More thoughts on thesis documentation...

It's over a year since I put together some thoughts about how documents (PhD theses in particular) get written up. Having just started on the third year of my PhD I need to start compiling all the little bits I've written in the last two years together into something resembling a final thesis format. I can then build this up into a body of work that I can present at the end. This raises the question - how to best go about this process?
First a few conflicting thoughts about the final document I need to produce:
  1. I'd like to write in short concise sections that will either stand on their own, or can be built up into a larger document. I'm concerned that this will not produce a coherent final document though.
  2. I'd like to setup the individual sections in a hierarchy that reflects the hierarchy of the systems they are describing. Unfortunately this is likely to produce far too many levels in the document (when I drew up a draft layout I got to 12 levels!).
  3. I'd like to describe the work down to a level that anyone (even a schoolchild) could understand, however this would probably end up being a massive document that would be too basic for most readers.
I think the problem I have, that lies behind all of this, is that the thesis is really designed to be a document for your examiners to read, cover to cover, in a format that they are familiar and happy with. It will appear printed on paper, be long and probably dull, and, as has been pointed out to me by other people and stated a number of times on the internet, it should "tell a story". A story that took 3 years to write and that a maximum of 3 people will ever actually read.

What I would prefer to write is a document that I could upload to the web and could be referenced and useful to anyone. I've spent some time thinking about how I might be able to cleverly combine the two, but I don't think I'll be able to write just one document to satisfy both aims. So my plan now is to write the thesis in a fairly conventional manner in order to satisfy the requirements for a  PhD, then to later revise this into a format that I prefer. Obviously this second part will be easier if I know what I'm planning during the first part, so here is my initial outline...

Thesis mark I

I'll be using LaTeX for the writing, in whatever document template I'm given (or have to make to fulfill my departments guidelines). I'll try to keep it split into relatively small chunks, but without going to too many levels of subheading (4 max). I plan to keep each chapter in its own subdirectory and include it using the \include command. Within chapters I will break things down again using \input commands to allow me to keep sections and subsections in their own individual tex files.
I'll try to use hyperlinks where possible using \usepackage{hyperref}, using the colorlinks option to avoid the default ugly boxes. By using a subtle colour for the links they shouldn't be too jarring in a printed report (where they will be no use) but obvious enough when read on a computer.
As previously discussed in this blog, I'll try to include figures from matlab and simulink as vector images, stored wherever they are generated. I'll also use a single bibtex reference file for all my references.
As with other work, ongoing revision of the thesis will be controlled using Bazaar. I can include the version used to produce output files within them using vc.tex, which is pretty neat. That way when I have multiple versions printed out and sent to people for comments I hopefully shouldn't lose track of which version they're commenting on!
Latex to Kindle?

Thesis mark II

Latex to html?
html to chd?

I never really finished writing this post, but it gives a flavour of what I was thinking a little while ago when I started writing in earnest!

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