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 may be 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:
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.