Some documents describing techniques for accomplishing certain layouts in Microsoft Word® are available here. Clicking on the document format you prefer will open or download a copy of the document. Some of the tips are complete on this page.


Thesis Formatting and Deposit Workshops

Each semester, the University Thesis Office schedules a Thesis Formatting and Deposit Workshops. The same workshop is offered at different times on different days. Plan on attending one of these workshops. There you will be given all the formatting information you need to know. It is your responsibility to pay attention to when the workshops are offered and to register in advance.


iThenticate / Accidental Plagiarism Check

Beginning in Fall 2014, you are now required to have your major professir run a plagiarism check on your thesis or dissertation. The software being used is called iThenticate. All students and their major professors must sign a statement that the thesis or dissertation was run through the iThenticate software, that any flagged passages have been examined, that all material from other sources is indicated with quotation marks and documented, and that "to the best of my knowledge, the manuscript includes original work of the author."

The iThenticate scan is intended to help the candidate and the major professor work together to properly prepare the manuscript. It is not intended to be punitive or to charge the student with plagiarism. Major professors will be trained in how to administer the scan, must register for the account, and must run the scan themselves. Students do not have access to the software.

The most important thing to remember is that the scan has to be done when the thesis is fully worded so that no new passages will be introduced after the scan, but before the defense and certainly before the deposit. You will have to allow enough time after the scan to attend to any passages that need attention.

EXPECT DELAYS. Do not leave this until the last minute, expecting your major professor or any school officials to stay up all night to meet this requirement. The Thesis Format Advisor will not come in after hours or weekends because the scan delayed your progress on your thesis or dissertation.

For help in preventing unintentional plagiarism, visit the Purdue Online Writing Lab at

Terms for Describing Format

As printing technology changes, so do the terms used to describe formatting. Here are some terms that I am familiar with but that today's students may not recognize.

Carriage return. This term was used to describe formatting when the typist had to manually "throw the carriage" on which the paper reposed in order to get the typewriter to type on the next line. The closest equivalent today would be "hit enter" or "press return."

One single-spaced blank line. On a typewriter, when you do a carriage return twice with the spacing set to single-spacing you leave one single-spaced blank line of white space. On a computer, this single-spaced blank line would be the equivalent of 12 pts or 1/6 of an inch. If you do this with the spacing set to double spacing, you will leave the equivalent of two blank lines of space, or 24 pts or 1/3 of an inch.

Leave one single-spaced blank line between the lines. On a computer, in order to leave the equivalent of one single-spaced blank line after a line set to single-spacing, you will hit enter/return twice or enter a line feed twice, or set the space above the line to 12 pts or 1/6 of an inch. OR, if the line in question is already set for double spacing, there will be the equivalent of 12 pts below the typing, between the line and the following line anyway. If you set the spacing to "24 pts," however, the 12 pts of blank space between the two lines will fall above the line.

Leave three single-spaced blank lines after a chapter title and before a subhead. This can be accomplished several ways. See the explanation in the spacing equivalents chart section below.


Spacing Equivalents Chart

Please study the chart below. It sets up equivalents among different size measurements for spacing in your thesis/dissertation. If you understand these equivalents it will make describing the formatting easier. The most effective way to format your thesis is to assign "space before" or "space after" a line.

Spacing Equivalents Chart

You can download a jpeg of this chart here.

To place the equivalent of three blank lines before a subhead, you must first look at the spacing of the last line before the subhead. If it is double-spaced and the spacing falls below the typing, you already have an extra 12 pts before the subhead in question. Therefore you only need to add another 24 pts before the subhead to get the spacing between the last line on the page and the subhead for the equivalent of three blank lines or 36 pts.

For help with these calculations, see me in my office or email


How to Format the First Page of a Chapter

The chapter number and title are all part of the chapter title. The title begins 1 inch (72 pts) from the top of the page.

The page does carry a page number, in Arabic numbers, located in the same place as on every other page, 1/2 inch (36 pts) from the top of the page and 1 inch (72 pts) from the right edge of the page. The chapter title is typed in ALL CAPS, centered, with no end punctuation. Be sure to use single spacing for the chapter title, since this will make it easier to count the single-spaced blank lines (12 pts) that must follow. Also, if the title runs to more than one line, it must be single spaced, so you will be all set if you use single spacing for all chapter titles.

The title is followed by three single-spaced blank lines (3 x 12 = 36 pts), and the text begins indented. The spacing for the text should be either double or 1 1/2 spacing, whichever you have decided to use throughout.

Use "US Letter" setting for paper size, not A4

When you start to set up your thesis, be sure that you choose "US letter" and not "A4" for Page Size in the Page Setup box.

Theses have to be printed on 8 1/2 x 11-inch paper, which requires the US letter setting wherever you are asked to designate page size. The two places that occur to me off-hand are the Page Setup box and the Print dialog box. There may be others.

International students please take note: In the US, almost no one knows what A4 paper is. The standard in the US is US letter (8.5 x 11 inches). A4 paper, standard used in most of the rest of the world, measures 8.26 x 11.69 inches. This means it is slightly narrower and slightly longer than standard US letter paper. If you use the A4 setting, your margins will not be correct when you print to the paper you purchase in the store or that is provided in the labs. Providing your own A4 paper is not an option because Purdue requires that the thesis/dissertation be printed on 8 1/2 x 11-inch paper.

Removing the Continuation Line

Word document (download)

When Microsoft Word® places footnotes at the end of a document as endnotes, it usually draws the continuation line on each page, just as if the notes were still footnotes. This document tells how to remove the continuation lines.

Microsoft Word® Tips and Templates

This information is on the Thesis Office site (opens in a new window).

The Thesis Office offers a number of documents of tips that includes such topics as Creating a Table of Contents, Inserting "Landscape" Pagination, and Removing the Continuation Line. Also offered on the site are a Page Margin Template and some checklists.

Curling the Quote  Marks 

Word document (download)

The document entitled "Curling the Quote Marks" tells how to replace straight or typewriter quote marks with curled or typographer's quotes (also referred to as "smart" quotes).

When You Create a PDF, be careful

Be sure that you create the PDF on a computer on which you have checked every aspect of the format of the Word document from which the PDF will be made. If you have to take the Word file or files to another computer to create the PDF, you will have to recheck every aspect of your thesis before you make the PDF. Otherwise, you may be surprised by things that shift slightly. Tabs are especially likely to shift, but spacing and almost anything else can also be affected.

This is because Word documents are printer dependent. The printer connected to the computer and the settings of the version of Word on the computer may change the format when you open the file on the new computer to make the PDF.

See the Adobe® instructions for creating PDFs. Visit the Adobe help site here (opens in a new window).

OWL Workshops

The Purdue Online Writing Lab offers workshops throughout the year that will help you with your writing and formatting. Check their site and watch for announcements in your Purdue email account.

Books on Writing a Thesis or Dissertation

Bolker, Joan, Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day: A Guide to Starting, Revising, and Finishing Your Doctoral Thesis (New York: Holt–Owl, 1998).

Davis, Gordon B. Writing the Doctoral Dissertation, A Systematic Approach, 3rd ed. (Barron's Educational Series, 2012). 192 pp. ISBN-10: 0764147870; ISBN-13: 978-0764147876 (Paperback).

Amazon has excerpts available online.

Last Updated: January 6, 2017

For questions about the thesis information presented here, contact the SLC Thesis Advisor at

For information, contact the thesis format advisor

PLAN_Ahead graphic

Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907 (765) 494-4600

© 2017 Purdue University | An equal access/equal opportunity university | Copyright Complaints | Maintained by CLA

If you have trouble accessing this page because of a disability, please contact the College of Liberal Arts Webmaster.

Some content on this site may require the use of a special plug-in or application. Please visit our plug-ins page for links to download these applications.