to number or not to number

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Numbering titles? yes/no?

e.g. Chapter 1

1.1 Introduction

1.2. Theory X

1.2.1 Theory X critique


I didn't. I was a humanities (history) student though, which might make a difference. Is it normal in your field to number sub-sections?

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some people seem to some people don't. I like it in some ways - so I can refer back to things in other chapters e.g. (see section 3.2 for a discussion) or something. But I also don't want it getting silly e.g. or something - that's ridiculous.

I was thinking of everything after 3 numbers (e.g. 3.2.2) would be non-numbered, but maybe that makes the whole numbering thing obsolete?


I think you have to either do all numbers or not numbers. Otherwise it looks really arbitrary.

Also if you need to refer to other bits of your thesis you can use page numbers as an alternative, though you'd have to make sure those were up to date at the end.

I didn't need to do that myself, though I did refer to other chapters e.g. "This topic is discussed more fully in Chapter 3."


I did the format you are suggesting so at least that way I could refer to a particular section. I didn't to start with but changed to the numbered format in the last editing stage. Mine is science based and not sure if this is subject specific, but liked the ease/fomality of it. I guess I will find out the examiners opinion soon enough but my sup agreed it!


Does your institution give any guidelines? I'm in the humanities, and whilst my supervisor said she didn't think it was necessary, the official university thesis presentation guidelines did, so I used the numbers. One problem I found, though, was that because numbering was supposed to begin at '1' with the Introduction, what I had referred to throughout the text as 'chapter one' ending up being number 2. To clarify things, i stuck a big 'CHAPTER ONE' over it, and hope it does the trick...

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I don't think my uni has guidelines on anything. I actually think if I went to the admin office and just told them I'd handed in, had the viva and passed, they'd probably go "oh, ok, here's your certificate" - they really have no idea when it comes to the PhD process.

Rough guide is 'follow APA' but I think that looks a bit rubbish sometimes. 2 people have submitted their theses in the last year in my small group and they have used it (although I think they have copied each other on that)


I did mine in the format above, and as someone else said, if you limit it to 3 numbers only, it works out well, and you don't have the problem of referring to page numbers which may change all the time. Also the 3-number system works out well for the Table of Contents. One of the PhDs I proof-read went to five numbers in one chapter and it just looked clunky and awful, so I reformatted it for her. It's looked cleaner and clearer. It also means that you can label your Figs according to the section they refer to.


I'm in social sciences and I number, have done since I started my write up. My supervisor thought it pretty funny when I gave him the first draft that it was numbered and formatted correctly! I find it easier even when I edit a chapter. Once it's finished 'again' I go back and re-jig the section numbers. I'm hoping that it will make things easier in the long run.

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ok, I think I might try numbering up until 3 numbers and then just have headings. I too find it easier to produce something that looks finished when I do drafts - my sup then thinks its finished. Otherwise, if I leave it and put in the email to her "am going to add proper titles later" I get a comment like "this needs proper titles!" 3 weeks later :-s


Hi Sneaks,

I can't believe I just had to look and see whether i did numbers in mine or not ??!!?!! After all the hours and hours you stare at it, after just what a few months i can't remember :-)

I numbered up to 3 as you have your first post.

All the best. Chuff


I used numbers as above and then did roman numerals and letters if I needed to subdivide further e.g. 1.2.3 i a. The lettering was only used for one chapter where I went into a lot of detail about some of the research but the roman numerals were used quite a lot otherwise the endless numbering got a bit ridiculous e.g.!

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Ok, question...

if I go with the numbering e.g. my chapter one wil have the following headings..

1.1. Penguins on the ice.
1.2. Penguins on the snow
1.3. Penguins on beaches!

1.3.1 Penguins on beaches stealing ice creams

1.4. obesity in beach penguins

And I wanted to put a table in - which would sit in section 1.4. How would I number it??

Table 1?

Table 1.1? (as its the first table in chapter 1?)

or Table 1.4.1?


Yeah that's what I did so it would be Table 1.4 Ice cream consumption by penguins. The heading goes above tables and not below as in diagrams as I was told by my supervisor like in journals! I checked this out and they were actually right!

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ooh, now you see I was thinking I liked Table 1.1 because then it denotes its the first table in Chapter 1.

Although I always put figure headings above as well as table headings - but then my figures are usually just flow charts or graphs - I like putting the heading above it :-(

what to do, what to do?