Preparing your literature review and excerpting: My workflow in LaTeX

It’s Halloween and while for me, this is a holiday which usually pretty much passed me by unnoticed, I know that many of you probably care and celebrate. So I thought: What topics in Academia or academic writing especially are spooky? The honest anwer is probably: Way too many. But one stood out in particular and that’s the dreaded part of the writing process which lends itself to procrastination like no other: The literature review and excerpting process. Without it, not a lot of writing can happen (except maybe if you start working on a case study or use our Article Outline Template to sharpen your argument). So anyway, I thought this counts as a sufficiently scary activity for Halloween 😉 Info: I think I might end up not having proper code formatting in this post. Sorry for the inconvenience but it seems that the backtick on my keyboard is broken and WordPress has long since removed the keyboard shortcut

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How to get started using LaTeX for academic writing? A book review of “S. Kottwitz, LaTeX Beginner’s Guide (2nd ed., Packt 2021)

Many prospective LaTeX users wonder: How do I get started? How to find my way in the jungle that learning LaTeX often seems to be to a first time user? Today I wanted to share my review of Stefan Kottwitz, LaTeX. A Beginner’s Guide (Packt 2021) with you. This book can help you find your way and get started using LaTeX after just the first chapter. Acknowledgement: I was sent a free reviewer’s copy of this book and asked to write a review about it which I happily agreed to do. Disclaimer: My book review policy Probably related to my upbringing in Germany, I don’t think a review can call itself a proper/serious review if it doesn’t contain criticism. I’m aware this is relatively different from reviews in the American style (especially on the covers of books) to just praise the book and not mention any criticism – but sadly, this also is becoming the norm in many an academic

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Applying deliberate practice to online learning using a learning diary?

Today’s post is about using a learning diary to promote something like deliberate practice for (online) learning. Probably the biggest problem of my online teaching last year was not getting (soliciting?) enough feedback from my students. The only students who ended up ever really communicating with me were the few overachievers who had already had previous experience with the main learning goal of the class, i.e. SQL databases. At the very end of term, ergo after the semester and after I could make any changes, I received feedback from some students new to Digital Humanities that I had been going at a pace which was too fast for them. They were lacking certain information they needed from me to fully engage with the material. However, nobody told me as the class went along (and as you might imagine from knowing some of my teaching materials, I tend to provide very detailed info – so I assumed we were good in

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The most important book to read if you want to learn Digital Humanities, Computer Science, Maths, Programming or LaTeX

Today I wanted to share a tiny book review of the book I claim to be the most important book you should read if you want to learn any technical topic but are unsure if you are up for it. The book I’m talking about is not Donald Knuth (although his books are highly recommended, especially if you’re a (La)TeX nerd!). It’s not even a computer book! I’m talking about: Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck (New York: Random House 2006). The fixed mindset versus the growth mindset This will be a short post because Dweck’s message is simple. There are two mindsets, the ‘fixed mindset’ and the ‘growth mindset’ and which one you have greatly impacts your success in learning and self-development. The ‘fixed mindset’ assumes your abilities and talents are fixed. Thus, you are proud of what you’re good at because you link it to your personality (“I’m a person who is good at…”). But

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LaTeX for thesis writing

Having re-read my LaTeX for PhD students post, I realized I hadn’t mentioned a lot of things I would like to impart to you. So here comes LaTeX for thesis writing – a few more arguments in favour of starting to learn LaTeX now. Just to sum up what has already been said in the last post: The main points speaking in favour of you typesetting your thesis in LaTeX are the citation management, tables, maths and images which can be more of a hastle in MS Word. In the aforementioned blogpost, I also added that you should take into account that a thesis will yield two PDF outputs with very different requirements from the same document – another reason to use LaTeX. But there are many more things to take into account. LaTeX for maths, images and the like (in short, everything MS Word isn’t good at) A lot of people say that the “LaTeX is great for maths”

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Is the Ninja dead? No. But you deserve an update!

I’m not sure if anybody even realized I haven’t been posting lately but this is the longest hiatus we’ve ever had on this blog thus far. It was my normal practice to post pre-scheduled posts only every other week when on fellowships but now I totally went off the (WordPress) grid and I wanted to reconnect with you all. (And also, Easter greetings – if that’s something you care about!) As you might have imagined, I’m quite busy at the moment. I have some typesetting going on (my god, I’m not sure I will ever agree again to typeset a book that I’m also responsible for as an editor, it’s a crazy amount of work!), then I should finish my PhD thesis, I’m on a fellowship where I should finish a translation before heading off to the next fellowship which I hope I can actually get to because it’s in the US. So yeah, busy times. Although I have to

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LaTeX for Philosophers? Logic and other Shenannigans

Today, I wanted to share LaTeX resources for philosophers with you in a short post. I was included in a Twitter discussion yesterday about whether there wasn’t a post like that and I remembered there was – because a fairly long time ago I had been planning to write a post like that myself and already had a draft lying around in the depths of my WordPress account. So this is it, a short review of resources regarding the question: Should philosophers use LaTeX and what resources are there? Personal backstory which is totally irrelevant to the actual post: Funnily enough, one of my degrees is actually a Master’s degree in Philosophy, so you could say I know the field. However, I would think of my time at the Philosophy department more like a “field trip”, so to say. (Uh-oh, today is one of those bad-pun days.) I felt like getting to know the field to broaden my horizon or

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Easy and quick strategies to #scicomm your DH project

Your digital project is great, I’m sure of that – but does it even exist if nobody knows about it? Science communication is the answer to avoid this philosophical dilemma. In this short post, I wanted to share a list of quick-and-easy-to-implement ideas to add some science communication to your projects. This is just a short post to give you some ideas, not tutorials on how to do it. However, I am open to any tutorial requests you might have on the topics involved. As for the Twitter bot, there is a short post available already. So let’s get to it! Quick and easy strategies to #scicomm your DH project Create a better / thematic / facetted search interface. Maybe people aren’t using your data because the interface is not intuitive and they can’t find things or don’t know what to look for and where to look. This is the basic building block to build all the following things on.

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Create your Tweepy/AWS-powered Twitter bot in a day

This post wants to convince you to try out creating a Twitter bot using Python Tweepy and AmazonAWS Lambda because it’s easy and fun. Of course, you can use any other utilities but Tweepy and AWS Lambda are the ones I tried. This is not a full tutorial but I can make one if anyone is interested. Inspired by the #100DaysofDH challenge In this post, I will just give you some basic Twitter knowledge, links for what you need to know to get it done and a link to the github of my #100DaysofDH challenge for which I implemented such a bot. If you want more guidance, please let me know. Also, read the post on the challenge because I noted down some restrictions I realized the Twitter automation guidelines impose on bots as I went along. In my example, I think I’m in fact doing one or two things which you actually shouldn’t do (I think bots shouldn’t like

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My experiences speaking at the online TeXUsersGroup Annual Meeting #TUG2020

Today I want to give you a quick update on what I’ve been doing – maybe a little bit as an excuse for why you haven’t been getting the usual amount of content from me. Apart from having lots of work to do, I did two talks at the (all-online) TeXUsersGroup Annual Meeting #TUG2020. And, of course, the two proceedings papers to go with it, appearing in the next issue of TUGboat. Stay tuned for that and consider joining your local TeX users group if you aren’t a member already! A Ninja and Noob revival Together with our friend the noob, we did a talk as a follow up to the initial guest post and our TUGboat contribution. It was about how folkx from the Humanities and non-technical backgrounds can be motivated and empowered into becoming part of the #TeXLaTeX community. A talk on didactical reduction versus references In one of my first covid lockdown blogposts, I mentioned that I

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Learning Programming from Video Tutorials

In these times of corona crisis, I have been receiving many offers for online programming tutorials in my inbox, so I wanted to give my views on one type in particular, that is learning from videos. I’ll share what I think are pros of learning programming watching videos, as opposed to, for example, text-based tutorials like blog entries or books, or also in-person trainings (a list of resources for these scenarios was already discussed here). Pro: Learning by imitation or watching someone else do it at first is a natural way to learn Using video tutorials, you don’t need to run the code yourself to see its results, which is fair, I think, when just quickly going through a tutorial or you’re at the very beginning of your programming journey where even installing a new software might still seem daunting. Generally, you should experiment for yourself and try to tweak example programs but at the same time, you don’t need

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The LaTeX Ninja is nominated for the DH Awards for 2019! Please vote!

I don’t usually do self-promotional posts, but today I’ll make an exception: The LaTeX Ninja blog’s DH category was nominated for the DH Awards 2019. So I warmly encourage you to vote for the Ninja and share this – because, as the site’s 2019 FAQ state quite clearly – in the end, the DH awards are a popularity contest. So this is the reason for some shameless self-promotion today. I’ll be back with useful content soon. But this also serves me well in terms of my own blog time management since I’m currently too busy with conference organization to able to provide an insightful thoughtful blog entry. Generally, anyone can vote – you don’t even need to be in the DH yourself! So please do vote and get your grandma to vote too 😉 Am I allowed to vote? Everyone is allowed to vote, voting is entirely open to the public. You do not even have to view yourself as

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A Book Review of ‘Ultralearning’

Today, I wanted to share a little book review: Scott Young, Ultralearning: Master Hard Skills, Outsmart the Competition, and Accelerate Your Career, Harper Business 2019. (Book website) It won’t be an exhaustive review, but mostly about my one key insight and some reflection on it. If you want a summary, there are countless ones readily available out there already. The following quote sums up the spirit (and main claims) of the book quite well, but it’s really a book packed with solid methods, not just promises: Is it really possible to get an MIT-level education without attending MIT? Or to learn a new language to the point of becoming fluent and conversant in just three months? Or to develop your own video game from scratch and make it a commercial success without being a professional game developer working for a big studio? (source) Apart from the fact that the whole philosophy of ‘Ultralearning’ can be seen as somewhat problematic (see

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What are ‘real’ Digital Humanities and how to get started?

The title suggests a political discussion, however, this is not what I want to discuss here. (However, I had a ‘more political’ discussion planned for a while.) At a recent conference, I realized many people from the Humanities find it difficult to grasp what the DH even really are – because they are so diverse. I was told a colleague had gone to a short DH summer school but still feels like she doesn’t get what the DH really are. Or that she hasn’t learned any ‘real DH’. How does this happen? How can we make it better? Maybe, as a first step, by trying to answer what the DH are in a way which is easy to grasp for someone who isn’t already part of the DH: It is really an umbrella term for a wide range of topics ranging from digital edition to long-term archiving, digitizing facsimile scans of books or running analyses. I don’t promise to unveil

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Learning to program: What to do if the program doesn’t compile

In this new year, I wanted to make an introduction to programming which mentions all the parts which (albeit being quite essential) many of the other tutorials, books and teaching documents tend to leave out. Things like “How do I even start debugging?” or “How to not lose it if my program doesn’t compile or when nothing works anymore?”. I was fortunate to get taught these skills by friends and helpful colleagues but if you’re a remote-only learner and don’t have access to such people – this series is for you. In this first post, I’ll address the problem that you’re in a situation where your program does not work at all. In the case of LaTeX, this means it won’t compile. Other programming languages which are not compiled will just not run. So what do you do in that dire situation? Step 1: Take a deep breath Stay calm. I repeat, stay calm. Take a deep breath. It’s just

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Understanding Scalability and Relative Values

What is the difference between 12pt and “format as heading“? Between 50px or 0.5\textwidth? Most of us know that we should always prefer relative to absolute values. But many who are new to webdesign or LaTeX don’t really get why. All of us who typeset papers and conference proceedings know that years of using MS Word does not necessarily teach you that difference either. This short post will try to remedy this in a quick and painless way 😉 In a WYSIWYG texteditor: Fontsize 12pt or “Format as Heading” In the case of a text editor, it is advisable to use the format templates rather than manually changing headings and so on for simple reasons: The information is stored as markup and if we tell the program what we want formatted as a heading, the machine gets semantic information about the text. Most people will understand that something is meant to be a heading when the font size is manually

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