Saturday, 13 September 2008

Writing Scientific Documents Using LaTeX

Back in 2007, I wrote a short document describing some of the basic LaTeX commands and explaining how to go about creating a document using LaTeX. I did this because I was writing third year lab reports collaboratively with my lab partners (as per the regulations for the third year lab at Warwick) and I wanted us all to be using LaTeX, so the reports would look good and so that editing the sections together would be easier. In order to do this, though, I had to educate my lab partners in the use of LaTeX.

Since then, the document has been read (and requested!) by other physicists, scientists and mathematicians at Warwick and in the wider world. I've updated it several times to add content and to correct minor mistakes. It was not until this week, however, that someone suggested I put it online and make it freely available to anyone who wants it (and can find it).

So, I spent a while tonight polishing it up, adding a few more subsections, and creating what is now the 13-page Fourth Edition. It is available online at


  1. Thanks for this-- what a great introduction!

    Can I make a couple of suggestions? :-)

    1) If eqnarray isn't the best option then don't show it. With the space show another equation alignment option or two; amslatex has lots of them.

    2) Perhaps the same holds for putting bibtex in the command line command (although of course if a person doesn't use bibtex then it doesn't apply).

    3) Send the doc, and its source, to CTAN.

  2. Thanks for your comments. I agree that it might be best not to show eqnarray, and use the space to demonstrate a couple of other environments, but I left eqnarray in because although in its "default" state it doesn't produce very good looking output, it can be useful if you need to set some mathematics in several columns. It is also one of the first "multi-line" math environments people encounter, so I felt it needed mentioning even if only to direct them towards the more elegant align environment!

    I'm not quite sure what you mean about BibTeX. Admittedly, my coverage of BibTeX in the current edition is sparse (to say the least) but I plan to extend on this (and other points) in future editions, as time permits. BibTeX is an important concept to introduce in terms of writing scientific documents, and to omit it entirely would be a mistake. That said, the entire section on BibTeX is marked for future review and will be extended somewhat.

    Finally, with regard to CTAN... I didn't know I could do that. I'll definitely look into it.