Academic Writing [DRAFT VERSION]

Kjell Are Refsvik, updated April 19, 2010.

This is a working draft at this stage and may be a mess at times.



  1. Hi and welcome to this illustrated page of academic tools for the Mac.
  2. Writing is fun and when the activity is combined with the right tools and templates, it gets even more fun
  3. Should be done constantly and with a low threshold to letting others in on what you do (Shitty First Draft)
  4. While online writing using GoogleDocs may fit unformal documents and the initial state of writing, there comes a time when a proper document preparation system is needed to finish the job.
  5. This page contains my view on these matters and a collection of ideas, tools, templates and resources that could be helpful when writing in an academic context.
  6. While there are many products out there to support academic writing, two alternatives seems to stand out - MSWord/Endnote and LaTex/BibTex.
  7. Based on my experiences with both, here is a short summary on how I assess the two:

Formalised formats for academic style and structure

Several systems in use today that have described the structure and design of academic documents.



  1. WYSIWYG writing and design
  2. Tends to be easy in the beginning then harder and harder as you progress
  3. Proprietary commercial systems that will require you to have these programs to open your work
  4. Centered around the Microsoft Windows platform and often commercial solutions
  5. Tools do in general tend to be easier to install, setup and use, but often cost money
  6. Custom comment-feature useful, but requires every participant to have a compatible version of Word
  7. Suits mainly non-tech users without the desire or inclination to tinker with their machine/setup


  1. Non-WYSIWYG writing
  2. Tends to be hard in the beginning, then easier and easier
  3. Open/free format and system that will let you open your own documents without any purchases
  4. Centered around the UNIX platform and the free software community
  5. Tools do in general tend to be harder to install, setup and use, but are often free
  6. Focus on writing
  7. Lack of custom comment-feature can be made easier using pdf-annotations and line-numbering
  8. Suits mainly compyter-savvy users that are not afraid to tinker

As I have not used MSWord/Endnote extensively, I will cover the latter one in more depth:


Installing the system

The text editor

Write something here about the advantages of a single editor for all your text and code.

The bibliography database system/editor

Other tools related to research

Quantitative data collection and processing

  1. Hardware: could be almost everything from scanners, via dictaphones to smartphones
  2. Software: ?

Qualitative data collection and processing (win/osx/unix)

  1. Hardware: dictaphones, cameras,
  2. Software: ?

Creating figures

InstaViz on the iPhone/iPod/iPad platforms support the dot language.



Creating tables

Creating tables is a pain in LaTex. You may want to use a tool to help you out. Look for one in your platform.

Other software

  1. Backup (win/osx/unix)
  2. rsync
  3. Outlining and mindmapping

Mind Mapping and other structuring tools


Online publishing tools and services (win/osx/unix)


Print publishing tools and services (win/osx/unix)


Document templates and outlines

  1. Standard letter (standards (NS...), LaTex template)
    1. To
    2. From
    3. Date
    4. Subject
    5. Content (intro, body, closing)
    6. Salutation
    7. -----
    8. Standards
    9. Templates
  2. Essay (standards, template)
    1. Introduction (subject, your_positition)
    2. Body (arguments, facts, ideas, authorities)
    3. Conclusion
  3. Project proposal and plan (standards, templates)
    1. Background
    2. Problem description
    3. Goal
    4. Plan (activities, responsibilities, risks/actions, time, cost)
  4. Project report (standards, templates)
  5. Bachelor Thesis (standard/suggestion, LaTex template)
  6. Master Thesis (standard/suggestion, LaTex template)
    1. Frontmatter
    2. Front page
    3. Frontispice
    4. Abstract
  7. Mainmatter:
    1. Problem statement
    2. Goal
    3. Research questions
    4. Methods and means
    5. Design
    6. Discussion
    7. Conclusion
  8. Endmatter:
    1. Index
    2. Bibliography
  9. PhD Dissertation (standard/suggestion, LaTex template)
    1. Monograph
    2. Articles + wrapper
  10. Article (standards, LaTex template)
    1. Abstract
    2. Introduction
    3. Main
    4. Conclusion

Other resources at GuC about writing

References to additional information about