Paperless Dissertation 9 – Make a Sandbox

I’m going to offer up a moderately short post this week, which covers more of a technique that I began employing while using Microsoft Word. Before I dive in, I’d like to note that things are probably going to slow down for the next couple of weeks, as I’m finalizing things here in Charleston for the move to Fort Lauderdale to begin my internship. Hopefully I’ll be able to crank out one more post before then, but if not, then I’ll resume shortly after; probably around the first week of September.

So, here we go.

Over the course of writing and revising my document, I became privy to the knowledge of document corruption in Word, and the many things that can cause it. One thing is for certain: several people getting their hands on the document over the course of a year or more sets the stage for disaster when it comes to the sanctity of your prized possession, so you might do well in taking some precautionary measures.

Tables within a document are one of the most likely sources for corruption, according to the people over at Word MVP, and they can be difficult to deal with even in ideal circumstances. Occasionally, I found that formatting a table in my document caused some odd formatting elsewhere, and I didn’t want to take any more risk than was necessary when it came to…well, anything. While this might be an obvious tip to some, I deduced that using a separate document as a sandbox might be beneficial. In short, I would first copy a table from SPSS (you might be using some other application, but it can still apply here) into my sandbox document. Following that, I was able to resize the table using ‘fit to window’, and perform all the other necessary steps to tidy things up. When I had the table set to APA specs, I could then safely copy it over to my  main document, without any fear of ruining some other paragraph.

In cases where committee members made comments on tables, I would create a copy of the table in my sandbox, accept all comments in the main document, and then fix the table in my new, safe environment. This ensured that I would always have a fresh, new table each time, minimizing my chances of getting a corrupted section in my draft.

Again, this might be old hat, or seem overly simplistic and obvious to some; however, I reveled in the simplicity. Moreover, anything I could do to reduce the likelihood of defenestrating one of my computers was, I decided, a very good thing.

That’s it for this week. Hopefully I’ll be back a-posting here sooner rather than later, so stay tuned!

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