Submit Your Next Assignment in LaTeX

If you are a researcher in STEM, you might come across a few colleagues on campus who are LaTeX fanatics. Well, I am not a fanatic. I do use it when the time calls for it. Otherwise, I would stick with the good old Word. LaTeX came out in the 1980s. It was meant for formatting scientific papers. Papers that had lots of equations and Greek. Nevertheless, some of us still like to learn and use this system. For perspective, the C programming language came out in the 1970s and your smartphone uses it. So, how can a STEM student benefit from learning the LaTeX system today? Here are a few uses:

1. Type LaTeX-style equations in Word

Do you often struggle with inserting mathematical symbols in Word? The recent versions of Word actually support LaTeX-style equations. Press Alt + = to insert a new equation. Now type away \alpha, \beta, \gamma, \zeta or \pi. Capitalize as \Alpha, \Beta, \Gamma, or \Theta. Want to write an integral? Type \int x dx. Check out these linked resources for more expressions and math symbols .

2. Let go of formatting concerns while writing

Writing in Word can sometimes make you lose focus on the content as you fix the format. LaTeX gets rid of this problem altogether. The LaTeX compiler takes care of the formatting and all you have to do is tell it what you want. Do you want a bold text? Then write it like this: \bf{I want bold text.} The LaTeX compiler will make it bold for you. Do you want a new section? Type it like \section{…}. A sub-section? Insert \subsection{…}. You get the idea. Just finish the writing.

3. No compatibility issues

The LaTeX files are simple text file. That mean you will not have any compatibility issues opening or editing them. Typically, LaTeX files are compiled into PDF documents. PDFs are also pretty good at preserving the format. You can always share the LaTeX text files if you want others to edit your writing. They will just re-compile after editing.

4. It is free

LaTeX is free. Free as in free cupcakes. You don’t have to pay anyone to download, install, run and create LaTeX documents. It is available under open-source license. No yearly subscriptions or upgrades are necessary.

5. It is more beautiful

This is a bit subjective. But there are articles online where people discuss how LaTeX renders font more beautifully than Word. Here is one . Do you agree with it?

When not to use LaTeX?

Well, if your next assignment is due tomorrow then you should not start it with LaTeX. There is a learning curve. It can take a few hours to setup and master the basics. And a life-time of googling to lookup everything else. It is a skill that can benefit in your academic writings. However, it is only beneficial if the document you are working on requires a lot of mathematical equations, chemical formula or other scientific notations. You can write your journal article or conference paper in LaTeX. But don’t start your thesis or dissertation in LaTeX without consulting your supervisor. The conversion to Word at the end will not be fun. Some people just don’t like it you know. Also, if you are writing a sociology term paper, LaTeX will not help you finish it quicker.

So, are you going to turn in your next assignment in LaTeX? Let me know!


\(\LaTeX\) text and output