Paper writing

Here are a number of tips I share with students all the time. They seldom listen, so I'm simply registering them here so that they might have ready access to them and so that I don't have to repeat my advice all the time.

  • Bibliographic reference manager: If you are writing papers, especially a thesis, a bibliographic reference manager will save an immense amount of work. By creating a database of references that you can have your favorite word processor automatically process, you will never have to type out a bibliography again. Plus, these programs have a space for keeping notes, which is something you should do to deepen your understanding of an article and save yourself from having to reread it later. I use JabRef, but there are many others out there. LibreOffice has a (apparently weak) reference manager built in. Most universities make EndNote available to students for free.
  • Formats and styles: If you use MS Office or LibreOffice or some other equivalent, you should learn how to use formats and styles. If you assign your text, section headers, etc. specific styles (generally with the same names), you will save immense amounts of trouble. There are several reasons for this. First, if you want to change the appearance of your document, you can do so by changing the style ONCE rather than going through the document and finding (for example) each header, highlighting it, selecting bold, choosing a larger font, etc. and then find the next and doing it again...and again. Second, if you use headings, you can autogenerate a table of contents complete with page numbers. It's automagic!
  • Tables and figures
    • Do not split tables across pages unless absolutely necessary.
    • All tables and figures should be referred to in the text.
  • Use outlines.
  • Introductions should not be vague indicators of what you will consider in the paper; they should offer a concise summary of your argument. If your piece has an abstract (like theses), this is not as important, but most term papers do not.
  • Grammar
    • All numbers from one to ten should be spelled out (in Western English formats).
    • No contractions in formal writing.
    • Don't use "70s", "80s", etc. Use "1970s", "1980s", etc.
    • Put a space before parentheses when writing in English. (Korean writing does not use the space.)
    • References should be inserted before the end of a sentence, e.g., "...superego (Jung 1934)."
    • Use an en dash (–) instead of a tilde(~) when giving numeric ranges, e.g., 30–50%.