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Format a Thesis or Dissertation in MS Word: General Advice

Some rules of thumb for your thesis-writing process:

  1. Read the Graduate School’s Guidelines for Master’s Theses and Doctoral Dissertations (pdf, 536k) and follow their rules.
  2. Choose some basic formats, then use them for everything:
    • A common 10 or 12 point font (Times New Roman is good).
    • Margins: 1.5 inches on the left, 1 inch each for top, bottom and right.
    • Paragraphs for chapters: double-spaced, first line indented 0.5 inch, widow and orphan protection on (required), no hyphenation (recommended); left-justified or full-justified.
    • Block quotes: indent the left margin of your paragraph.
  3. Use the Spelling checker. Add technical words for your discipline to its dictionary.
  4. All tables and figures must fit within the required margins. If some don’t, you will have to rotate them or place them on landscape-oriented pages.
  5. Ask the Office of Degree Requirements questions early if you aren’t sure how to handle something.
  6. Use styles to make your headings within chapters consistent.
  7. The Bibliography must be single-spaced with a blank line between entries. Use MS Word to keep each entry on the same page, as required.
  8. Some things to avoid:
    • Do not attempt to put dots in a list by pressing the period key repeatedly. Use “leading dots”: set a tab stop and under Leader choose option #2.
    • Do not attempt to line things up by pressing the tab key repeatedly. Set a tab stop where you want it.
  9. Don’t type your Table of Contents yourself. Word can create a Table of Contents based on the Heading styles.
  10. Follow the instructions in the IT tutorials for managing different types of page numbers in one document.

Both dissertations and master's theses must be submitted electronically as PDF files. However, the processes for submitting them differ. Consult the Graduate School’s Web site for more information.