I am currently in the process of completing my dissertation. I am a big fan of unit tests, so I would like to implement a procedure that corrects my writing ( or removes bugs so to speak.)

A few examples:

  • check spelling of all text
  • do all figures have a description that is up to date with the picture
  • search for "like" and replace it with "as" or a better sounding word
  • has every head and subhead one or two sentences of introduction
  • are the figures at the right place in the pdf?

I am looking for a lot more of these "Bugs" that I was unfortunate enough to introduce into a text and found them only at the last-minute check. What else are common bugs that need to be eliminated?

  • 11
    Welcome to AC.SE. What you are looking for is called a copy editor.
    – StrongBad
    Mar 26, 2013 at 17:55
  • Are you looking for an automated approach?
    – Irwin
    Mar 26, 2013 at 18:00
  • 4
    You might want to start with style-check
    – StrongBad
    Mar 26, 2013 at 20:42
  • 1
    Oo this question gets closed, even if it gets upvoted and answers with upvotes?
    – tarrasch
    Mar 28, 2013 at 13:25
  • 7
    You should have written the unit tests first before writing the dissertation. It's called TDD: Test-Driven Dissertation. :)
    – ybakos
    Oct 14, 2015 at 19:43

4 Answers 4


This doesn't cover everything you want, by any means, but it is an attempt to automate similar things:


You could probably accomplish some of what you want with similar scripts. Some of the checks you wish to do are easily scripted as long as your thesis file(s) are plain text. If you're using Word, automation will be more challenging.

  • i am writing in word, but i will try to adapt
    – tarrasch
    Mar 28, 2013 at 13:26
  • 6
    @tarrasch, a fan of unit tests and you aren't using latex?!
    – daaxix
    Oct 14, 2015 at 22:25
  • 1
    Workgroup policy. There was nothing to be done there.
    – tarrasch
    Oct 22, 2015 at 8:21

Just to add the previous answers:

To my experience, there usually is something wrong with the title page: Wrong year, typo in the title or supervisors name etc.


The python unittest framework is very good for this sort of thing: http://docs.python.org/2/library/unittest.html. You would need to extend it to include the particular set of features you are looking for; I am not aware of a library that has the specific ones you mention already built it.

However, there are a lot of free dictionary lists for spelling (http://wordlist.sourceforge.net/) that would be fairly easy to incorporate.

As for putting the figures in the right place, you would need some kind of specification to check against. I assume you are doing this in TeX? There are a lot of good packages available for that sort of thing. Check out this question (https://tex.stackexchange.com/questions/553/what-packages-do-people-load-by-default-in-latex) on the TeX stack exchange.

  • unfortunately i cannot write in tex. i really would like to import tex features into word, but i don't know of any project like this
    – tarrasch
    Mar 28, 2013 at 13:27
  • Nowadays Word saves in zipped XML, so it is possible to adapt the other tools to read and write a .docx document. I really doubt that anyone has ever done it before though --- when it comes to open source programming geeks, all cool guys use tex. :) Apr 5, 2013 at 7:18

A few that I can think of:

  • Check that font is consistent on captions for tables/images. Same for headers.

  • Check that referenced items, are in fact in the references at the end. ex: [2]item2, you have at least 2 items in your reference list.

  • Check that you don't skip numbers for labeling tables/images

Note: You can have a software doing this for you, just don't forget to refresh/update it.

  • Please give examples for software that does this formal checking.
    – tarrasch
    Oct 22, 2015 at 8:22
  • 1
    Word, used right (something very few of the people I know do) handles these chores on its own.
    – vonbrand
    Nov 30, 2015 at 7:18
  • @vonbrand yes, just dont forget to refresh/update when you are done, or when you make changes. I used word for my thesis.
    – luisluix
    Nov 30, 2015 at 23:26

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