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I just noticed that most of the research papers published (in the engineering faculty) are formatted such that each page contains two columns worth of information, side by side, for example:

enter image description here

If I were to write a research paper, then each page would only contain one column of material.

Furthermore, some material (such as the abstract) can occupy both sides at the same time. This is impossible to do using Word document.

enter image description here

Can someone enlighten me as to what type of formatting is used to produce this effect? Is there a standard template?

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    Are you familiar with LaTeX? I'm not sure of other fields, but in mathematics and the natural sciences it's the de facto typesetting language used for scholarly articles and knowledge dissemination (e.g., presentations, etc). – kbh Feb 19 '15 at 5:51
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    Note that typesetting, especially in engineering, is not done by the authors. If you want to submit a paper to such a journal, you probably need to do so with the least amount of formating. If you're trying to mimic the look of a journal paper for personal use, then it's another story. – Cape Code Feb 19 '15 at 12:19
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    Once you've started to get the hang of LaTeX, you might want to browse around tex.stackexchange.com. Maybe even sooner as there are some handy getting-started questions there. The [journal-publishing] and [journal] tags are particularly of relevance to this question. – Chris H Feb 19 '15 at 16:11
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    In general, major journals have downloadable a LaTeX version of their format. So if you use LaTeX, you wouldn't need to do ANY formatting, just download the format, and type your research on it. – Ander Biguri Feb 19 '15 at 16:25
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    "...some material (such as the abstract) can occupy both sides at the same time. This is impossible to do using Word document.". It is definitely possible - you should look into section breaks in Word, and single vs. two column formatting. This kind of formatting is much easier and look better in LaTeX though. – fileunderwater Feb 20 '15 at 12:13
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Your question is actually two. How are articles typeset and what can be used to type set articles.

To answer the second, how you can accomplish this, there are three basic choices (1) a word processor such as Word or , for example the word processor in Openoffice, (2) (La)TeX, both suggested by others and (3) a typesetting software such as InDesign, Quark Xpress, Scribus or Publisher. Out of these choice (1) is the weakest and (2) and (3) provides much better control on the final product. There are freeware options in all three categories with LaTeX being the only free core. Option (3) is constructed for very flexible design and is used throughout the graphics industry for typesetting. LaTeX has huge advantages to automate advanced type setting and also handle both long complicated documents as well as documents with common elements such as scientific articles. Option (1) is perhaps the easiest to start using but is not intended for advanced typesetting such as for example in academia.

To the first question, how are research papers typeset? Many, if not most, journal publishers use LaTeX to set articles. In fields where equations and specific scientific notation is frequent, it will be used almost exclusively. I doubt many prominent journals would use word to typeset their final product but many probably use different forms of specific typesetting software.

The choice of typesetting method is, however, not necessarily coupled to how the author needs to format their manuscripts. A journal typesetting in LaTeX can easily accept word files. Remember that a manuscript is rarely provided in the final layout of the journal, the layout is something the journal does in the end. I know journals have provided cuts in pricing for those who provide type set articles after review but for manuscripts a single column wider line spacing text is all that is required. This means that the choice of format for the manuscript is less important although, if a journal provides a template or class file for a specific format that should be used (always follow journal instructions to the point)

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    A major benefit of LaTeX is for journals with a strict page limit: If they provide a template and your work fits the page limit, it will fit in the journal. This is even true IME for journals which use a LaTeX->[proprietary XML-based format] conversion internally, such as Applied Physics Letters. They can also take the same input and produce outputs formatted as both "preprint" -- double-spaced, single column and "reprint" -- journal-style. – Chris H Feb 19 '15 at 16:14
  • Any source for the use of LaTeX by many or most journals? – Rasmus Larsen Feb 2 '18 at 7:19
  • I'm curious what the top bio journals (Science/Nature/Cell etc) use. It's clearly not latex - I've published with Nature Genetics, Nature Methods and eLife and they re-typeset our latex which varying levels of success. – daknowles Jun 9 '18 at 0:26
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The examples that you show look like quite similar to either typical IEEE paper formats or ACM paper formats. Engineering conferences and journals tend to use this type of extremely dense format, and often provide templates (like those linked above) in both LaTeX and Word.

Yes, you can do these things in Word, especially following a provided template, but you probably should not: LaTeX is very widely used in the scientific world because it is much better at precisely typesetting scientific papers, especially mathematical equations. LaTeX is also much easier to do collaborative writing with, since its textual format is well-suited for diffs and merges with version control software. If you contemplate a career in engineering or mathematical research, you are well advised to invest a little bit of time in learning LaTeX, as it will make many things in your life much easier. Life sciences, on the other hand, tend to leave all of the formatting to the journal and submit everything in arbitrarily formatted Word.

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    Anyway, take into account that several publishers actually do not use LaTeX for the final typesetting but other proprietary software (see e.g. tex.stackexchange.com/q/99123/50910 and tex.stackexchange.com/q/139448/50910). – Massimo Ortolano Feb 19 '15 at 10:56
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    "LaTeX is also much easier to do collaborative writing with" - you forgot "if all collaborators know how to use diff and versioning systems". MS Word nowadays works fine for collaboration. Yes, review mode is less powerful, but WYSIWYG is far more intuitive and easy. – S. Kolassa - Reinstate Monica Feb 19 '15 at 11:58
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    @ff524 IIRC if you install RevTeX and set the APL style you'll get the single column abstract (and title, authors etc.) over 2 column text. – Chris H Feb 19 '15 at 16:08
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    @MassimoOrtolano, they do indeed, and some can take input from LaTeX and word into that process. However from the point of view of an author who wants their work to be mangled as little as possible, LaTeX seems like a cleaner input even into these processes, especially where equations are used, as (though I can't prove this) the proprietary backend uses LaTeX or a derivative for typesetting maths. – Chris H Feb 19 '15 at 16:13
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    @Stephan Kolassa: Works both ways. Collaboration in MS Word may be easy for those who know/understand it and have systems that run it, emphatically NOT for people like me who don't, and who lack intuition. – jamesqf Feb 19 '15 at 23:48
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See other answers/comments for info on LaTeX, which is much better than Word at typesetting, but which I haven't used myself, except for the occasional mathematical or chemical formula. (Edit: In fairness, I have never submitted a paper for publication, as I've never done research at the graduate level.)

In a more basic word processor (like Word, OpenOffice, etc.), you can select a portion of text (by dragging the cursor over it) and

  • choose to format it in two columns, as in the body of the paper, or
  • introduce additional indents, as in the abstract.
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    Note that the paper mentioned above was very likely not typeset in W@#$ or other "quality software". – yo' Feb 19 '15 at 10:58
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Most journals offer format guidelines. They tend to also give away some LaTex code in order for you to stay in the norm. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America offers this template. That should do it for the 2 columns you are looking for.

  • Why go with the non-standard JASA template over the more general revtex, elsarticle or IEEE classes. Further, I am pretty sure two columns with a single column abstract can be done with the standard article class. – StrongBad Feb 21 '15 at 9:36
  • I tried to make a point that most Journals offer their own template. As it happens I am an acoustician so I was familiar with this format and it was similar to the one OP asked for. – Andrés Marafioti Feb 23 '15 at 3:24
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While there have been some strong answers here for how to accomplish typesetting using LaTeX or templates, etc. there is an alternative for some fields, particularly those (like biomedicine) where LaTeX doesn't have particularly strong penetration:

You submit the unformatted document in (usually) Word, and the journal typesets it for you.

For example, in my own career, I have never typeset a document for a journal.

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    Here opinions differ, but, for example, if I have to review a paper, I prefer to have it in a format close to that of the final two-column version (single-column, double-space text? No, thanks). – Massimo Ortolano Feb 12 '18 at 23:45
  • @MassimoOrtolano Some of the journals in question will likely be actively annoyed that you did typesetting, as they're not going to use it but now have to untangle it. For example, one of the major journals in my field expressly says things should be double-spaced, and while I've never tried double-columns, I've never seen anything from them where that was done pre-acceptance. – Fomite Feb 12 '18 at 23:49
  • @Fomite, yes, the best advice here is to just follow the particular journals instructions for submitting, which are often extremely specific. But if you are interested in playing around with typesetting do experiment with Word, Latex etc. – Rasmus Larsen Feb 13 '18 at 7:14
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Use a template for Microsoft Word

Your can find templates to achieve that look in Microsoft Word if you google it.

Here is an example: https://pubs.acs.org/page/jacsat/submission/jacsat_templates.html

Looks like this. Just fill in with your own text:

enter image description here

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    It always amazes me how crappy Word looks with two columns. It just has no way to deal with a tight line followed by a loose line. – StrongBad Feb 12 '18 at 21:45
  • @StrongBad It takes som work work, but nice things can be done in Word: thebookdesigner.com/2010/09/… – Rasmus Larsen Mar 3 '18 at 15:36

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