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Using LaTeX in the Humanities

I interrupt my series of posts reviewing my recent publications on Pasyon and Revolution to briefly touch on the subject of LaTeX and its use in the humanities. 

When I embarked on the writing of my doctoral dissertation, I was confronted by the question of with what software I would write. I knew that I would be managing an immense number of citations and had no desire to write the entire work in Word or LibreOffice Write.

I have happily used LibreOffice for short articles, letters, and other minor projects, but I knew that this would require a sophisticated adaptability calibrated to the needs of scholarship. I began looking into the use of LaTeX.

There was an initial, rather steep learning curve to LaTeX for me, but the results have more than compensated for this effort. I have been able to seamlessly manage a thousand separate sources which were incorporated into an neatly formatted 950 page final document. LaTeX made writing a distraction free affair, in which I could focus on producing content and set aside formatting for a separate stage in the process.

Here is a snippet from the opening of my main tex file which pulls together and compiles the document class I created, JPSDissertation.cls, the bibliography, JPSDissertation.bib., and all of the seventy-eight chapters, five appendices, and three indices, including numerous images, maps, and tables.


\title{Crisis of Revolutionary Leadership: The Communist Parties of the Philippines, 1959-1974}
  \author{Joseph Scalice}
  \degree{Doctor of Philosophy}
  \chair{Associate Professor Jeffrey Hadler}
  \othermembers{Professor Peter Zinoman \\ Professor Andrew Barshay} 
  \field{South and Southeast Asian Studies}



The end result was not only in compliance with the requirements of UC Berkeley for doctoral dissertations, but also, I believe, elegant.

I have made the code of both my master’s thesis and my doctoral dissertation available on Bitbucket.

I wrote my entire dissertation in Vim. My sources are maintained in a bibtex file.

  Title                    = {{Struggle for National Democracy}},
  Author                   = {Sison, Jose Ma.},
  Publisher                = {Amado V. Hernandez Memorial Foundation},
  Year                     = {1972},
  Address                  = {Manila}

  Title                    = {{Philippine Society and Revolution}},
  Author                   = {Sison, Jose Ma.},
  Publisher                = {Ta Kung Pao},
  Year                     = {1971},
  Address                  = {Hong Kong},
  Nameaddon                = {Amado Guerrero, \bibstring{pseudonym}},
  Shorthand                = {PSR},
  userc                    = {sison:guerrero}

  Title                    = {{A Brief Comment to my Detractors}},
  Author                   = {Sison, Jose Ma.},
  Journal                  = {\shorthandcite{AsiaPhilippinesLeader}},
  Year                     = {1971},
  Month                    = {06},
  Pages                    = {4, 56},
  Day                      = {11},
  Entrysubtype             = {magazine}

I found using git to be extremely useful for version control and keeping tabs on my progress. I used git branches to make major revisions to my dissertation. Thus I could on one branch maintain a stable copy of my work in progress that I could distribute if needed, while on a separate branch I could make major modifications and only merge the branches when the modifications had reached a presentable stage.

For those interested in working with LaTeX on a longer academic work in the humanities, I would encourage you to review the code. I will occasionally on this site go over certain points in the code that I created that I believe will be particularly helpful for other scholars.

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