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Phd Dissertation Layout

The only PhD Thesis/Masters Dissertation template for Microsoft Word you will ever need

As I start to move into the writing up stage of my thesis, I have started to focus on the structure and layout of the final document. I’ve been particularly keen to  minimise the amount of formatting and editing I have to do by automating as much of the process as possible. I also want my thesis to look professional, and not just another generic Word document. I know many scientists swear by LaTeX but I’ve always disliked writing in markup and to be perfectly honest I can be bothered to learn how to use it, especially when I am so familiar with Word. 

I spent some time looking for a good thesis or dissertation template. While many universities produce one; they were all incomplete in terms of automated functionality or ugly. Kayla Friedman and I have spent several months working out what makes a good looking thesis or dissertation and how to make it in Microsoft Word. The template we have created is an excellent starting point for any PhD Thesis or Masters Dissertation and is easy to use. It’s free for anybody to use, although an acknowledgment to Kayla and myself is appreciated.

If you are using the template please leave a comment below, we know that hundreds of people a month download the template, and we would like to hear feedback.

Template Download

The Template is in two forms a normal DOCX document which includes useful help information and a DOTX Word Template which can be applied to new and existing word documents.

DOCX Format Plain Word Document

DOTX Format Word Template

Microsoft Office Theme File – This contains additional font & colour information and can be used to style Excel and PowerPoint content in the same style as your Thesis/Dissertation.

Power Point on Word for Thesis Writing

The DOTX template can also be used by people using older versions of the Template. Go to:

Developer Tab > Document Template > Attach

Then select the DOTX template, and click Open. Also, tick the box market Automatically update document styles. Then click OK.


CSD Thesis Template by Kayla Friedman and Malcolm Morgan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Why use the PhD Thesis / Masters Dissertation Template?

The whole point of this template is that it is easy to use and automatic. If you want to put the minimum amount of effort into the styling your thesis, using this template will give you an excellent professional looking document, that won’t just look like a generic Word document. Kayla and I have put a lot of work into choosing fonts, layouts, and colour schemes, which give a professional academic appearance, and are easy to read on screen and especially on paper.

This makes a big  differenceto you when you come to submit. Even the quality of your work is outstanding, the presentation of your thesis or dissertation will have a big effect on how your examiners judge it. If your document looks good, and includes all the right parts in the right places the examiners are going to be more inclined to believe you know what you are talking about.

It will save you lots of time. The template comes built in with lots of features that takes ages to set up such as heading numbers, and lists of different content e.g figures, tables, appendices. Using the template means you don’t need to find out how to do these things, and then fret about it not working. A lot of templates for other sources are not automated, so they look good, but the moment you start using them they break.

However, if you want to express your own creativity it is easy to change fonts, colour schemes and layout options without having to loose all the automation benefits of using the template.

Sections Included in the PhD/Masters Template

Cover Page, Dedication (optional), Personal Statement/Quote (optional), Declaration, Summary / Abstract, Acknowledgements, Contents, List of Tables, List of Figures, List of Abbreviations and Acronyms, Introduction, References, Appendices.

The template also included example content and information on how to use Word, how to use the PhD Thesis/ Masters Dissertation Template and Information and Requirements for Cambridge University and the Department of Engineering. If you are not at Cambridge you must check your own department’s rules as they may differ from the Cambridge rules. The template has been built to match Cambridge University’s rules.

Major Features of the Template Include:

  • Standard University of Cambridge cover page, with hidden blank inside page;
  • Two page margins, with wider margins on opposite sides of odd/even pages for balanced appearance when printed and bound.
  • Footers with page numbers on opposite sides for odd/even pages;
  • Footers with chapter titles automatically inserted;
  • Headers with Thesis title, author’s name, and month and year automatically added;
  • Roman Numerals for front matter page numbers, Arabic Numerals for other pages;
  • Automatically produced tables of contents, including headings, but excluding Appendices, and front matter;
  • Automatically produced lists of tables, figures, appendices
  • Customised styles, colours, and themes, to give a consistent appearance and professional feel;
  • Automatically numbered headings;
  • 1/3 page Chapter Headings with styled spacing and indented numbering;

The template is very loosely based on the Bartlett School of Architectures MSc Thesis Template and may contain  some of their original content.

The PhD Thesis/Masters Dissertation Template was created in Microsoft Word 2010 in the .docx and .dotx formats, but should also be fully compatible with Word 2007 and Word 2013. I have not checked it with Word for Mac. If you are using Word for Mac please comment on this post if you have any trouble as I would be interested to know.

I’m not promising any support or updates to the Template, but if you do have any suggestions or find any problems put them in the comments below, as it is not totally impossible that I might read them and make changes.

Known Issues

  • Some of the headers and footers may have an error message if the template is used in a non-English version of Office. This can be fixed by deleting the error message and manually adding the text for the headers and footers.
  • The formatting on the table of contents can go wrong, this can be fixed by right clicking and selecting update.

Update Log

 Updated PhD / Masters template to version 6 on 15/11/13

  • Fixed error with footnotes
  • Fixed error with list of figures

Updated PhD / Masters template to version 7 on 13/3/14

  • Tweaked appearance of footnote so that the take up less space
  • Updated content on how to use the template
  • Updated blog post with more information about the template
  • Added .dotx file support
  • Set default table appearance
  • Updated Footnotes and Endnotes support

Updated PhD / Masters template to version 8 on 09/05/14

  • Updated / Improved help text in the DOCX version
  • Improved headers, automatically produced by completing  the cover page
  • Improved headers, support for longer thesis titles

Updated PhD / Masters template to version 9 on 10/02/15

  • Changes base front from Cambria to Times New Roman to match new Cambridge University PhD requirements
  • Increased font size to 12 point, and increased line spacing to 1.5 to match new Cambridge University PhD requirements
  • Increased spacing and reformatted headers and footers

Update 15/11/16

Charles Weir is producing his own version of the template for Lancaster University at https://github.com/charlesweir/LUThesisTemplate 

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This document describes UBC's structural and formatting requirements for both master's theses and doctoral dissertations. For brevity, the term “thesis” is used here to include both types of document.

Failure to comply with all thesis specifications and formatting requirements may delay your graduation. Unless the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies has given consent in advance, theses that do not comply with these specifications will not be approved.

1. Title page (required)

2. Committee Page (Required)

Effective May 1, 2018. This page lists the examining committee members and supervisory committee members.

3. Abstract (required - maximum 350 words)

The abstract is a concise and accurate summary of the scholarly work described in the document. It states the problem, the methods of investigation, and the general conclusions, and should not contain tables, graphs, complex equations, or illustrations. There is a single scholarly abstract for the entire work, and it must not exceed 350 words in length.

4. Lay Summary (required - maximum 150 words)

Effective May 2017, all theses and dissertations must include a lay summary.

The lay or public summary explains the key goals and contributions of the research/scholarly work in terms that can be understood by the general public. it does not use technical terms and discipline-specific language. It must not exceed 150 words in length.

5. Preface (required)

Sample Prefaces

The Preface must include a statement indicating the student's contribution to the following:

  • Identification and design of the research program,
  • Performance of the various parts of the research, and
  • Analysis of the research data.

Certain additional elements may also be required, as specified below.

  • If any of the work presented in the thesis has led to any publications or submissions, all of these must be listed in the Preface. Bibliographic details should include the title of the article and the name of the publisher (ONLY if the article has been accepted or published), and the chapter(s) of the thesis in which the associated work is located.
  • If the work includes publications or material submitted for publication, the statement described above must detail the relative contributions of all collaborators and co-authors (including supervisors and members of the supervisory committee) and state the proportion of research and writing conducted by the student. For further details, see “Including Published Material in a Thesis or Dissertation”.
  • If the work includes other scholarly artifacts (such as film and other audio, visual, and graphic representations, and application-oriented documents such as policy briefs, curricula, business plans, computer and web tools, pages, and applications, etc.), all of these must be listed in the Preface (with bibliographical information, if applicable).
  • If ethics approval was required for the research, the Preface must name the responsible UBC Research Ethics Board, and report the project title(s) and the Certificate Number(s) of the Ethics Certificate(s) applicable to the project.

In a thesis where the research was not subject to ethics review, produced no publications, and was designed, carried out, and analyzed by the student alone, the text of the Preface may be very brief. Samples are available on this website and in the University Library's online repository of accepted theses.

The content of the Preface must be verified by the student's supervisor, whose endorsement must appear on the final Thesis/Dissertation Approval form.

Acknowledgements, introductory material, and a list of publications do not belong in the Preface. Please put them respectively in the Acknowledgements section, the first section of the thesis, and the appendices.

Note on grammar:
Please pay attention to the difference between the following:
"Chapter 1 was written by me" is correct. It means "I wrote Chapter 1".
"Chapter 1 was written by myself" is not correct, unless you mean you wrote it all alone with no-one else around.
"Myself" is a reflexive pronoun and is not a synonym for "me". Please look this up in order to ensure that your preface is grammatically correct.

6. Table of contents (required)

7. List of tables (required if document has tables)

8. List of figures (required if document has figures)

9. List of illustrations (required if document has illustrations)

10. Lists of symbols, abbreviations or other (advisable if applicable)

11. Glossary (optional)

12. Acknowledgements (optional)

Students may include a brief statement acknowledging the contribution to their research and studies from various sources, including (but not limited  to)

  • Their research supervisor and committee,
  • Funding agencies,
  • Professional or community collaborators,
  • Fellow students, and
  • Family and friends.

13. Dedication (optional)

14. Document Body

The text of the thesis must contain the following elements, presented to conform to the standards and expectations of the relevant academic discipline. In some cases, the ordering of these ingredients may differ from the one shown here.

A. Introduction. The thesis must clearly state its theme, hypotheses and/or goals (sometimes called “the research question(s)”), and provide sufficient background information to enable a non-specialist scholar to understand them. It must contain a thorough review of relevant literature, perhaps in a separate chapter.

B. Research/Scholarship Chapters. The account of the scholarly work should be presented in a manner suitable for the field. It should be complete, systematic, and sufficiently detailed to enable a reader to understand how the data were gathered and analyzed, and how to apply similar methods in another study. Notation and formatting must be consistent throughout the thesis, including units of measure, abbreviations, and the numbering scheme for tables, figures, footnotes, and citations. One or more chapters may consist of material published (or submitted for publication) elsewhere, or other artifacts (e.g., film, application-oriented documents) placed in a scholarly context. See “Including Published Material in a Thesis or Dissertation” for additional details.

C. Conclusion. In this section the student must demonstrate his/her mastery of the field and describe the work's overall contribution to the broader discipline in context. A strong conclusion includes the following:

  • Conclusions regarding the goals or hypotheses presented in the Introduction,
  • Reflective analysis of the scholarly work and its conclusions in light of current knowledge in the field,
  • Comments on the significance and contribution of the scholarship reported,
  • Comments on strengths and limitations of the research/scholarship,
  • Discussion of any potential applications of the findings, and
  • A description of possible future research directions, drawing on the work reported.

A submission's success in addressing the expectations above is appropriately judged by experts in the relevant discipline. Students should rely on their research supervisors and committee members for guidance. Doctoral students should also take into account the expectations articulated in the University's “Instructions for Preparing the External Examiner's Report”.

15. Bibliography (mandatory)

There must be only one Bibliography or References section for the whole thesis.

16. Appendices

Appendices must be limited to supporting material genuinely subsidiary to the main argument of the work. They must only include material that is referred to in the document.

Material suitable for inclusion in appendices includes the following:

  • Additional details of methodology and/or data
  • Diagrams of specialized equipment developed
  • Copies of questionnaires or surveys used in the research
  • Scholarly artifacts (e.g., film and other audio, visual, and graphic representations, and application-oriented documents such as policy briefs, curricula, business plans, computer and web applications, etc.) not included in the body of the thesis

Do not include copies of the Ethics Certificates in the Appendices.

Material supplemental to the thesis but not appropriate to include in the appendices (e.g., raw data, original plan for research and analyses) can be archived in cIRcle as Supplementary Materials.