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I wonder what is the trend or reaction of academia towards writing a thesis in MS Word. I am in the process of finalizing my PhD thesis, which is in MS Word for now. I am equally proficient in both Word and LaTeX so I have no problem in porting my work from one platform to another. Actually, I want to save my time and use it for proofreading. My university accepts theses in any format. But I wonder how it would be perceived by outside world· Maybe I am wrong here and somebody could correct me, but I think LaTeX is more appreciated especially in some STEM fields. Is having a thesis written in Word/Latex going to impact future career in any way?

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    Related / Duplicate: academia.stackexchange.com/questions/5414/…
    – Sursula
    Apr 18 at 11:42
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    @Sursula I think it is not a duplicate if we consider that the actual question is the one in the body of the text: "Is having thesis in Word/Latex going to impact future career in any way?". OP needs to clarify and adapt the title accordingly.
    – The Doctor
    Apr 18 at 12:02
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    Do you really think people will care about the software used to write a thesis so much that this might impact your career?? As long as you are proficient in both (which can be mentioned in an application), I doubt anyone will care.
    – Sursula
    Apr 18 at 18:07
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    It's not that LaTeX is more appreciated - it's simply a pain in the ass to do many STEM things and in particular write mathematical equations in Word. And also bibliography management. But if you know how to do it properly in Word - good for you! Because I certainly don't.
    – xuq01
    Apr 23 at 14:00

6 Answers 6

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I think LaTeX is more appreciated especially in some STEM fields

I'm going to agree with this and disagree with some of the other top answers. I don't know your field, but generally in fields like math and computer science, a thesis not written in LaTeX can be interpreted as a sign that it is of poorer quality. Of course, there are other solutions :)

In general, you should look to your advisor to understand publishing conventions in your field, and only deviate from them if you have a good reason to do so.

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    Publishing conventions in the field may or may not have anything to do with Dissertation requirements of a given school. Apr 18 at 21:16
  • Not formally, but you will have both internal and external examiners with expectations of certain standards based on the conventions and standards of the field, and passing typically includes presentational corrections to meet/approach those standards. Apr 19 at 22:32
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    @calebstanford Since this answer is now the "top answer" you should specify to which other answer you refer to.
    – Dirk
    May 2 at 8:32
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The only people who will care about what you use to write your dissertation are the people who will be helping you along the way.

If your environment involves passing draft documents around and people who get it are expected to actually edit the document, then you need to provide people with a document that they can edit with no expectation of learning a new skill to do so. In such a case, I'd lean toward Word, unless in your discipline the majority of people use LaTex. If you'd like to use LaTex even if your editors/collaborators don't know it, you might take a peek at Overleaf, or any WYSIWIG LaTex editor that works for you -- but this may fall into the category of forcing people to learn new skills.

If your environment demands less editing, and basic pdf markup tools are enough for your helpful editors to send editing comments, then you can really use whatever you like.

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    For the benefit of non-LaTeX users who may not realize the following -- those of us who do collaborate in LaTeX swear by it, to the point where being forced to use Word feels like going back to the stone age. A real revision control system such as git has much better support for, say, branching, tagging, and 3-way merge, than anything MS Word can dream up. Yes, you need some skill to use these features, and if you don't have it, there is a learning curve, but once you reach the other side, there's no going back.
    – djao
    Apr 19 at 4:01
  • I would consider editing a document in MS Word as something that requires learning new skills, and I am somewhat proficient in LaTeX. I think I am not alone in this.
    – Blazej
    Apr 20 at 10:56
  • My advisor was proficient in LaTeX and often directly edited the source in overleaf. But he also liked to mark-up pdf's - which was slightly problematic because I mostly used Ubuntu Linux and even the basic annotations he added weren't all supported in the open source PDF viewer I was using (so I wasn't even aware he'd added them). I ended up having to review his markups on my macbook. So in general I found cloud based collaborative tools best. Apr 22 at 6:19
  • @DavidWaterworth Maybe your experience was further back, but Evince has supported annotations for a while now. askubuntu.com/a/309526
    – Anyon
    Apr 23 at 11:52
  • I am reasonably good in LaTeX and can collaborate in Word. Simple version comparisons in Word are nice, but I always kept this fear that few clicks could mess up a document irreparably (with emphasis on "irreparably"). E.g. auto-citations in Word always raise my pulse and I cannot help but repeatedly check on the fly they have been handled correctly, and things always feels flimsy. Maybe it's just the experience of having seen people lose major formatting etc. in the past and it's improved now. Your captain recommends for your blood pressure: Word for smaller docs, LaTeX for larger ones. Apr 23 at 11:59
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As other answers already say, the software used to produce your thesis is unlikely to directly affect your future prospects.

However: a beautifully-presented thesis creates a good impression, while a poorly-presented one may be hard to read, and raise questions about whether the underlying research also lacks attention to detail. Word and LaTeX can each be used to generate good-looking documents, but it is (arguably) much easier to make a bad-looking document in Word.

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    +1 for "much easier to make a bad-looking document in Word" Apr 23 at 11:51
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No one cares about the technology you used to produce the document. The most important is the content of your thesis.

It is valuable to know both LaTeX and Word specially if you work in interdisciplinary projects, LaTeX is mainly used by Physicists, Mathematicians, Computer Scientists, and professionals in other fields that require the writing of equations. Right now I have to write all my papers in Word because I need to enable and facilitate the collaboration with my coauthors.

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    FYI, I am from engineering background. Apr 18 at 13:23
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    Most interdisciplinary projects don't include physicists or mathematicians, so that could probably be phrased better. Apr 18 at 13:54
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    This is a bit overstated. In my field (computer science), if your thesis is not written in LaTeX people may interpret that as a red flag that it is of poor quality. Of course there are other solutions :) Apr 18 at 15:20
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    Physicists, mathematicians, engineers, and almost certainly others. Apr 18 at 21:10
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    @AzorAhai-him- in my corner of the world a lot of physicists and mathematicians work in interdisciplinary projects, myself included.
    – The Doctor
    Apr 19 at 7:05
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Loads of equations? - latex.

Otherwise, copy the preference of your supervisor.

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    This a great pragmatic answer
    – RudyJD
    Apr 19 at 5:55
  • This is the correct answer to the question: which tool should you use to write your thesis? Which is different from the question asked. May 6 at 17:09
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I'm an engineer in a mixed academic/industry environment and I interview candidates for jobs. I personally cringe at the idea of writing any large math/science-intensive document in Word. By math/science-intensive I mean equations, figures, lots of references, etc. When I see a publication, report, or thesis that was written in Word, I can tell the difference and it stands out to me. I look at it and wonder to myself why anyone would do it. However, it wouldn't disqualify you as a potential hire with me because

  • LaTeX isn't a requirement for the job,
  • It's not that important to me, objectively speaking, and
  • I've honestly never looked over someone's thesis at that stage (it may happen some day)

I've seen moderately math-heavy articles written by very advanced and experienced staff typeset in Word. I don't think it set them back in their careers.

The reason I cringe at the idea of writing something big in Word is because Word is clunky and especially cumbersome once you reach a certain size and level of complexity. Handling references, placing figures, and entering anything more complicated than straight text is faster and smoother in LaTeX. Comparing, merging, and version controlling LaTeX source is also very easy. Large documents can be split over multiple files. Generating a full (or partial PDF) from LaTeX source for proof-reading is often faster than scrolling through a Word document. Finally, LaTeX output is typically better looking than Word, even if Word is used properly, but I suppose that's a bit subjective.

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    Word 2007 introduced a new equations feature that makes it very easy to enter equations, mathematical symbols, etc. What you type is very similar to in LaTeX, but overall it is easier as you can see the result straight away and you don't need to compile the PDF to check it. I also disagree that Word is clunky beyond a certain size and level of complexity. These are canards that LaTeX users have been saying about Word for decades and I don't think they are actually true.
    – toby544
    Apr 19 at 7:33
  • @toby544 Personally I've found Word's equation editor to be clunky, lacking a lot of useful features, and frustrating to use, not least because the web app version of word doesn't always display them. I can typeset an equation ten times faster in LaTeX than in word, and a PDF can always display them correctly. Besides, many LaTeX editors and IDE plugins have an "equation preview" feature which allows you to hover over an equation and see the output instantly instead of compiling the whole document. Apr 19 at 9:19
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    @Crazymoomin. superuser.com/a/509805 Apr 19 at 12:11
  • @toby544 I use that MS equation editor regularly and I've typeset 50+ page documents in word. I don't know what LaTeX users have been saying for decades. Apr 19 at 16:22
  • @aquaticapetheory OK. They have been saying what you said in your last paragraph, plus the claim that writing equations in Word is a nightmare. But it sounds like you know more about Word than most of them.
    – toby544
    Apr 19 at 18:26

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