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Students take heed: The winter semester is off and running, and
it’s going to be time to turn in term papers before you know
it. If you’re stressing out about getting through your reams of
writing in a timely fashion, we’ve got a suggestion you might
not have considered — writing with PDFs.
PDFs not only produce a great looking final document, they also
offer a versatile and flexible format for the writing and
research process itself. With the right tool, you can build PDF
documents that include time-saving annotations, perfect for
highlighting the important parts of your research and adding
notes along the way. You can organize your work in super useful
ways and create a table of contents for easy navigation.
PDF Expert is a powerful tool
Unfortunately, PDFs don’t exactly lend themselves to these
tricks — you need the right tool. One great option is PDF
Expert. It’s an app that lets you get at some of the hidden
potential of PDFs. And below, we’ll show you how to use them to
get an edge on your term papers.
Cut the clutter with annotations
No matter the subject, the process of writing a term paper
begins with research. Lots and lots of messy, messy research.
To keep the information overload at bay, it helps to create
handholds in the form of annotations and comments. By using
color to keep topic areas and sources distinct from one
another, you can create a visual shortcut to exactly the
information you need right when you need it, overlayed on the
contents of the paper. Doing this saves a lot of page flipping
and can make sure you don’t forget key information while
writing and revising.
Say you’re a history major, with an essay topic of “The History
of Digital Marketing”. You’ve broken this meaty topic down into
5 main sections:
- The Early Marketing Age
- Current Trends
- The Future
Set red as the color for everything that relates to the
Introduction. Yellow can relate to ‘The Future’, blue for
‘Current Trends’, and so on. Right away, you can easily begin
to sort out your paper based on the subject being discussed at
any given point. We’ll cover how to add your research and notes
to these annotations in a second.
First though, using PDF Expert for our example, open your PDF
document and select the annotations tool from the top bar.
Select the style of annotation you want to work with:
strikeout, highlights, or underline.
Then, start marking it up based on the subtopics. Once you’ve
marked all your sections, you can jump to any subtopic by
selecting the corresponding color in the sidebar.
Now you can add comments and summaries to any bit of
highlighted text. If you’ve only sketched out an introduction,
you can makes notes the key bits of information that you plan
to add later. Maybe in reading your draft, you realize you need
to flesh out your hypothesis for the ’future’ section. In which
case, just click the yellow tab and add a note, whether to set
a reminder or to log any ideas about what more you plan to say.
All of this is built into the document itself, so there’s no
coordinating notebooks or dog-earing textbook pages.
In two clicks, you can even download the annotations you’ve
created as a separate file. To do so, select File on the top
bar and select Export Annotation ‘Summary as’. Now you’ve got a
separate master list of all the notes you’ve taken so far.
Keep all your materials in one document
Think of all the notebooks, textbooks, lists of links and other
scraps that make up the research process. Don’t stress yourself
out by thinking about it for too long.
PDFs offer a great way to keep the mess of research materials
you’re drawing from organized and easily available. In PDF
Expert for example, you have 3 ways of merging any PDF content
from your research materials into a single master document —
there are several ways to convert images and even websites to
PDF. These summaries can be just as handy for writing term
papers as for sharing the research behind them. Let’s go over
some ways of creating them.
Go to the ‘File’ menu and select ‘Merge files’. From this menu,
you can select any combination of PDFs at once, and instantly
create a brand new document containing all of them.
Enter ‘thumbnail mode’ by clicking the icon in the upper left
toolbar. Click ‘append file’, and then select each PDF file you
want to combine to the currently opened one.
Enter Mac OSX’s split screen mode with the app, and once
opened, you can just drag and drop the file from one side of
the screen to the other, instantly merging into your opened
Create a table of contents
Last but not least, creating a table of contents is like having
a subway map of your term paper, both for the writing process
and part of the final product. The table of contents tool in
PDF Expert makes it simple to jump between pages and sections
for easy navigation.
There are two ways to do it with PDF Expert:
Highlight the area of text that your table of contents entry
will link to. Right click and select “Add Outline Item”. An
outline will appear on the sidebar of the app, and you’ll now
be able to return to that spot with one click.
Another way is to open the sidebar, select the “Outline” tab
and press “Add item” at the bottom of the bar. The outline will
be connected to the page you’ve selected.
When using tools like these, it’s important to remember not to
overdo the outlines. It’s easy for what should be a time-saving
and streamlining habit to grow over-complicated, gumming up the
research and writing process.
Using strong, clearly reasoned headlines and subheadlines in
tables of contents and annotations can help serve as anchors
for outlines. They can branch into sub-sections that together
form a kind of topic tree that grow alongside the document.
This kind of structure can help save you many needless umps.
So there you have it, a set of basic ways to make PDFs an ally
in the struggle to write a great term paper. By having a
framework, a single document for all your key data, and an
easily navigable table of contents, you can stay on top of your
subjects and deliver a better result. The example we used
throughout, PDF Expert, is
a great place to start — it’s straightforward and reliable, and
right now you can try it out over a free 7 day trial.