It’s dissertation season for final year students! Once you’ve finished your research – burying yourself in journals and spending hours transcribing – you’re faced with another challenge, formatting!
Formatting will either seem very basic to you, or outrageously advanced and confusing. It just so happens that I really enjoy formatting, and I have helped a number of people with their dissertations, so I’ve pulled together a few tips and tricks you can use to format your dissertation, essay or report.
This article is meant to be helpful and not to patronise. Many people have no reason to use these functions before dissertation!
Please note, I use Word 2013 for Windows, so you may find you have to follow a slightly different process if you use another version, but they will be there, and if in doubt use my favourite tool – Google!
The tools I’ll be detailing are:
- Page and Section Breaks
- Page Numbering
- Contents Pages
- Clear Referencing
1) Page and Section Breaks
Have you ever created a new page by entering enter multiple times? No need, this is where Page Break is useful!
This option will take you straight onto the next page. It’s particularly useful because if you add more text before the page break, you don’t need to worry about having to remove spaces from the next page.
Tip: You can create a page break by pressing CTRL and ENTER simultaneously
Section Breaks allow Word to recognise a new section. The advantage of this is that you can change the formatting in this section and it will not affect other sections (unless you specify it to). For example if you want to have some pages in your document in landscape and others in portrait, a section break makes this very easy to do. Find out more about this here.
There are a few different types of section break depending on what you want to achieve.
2) Page numbering
Your dissertation may need to have some pages numbered, some using Roman numerals, and some pages unnumbered.
To create this, you need to make sure each of those pages are in separate sections – see above.
Open the Header and Footer view – this can be done by double clicking at the top or bottom of the document.
You then need to add the page number, select if you want it at the top, bottom, or in the page margins depending upon your preference. Then select Format Page Numbers.
Select the number format that you want to use. You can also change where the Page Numbering starts from here. If you want the number to be different to the automatic one, enter the one you want in the Start at: option.
When you change the format in another section, make sure you deselect the option to link to previous sections, otherwise it will change all sections.
You can now change the page numbering to as many formats as you like!
Read more about this here.
Using Style Formats in your document helps with consistency, and can be used in the contents page and referencing which I talk about below.
Styles are already set up, select ones which are relevant. For example, choose from headings, titles, quotes and normal!
If you’re not a fan of the preset style, you can change this easily. The Design tab on Word 2013 (this is different for other versions) allows you choose from other presets, or change colours, fonts, spacing etc.
You can also manually edit your styles individually, do this by right clicking on the style, selecting Modify, and editing to meet your requirements. This will then update any existing text in that format.
If you want to distinguish your Appendices, I recommend you read this article.
4) Contents Page
If you’re manually writing out your contents page, you will save so much time by using an automatic one.
To set this up, you need to ensure that you had formatted all your headings as detailed above.
Once this is done, go to the References tab and use the Table of Contents option to insert a contents. There are a couple of options already set up, and the option to add a custom one.
It is preset to automatically add in Headings 1, 2 and 3, and each heading is indented. If you want to change this, choose the Custom Table of Contents option. Click the Options button, and then choose what headings you want to include, and at what level you want them to be. In the picture below, I have including Heading 4, at the same level at Heading 3.
The advantage of a automatic table of contents, is that if your chapters move onto different pages, all you need to do is select the Update Title option, and it automatically updates the page numbers with no manual work at all!
5) Clear Referencing
Has all this formatting made a mess of your document? Have you pasted in text from a document that now looks completely different. You can quickly remove all formatting from the text by selecting the handy Clear Formatting button.
If you are at Leeds Met, the Skills for Learning team run a brilliant workshop on using Word formatting for dissertation,more details here. According to their Twitter, the library staff can also help you if you’re having trouble with formatting – what a brilliant service!
If this article was useful, and you’d like to know more formatting tips, let me know!