Thesis formatting

Notes for Thursday, November 6, 2014

Main points

We talked about formatting theses and especially bibliographies.

Front matter

In one respect, a thesis is a familiar kind of project. It’s roughly equivalent to three papers. You have written three papers. Just do that.

But the physical product will be a lot more like a book than a paper. For one thing, it will be bound. For another, it has room for what is called front matter: title pages, dedications, introductions, acknowledgements, and a table of contents.

I made up a sample document with many of the sections you might want for the front matter of your thesis.

I would keep this as a separate file, apart from the chapters of the thesis. Front matter is not typically paginated along with the rest of the book. Combining the front matter into one file with the chapters will make your page numbers difficult to manage as Word will want to make the title page one and so on.

Use what Word calls sections to make the pages for each part open on the right or odd page. This is described in the document. You can do the same for the chapters of your thesis.

  1. Make an extra paragraph break at the end of a chapter; the next paragraph will go into the next section.
  2. In Word: Insert -> Break -> Section Break (Odd Page).
  3. Insert your chapter title and procede.

Section breaks are most easily managed in Draft View. You will see blue lines that indicate where the section break falls. To get rid of a section break, delete those lines.

If you want to be really fussy, you can set a gutter. A gutter shifts the text away from the binding by a small amount. Here is why that matters. The binding on your thesis takes up some of the margin, such that text that is in the middle of the page when the paper is loose will appear to be shifted to one side when it is bound. A gutter offsets the effects of binding by adding to the margin on the left side of odd pages and the right side of even pages. That makes the text appear in the middle of the visible part of the page even though it is actually slightly off to one side. You set a gutter in Word like this: Format -> Document -> Margins -> Gutter. I set the gutter for the front matter at 0.25".

The Chicago Manual of Style (CMS)

I recommended using Zotero to manage and produce your bibliography.

I also recommended using the Chicago styles. “Chicago” is short for the Chicago Manual of Style or CMS. The Chicago styles are widely used in both the humanities and social sciences and we have an electronic copy of the style guide available to us through the library. (It has an extensive section on grammar and English style that is worth consulting as well.)

You should consider one of three styles for your references.

  1. Chicago author-date. This will insert a reference in your text like this (Author 2013) with a full bibliography at the end.
  2. Chicago full note, no ibid. This will put your references in footnotes or endnotes. The first reference will be a full citation; subsequent references will be abbreviated like Author, “Article title,” optional page number. There is a full bibliography at the end.
  3. Chicago note, no ibid. This will put your references in footnotes or endnotes. All references will use abbreviated citations like Author, “Article title,” optional page number with a full bibliography at the end.

Generally speaking, the author-date styles are used more often in the natural and social sciences while the note styles are used more often in the humanities. But which one you use is a matter of personal preference. I myself use the last one, the Chicago note style.

What goes in a reference?

You cannot rely on web services to get the citation right. Let me say this as plainly as I can: they are terrible. You are best off entering citations into Zotero by hand. That way you understand what is going in to your citation. You can use Zotero’s tools to import citations from a source like the library or a journal’s website. But you have to review it carefully because there will be errors. So get started doing it by hand.

What should you enter? Here are some decent rules of thumb. When in doubt, consult the CMS.

Generally speaking, for journal articles, you need this information.

  1. Author
  2. Title of the article
  3. Journal title
  4. Volume (the issue number within the volume is often left out)
  5. Year of publication (the month or season is often omitted)
  6. Page numbers on which the article appears

You do not need the publisher or URL to a repository like JSTOR. Journals are independent of publishers (they often switch around, in fact). And a JSTOR URL is like a call number for a book: it’s just one place where the article can be found, not an essential piece of the citation. Journals can go in and out of JSTOR but the citations for the articles remains the same.

For books, the following information usually suffices.

  1. Author
  2. Title of the book
  3. City where the publisher is located. Sometimes the state, but usually not. If there are two cities listed, use the first one.
  4. Publisher
  5. Year of publication

For websites and blogs, Chicago recommends:

  1. The title or a description of the page (see 14.244),
  2. Author (if any)
  3. The owner or sponsor of the site (e.g. New York Times)
  4. URL
  5. Publication date or date of revision or modification (see 14.8); if no such date can be determined, include an access date.


There was a handout for this class: 19.theses.handout.pdf

This page was written by Michael Green for Freedom, Markets, and Well-being, PPE 160, Fall 2014. It was posted November 25, 2014.
Freedom, Markets, and Well-being