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Research Guides

Submit and Publish Your Thesis

Formatting in MS Word

Thesis style template for MS Word is available on the School of Graduate Studies website. You are not required to use the template but using it will make some of the formatting requirements easier to meet.

►►Thesis template for Microsoft Word​ (.docx)

For formatting instructions and requirements see the Formatting section of the SGS website.

MS Word formatting tips


Section Breaks and Page Numbers

One of the most common formatting items that causes difficulty is the page numbering, since the front section and the rest of the thesis use different characters and placement. The way to properly format these sections is to add Section Breaks in between the front matter and the Introduction or Chapter One and between each of the following chapters, including the Bibliography and Appendices sections.

Adding Section Breaks and Page Numbers in Word 2016

You will need to insert “Section Break – next page” in between all chapters and between the front matter and the first chapter as well as between the last chapter and the appendices and the references.

  1. Click on the place where the break should be inserted and then go to the Layout tab.
  2. Click on the arrow beside Breaks and choose Section Break Next Page from the list. This allows you to format sections individually of each other.
  3. Go to the first chapter after the front matter, click in the header and footer area and in the Header & Footer tools, ensure that “Different First Page” is selected and then ensure that the “Link to Previous” option is not selected. This way, when you format the front matter with Roman numerals in the bottom centre, it won’t carry the formatting into the next section.
  4. Use the Insert Page Numbers and Format Page numbers to insert the page numbers in the appropriate place with the appropriate formatting.


Using Document Styles

The template has Styles that can be used to format your entire thesis. To use a style, select the text to apply the style to, then choose the appropriate style from the Styles window.

If you don’t want to use the template (for example, if you don’t want to use the numbered headings, you can create your own styles. To do this, format the heading (or other element) the way you want, then click New Style in the style window. Insert a unique name for the style and click OK. You can then use that style for those elements going forward.


Table of Contents (TOC)

To automatically generate a TOC, apply the appropriate Styles to all headings. The template has styles created for this purpose. If you are not using the template, you can create your own heading styles to apply.

Auto-generate the TOC in Word 2016 on both Mac and Windows
  1. Go to the References tab, choose Table of Contents and select Custom Table of Contents. Click OK.

       Using your own styles

  1. If you have created your own styles with custom names, go to the References tab, choose Table of Contents and select Custom Table of Contents, then click Options.
  2. Put numbers beside the styles you created that correspond with the level of heading they represent. Click OK, then OK again.
Manual formatting of TOC

To add right-aligned tabs with leaders:

  1. From the Home tab, open the Paragraph settings and click on the Tabs button.
  2. Enter the tab stop position, choose Right Tab and for Leader, choose the option. Click Set (or the + sign on Mac), then click OK.
  3. Type the TOC entry, press tab, then insert the page number.


Miscellaneous tips

  • Use page breaks instead of pressing Enter or Return
  • Use paragraph first-line indent or tab consistently throughout doc (best to use Styles)
  • Use consistent spacing around headers
  • Use Shift + Return/Enter to keep headings that run over 2 lines in the same paragraph
  • Ensure there are no Widow/Orphan headings or paragraphs
  • When inserting longer quotes, use margins to indent rather than tabbing in and inserting a hard return after each line
  • Always use tabs rather than spaces. Set tab stops so you aren’t using multiple tabs

Formatting issues and examples

When creating your own table of contents, be sure to format the space between the text and the numbers properly. Do not use multiple tabs or periods to separate them. This will result in a jagged right margin. You want to set a right-aligned tab with leaders in order to have the numbers properly aligned to the right margin. The auto-generate TOC feature does this automatically.

Table of contents incorrect and correct formatting examples. Discussion above.

When starting content on a new page, do not use the return key until you get to the next page. If you add content to that section later on, it will move everything down the page, even on the following page. Instead, use the Insert Page Break feature.

Page break formatting incorrect and correct example. Discussion above.

When formatting indented quotes, do not use tabs to indent the lines, or put a return at the end of each line. The test in the paragraph won’t flow properly if you need to add more text or change the margins. Instead use the margin controls in the Ruler to indent the paragraph on each side.

Indented quotes incorrect and correct formatting examples. Discussion above.