An informal document stylesheet for my UvA students

UvA students sometimes ask me for guidance in writing a tutorial, an assignment, or a thesis. Unfortunately, there is (still?) no comprehensive guide for helping students in properly formatting their academic papers, documents, tutorials, theses, and the like.

Most of my students come from the Faculty of Humanities, but there are notable exceptions, some of them being enrolled in MA programmes in Logic, Artificial Intelligence or some branch of Computer Science or Informatics. I hesitated a lot before to embark in such an endeavour, because of this immense variety — which I like a lot, actually, as the mindset of a student in cognitive science can be very different from a student in Modern Greek (no value is involved here, just to be very explicit).

First, there is one general advice I want to give to my students — and I underline the possessive ‘my’: what follows is valid for me and me only, so, colleagues can think and behave differently from me — that is, please read carefully the official UvA English Style Guide, before anything else (ironically enough, the web page is in Dutch; if you cannot understand the content, which is really basic, shame on you, keep calm and click the downward arrow, a PDF will be downloaded for you; open it). Although it is not addressed to students, it solves a lot of doubt, first of all, British vs American spelling.

Second, ask yourself if you want to write your academic document with a word processor such as LibreOffice or Microsoft Word, or get yourself into the magic world of LaTeX. I accept to receive your documents, dear students, in four formats: Open Document, Word, or (Xe)(La)TeX, and, finally, PDF. I prefer LaTeX because LaTeX is not only beauty in typography but it disciplines your mind so to prepare better content. Moreover, it is easy to find UvA templates in LaTeX, for example, the ILLC Dissertation Style (note that my affiliation is not there but in the ACLC) or the template for Ph.D. thesis for the GSAS (same as above). Finally, I found a template for Master of Logic Theses.

I kindly invite you to spend 10 minutes of your time browsing the web pages above, even if you do not know LaTeX and you do not plan to learn it. In such an unfortunate case, open the exemplar PDFs you’ll find there, skip the explanations, which are Dark Magic for you. You can still get inspired by them.

If you do not have what does to mean to write a thesis, a scriptie, as you only did a profielwerkstuk in high school before, you may profit in downloading already accepted BA and MA theses. Please open this UvA web page, which provides two links to you: the first one points to the database of all accepted theses in Dutch Universities, the second one to the subset of theses accepted at the UvA. Web interface is not exactly cool, but they do their job.

I hope you will appreciate this blog post, which is not an April Fools’ Day joke, but it is for real. And now you go!

PS In case of panic, your red button is your UvA Study Advisor(s): ask for an appointment and get advised.