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Microsoft Word for Dissertations

Describes many of the special features of Microsoft Word you can use to make formatting your dissertation easier. While it's focused on dissertations, this information is useful for any long document.

Inserting Images, Charts, and Other Non-Text Objects

If you want to insert images, figures, etc., we recommend .png, .pdf (see note below), or .tif files, with a resolution in the 200-600 dpi range. Most diagramming applications will export files in these formats and within that range by default.

  • While it is possible to copy and paste images into Word, we do not recommend this method since you may not be getting the highest-quality image (the exception is a chart from Excel – those you can copy and paste just fine).
  • PDFs can be a good choice, but beware that Word will only insert the first page of a PDF. If you have a multi-page PDF, you'll need to export each page to file, and insert each one separately. Even then, you may find you need to use the Crop tool in the Picture Format tab to crop out excessive white space around your image.

In the Insert tab, select the type of object you want to insert, navigate to the file (if appropriate) and click Insert or OK

  • Most often, you will have created a figure, diagram, or illustration in another application and saved it as a file (.png, .jpg, .tif, .pdf). Bring these images in by selecting Picture, and then Picture from file... (Mac) or Picture from this device (Windows)
  • The Chart tool () will allow you to enter data into a spreadsheet and create a new chart or graph within Word. 
  • You can also use the Screenshot tool take a picture of any open window (Available Windows gallery) or part of the screen (Screen Clipping). 


Once an image is inserted, the Picture Format ribbon will appear, displaying editing, position, cropping, and text wrapping tools.


Special note for those using Windows: After inserting a diagram/figure/image, we suggest you immediately set the Word Wrap for the image to "In line with text" On Windows, the default Word Wrap setting for inserted images/diagrams is often "In front of text". This treats your image as a floating object that can be dragged and dropped anywhere, and when you create a caption for such an image, the caption will also go into a floating text box. This can be a problem. It means that the two floating objects can get separated, or can land on top of your content text, all of which is not good. It's also the source of a common and disconcerting Word experience, where you try to move an image and it lands someplace completely different.



How do I position images in a way that they won't move?

This is a classic issue with Word, and image positioning & text wrapping is often a challenging thing. There are many variables in the process, and many options available for tweaking those things.

It's important to understand the two separate, but related elements involved here -- image positioning and text wrapping. When you select an image (like a Figure), the Shape Format settings will appear in the Ribbon at the top, with tools to control those elements. Position controls where your image sits on the page.  Wrap Text controls how nearby text behaves around that image.



Position settings let you set an image to sit at the center of the top of the page, for example, or to always be lined up on the right side of a column.

Text Wrapping settings controls how the text around your image relates to your image. 

For best results, we suggest you ignore "Position", and instead ensure that the Text Wrapping for your figures is set to "In Line with Text", so that a figure is treated like just another word. After you've added a caption (which will then also be treated as text in your document), you can consider changing the text wrapping if you really need to.

This article from does a great job of describing all the options.


The interplay between text wrapping and images has long been treacherous