from this course.


Long Course Outline

LaTeX is a widely used document preparation system. This course presents it in an accessible way.

An open-source alternative to software such as Microsoft Office, LaTeX lets you create conference papers, books or dissertations, letters, presentation slides, and even handouts. It is free and can handle documents of more than 200 pages, with graphs, tables, footnotes, and cross-references. It formats document or text based on templates and pre-defined rules, freeing the user from all concerns apart from the content itself. It has no problems with software versions, or document compatibility, making it an ideal environment for collaboration.

This structured course takes you through all the steps necessary to create a typical graduate school document: a conference or class paper. By the end of the course, you should be able to use LaTeX to create a paper with title, abstract, text, tables and graphs, references and appendices and even a table of contents. We will watch a brief demo of how LaTeX can be integrated, in the case of quantitative analyses, with software such as Stata and R, to produce high-quality, publication-ready tables with minimal work.

Finally, we will look at using LaTeX for dissertations and other similarly large documents, and explore how smoothly it can handle cross-references and complex document structures. We'll pay special attention to tricks you can use to troubleshoot problems by yourself, with the help of web forums and textbooks. In this way, you can continue progressing with LaTeX on your own, even after the Winter School is over.


First session

You will gain 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 text, and changing the document margins. Then you will find out how to get additional features for your document using LaTeX packages. These constitute necessary steps in any document and the goal of this session is to show that they can be easily performed with LaTeX in an intuitive way. You will also learn how to make basic use of TeXStudio, an intuitive, free and feature-rich interface for LaTeX.

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, you 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. I will demonstrate 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 removes the need for manual copy/paste, reduces mistakes, and saves precious time.

Final session

Devoted 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 to make complex documents more manageable, but also how to convert a LaTeX document to Word, if need be. Finally, I will briefly show how easy it is to create in LaTeX lengthier documents, such as dissertations. In this latter case, the document’s structure will be a bit different to an article, but I will show how the same commands used to format an article can easily work for a book.


We will not have time to cover the use of LaTeX for writing mathematical formulas and equations or how to create graphs and charts natively within LaTeX. Creating slides or handouts, and converting LaTeX files to HTML will only be presented as short demos of perhaps 15 minutes each. The focus will be on creating an academic paper from beginning to end in LaTeX, and on giving you the troubleshooting skills to advance on your own after the course.

This is an introductory class. If you already have introductory knowledge of LaTeX (e.g. have written at least a basic document with it) and wish to learn advanced features, this is not the course for you.

No prerequisites are needed to attend this course. Familiarity with HTML or any other markup language would help you understand quicker how LaTeX works, but is not essential to 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. For each session I have indicated a set of readings, but these are not mandatory given the practical nature of the class. Even so, you are encouraged to use them as reference texts and helpful resources when embarking on using LaTeX on your own.

 

Day Topic Details
Note

If you 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 the strengths and weaknesses of LaTeX compared to software alternatives. We’ll 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  add citations and a bibliography to the document and use cross-references to make the document structure more manageable. I will also show you how to convert a LaTeX document into Word.

Finally, I’ll show you how easily the knowledge you gained translates to creating dissertations.

Day Readings
Note

This is a practical class with no 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 want a 'textbook'-like companion for the course, check the suggestions below. The text is easy to follow, as it includes numerous screenshots.

Use these texts as helpful 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

TeXLive 2017. Alternatively, MiKTeX 2.9.6361 (or newer, available only for Windows machines) is also fine, as long as you have necessary network permissions to install additional packages, as may be required.

TeXStudio 2.12.4 or newer.

Pandoc 1.19.2.1 or newer pandoc.org.

 

Hardware Requirements

No requirements. Any computer that has the abovementioned software will work.

Literature

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

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 at the time of change.

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, please contact us before registering.