I’m Thankful For…MS Word??

November 23, 2007 at 3:34 pm (grad school, random thoughts)

Yes, something that I have realized that I need to be most thankful for is the lowly word processor.  I was talking with my dad last night about writing my dissertation and I started to think to myself, what would that process have been like 20-30 years ago?  I’ll tell you with certainty that it would have been painful!  I pride myself on being ahead of the MySpace generation, ahead of the text-messaging 24/7 generation, ahead of the I-can’t-spell-or-use-punctuation-for-shit generation.  But I do have to admit, ever since I’ve been writing papers of any substance, they have always been on the computer.  This of course dates back to before the internet, but long before the internet we had the lowly word processor.  Sure there were only 2 fonts to choose from and spell-check was a novelty not to be trusted over the dictionary, but I always had the backspace key and the save button.  My dad was telling me how back in the day when he wrote term papers, they would have to attach footnotes to the bottom of each type-written page, and some teachers wouldn’t accept pages with white-out on them.  Maybe that was really the beginning of deforestation, I mean can you imagine the amount of paper wasted?

In addition to lacking the word processor, people writing scientific papers and dissertations years ago actually had to (gasp) plot their own graphs…by hand! Oh the horror!  It is so automatic for me just to take 2 minutes to use Excel or Prism to graph my data that I cannot even fathom having to do this process by hand.  And last but certainly not least, I have to give props to EndNote.  If you are a fellow scientist, I need not expound on the wonders of EndNote.  For those non-dorks out there, basically, it automatically finds and formats references from the internet, then adds them to you paper according to a specific journal’s required format.  It also constantly adjusts the order of the references to allow for the writer to add and delete sections of their papers.  Its amazing and I am COMPLETELY dependent on EndNote now.

So as I start to think seriously about writing my dissertation, I am pausing to appreciate the fact that I have access to the wonders of MS Word, MS Excel and man’s greatest invention (OK, I may be exaggerating, but only slightly), EndNote.



  1. rehull said,

    Hmmm… I haven’t used EndNote, and will probably finish writing the dissertation before I use it, but I’ll add on to your thanking-MS-Word.

    I love “styles and formating!” When you have all the Headings, Tables, Figures and Equations formated you can Cross Reference any of them, create a table of contents, list of figures, and list of tables noting the page location with a few clicks of the mouse. And if you need to delete a table/figure/heading/equation, you just have to “select all” and “update field” to get all the numbering to update everywhere 🙂

    I’d be a nut-case without MS Word!

  2. mysterybea said,

    Wow, excellent tips. I have heard from peers that these features are indispensable when writing your dissertation. And how in the world are you getting on without EndNote? I actually wrote my entire prelims thesis without it. The pain is that every time you add or delete a reference, you have to re-number all of the other references. Plus it adds the references to the end of your document already formatted. I guess its much easier to do without it if you’ve never experienced it, I’d be at a total loss though since I’ve been spoiled.

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