Monday, February 06, 2006


Around my third year, I saw The P.I.’s First Grad Student working on his thesis. He was on the third or fourth draft of it, and I noticed that he was inserting the endnotes by hand. That is to say, he would type the endnote number, say “1,” click the icon to make it a superscript, go to the bibliography, and type in the reference. The problem with doing it this way, is that if you have 200 references and decide to add a one between references 2 and 3, you have to find every time you cited references 3-200 and change the numbers by hand. This is not trivial. And when you are writing a paper, you insert (or delete or move) citations all the time.

“Did you know that Word will do that for you?” I asked him. And then I showed him Word’s “insert footnote/endnote” function, which keeps track of the citations for you.

First Grad Student sat there at the computer, mouth agape, as I showed him this. Remember, he was working on his thesis, so at this point he was in his 5th or 6th year of grad school. “How many papers have you written doing it the hard way?” I asked him.

In a hollow voice, he answered, “Four papers, a proposal, and a fellowship application.”

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