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I am a medical student approaching to the research world. Next month I am going to start a collaboration with a researcher that want me to learn how to create an article, to choose a specific journal, to look for materials, … It's been a while since I am (superficially) looking at tex world. In the last few days I downloaded an Elsevier template and tried to compile it, finding it relatively easy.

I now try to be more specific about my question. Do you guys know if medical researchers use tex to write articles? My concerns are related to the fact that there are a lot of different journals (science group, elsevier, nature, cell, …) and at the moment I don't know if you can for example compile the Elsevier template and at the end, when you choose a specified journal, easily switch to the journal's preferred style.

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my first question would be, what tool(s) are used by the researcher with whom you are collaborating? although i would have a strong preference for latex, the ability to share files with your collaborator is the most important consideration in a joint enterprise. continued file conversion can lead to unnoticed errors and other difficulties. –  barbara beeton Apr 27 '13 at 14:52

3 Answers 3

Interestingly enough, it seems that according to the Submission Guidelines of the Journal of the American Medical Association, under Manuscript File Formats, it states

For submission and review, acceptable manuscript file formats include Word and WordPerfect. Do not submit your manuscript in PDF format.

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there are a couple of journals which are forcing a bad typography :( –  Micha Apr 26 '13 at 19:30
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I agree with you @Micha that this policy of JAMA doesn't seem like a good one. –  Pete Apr 26 '13 at 19:33

I don't know about the medical world specifically, but the answer is almost certainly yes: LaTeX is an extremely high-quality system for typesetting anything, but particularly work that includes mathematical notation (as I imagine medical journals do).

Moreover, the ethos of writing in LaTeX is that you type what you mean: your content, and semantic (eg 'this should be emphasised, this is a heading) rather than typographical (eg 'this should be here, this should be written in a heavier type) information. That means that you can focus on writing, and whatever style is imposed (for whatever journal) will affect your whole document consistently.

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Regarding your main question, viz., is it a "good idea" to write scholarly pieces in the medical field using TeX/LaTeX rather than (say...) MS Word, I'd give a full-throated YES as my answer.

The main reason I'd give for saying the answer is YES is the separation of content and formatting of the content which is at the center of the LaTeX approach to typesetting. Say you've written an article and are considering submitting it to several journals for review and (hopefully...) publication. If these journals provide a LaTeX-based set of macros (either as an entire document class or as a style file) and if you've taken care during the writing of the paper not to put too many formatting-related directives in your paper, formatting your paper to the journals' specifications should be a snap.

You are definitely not alone if you're contemplating using LaTeX. Indeed, if you go to the websites of some of the leading journals (and even some of the not-so-leading journals...) in your field, you'll find that most of them provide well-designed LaTeX style files that address all formatting-related issues.

You'll also quickly find that separating content from formatting-related matters frees you up to focus on the content -- and that's where you would want to spend your time, right?

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