“Using standard formatting for academic papers shows that you understand the customs of the university community and therefore helps to boost your own credibility. ”
Most students have used Microsoft Word for a long time and are usually self taught. Just like learning to drive a car, if a friend or someone in your family teaches you, then you often pick up their bad habits; so if a friend has shown you how to format documents in Word then you could be doing things the long and hard way. These pages introduce you to the University templates for long documents as well as helping you improve your own practice.
The University has a set of templates which can help take the stress out of formatting your thesis, dissertation or final year project. There are four available and they can be downloaded here:
Ask your supervisor if they prefer your headings to be numbered or not so that you know which ones to choose.
The first two templates can be used either as stand-alone documents (if you are working in a single document) or can be combined with the Chapter templates (if you wish to work on each chapter separately).
As mentioned above, most people learn word processing as they go along and often use methods that are considered bad practice (because they work for them). Whilst the templates above will help you avoid many of these, you may not be aware of your own poor practice until you have to create longer documents in the work place etc. The table below gives common examples of poor practice and what you should do to avoid them. The other pages in this guide will then give you the skills you need to employ good practice moving forward.
Whilst the guidance document that supports our templates covers a lot of these skills, some students may want to dip into just one area, learn how to do things themselves or prefer to use videos. Click on the tabs below to see step-by-step instructions or watch videos covering each topic.
If you are writing a long document such as a dissertation or thesis, you will need to use styles to format the text. If you format it manually using the ribbons, or even short-cut keys, you will waste incredible amounts of time that you do not have. By using styles to format your headings and subheadings you will also be able to create an automatic table of contents which can be easily updated if you make any changes.
Paragraph styles can be applied to the different types of paragraph in your document (normal text, headings, subheadings, block quotations etc). Once you have applied the styles, a single modification (such as changing the size of a heading) will be automatically replicated throughout the entire document.
Styles can be accessed from the Styles Gallery on the Home ribbon:
By default, all text is initially formatted using the Normal style.
If you are using styles in a long document, it is best to display the full style palette rather than relying on the Style gallery in the Home ribbon.
To display the palette:
This will display the floating style palette.
This will stop it obscuring any of your document.
You do not need to select all of the text.
The paragraph will display the text formatting and spacing for the style you selected.
It is important for many other features to work that you use some of the default styles in MS Word such as Normal, Heading 1, Heading 2 etc. These often need modifying to meet your needs (blue fonts are not suitable for thesis headings for example). There are two different ways to modify styles as shown here:
Alternatively you can left click on the drop-down arrow next to the name.
This opens the dialog box shown opposite.
Anything that you can change about text in a paragraph can be set using one of the dialog boxes accessible here.
Any text that had the style you modified applied to it will be automatically updated.
This is an alternative method which means you can see what your changes look like before you update the style.
If you are changing font options, you may prefer to select the text so that you can preview the changes you are going to make.
Sometimes you need to create a new style rather than edit an existing one. Remember though that new styles will not automatically be recognised by Table of Contents and some other automatic features.
New styles are based on the selected style so you can save work by making sure you are in the most similar one to begin with.
This opens a box almost identical to the Modify Style box.
If you apply any of the standard heading styles (Heading 1-3 and more if necessary) to the headings in your document, you can use these to automatically generate a table of contents that can be easily updated as necessary.
Your table of contents will be inserted.
By default, the page numbers in the table are hyperlinks to the content itself - so you can use these (Ctrl-click) to go to any wrongly formatted material to edit it.
If you need to update your table, for example if you have applied a different style to a heading or if you have added more text and the page numbers have changed, you need to update the table:
A small floating dialog box will appear with two options.
Your table should be updated.
Place an insert point somewhere in your table of contents.
Most of the time, if you use the standard styles you will not need to do this. However, you may need to add further levels of headings if your document is complicated or if you have used a non-standard style
The Table of Contents dialog opposite appears.
Note if you don’t want something to appear in your TOC you must make sure it is formatted using a different style to the entries that you DO want to appear.
If you are writing a long document in MS Word, you need to be in control of where some new pages start and you may need to format some sections of your document differently to other sections (for example changing page numbering style or page orientation). This control is achieved by using a mixture of page breaks and section breaks.
In order to see where you have put a break, it is necessary to show the non-printing characters in your document:
You will notice symbols appear to show things like paragraph markers and spaces. It will also show where you page breaks and section breaks are set.
If you scroll back up to where you had your insert point, you should see the Page Break marker as shown here.
If you always want your chapter headings to start on a new page, use this option.
Every time you apply that style to a paragraph, it will now start on a new page.
This is the most commonly used section break. You need to place a Next Page section break wherever you want to change something in the document such as page numbering, margins or orientation.
Again, if you scroll up to where you had your insert point you should now see a Section Break marker.
This is exactly as above but the section break stays on the same page – you use it if you want to do something like change to a two column layout before changing back to normal layout.
If you have a layout that uses columns and want to force text to move into the new column earlier, use a Column break (also in the Breaks menu).
The can also be achieved using Ctrl+Shift+Enter.
In a document like a dissertation or thesis, page numbering is not always simple. They have to change between different sections of the document. These are the usual requirements:
|Title page||No page numbering|
|Introductory material (TOCs, lists of figures/tables, acknowledgements etc)||Lower case Roman numerals (i, ii, iii. iv, v)|
|Body of the document and references||Standard Arabic numbers (1,2,3,4,5)|
|Appendices||Upper case Roman numerals (I, II, III, IV, V)|
If you need help with this, look at the Pages and Sections tab above.
This will place you in the footer at the bottom of the page and display the Header & Footer Tools ribbon.
By default, all the footers are linked to each other so that if you change one, they will all change. You need to stop this happening:
THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT DO NOT FORGET IT AT EACH STAGE.
This will place a standard Arabic number in your footer. Probably a number 2 if it is the second page
This will take you to the footer of the next section which should be section 3 (check the label at the top left of the footer).
DON'T FORGET THIS!!
You should now have your numbers set as required by most thesis templates.
This will take you to the footer of section 4 – your appendices if you have any.
You should now have your numbers set as required by most thesis templates.
Adding captions to your tables and figures not only keeps your numbering correct, it also allows you to automatically generate lists of tables and table of figures within your Microsoft Word document. Numbering will update automatically and you can easily update the lists to reflect this.
Captioning will create a style called 'caption' that can be edited to adjust the look and feel. See the page on styles for more information on how to adjust this.
If you already have a label under your picture (plain text) put your insert point in front of that text (do not select it).
The Caption dialog box will open.
If you already had label text, leave this set to Figure 1 only.
The position will automatically change when you select this (Below selected item for figures, Above selected item for tables).
This opens the Caption Numbering dialog box.
If you had label text already, press the space bar to insert a space between the Figure label and the text.
The Table of Figures dialog box will open
Your table will be inserted into your document at the position of your insert point.
Make sure you format this to use a non-numbered style if you are using numbered headings elsewhere.
If you need to update the table at any point (to take into account extra text or figures):
The Update Table of Figures dialog box will open.
If you want your headings and subheadings to be numbered (1.1, 1.2, 1.2.1, 1.2.2 etc), you need to use a multi-level list. By numbering chapter headings your tables and figures can also be numbered to display chapter numbers too.
Before you set multi-level numbering you should format all the headings in your document to use styles. We recommend Heading 1 for your chapter headings and then Headings 2 through 4 for headings and subheadings within each chapter.
On this guide, the video takes you through a slightly more complicated (though more flexible) method. The step-by-step instructions show you an easier way to achieve this.
This already has the correct numbering styles linked to the Heading styles.
It is usual to put the word 'Chapter' in front of the number so that it says "Chapter 1: Introduction".
If you have headings before your Chapter 1 (for instance for your Tables of Contents, Acknowledgements etc) then you may find these are also unintentionally numbered and your Chapter 1 is showing a different number.
To rectify this you need to create a different style, without numbers, for your earlier headings:
Note whether this is using the Heading 1 or Heading 2 style.