Helps for Students 

Writing Papers in LaTeX

Help with Writing

Research Advice



Writing Papers using LaTeX

Setting up LaTeX on a PC

1.  Download and install the latest version of MikTeX from  Be sure to select the option that installs all of the available packages.

2.  Download and install the latest version of Ghostscript from

3.  Download and install either:
     a.  WinEdt from (Best but cost $40), or
     b.  TeXnic Center from (freeware)

4.  Place the following executable and batch file in a directory contained on your path:
     (c:/texmf/miktex/bin works)

5.  Download and install the wmf2eps from

6.  Download and install TexPoint from  The utility allows you to insert equations formatted using LaTeX in powerpoint presentations.

Organizing your files

I use a variant of the following directory structure:

My Documents
  > latex
     >> bib
        >>> library
        >>> templates
     > docs
        >> paper 1
           >>> figures
           >>> matlab
        >> paper 2
           >>> figures
           >> matlab
     > presentations
     > templates

Compiling your first document

1.  Create a folder under the latex directory.  Create a subfolder called figures.

2.  Copy the file template.tex into the file.

3.  Open template.tex with WinEdt.

4.  Compile by clicking on the button with the Brown LaTeX Bear. 

5.  To view a dvi version of the paper click on the dvi button.

6.  To create a pdf version click on the dvipdf button.

7.  To view a pdf version click on the pdf button.

Adding a Figure

1.  Open powerpoint and create a figure.

2.  Select the figure and copy it to the windows clipboard.

3.  Open wmf2eps and paste from the clipboard.

4.  Set the output directory to the appropriate figures folder and convert to eps using the appropriate button.

5.  Include the following text in template.tex:

  \caption{This is the caption to the figure}

6.  In template.tex, you can refer to the figure with text like the following:

Figure~\ref{fig:figurename} shows some cool results.

7.  Compile using WinEdt.

Adding a jpg Photograph

1.  Assuming that the photograph is located in the jpg file coolphoto.jpg, convert to eps format by using the following command (entered at a DOS prompt):

jpeg2eps coolphoto

2.  Include eps figure using the instructions given above.


In doing research, it is essential to carefully study related work in the field.  In doing so, it is critical to efficiently organize the papers that you have read in a system that allows you to quickly find papers on a related subject.  After experimenting with various systems, I have converged on the following organization structure that you may want to try as an initial starting place. 

1.  I maintain a *single* file called refs.bib in the directory My Documents > latex >> bib that contains bibliography information about all of the papers that I have read. Copy the following gutted version of refs.bib to your directory, and open using WinEdt.

2.  As an exercise, insert a reference to the paper

Timothy W. McLain, Randal W. Beard, "Coordination Variables, Coordination Functions, and Cooperative Timing Missions," AIAA Journal of Guidance, Control, & Dynamics, vol. 28, no. 1, January, 2005, p. 150-161.

using the menu selections: Insert > Bibtex items > Article

When completed the entry should look something like:

     AUTHOR = "Timothy W. McLain and Randal W. Beard",
     TITLE = "Coordination Variables, Coordination Functions, and
            Cooperative Timing Missions",
     YEAR = "2005",
     volume = "28",
     number = "1",
     pages = "150--161",
     month = "January",
     abstract = "
        cooperative control,
        cooperative timing
        unmanned air vehicles
        This paper presents an approach to the design of cooperative control problems using the notion of coordination variables and coordination functions.  Applications of the approach to cooperative timing problems are presented.

The article key is McLainBeard05 which is used to reference the article inside a latex file.  For consistence, I always create an electronic version of papers that I have read and save them to the folder My Documents > latex >> bib >>> library under the same name used for the article key.  For the example given above, the paper is McLainBeard05.pdf.  This allows me to quickly find papers that I have read using the bibliography file refs.bib.  Everything contained inside of the "abstract" field is ignored when the reference list is compiled.  Therefore, I use this field to insert keywords that will make it easy for me to find the paper, and a short description of what is in the paper.  I use the description to help me write literature surveys in papers.

3.  Include the following text right before \end{document} in template.tex:


4.  In the body of the text reference the paper using text like the following:

A discussion of coordination variables is given in Reference~\cite{McLainBeard05}.

5.  Compile using WinEdt by running latex -> bibtex -> latex -> latex


Use the following LaTeX template for MS thesis or PhD dissertation:



Other Tips

If everything prints on A4 paper then do the following:
1) Goto "C:\texmf\dvipdfm\config" and edit "config" in a text editor
    - change "p a4" to "p letter"
    - save and close
2) Goto "C:\texmf\dvips\config" and edit "" in a text editor
    - change to order from

        @ A4size 594.99bp 841.99bp
        @+ ! %%DocumentPaperSizes: a4
        @+ %%PaperSize: A4

        @ letterSize 8.5in 11in
        @+ ! %%DocumentPaperSizes: Letter


        @ letterSize 8.5in 11in
        @+ ! %%DocumentPaperSizes: Letter

        @ A4size 594.99bp 841.99bp
        @+ ! %%DocumentPaperSizes: a4
        @+ %%PaperSize: A4

    - save and close
3) When you print your PDF, in the print dialog box change the scaling option to "None".  By default it is set to "Fit to printer margins".  Failure to do so will result in bad margins.

Help with Writing

BYU maintains resources to help students write.  For online help with grammar and usage see

 Li, V. O. K., "Hints on Writing Technical Papers and Making Presentations," IEEE Transactions on Education, Vol. 42, No. 2, May 1999. PDF 

Howe, Harlan, Jr.  "Publish or Perish:  It's Not Just for Academics Anymore,"  Microwave
Journal, September, 1999, pg. 172-181.  PDF

For suggestions on integrating equations into your text, read

N. David Mermin, "What's wrong with these equations," Physics Today, October, 1989, pg. 9-10. PDF

Research Advice

 Research Advice.  Dennis Bernstein, University of Michigan, An excellent description of the challenges of doing research, with advice on doing it right.

Advice on Reviewing a Paper.  Dennis Bernstein, University of Michigan, Eleven questions  to ask when reviewing a paper.