July 25, 2011

LaTeX and Bioanthropology Journals

I write all my major papers in LaTeX.  For the uninitiated, LaTeX is a document preparation system that involves text mark-up, in kind of the same way that HTML does.  I started using LaTeX when I wrote my first master's thesis, mostly because I didn't want to keep track of which citations I'd used and didn't want to create a table of contents myself.  With BibTeX, I could create a centralized, annotated database of references, and with one command, an article would be given a parenthetical citation in my text and would be sure to show up, properly formatted, in my bibliography.  LaTeX is also excellent at typesetting complex formulae, which I needed for my thesis on biological distance, and it has great support for odd fonts, which is quite useful if you're using Ancient Greek, for example.  It produces postscript and PDF as its output, and my documents always look very nice and are small relative to comparable output from Word.

LaTeX involved a pretty steep learning curve for me, and I scoured the bookstore looking for a guide that would make me less reliant on the help of my computer scientist husband.  I ended up with The LaTeX Companion, which I highly recommend for humanists and social scientists who want to learn LaTeX, in spite of the fact that it wasn't particularly useful for some of the things I needed to do.  (Seriously, you can get it used for under $1.)  For the better part of two years at the turn of the millennium, I actually ended up using Linux as my OS the majority of the time, electing to type up class notes and short papers in LaTeX.  I moved from that to running LaTeX in a virtual machine, but that was super slow.  Now I'm not as much of a purist, and I need to use PowerPoint for teaching and Word for editing, so I run TexMaker natively in Windows.

LaTeX is primarily used by scholars in the hard sciences - physics, chemistry, computer science, etc.  Because it's such a widespread assumption that LaTeX is the typesetting program of choice, journals in these fields have created style files for both the text and the bibliography.  Using these style files along with standard markup language means that with one click of the mouse, the same article can be reformatted from one journal style to another.  No futzing with bibliography entries or changing the font of headings.  When I wrote my master's thesis in 2002, my husband helped me create my own style file that would conform to ECU's standards.  Fortunately, intrepid grad students at UNC created a style file years ago, so it took just a little tweaking to get my 2005 thesis and 2010 dissertation into proper format.

Now I'm at the point where I want to publish articles from my dissertation, and I'd assumed that there were few anthropology journals that would accept LaTeX.  Fortunately, I was wrong - among the top tier anthropology journals, about half accept LaTeX, and the other half demand a Word .doc.  This list isn't exhaustive, so I encourage you to add sites or journals or other resources in the comments.
So, cheers to Elsevier for allowing LaTeX submissions for most of their bioanth journals and to CA, which I didn't at all expect to number amongst the LaTeX-friendly.  Jeers to Wiley for nearly complete lack of support for LaTeX, particularly in AJPA.

5 comments:

John Hawks said...

htlatex does a pretty good job of making output that can import into Word. I have gone this route with several journals.

In fact the ones that accept LaTeX input are not always as convenient as it would seem. They sometimes want to run the files themselves instead of accepting PDF, which means that you have to limit to standard macros.

Kristina Killgrove said...

I've never used htlatex. Good to know! I don't think that any of the journals that claim to accept LaTeX accept just the PDF output. I'm gonna give JAS a shot with LaTeX. They have their own style and bib files, so I'm hoping submission is pretty straightforward. Fortunately, my article doesn't need weird fonts or symbols - everything can be found in math mode. We'll see!

Lindsey Friedman said...

Out of curiosity, did you try asking AJPA about accepting LaTeX? and if not, did you use latex anyway and create a template? because I've already written my article in LaTeX and am not looking forward to moving it to word...

ps how did it go with JAS? I've got an article for them too...

Kristina Killgrove said...

Lindsey - You've reminded me that perhaps I should do a follow-up post about my experiences. I did submit to JAS with LaTeX and had no problems (a little tricky building the biblio in the file submission area, but it went fine). I actually ended up publishing the article in JAA - submission to them in LaTeX went smoothly too, although I forgot to use the correct character for the minus sign, and a reviewer commented on the places in the document where there was a dash, a space, and a number. Easy fix, though, and totally my fault. I'd like to think that the LaTeX made the copyeditor's work easier as well, since there was a template for the formatting, but I'm not sure.

My latest article went to a small regional journal... I wrote it in LaTeX then cut-and-pasted the PDF into a Word document and spent a couple hours fixing the Word doc. Still saved me time over writing the whole thing in Word, though.

If/when I submit something to AJPA, I may contact them about accepting LaTeX. Typesetting scientific equations, notations (e.g., delta13C), and the bibliography in Word is just a pain in the ass.

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