Category Archives: Writing

Thesis and Dissertation Templates for LaTeX

Typesetting a document as large and complex as a doctoral dissertation is never going to be an easy task, but there’s no need to start from scratch. There are lots of templates freely available online to get you started.

Here are a range of templates from European and American universities. Although many have been produced by science departments, most of these templates are easily adapted for the purposes of humanities students.

**Note that not all of these are official university templates.**

Italian Thesis Template

An Italian template called toptesi is available through CTAN and can be modified for both undergraduate and graduate dissertations. Its multilanguage support makes it a good option for humanities students.

Thanks to Fulvio Corno for bringing this template to my attention.

UK University Thesis Templates

The UK TeX Users Group has compiled the following list of university thesis templates for the UK:

Out of all the templates on this list I liked the ones from the University of Southampton and the University of Cambridge the most.

The University of Southampton offers a range of templates in addition to one for a PhD dissertation. There are also templates for a CV, conference paper and reports.

The thesis template from the Cambridge University Engineering Department is pretty basic, but it’s well put together and has good documentation. The latest version is from July 2010.

US University Thesis Templates

This is only a selection of the templates available out there, but here are some of the better (or at least more recent) ones.

I particularly liked the template that Jeffrey Dwoskin put together to comply with the Princeton dissertation guidelines.

Check Your University’s Formatting Regulations

Once you’ve found a suitable template it’s really important to check what formatting specifications your university requires for the final version of the dissertation. Then you can adjust your generic template accordingly.

For example, the university regulations are likely to specify the page size, line spacing, font size, single- or double-sided printing, etc. They may also set out the requirements for the front matter of the dissertation, such as your name, dissertation title, degree for which it is submitted, a declaration of originality, etc.

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Academic Writing

A great deal of academic writing is convoluted and dull (well, at least what I’ve been reading), and the American trend of using ungrammatical jargon to dress up second-rate thinking is sadly spreading to the UK.

But it doesn’t have to be that way – Nabokov’s scientific writings on butterflies have a lyrical quality, while Russell’s works on philosophy are clear and concise.

I have found George Orwell’s rules of writing to be very helpful:

  1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
  2. Never us a long word where a short one will do.
  3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
  4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
  5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
  6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

From Politics and the English Language (1946) – http://www.k-1.com/Orwell/index.cgi/work/essays/language.html

Bertrand Russell also wrote a short essay entitled How I Write (1954) – http://www.davemckay.co.uk/philosophy/russell/russell.php?name=how.i.write

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