Friday, 8 August 2008

How to write an article: Formatting

One of the most important organisational questions submitting and article to a conference is a formatting issue. Each conference defines a format and formatting rules, which authors should be using compiling their paper. At the same time those rules doesn’t vary greatly as conferences mostly use some larger publishers’ rules, so you will find similar rules for many conferences. The publishers influence is easy to understand considering the fact that those will publish a proceeding and there are not very many publishers with a name. In my practise the most important formats are produced by IEEE and LNCS).
Usually a format that papers should meet is published as a) requirements (to read and understand) b) template (to start from). Therefore the most obvious way to compile the paper will be to open the template and either write your paper in or paste in (probably replacing some sample text in it).
One of the most interesting differences between different templates is software that you should be using to produce the final result (actually the type of the document, which is required). A lot of people from business community used to use MS Word, which is not widely spread at the moment in the scientific community since it is a commercial software – although the use of MS Word is slightly increased now and is often accepted as an alternative solution. One of the reasons why other standards are preferred is the publishing issue – MS Word is not the best source to obtain text from in order to publish a book. So, the main document format you could find yourself to be using in the end of ends is LaTeX or TeX. I would like also to mention GhostScript here as a considerable number of papers is stored in .ps files (so you will know what to use dealing with files having this extension).

Beside quite a sufficient time you will spend formatting your article will be formatting references. At the first glance those are identical in many templates, but the further research will sure that there are quite significant differences and if the article text can be easily reformatted by changing high level styles, then references styling is much more manual work. For example the name of the paper or the name of the publisher should be in italic or in apostrophes, the first name of the author should be either in the front of the name or in the end of the name, the number of pages should have a prefix pp. or p. or nothing, ordering of references should correspond to the names order or to the order of appearing in the text etc.

Tip: If you are not using MS Word then you will find quite hard to number references and provide right links in the text of articles. In order to make your life slightly easier you could start using right from the beginning some kind alternative numbering (for example letters) and only after the article is finished you will replace it with the correct numbers (that do correspond to references order in the last dedicated to references section).

  • Pay attention to all formatting elements

  • Use templates right from the beginning rather than pasting later

  • If you don’t have enough software, knowledge to compile LaTeX file consider only MS Word files accepting conferences in the begiing of your PhD study. In the end of ends you need to publish just 5 articles, not 500, so you could miss some conferences if you feel unhappy formatting LaTex.

PS: A lot of conferences will ask you to submit a paper using pdf format. You can easily convert your file into pdf fail simply by printing it into PDF writing software like for example CutePDF. This software will produce a pseudo-printer after is installed, which will write pdf file from the print stream.

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