Achieving a professional finish to a PhD: templates/Word/LaTex??


I'm in the throws of finishing my PhD. My work is mainly text with the odd table, and a very large table in the appendices.

Currently, I'm using Word 2007, but I'm not very happy with the presentation. The tables don't look very good, and I haven't used the automated heading system, so it won't create a nice content page for me.

My question is: can anyone recommend a good PhD template for MS Word, or a good style to follow? Currently, I'm using Times Roman, 12 pt, 1.5 spacing, and my own headings and sub-headings. I'm not sure if I'm just being fussy, but it doesn't look very professional.

Equally, should I change to LaTex if I want a very nice finish to my text? The LaTex PhD template looks very nice, but I've never used this software...would it be very time consuming to learn the system at such a late stage?


Here is the LaTex PhD template:


I definitely recommend LaTeX, it makes typesetting so much easier, looks professional, and you'll never again have to worry about chapter/caption numbers or other bits of your formatting doing things you didn't tell them to do.

LaTeX is very easily learned actually, you'll need one afternoon or maybe a weekend max. Here's some overview of LaTeX introduction documents:

I'd recommend simply reading the first introduction chapter of any of these intros and then go through your dissertation and look up the specifics you need (e.g. footnotes, tables, bibliography etc.)

If you're using Windows, you need to download both the editor TexnicCenter (there's others of course, this is just what I'm using and have been very happy with it, in fact I find it better than most Linux-based editors for LaTeX), as well as the "actual" LaTeX for Windows, which is Miktex. Just google them, download and install them. The programme to typeset your document is then Texniccenter.

There's also programmes (or add-ons for Word) on the internet that convert a .doc-document to LaTeX, which might come handy for your purposes, but it'll still need a lot of polishing (don't remember the name unfortunately).


I'm using Word because I was using it from the start and couldn't be bothered to change over, especially so close to submission.

My "nomal text" is the same as yours, TNR 12pt 1.5 spacing. For headings, I have used a mixture of the set Word ones and modified them when I thought they were poo.

So for example:
Heading 1 - 18pt TNR bold with 12pt space before and after
Heading 2 - 16pt Cambria (or whatever its called) with 12pt space after, bold and italic


As long as you change the settings in Word for heading 1, 2 and 3 (and caption - I have millions of these) to what you are using, Word will generate a lovely content page for you.

I've looked at a thesis where the only difference between the different headings is size and that looks fine but I prefer to use a slight change in font and size.

You just need to be consistent and it will look professional (unless you use silly fonts!). Word 2007 allows you to apply your custom fonts to all documents BUT you will have had to define them originally as heading 1, 2 etc.


I spent an afternoon getting to grips with LaTex. I quite like things like that and found after an afternoon I could have produced my document I think. I wouldn't have understood all the ins and outs but wouldn't need to. I also got the impression that had I got stuck there was a whole community who would love to help.

Word on the other hand has bugs relating to tables, headings and contents page stuff. In my experience if you speak to someone who knows all there is to know about Word to try and fix these problems, they will roll their eyes and say 'yes it's a known bug'.

I am yet to need to make a decision on what to use, but I think LaTex at the moment as I have had too many bad experiences with Word.


Thank you for starting this thread - it's something I've been thinking about but would have been way to scared to try anything new like Latex - I'm a bit of a computing wimp. Our department uses Century Gothic for all its publications which I hate - makes everything look like it's been written for primary school pupils! I was planning on the same as Missspacey - Times New Roman 12pt etc but I might be a bit more adventurous now.


Thanks for the replies guys.

@Apple & Alice: you've both made me more tempted to use LaTeX. I really like the finished product - it looks similar to a good published textbook finish. My problem is whether I can get to grips with it in super-quick time. Thanks so much for the info.!

@H: well I'm basically the same as you. I haven't managed to change my heading settings to get the content page to work...grrrrr. I purchased Word 2007 (as part of the student Ultimate Steal promotion) and now regret not sticking with the older software. When I convert the document to PDF it looks okay, but it still lacks that professional touch.

@Heifer: eww, Century Gothic is not easy on the reader (I could foresee that annoying an examiner). I'm lucky that the university has absolutely not style rules (apart from margins), so I pretty much do what I want with the text.

I found this software for converting Word to LaTeX (for anyone brave enough to make the switch):


I wonder whether the PDF converter I am testing these days could help with that or not?