The training offered to doctoral students registered at the Université de Montréal, entitled "Helpful tools for writing a thesis" ("Outils d’aide à la rédaction d’une thèse"). is part of that institution’s programme for electronically distributing theses. The training seeks to respond to two sorts of needs: 1- the needs related to the processing of theses (greatly aided by the adequate use of a normalized document template); 2- the needs of the doctoral students (who want to increase their capabilities in using writing tools, and, in the process, their level of productivity and the quality of their production).
The implementation of a programme of electronic thesis distribution affects the entire institution. At the Université de Montréal, three units are actively involved: the Faculty of Graduate Studies, the Library , and the Information technology services (Direction générale des technologies de l’information et de la communication—DGTIC, which holds the mandate to process and distribute theses in electronic formats). The training of doctoral students is planned and provided by individuals drawn from these three units. In terms of the sessions held in September 2001, four people acted as trainers (one from Graduate Studies, one from the Libraries and two from the DGTIC).
The content of the training is as follows:
- Welcome and general presentation of the Programme for the electronic publication and distribution of theses (DGTIC)
- Presentation of the Université de Montréal’s Style Guide for masters and doctoral theses (Graduate Studies).
- On-campus services offered to thesis-writing students: equipment rentals, self-service digitizer, digital camera, etc. (DGTIC).
- Presentation of the capabilities of the EndNote software for managing bibliographic referencing (Library)
- Practical exercises with the Word document template to be used by the students.
Points 1 to 4 in this general plan involved presentations given by trainers, while point five directly involved participants in concrete exercises, accompanied by several demonstrations. For these exercises, the students used a working text (a Word document containing the principal editorial elements of a thesis, but without a proper layout), a Word document template developed for theses, and a list of instructions.. The exercises essentially consisted of applying the template’s styles to the working text, of producing and inserting an image captured on the screen into the text, and of automatically producing a table of contents and an index of tables.
As well, several documents were provided to participants at the sessions: the instructions, the document template (Word style sheets) as well as training guides and informative documents of interest to the students. All these documents are available on-line at www.theses.umontreal.ca.
The workshops are offered to all doctoral students, whether they are at the beginning of their research or near the end of their writing. To reach the largest possible number of students, we used a multidimensional communications plans: posters, advertising, messages to student associations, and letters from the Dean of Graduate studies to the heads of departments and research centres. The number of seats in the training laboratory is limited to 15 to 20 students per session, depending on the laboratory used. Students are invited to register in advance, either by telephoning one of the DGTIC’s administrative assistants, or, in an autonomous manner, by using an interactive Web form managed using a CGI scripts. This latter form tells students how many participants have already registered for each session and the maximum number of seats available. When the maximum number of registrations is reached, the script no longer allows registrations. Nevertheless, an invitation to register on a "waiting list" allows students to signal their interest and to be rapidly informed when new workshops are held. This also allowed us to note the pertinence of the training: the available spaces were quickly filled and the waiting list allowed us to reach interested students for the next sessions.
Next Section: Demonstrations, explanations