What & why a plain text thesis?

A plain text thesis is a thesis that is written and typeset using only plain text files. This means that you write your text, including footnotes and references, in a simple text file, which is then processed to generate a camera-ready pdf or odt/docx-file. There is no need to format references and the bibliography, the system takes care of that.

On this website, I explain how you can create a thesis using plain text only. The end result is a print-ready pdf with all the references and the bibliography (Chicago style) automatically generated.

Why write a plain text thesis?

  • Sustainability
  • Independence
  • It saves time

Two inspiring articles about working with plain text can be found here:

(Please note that I use a slightly different setup, but I use the same components.)

When do you not use this system?

This system allows you to free yourself from Word. If this thought fills you with dread, that’s okay, but you have to be able and willing to learn how to use the alternative plain text setup. If you don’t like to figure things out on a computer or if you use a machine on which you cannot install the free software needed, plain text thesis writing might not be for you. On the other hand, you can give it a try with a sample project, perhaps you discover that you like the results so much that you don’t mind doing some of the command line magic.

What do you need?

In order to write a plain text thesis, you need some free and open-source software. In the setup guide, I explain how to install it. You will need to install:

  • a plain text editor if you don’t have one yet (I recommend using Pulsar)
  • the file conversion system pandoc
  • the reference manager Zotero

At some point, I will expand this to include the typesetting system ConTeXt with a special module for Chicago style references (for publication-ready PDFs.)

All the steps needed for setting up are explained in the setup guide, see you there!

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