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        Formatting Tips on MS Word for Dissertations

        • calenderNov 13, 2020
        • calender 5 min read

        Technology has helped many a student stave off that incredulous urge to smash their laptop to bits and scream into the void. For the most part, it’s helped us do all of our research at one place, accessing papers, textbooks, journal articles, and so on.

        But one of the most important things that it has done is for dissertations and theses by equipping MS Word to be the ultimate saviour and helping students format their dissertations with ease and just a little bit of input. So for those of you who are dreading the formatting business, we have some tips to help you get around Word with ease and keep your laptop (and your sanity), intact.

        Here are the MS Word formatting tips for Dissertations:

        1. Inserting footnotes and end-notes

        1. Put your cursor where you want to insert your footnote/endnote.
        2. On the References Ribbon, in the Footnotes Group, click on ‘Insert Footnote’ or ‘Insert Endnote’.
        3. Click on the ‘Expand’ section in the ‘Footnotes Group’ to modify the settings of your footnote/endnote, c

        2. Using Cross-References

        When you want to refer to a figure in your document, you can use the ‘Cross Reference’ feature so that even if the figure number changes, the in-text citation will also change.

        * This method will also work for referencing page numbers, page headings, etc.

        1. Put the cursor where you want the cross reference to be. Go to the ‘References’ ribbon and click on the ‘Captions’ icon, in which you’ll find a ‘Cross-References’ icon. 
        2. Select the type of item you want to reference from the ‘References’ pulldown menu. 
        3. Click ‘Insert’ and close the ‘Cross-Reference’ dialog box. 

        3. Working with Citation Styles

        Every type of thesis/dissertation will have a significant difference in the citation and bibliography because of the different ‘citation styles’ applied to them: MLA, Chicago, APA, etc (the most commonly known styles). 

        Applying a Style:

        1. Select the text to which you want to apply the style.
        2. In the ‘Citations and Bibliography’ section, click on ‘Style’. 
        3. You can apply a ‘Style’ to your text by going to the ‘Style’ section and choosing any one of these. Word’s built-in styles can be easily modified. 

        4. Creating and Applying Templates

        Create a template in Word 2010

        1. Open a blank Word document and adjust your styles, margins, and any automatic numbering features you want in your document.
        2. Select Save as, then select Word Template.  
        3. To modify your template later, open Word first, then open the template file. Double-click on it, to create a new document based on the template as described below.

        Create a template in Word 2013 

        1. Adjust your styles, margins, etc. in a blank document.
        2. The rest is the same as above.

        5. Combining chapters

        Some students will write their dissertation as a long, combined document and individually copy-paste chapters when they want to send them to their advisor for review. You can also keep chapters separate from the beginning so as to avoid the confusion and combine them into one document after they are all reviewed. 

        1. Open the file that will begin your long document 
        2. Scroll down to the very bottom of that document and click to place your cursor at the very end.
        3. On the Insert Ribbon, in the Text Group, click on the arrow next to the Object icon and select Text from File’
        4. Navigate to the document you wish to insert and click Insert.

        6. Adding Page Numbers

        MS Word gives you the option of selecting your numbering style, as well as doing it for the entire document or section-wise. For continuous pagination:

        1. Go to ‘Insert’.
        2. Click on the ‘Header and Footer Group’
        3. Click on ‘Page Number’ icon

        7. Automatic Lists of Tables of Content

        How to make an automatic table of contents?

        1. Apply the ‘Heading 1’ style to all of your chapter titles and front matter headings. All major headings within your chapters should use the Heading 2 style.  All subheadings should use Heading 3, etc.
        2. Place your cursor where you want your table of contents to be.
        3. On the References Ribbon, in the Table of Contents Group, click on the arrow next to the Table of Contents icon, and select ‘Custom Table of Contents’.
        4. If you want to change the style of your table of contents, click on the Modify button. 
        5. If you want to change which headings appear in your table of contents, you can do so by changing the number in the ‘Show levels’: pulldown.
        6. Click ‘OK’ to insert your table of contents.

        After you format your dissertation, send it over to PaperTrue! Our expert editors will make sure that they give you suggestions to improve the structure, check whether your formatting is according to the guidelines given to you, and more. Check out our dissertation editing services here! 



        Rishi was a zealous student at IIT Bombay when he realized, firsthand, the power of good language in effective communication. As part of this belief, after a brief stint in a hedge fund, he co-founded PaperTrue in 2014.

        7 comments on “Formatting Tips on MS Word for Dissertations

        1. Nathan says:

          What a great blog and informative posts, I will bookmark your website. All the Best!

        2. Herman says:

          Very descriptive post, I loved that a lot. Will there be a part 2?

        3. Lianna Shaughn Grega says:

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        4. Karlotte Christoffer Ludovika says:

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        5. Jana Georg Merrill says:

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        7. Camellia Ladew says:

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