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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.

Working with Styles

Successful use of Styles is one of the most important keys to saving you time and stress when formatting your document. Styles are important not only for consistency throughout your document, but also to make sure that automatic numbering works correctly, page numbers display the way Rackham wants them to, the automatic lists of figures/tables/etc... populate correctly, and much more.

Your dissertation is likely to have a few different types of text that need to be formatted differently, including:

  • body text (the words in each paragraph)
  • chapter titles
  • section headings and subheadings
  • block quotes
  • and more.

We can ensure consistency in the formatting of these types of text – and also make it so we only need to make a change in one place to affect the whole document – by using Styles.  Styles are bundles of formatting choices all tied together so they can be easily applied to a chunk of text. With Styles, you can specify that all of the quotes in your document be single-spaced and indented by .5” on either side, for example.  Or you can specify that you want your chapter headings to be centered and bold, and your subheadings should be left aligned and italicized.  Rather than formatting each heading or quote one-by-one throughout your entire document, you can use Styles to specify what each category of text should look like, and then apply those “Heading 1” or “Heading 2” or “Quote” styles as needed.

Why Use Styles?

The Styles GalleryStyles will save you lots of time and trouble. Styles define the appearance of text elements throughout your document. Styles allow for quick changes throughout your document – if you change the font of a Heading style, for example, any text styled with that heading will be changed throughout the document. Also, applying the Heading styles identifies text that Word uses to automatically generate a table of contents.

Styles also allow your document to be accessible to all readers, since screen readers and other accessible reading software rely on structural tags to understand the hierarchical structure of the text. 

The ScholarSpace template has many styles specific to Rackham's requirements already set up, so you can save a lot of time using our template (available on the main page of this Guide). 

To see a list of the predefined styles in Word, look at the Styles Gallery in the Home Ribbon. Modify a style or review its settings by right-clicking and selecting Modify... And learn more about modifying styles by visiting the Modifying a Style section of this Guide.

View this video to get started and then visit the pages in the drop down menu to learn more. Despite the video's references to "Word 2010", the information remains accurate with the current version of Word.