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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.

To see photos of sample theses, click here.


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. When the schedule is prepared, the thesis format advisor will send a notice to GRADALL and post it by her door.


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" or "enter a line feed/"

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.

For example, if you want to have a 2-inch top margin on the first page of a chapter, realize that the top margin is already one inch (equals 72 points). To place the chapter title two inches down from the top of the page, tell MS Word to place another inch above the chapter number (AKA another 72 pts).

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 2 inches (144 pts) from the top of the page. See previous section on how to achieve this.

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.

The training packets distributed at the thesis workshops each semester usually contain an example of the first page of a chapter. Also, you can download an example in PDF format here. If this doesn't download properly, try this JPEG here.This is a document that I created. I have tried to make the measurements exact, but they are not perfect. If you print out this document, the resulting page margins will be more accurate if you print with any boxes for centering or scaling unchecked or turned to off or none.

If you still have questions, please see me in my office.


Creating Cover Sheets

Cover Sheets are pages that are neither counted nor numbered, and this creates a problem because the software wants to assign a number to every page, even if the page number isn't printed on the page. When deposit was done on paper, it was possible to put the cover sheets at the end of the document or in a document of their own and manuallyplace the sheets in the thesis. Now that we are depositing PDFs via ETD, using this method means the pages won't be in the right place.

You can keep the cover sheet (which is to be neither counted nor numbered) in order numerically if you use a section break. While there are several ways to do th is, here is one: Insert a section break before the cover page, indicate the following text starts on a new page, and start the page numbering on the same number as the preceding one. Create the cover page (e.g., BIBLIOGRAPHY, centered on the page), insert another section break, and start the page numbering for this section at the next page number. Then create the bibliography according to instructions.

The same can be done for other cover sheets: Appendices, Vita. See the thesis manual for instructions on cover sheets. (No download for this tip; it is all printed here.)

Thanks to former grad student Matthieu Chan Tsin for this tip.



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 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 (a current one optimized for Word 2010 for the PC) and some checklists.


Computer Labs in Stanley Coulter Hall

Check schedule on door of lab:

For group work or laptop access: G073

Labs with desktop machines:

G046, 183

179, 189, 231, 246, 277, 283, 289

G = ground (basement)

rev. 3/12/12




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).


iThenticate / Plagiarism check

Beginning in Fall 2014, you will be required to have a plagiarism check run on your thesis or dissertation. The software being used is called iThenticate. Information on this is available on the News page of this site. For help in preventing unintentional plagiarism, visit the Purdue Online Writing Lab at


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.


Working with Languages Other than English, Word document, PDF document (download)

This document provides keyboard commands (AKA shortcuts) for common accent marks and symbols in Microsoft Word® for both Mac and PC format, and addresses several other issues about typing in a language other than English.


Here are the titles of some books on writing a thesis or dissertation:

Bond, Alan, ed., Your Master's Thesis: How to Plan, Draft, Write, and Revise, 2nd rev. ed. (Albergele, UK: Studymates, 2006). 135 pp. Includes advice on working with your supervisor / major professor and copyright. Written with UK in mind, but universally applicable. I have a copy of this book. Also available: Your PhD Thesis.

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, 2nd ed. (Hauppauge NY: Barron's Educational, 1997). 154 pp. ISBN-10: 0812098005; ISBN-13: 978-0812098006 (Paperback). Amazon has excerpts available online.


Plan Ahead















Last Updated: September 29, 2014
For questions about the content of these pages, contact the SLC Thesis Advisor at

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