Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Formatting: A Cautionary Tale

The Mod 2 report was a little bit of a behemoth of a project. It was like a hydra; I would finish one part and instantly two more things to deal with would pop up. This was even more true because of how interconnected all the parts were, so changing something in a figure meant hunting down where I wrote about it in the caption and in the results and then having to change other parts of the paper if they related. It was difficult, yes, but I had finally finished all the parts. My text was ready. My figures were captioned and ready to go. Even my references were done. But I had one glaring issue: all my nice, complete parts were spread across a million different files and even worse, file types.

Pictured here are the Introduction, Results, and Discussion sections.
I had initially set aside the 30 minutes before it was due to consolidate all my parts and turn it in, thinking that this portion of the assignment would be less mentally taxing than the actual content creation. Future 20.109ers, learn from me. DO NOT MAKE THE SAME MISTAKE. 30 minutes was not nearly enough time for the monumental task at hand.

Long before I had even started writing, I had a grand plan of putting the whole document in PowerPoint so that I could easily manipulate the images and graphs. I spent the first hour of my Mod 2 journey lovingly changing page size and creating artificial margins and started to populate this document with my figures and even initially wrote my entire results section in this PowerPoint document. Everything was going smoothly until I essentially gutted my paper at Office Hours the day before it was due (Future 20.109ers, go to early office hours so you don’t end up like me). I ended up having a far better grasp on what the story of my paper should be, ultimately giving way to better text, but this ruined my whole PowerPoint grand plan. I tried extracting everything I had written in PowerPoint and put that into a new Word document, with the intention of eventually returning to PowerPoint once I had finalized what I would be saying.

[Cut to 4:30 on Monday.]

I had all my parts, but all my words (text and captions) were in Word and all my figures were in PowerPoint. Initially I tried making my beautiful PowerPoint the same way as I had before. It was going nowhere and very slowly. I realized my time was quickly running out. So then I tried packaging the captions with the figures in PowerPoint and turning those into images to be inserted into the Word document, but this created many issues with text sizing. More time gone. I then tried adding the captions back into the final Word document, which was also causing many formatting errors so then I considered submitting the paper text separately from the figures, which was an option. But at this point it was 4:58 and I knew I couldn’t submit the paper on time in a form that would have made any sense to a reader. I accepted the late day and will try to learn from this formatting fiasco in the future. 

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