Take the 2-minute tour ×
Academia Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for academics and those enrolled in higher education. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I have been told by our head of department, a veteran academic with a lot of publications behind his name, that I am not allowed to write my masters dissertation with TeX, as many journals do not accept TeX documents, and now I have to use Word.

I can almost not believe that journals would prefer Word over TeX, or is this in actual fact true?

I would appreciate answers from people actually working in academic publishing.

share|improve this question
In what field are you working in? –  Joel Reyes Noche Jun 5 at 7:27
Also, when you say TeX, do you also mean LaTeX, etc.? –  Joel Reyes Noche Jun 5 at 7:28
How is the tool used to write your MSc thesis related to the file formats supported by journals? No matter which format you use, you cannot just take your MSc thesis and submit it to a journal... –  Jukka Suomela Jun 5 at 8:53
Yes, journals that only accept MS Word manuscripts do exist (sadly). However, for me this is more a reason to not submit there than to change the format of my text. –  xLeitix Jun 5 at 9:41
Write it in LaTeX, convert individual pages to high-res images and include them in the Word file. Problem solved. –  Raphael Jun 5 at 15:40

6 Answers 6

up vote 33 down vote accepted

The answer is that in some fields (La)TeX dominate whereas in other fields (La)TeX is largely unknown. Obviously any field where equations are required is more likely to be using (La)TeX for writing and publishing. However, it is not uncommon that journals, or rather, type-setters of journals, use LaTeX for final production regardless of submitted format. The same applies to book publishers. But, the fact is that the use varies and one needs to check with the journal to which you wish to submit.

The fact that you are not "allowed" to write your thesis with (la)TeX is perhaps because your advisor does not use it. I am an avid LaTeX user and am struggling to convince both colleagues and students in my department to at least try using it so I know how difficult it can be. In the end, I need to use both to be able to communicate with my colleagues and peers. So although I do not see why you should not set the thesis in (La)TeX in the end, you probably need to use word for the manuscript so that your advisor can provide input on files you supply. But, check how many journals actually use LaTeX in your field and strike up a discussion with your fellow students and your advisor. I think it is worthwhile to be fairly fluent in using many tools.

Edit: I will just add that I was convinced by a friend to use TeX (not LaTeX, it was a long time ago) when I wrote my thesis (a monograph at a US university) while almost no-one in the department used TeX; but then my advisor always provided feedback from double-spaced printouts which were platform independent. Those were the days.

share|improve this answer
The OP could provide a printed copy for annotation. Mandating the use of Microsoft Word to write a dissertation is not far from torture - both for the writer, and the readers who have to deal with its ugly typesetting. Edit: you read my mind and edited your post just as I commented! –  Moriarty Jun 5 at 8:12
+1 for 'in other fields (La)TeX is largely unknown'. Currently writing up masters in History although no-one on my committee knowns anything about LaTeX. All they see is the nice pdf that they can make comments on. –  gman Jun 5 at 9:06
@Peter consider Org Mode if you use emacs. It exports to LaTeX and ODT (Word). Makes it easier to collaborate with others. –  mankoff Jun 5 at 10:13
My advisor also provided feedback from double-spaced printouts. Those days were less than a year ago. Is this unusual? –  gerrit Jun 5 at 15:11
I don't think so gerrit. My supervisor was delighted to switch to printouts - "now I no longer have problems with incompatible Mac/Windows versions of Word". –  L Platts Jun 5 at 15:37

There are many journals that do not accept, or actively discourage LaTeX-based submissions. I've always found the assumption in LaTeX heavy fields that it's ubiquitous to be an interesting quirk.

For example, two journals that will accept LaTeX based submissions, but would rather you not:

American Journal of Epidemiology:

Prepare your manuscript, including tables, using a word processing program and save it as a .doc, .rtf or .ps file. All files in these formats will be converted to .pdf format upon submission. Please note: This journal does not accept Microsoft Word 2007 documents at this time. Please use Word's "Save As" option to save your document as an older (.doc) file type.

On LaTeX:

Prepare any other files that are to be submitted for review, including any supplementary material. The permitted formats for these files are the same as for manuscripts and figures. Other file types, such as Microsoft Excel spreadsheets and Powerpoint presentations may be uploaded and will be converted to .pdf format. It is also possible to upload LaTeX files but these will not be automatically converted to .pdf format (and are therefore discouraged). The journal staff, editors and reviewers will only be able to view these unconverted files if they have the appropriate software, which cannot be guaranteed.


Manuscripts should be in a standard word processing format. We prefer Microsoft Word but we can also use RTF, TXT, LaTeX2e, and AMSTex. Application software programs released before 2001 are not supported.

The New England Journal of Medicine actively doesn't accept them, at least not unless converted to a PDF:

All text, references, figure legends, and tables should be in one double-spaced electronic document (preferably a Word Doc). You may either insert figures in the text file or upload your figures separately. We prefer the former, but this may not work well for complicated graphics, which should be sent separately. It is permissible to send low-resolution images for peer review, although we may ask for high-resolution files at a later stage.

Legends for all figures should be included in the file with the text and should not appear on the figures.

Our preferred file type for new manuscript submissions is a Word or text document with all figures in the same document. We will also accept Adobe Acrobat portable document format (.pdf) , WordPerfect (.wpd), text (.txt) documents, or .rtf file format.

Clinical Infectious Diseases doesn't even want your PDFs:

The preferred format for submitting manuscripts online is Microsoft Word (.doc files). PDF files are not acceptable for submission.

These are all very good journals in my field - a happy, healty, high-impact, tenure friendly career could very easily be had never touching LaTeX.

share|improve this answer
While I agree with what you said, I’ve also always found it a very strange quirk that a lot of people assume everyone has access to (or would even consider using) Word. (Or that people think “TeX” meant Knuth’s macro package “plain TeX,” not just “anything from the plain TeX-LaTeX-ConTeXt-etc. family.” But that’s a different topic.) –  Christopher Creutzig Jun 6 at 21:32
It's still a truth that everyone has access to Word, thanks to the penetration of Microsoft on the desktop and Word being the default standard of word processing. If you run Mac or Linux, your word processing software will convert to Word doc. I'm using Linux, my supervisor Mac and a collaborator Windows, and we all inter-operate using Word doc via our respective software. –  leonardo Jun 7 at 2:41

Yes, journals that do not accept LaTeX do exist. If LaTeX is not widely used in your field you might have surprises even with those journals that claim to accept it, since they in fact almost never have to. I recently submitted a manuscript in LaTeX to a Taylor & Francis journal which stated it did accept LaTeX submissions, only to find my piece "unsubmitted" the next day with a request to re-submit in Word.

share|improve this answer
Weird. Every journal I've ever submitted to accepted only PDF (or back in the mists of time, paper). –  JeffE Jun 5 at 11:40
Although I love LaTeX, I'm in a similar field to Fomite, so am very envious of you all in the equation sciences. If only they would accept pdf.... –  L Platts Jun 5 at 15:34
I am very much in the equation sciences and cannot use LaTeX. Very frustrating. –  Jonny Jun 5 at 19:06
@Michael_K Have a look at the MathType add-on if you need to use Word. –  Mad Jack Jun 6 at 2:58
@user11192: I'm sure most such people do use MathType. That doesn't make up for the fact that Word is a very unpleasant environment to use for creation of large and complicated technical documents, particularly those with lots of equations (and did I mention there's incompatibilities between Word/MathType for Windows and Word/MathType for Mac?). –  aeismail Jun 6 at 4:35

This sounds like a minor miscommunication. Your mentor is correct in that many publications do not accept TeX documents, but you do not (usually) submit the latex version of your document in the first place. You compile it to produce a PDF which is what you submit. The publications that want to edit your PDF will normally have the tools to convert from PDF to word or whatever other format they work with.

share|improve this answer
Interesting fact is that I didnt even get this from my study leader ! But from the head of department, and he basically told me that I have to write up in Word! –  Jonny Jun 5 at 19:11
"You compile it to produce a PDF which is what you submit." This varies by field. Submission of TeX source is routine in astronomy and physics. aas.org/authors/… journals.aps.org/authors/… –  coneslayer Jun 6 at 1:31
@coneslayer: Indeed, in my experience (math), journals that are typeset with LaTeX (in math, all of them) typically require that authors submit LaTeX source if possible. If you were to submit only the PDF, the process of converting it back to LaTeX would be unnecessarily time-consuming and error-prone. –  Nate Eldredge Jun 7 at 2:41
That is my point, any publication can accept PDF and convert to the format they prefer. It is often the second choice, but it is always possible. –  Paul Smith Jun 9 at 10:05

Out of my ~12 publications (spanning statistics, and applications of statistics in economics, psychology, sociology), I vividly recall at least two being rewritten in the publishing house from LaTeX into Word, with an innumerable typos, mistakes, etc. that I had to weed out comparing their proofs to my beautiful PDFs. There may have been more than two that were retyped into something else, actually, but these two were obvious downgrades.

share|improve this answer

As many mentioned already, yes, there are journals that would not take LaTeX submissions. Even if they take PDF submissions, they will sometimes redo the type-setting and create ugly final equations and texts (e.g. Journal of Neuroscience).

However, that should not be the reason to not use LaTeX. You can always convert it to RTF or DOC format. latex2rtf -M12 usually does the trick (there are other solutions, too). It converts equations to bitmap (png) images, so they can't edit the equations, but the text is editable. If your advisor wants to give you feedback using 'Track changes' in MS word, that's great. It's usually much better than directly getting the modified TeX file, actually. So you get the best of both worlds: beautiful typesetting of the final product, and easy to track text changes.

TL;DR: use LaTex and convert to other formats if needed.

share|improve this answer
Commenting / editing LaTeX can be greatly simplified and streamlined with the use of revision control tools. This is what any serious researcher need to learn and use, anyway. –  StasK Jun 6 at 14:20
@StasK Yes, of course. I use git these days. Using the right diff-tool is the key there. It also has the advantage of supporting simultaneous merging and log. Still, git is much more difficult to use than 'track changes'. –  Memming Jun 6 at 21:37
@Memming I tried latex2rtf but am not to impressed with the results. First it just cleared the .tex file I tested it on, at least I didn't need the contents anymore, and when I finally got it to work the results were average at best. I have to say I didn't really play with the settings of the program, maybe that is necessary to get good output? –  Jonny Jun 7 at 6:19
@Michael_K it is just a script so the output often needs further clean up, and sometimes preprocessing. It does a pretty good job considering what it is trying to do. An alternative could be to use pandoc but I haven't tried it personally. The focus is to get good PDF and editability using Word if nessesary; not a perfect Word document. –  Memming Jun 8 at 8:25
Thank you @Memming, I agree. The final version of the document will be typeset with LaTeX anyway, the latex2rtf will basically just be to see 'track changes'. Thanks. –  Jonny Jun 8 at 12:25

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.