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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.

Combining Chapter Files into One Document

In most cases, we have found it's best -- from the start -- to compose & edit the dissertation as one file, including all chapters and special sections in one document. You can copy and paste an individual chapter into a separate document when your advisor wants you to send them a chapter for review.

But there are plenty of situations where it makes more sense for you to work on your chapters as separate documents. Before you submit the finished dissertation, you will combine all of the files into one large document (see steps below), and then use information in other parts of this Guide to generate your table of contents, lists of figures, tables and equations, and fix any problems with your page numbers. If this is the way you go, please be sure to do it well before your deadline, so you have time to make sure everything is correct throughout the document.

Once again, we encourage you to use our dissertation template (available on this page), whatever option you choose. It already has a few placeholder chapters you can paste your content into, as well as instructions for how to create additional chapter placeholders. In the template, it's just a matter of copying your content and pasting it in place of our placeholder content.

But if you're not using the template:

  1. Open the file that will begin your long document (e.g. “Chapter 1” or your front matter).
  2. Scroll to the point where you want to insert your next file, and place your cursor.
  3. Insert your file:
    • Windows: On the Insert Ribbon, in the Text Group, click on the arrow next to the Object icon and select Text from File….
    • Mac: Go to the Insert menu, and select File...
  4. Navigate to the document you wish to insert and click Insert.
  5. Insert a "Section Break (Next Page)" (found in the Layout tab, in the Breaks tool) at the end of that inserted text.
  6. Repeat steps 2 through 6 for the remaining documents.

In very rare cases, you may want to leave individual chapters as separate files (without ever combining them into one Word document), perhaps because combining your chapter files produces a file so massive that opening, editing, and saving it proves to be prohibitively slow. This can happen if your computer is older or slow and your chapters are filled with many high-resolution images/equations/figures. If this is the case, you will need to manually create the table of contents, list of figures, and so on, and will need to set the pagination for each document. Then you will save each document as a PDF and combine them all into one document with Adobe Acrobat. Contact ScholarSpace if you would like further direction or help with this.

Obviously, this last case has the potential to be a complicated, time-consuming, and frustrating process, so it's to be avoided unless you really absolutely need to do it.