Introducing Thesis Templates to “Senior Professors”


In this era of the academic industry, many professors are trying to publish as many journals as possible. The high demand for papers have made many to take thesis writing for granted. Many professors, especially senior ones, are very familiar with “journal paper templates”. But unfortunately, they have no idea about the new trends in ‘thesis/dissertation templates’.

Theses and other long documents (e.g. books, manuals, reports) can present challenges that shorter documents (like paper journals) would not. Theses are often more structured, contains several levels of headings, and may have numbered headings. It is more difficult to maintain a standard ‘look and feel’ throughout a long document like a thesis. Theses often contain components not found in shorter documents such as a table of contents, list of tables/figures, index, cross references, footnotes or endnotes.

Many students usually write their theses using the basic knowledge in MS Office Word. They manually align the text, indent paragraphs and number headings and other items. Thus, the table of content is usually done manually. This process can be a daunting task because they have to insert tables, images, equations etc. manually. It becomes more troublesome when they need to compile the various thesis parts for their final submission. The whole document can go haywire because everything is done manually.

To rectify this problem, some local universities have introduced a book or written guidelines on thesis writing for their students. This book elaborates on how a final thesis should be presented. It further illustrates on which font size should be used, which citation style should be deployed, the conventions of labelling images, tables and equations etc. Many students follow this guide and use their rudimentary knowledge in  MS Word to write their theses and the compilation process can be inefficient.

 So what is a Thesis Template?

All Microsoft Word documents are based on templates. Templates serve as the master or pattern for the layout and formatting of your documents. Frequently, they operate in the background, and you may not even be aware you are using a template. For example, when you create a new blank document in Microsoft Word, it is based on the Normal template. The Normal template automatically formats your document page with 1.25 inch Right and Left margins and 1.25 inch Top and Bottom margins.

A template may also contain pre-determined text, formatting, custom toolbars, macros, or other elements. When you create a new document based on such a template, some of the document’s elements and formatting work are already available and you do not have to start your document from scratch.

 Why world-class universities are so concerned about MS Word Thesis Templates?

To answer this question, let us  first have a brief look at the history of automated word processors. In the 1970s, research papers were produced with a typewriter. However, with the advent of mini-computers like DEC’s famous VAX, many researchers progressed to using the UNIX typesetting system. In the mid-1980s, many academicians switched to LaTeX, written by Leslie Lamport and based on Donald Knuth’s TeX typesettings. However, with the arrival of the IBM PC in 1981, a new phase started with WordStar and later with WordPerfect to write collaborative project proposals that did not require mathematical notation. A decade later, many academicians started to use  MS Word for compatibility with other research and administration level. Many scholars completely converted to MS Word in the early 2000s.

 MS Word and LaTeX

When it comes to writing a longer document such as a PhD thesis or a multi-disciplinary proposal which takes input from numerous authors, the basic knowledge of MS Word becomes insufficient.

A common resource for professionals is to use LaTeX or TeX for their typesetting needs. In some specialties, it is possible to rely exclusively on LaTeX. However, most of the academicians using LaTeX will soon face the challenge of developing a document in MS Word due to the requirements of a project leader or funding organisation or simply the chances of team members using LaTeX in their col­laborative writing effort is nil.

When this situation occurs, it is crucial to learn about the advanced features of MS Word which allows matching nearly every functionality of LaTeX-based soft­ware while also being accessible to less sophisticated computer users. Moreover, even the most proficient users of LaTeX will find that collaborating on documents produced in MS Word is quicker and more efficient provided they follow the guidelines explained in this proposal.

 MS Word and Collaboration

In science, multidisciplinary collaboration between scientists of many disciplines is rapidly becoming the new norm.  Similarly, project proposals and technical reports frequently involve many different parts of an organization or multiple organizations. Capturing the output of such diverse teams in a professional and cohesive- looking document is now more important than ever. In a large part, the template techniques described in this report will enable distributed teams to collaborate on documents using a common platform.

 MS Word and ‘Senior’ Professors

It is well known that many of the sinior professors would have written their theses during the late 70s till the late 90s and during that period, LaTeX was considered to be the state of the art in academic writing. However, a decade later or so, many academicians have started using MS Word for compatibility with other administration levels. Many scholars have completely converted to MS Word in the early 2000s and there is a high tendency for many academicians to use  MS Word as if they are using LaTeX.  Many of the sinior academicians are too busy; and learning new skills in word processing takes time and is beyond the research interest of most ‘Senior’ academicians.

 How world-class universities solved the problem?

Many world-class universities such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Kansas University and Michigan University have realized the magnitude of this problem among their students. Thus, they have created suitable templates in MS Office Word (Dotx). In addition, they have a dedicated webpage for the essentials in academic writing and thesis templates. This has enabled the students to increase productivity and minimize stress in academic writing.

MIT University created a comprehensive platform of downloadable PDFs containing all the required data about thesis formatting.

Waterloo University uses s single Html file (very large) containing all the instructions to format a thesis.

Michigan University constructed a detailed and elegant site for thesis formatting based on the well-known Lib Guides software. It is also customized for mobile view. Perfect!

Every world-class university has its own webpages for thesis writing and templates to help both faculty members and students in mastering the required MS Word skills. similarly, if universities in developing countries wants to climb the world-class ladder, a clear awareness should be created amongst the academicians so that they are able to appreciate the current ‘best practices’ of thesis writing in MS Word and apply them into their own work.

This will eventually facilitate the integration of the MS Word skills for creating and modifying MS Word templates (dotx files) into postgraduate education system, e.g. research methodology class. The academicians themselves would be the ‘advocates’ for the skills required in this tranformation.


Any efforts to improve the proficiency in academic writing particularly thesis structuring and formatting among students must targeted at two categories, the students and the faculty members, particularly the lecturers who had finished thier PhDs during the late 70s till the late 90s.

Therefore, it is proposed that the sinior professors attend some workshops on MS Word ‘best practices’ in thesis writing. It is essential for them to attend these workshops because many of them may be accustomed to older and in some cases, inaccurate techniques in thesis writing. The first workshop should be for all the ‘faculty deans’.


1 Comment
  1. Zubairu Suleiman says

    Thank you for the job well done!

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