Formatting Your Dissertation in Word

After all the work of writing your dissertation, there's one last hurdle. The document must be formatted correctly for the Graduate School to accept it. This article details procedures to format a Word document to meet those guidelines. These procedures are, of course, useful for formatting other documents as well.

The Graduate School makes its dissertation format guidelines available online at This article contains excerpted information from that web site along with related techniques, and some problems and solutions. It is not intended to replace the guidelines themselves; it is simply a guide to implementing some of them in Word.


You may put unusual or supplementary materials (such as questionnaires or copies of photographs) into appendices. Number the appendices consecutively with the text of the dissertation. The margins of the appendices must meet the standards for the rest of the dissertation.

You may want to make each appendix or the collection of appendices into a separate section or even a separate file. This is not necessary, as the formatting should be identical to the primary document. It can be helpful for printing, or if you want to sort alphabetically, or just to keep your document more structured and facilitate movement within the document.

To add a section break:

  • Go to Insert, then select Break.
  • In the Break menu, you will probably want to go with Next Page - the default. This will help you ensure that your appendices each start on a new page.


The bibliography should meet your major department's style requirements, which often conform to the leading journals or book series of the field. It may be single-spaced with an additional space between entries.

To set line spacing:

  • Go to the Format menu.
  • Select Paragraph, and select the Indents and Spacing tab.

Equations, Superscripts, and Subscripts

Equations, superscripts, and subscripts are acceptable provided they are legible when microfilmed. Generally, superscripts and subscripts may be one size smaller than the text. To identify each equation clearly, please isolate it with double spacing.

To insert a subscript or superscript:

  • Select the text you want to format as superscript or subscript.
  • On the Format menu, click Font, and then click the Font tab.
  • Select the Superscript or Subscript check box.

To insert an equation:

  • Click where you want to insert the equation.
  • On the Insert menu, click Object, and then click the Create New tab.
  • In the Object type box, click Microsoft Equation 3.0.
  • Click OK.
  • Build the equation by selecting symbols from the Equation toolbar and by typing variables and numbers.
  • To return to Microsoft Word, click the Word document.

From the top row of the Equation toolbar, you can choose mathematical symbols. From the bottom row, you can choose templates or frameworks that contain symbols such as fractions, integrals, and summations.

Problem: You have created an equation with the Equation Editor in Word 2000. Once you exit from the editor you can no longer edit the equation.

Solution: In order to re-open the Equation Editor to edit an equation you have previously created, all you need to do is click on the equation, so that the rectangle containing it is highlighted. Then, right-click to get a menu of choices.

Footnotes and Endnotes

Footnotes and endnotes may be single-spaced with an extra space between notes. Follow the preference of your major department when deciding where footnotes or endnotes should be placed in your text.

To insert a footnote:

  • In Print Layout view, click where you want to insert the note reference mark.
  • Click Insert, Reference, and Footnote. Click Footnotes or Endnotes. By default, Word places footnotes at the end of each page and endnotes at the end of the document. You can change the placement of footnotes and endnotes using the menus next to Footnotes or Endnotes.
  • In the Number format box, click the format you want.
  • Click Insert. Word inserts the note number and places the insertion point next to the note number.
  • Type the note text.
  • Scroll to your place in the document, click where you want the cursor to be, and continue typing.
  • Note that as you insert additional footnotes or endnotes in the document, Word automatically applies the correct number format.
  • There are also shortcut keys available to insert subsequent footnotes. Press Ctrl-Alt-f to insert a footnote. Press Ctrl-Alt-d to insert an endnote.

When you add, delete, or move notes that are automatically numbered, Word renumbers the footnote and endnote reference marks.

Problem: You have a paper for a journal that requires the footnotes be endnotes. But you want the endnotes to come before your references and such. One option would be to put the references in a separate file, but is there a way to do this and leave it all in one file?

Solution: When you are setting up endnotes, you can select whether you want to put them at the end of the document or at the end of the section. You can place a section break before your references, and select "end of section", and your endnotes will follow the text, but precede the reference section.

Problem: You have a Word document with footnotes. Someone (maybe you) was working on it, using WordPerfect. The conversion back and forth messed up the footnote format.

Solution: The two formats are not quite compatible. To repair, the easiest way is to work with each footnote individually. Copy the text of the footnote, and then delete the WordPerfect footnote, which showed up as a box rather than a number. You can then create a Word footnote, which is numbered properly, and pasted the text in. This works, and keeps the number sequence intact. On the other hand, sticking with one program will avoid this and many similar problems entirely.

Foreign Language Use

You may include quotations in languages other than English in your dissertation. However, the dissertation itself must be in English unless your department certifies that one or both of the following conditions have been met: the foreign language is that of the readers to whom the work is addressed; or translation into English would make the study obscure and imprecise.

Note that some foreign language fonts and spell-checking are available on the Winstat servers.


Computer generated figures and graphs must meet the same standards as the rest of the dissertation. Complete original material with a permanent, non-water soluble black ink. Do not use pencils, ball point, or felt tip pens. Labels on photographs, charts, or other figures must be permanent. Headings, keys, and all other identifying information must be of the same quality of print as the text. If graphics, tables, or figures are in landscape mode, place the top of the printed page at the dissertation binding edge (left side of the paper) with the page number in the upper right-hand corner in the portrait page setup.

To insert an image, you really only need to know the name and location of the image file:

  • Within the document, place the cursor where you want the image to be inserted. Go to the Insert menu, and select Picture, and then From File.
  • Select the image. It will be inserted into the document.
  • You can use the Picture or Drawing toolbars to manipulate it. The Word Help menu has step-by-step instructions.

Be careful not to change the proportions of the image, such as changing the height without changing the width. This is especially important with graphs.


Use a minimum of 1" margin on all four sides. To set margins:

  • Click on File.
  • Click on Page Setup.
  • Click on the Margins tab, and edit the settings for the left, right, top and bottom margins.

Page Numbers

Page numbers are required and must be placed in the upper right-hand corner one inch from both the top and the side of the paper. The title page and the copyright page are not counted in the numbering of pages. All other pages are.

Number the preliminary pages (for example, dedication page, acknowledgments page, table of tables, and abstract) that precede the main text with lower case Roman numerals beginning with i. Number the main text consecutively beginning with Arabic numeral 1 in the upper right-hand corner one inch from both top and side of the paper. Check your dissertation to ensure that all pages are present and in numerical order. Number appendices consecutively with the text, continuing the Arabic numeral sequence.

To insert page numbers:

  • Click Insert, Page Numbers.
  • In the Position box, specify whether to print page numbers in the header at the top of the page or in the footer at the bottom of the page.
  • In the Alignment box, specify whether to align page numbers left, center, or right relative to the left and right margins, or inside or outside relative to the inside and outside edges of pages that will be bound.
  • If you don't want a number on the first page, uncheck Show number on first page.
  • Select any other options you want.

Putting each chapter of your dissertation in a separate file is a very good idea, but you'll need to set the starting page number for the later chapters:

  • Click Insert, Page Numbers.
  • Click Format.
  • At the bottom, under Page Numbering, select Start At.
  • Type in the page number for the first page.

To move page numbers:

  • On the View menu, click Header and Footer.
  • If you positioned the page numbers at the bottom of the page, click Switch Between Header and Footer on the Header and Footer toolbar.
  • Click the page number to make its frame appear.
  • Click on the frame to select it.
  • Move the pointer over the frame's border until the pointer becomes a four-headed arrow, and then click to see the frame's sizing handles.
  • Drag the frame and page number to a new location.

To rotate the page numbers for pages that are printed in landscape format:

  • Select the object you want to rotate.
  • Click Draw on the Drawing toolbar.
  • Point to Rotate or Flip.
  • Click Rotate Left or Rotate Right.

Title Page

Do not number the title page. The title page must be double-spaced.

Page Headers

Do not use page headers (except for page numbers) or decorative borders.

Problem: I am trying to stop the header from appearing on the first page. I only want it on the subsequent pages.

Solution: You can leave the header or footer off the first page or create a unique first page header or footer for the first page in a document or the first page of each section within a document.

  • If your document is divided into sections, click in a section or select multiple sections you want to change. Click anywhere in the document if your document is not divided into sections.
  • On the View menu, click Header and Footer.
  • On the Header and Footer toolbar, click Page Setup.
  • Click the Layout tab.
  • Select the Different first page check box, and then click OK.
  • If necessary, click Show Previous or Show Next on the Header and Footer toolbar to move into the First Page Header area or First Page Footer area.
  • Create the header or footer for the first page of the document or section.
  • If you don't want a header or footer on the first page, leave the header and footer areas blank.

General Formatting Problems

Problem: You have a Word document and want to get rid of the formatting.

Solution: You can highlight the entire document (press Ctrl-a), copy it, then open a new document and go to Edit, Paste Special, choose Unformatted Text and click OK. This is a drastic solution, to be used when there are too many format settings scattered throughout the document to just find and remove them.

Problem: You want to change the font in an entire Word document.

Solution: You can select all (Ctrl-a) and then go to font and size, to change the font for the whole document.

Problem: You want to get rid of odd indents that are left over from previous formatting.

Solution: Just use the Backspace key, and then Tab to get proper indents.

Problem: The font changed in mid-document. How did it happen and how can you fix it?

Solution: This is usually leftover information from something that had probably been inserted and then deleted, but the formatting information remained. You can use What's This? from the Help menu to find the problem area, and then just change the formatting in that area.

Problem: You don't want section breaks in your document. How can you get rid of them? Where did they come from in the first place?

Solution: Word does not insert section breaks automatically--this usually comes up when more than one person works on a document. Sections can be useful when large formatting changes are made, e.g. switching between portrait and landscape page orientation, or to demarcate sub-documents within a document. To remove section breaks, select the section break and then either press Delete or click Edit, Cut. Note that you cannot delete a section break just by backspacing over it. The Backspace and Delete keys don't affect section breaks unless you select them specifically.

Problem: You have a page break that you don't want in your document.

Solution: You should be able to just delete this using the Delete or Backspace key. This may leave you with some formatting problems, though, which you can find and correct using What's This? or Reveal Formatting.

Problem: How can you keep text from being split up across pages?

Solution: You simply highlight the whole area, and choose Format, Paragraph, choose the Line and Page Breaks tab, and check Keep lines together. Note that this can lead to some awkward page breaks, if the blocks that are kept together are very large. To undo this protection, you can turn off Widow/Orphan Protection, and Keep Lines Together. [both? not just undo what you just did?]

Problem: You and your advisor are both editing the document and you want to be able to see your advisor's suggestions without necessarily accepting them.

Solution: You can both use the features found on the Review toolbar. These include comments and tracking changes.

Useful Tips

  • Make each chapter a separate Word document. This will make it quicker to open and save, easier to work with, and minimize the impact of mistakes.
  • Use section breaks to separate different parts of your dissertation, to change orientation of pages, or to insert endnotes in a particular place.
  • You can see the formatting codes for the document by going to Format and choosing Reveal Formatting. Here you can easily see the settings, and make changes as needed. (Office XP only)
  • You can also get information about the formatting codes at any particular point in the document by going to Help and choosing What's This? Click the cursor in your text to see the format settings at that point.
  • Use the Microsoft Office Help to learn how to handle tasks in Word. Help is very good and detailed, and can answer most questions.
  • When one part of the document is doing exactly what you want, and another part isn't, sometimes the easiest way is to cut the text from the "bad" part and paste it into the "good" part.
  • Stick with one word-processing program for the entire document, and the entire writing process.

Last Revised: 04/05/2007