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4. Writing up your Research: Thesis Formatting

Remember to Include

Where to start?

Look at examples and ask your supervisor.

The best guide on how to format your thesis is a combination of:

  • Looking at previous theses in your discipline. Search the UC Research Repository for your subject or department, and browse by issue date to get the most recent.
  • Asking your supervisor for recommendations on specific formatting and details. 

General Recommendations


The following is an example only of preliminaries to the thesis that could be included

Title page with the following information

  • the full title of the thesis, and the subtitle if any
  • the full name of the author
  • the degree for which the thesis is submitted (e.g. Masters of Arts in History or Doctor of Philosophy in Astronomy)
  • the department and name of the university (e.g. Dept of Mechanical Engineering, University of Canterbury)
  • the year of submission


This should be a succinct summary of the thesis. It should provide a synopsis of the thesis and state clearly the nature and scope of the work undertaken and of the contribution made to the knowledge of the subject treated. Include a brief statement of the method of investigation where appropriate, an outline of the major divisions or principal arguments of the work, and a summary of any conclusions reached.


Acknowledge any assistance received.

Table of Contents

List of figures

List of Tables etc




The Format of the thesis should also include following:

Page numbers

Number all pages except the title and contents page.

Font and size

Font size should at least 10 point.
Standard, easy-to-read, fonts are acceptable.
Theses written in scientific subjects may need specialized fonts or layout - check departmental requirements.

Illustrations and diagrams

Get permission for all illustrations and diagrams you are including that you did not create, and credit yourself for any images you did create.

Applying Styles to Your Headings

Headings Styles

Use the Styles feature for all your headings so that Word can automatically create a table of contents

Highlight all the main headings (sections/chapters etc) in your thesis and apply a heading style to them

Go to Home | Styles | Choose the Heading 1 Style 

Repeat the process with Heading 2 and Heading 3 subsections of your thesis

Table of Contents

Once you have applied the headings styles you can use these to create your Table of Contents

- usually near beginning of document

Click References | Table of contents and then choose one of the automatic tables 

When you add more files you  can then Update Table 

Further options are available under the Table of Contents menu 



The Options and Modify menus allow you to 

Updating the Table of Contents

Once your Table of Contents is in place, you can refresh the list

Update field

as you add more text and/or headings to your document right-click anywhere on the Table of Contents.

From the pop-up menu, choose  Update page numbers only: This updates only page numbers.

Update entire table

This option tells Word to re-examine the document and re-import any new or existing entries to the list. Most useful if you’ve added a new chapter title or subheading, or if you’re correcting a misspelling or capitalization error in a title. Click OK to begin the update. Save the file.


Apply the captions to the figures/tables/equations you have inserted using  References | Captions | Insert Caption


After you have applied captions you can create a list of figures/tables/equations similar to the Table of Contents described above.

Go to References | Insert Table of Figures and select the type of caption (figures/tables/equations).


Section Breaks

Creating different sections in your document allows you to have different formatting for a section within your document.

Once you have inserted a section break you can format the next section separately.

After you have inserted a section break you can change the page numbering sequence of the next section.


Inserting section breaks

Click on the first page where you want to start of end a section break.

Then go to Page Layout | Breaks

TIP: You might find it helpful to see section breaks and other formatting marks as you type. On the Home | Paragraph | Show/Hide (¶) to turn on the display of formatting marks. 

Choose Section Breaks | Next Page 


Inserting Page numbers for a section

On the page after the section break, double-click in the header (top of page) or footer (bottom of page) area where you want to display page numbers. This will open the Design tab under Header & Footer Tools.

Choose Link to Previous to turn off the link to the header or footer in the previous section.

In the Header & Footer group | Page Number | pick a location and then choose a style in the gallery.

To choose a format or to control the starting number, in the Header & Footer group, choose Page Number | Format Page Numbers to open the Page Number Format dialog box.

Under Page numbering, choose Start at and type a number that you want to start with.

Change the page orientation of a section

After inserting a start and end section break for one or more pages go to the Page Layout group | Orientation and select portrait or landscape.

This is useful if, for example, you have a very wide table or figure that does not fit on a portrait page orientation.


Who to Contact

Dave Lane

Phone: +6433693903
Internal Phone: 93903

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