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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.

Exporting to PDF

After spending so much time ensuring that the Word document is accessible, it is now time to export the Word document to PDF so that all the accessibility features are preserved. First we'll make sure that your fonts will be embedded in your document (especially important if you're using specialized or uncommon fonts). Then we'll save the file in the PDF/A format,

What is PDF/A?

PDF/A is a variation of the PDF format that ensures a document can be reproduced exactly the same way, regardless of what software -- including screenreaders -- is used. Basically, all of the information necessary for displaying the document and its elements in the same manner is embedded in the file—leaving your documents safe, accessible, and secure for the long term. 


First, set Microsoft Word to embed fonts in your PDF

1) Edit the Save settings for Microsoft Word:

  • On a Mac, open the Word menu and select Preferences
  • On a Windows computer, go to the File tab and open Options

2) Then, select the Save settings and make sure the two options to "Embed fonts in the file" and "Embed only the characters used..." are checked.

3) Click OK (Windows) or close the Save settings window (Mac)


Second, save the file as PDF/A

For most things we do in Word, there's not much difference between Mac and Windows. Unfortunately, there are some differences when it comes to this particular process, and even some differences depending on your own computer setup.



With your file open, go to the File tab. If you see "Save as Adobe PDF" as an option, then:

  1. Click Save as Adobe PDF
  2. In the window that appears, click Options
  3. Check the box for "Create PDF/A-1a:2005 compliant file"
  4. Ensure that the boxes for "Create Bookmarks" and "Convert Word Headings to Bookmarks" are checked.
  5. Click OK
  6. Select a location to save your file, and click Save
  7. You're done

If you do NOT see "Save as Adobe PDF" as an option in the File tab, then:

  1. Click Save As
  2. Where the file format says "Word Document", click to open the menu and instead choose "PDF *.pdf"
  3. Select More options, which is right under "PDF (*.pdf)"
  4. In the window that appears, make sure "Optimize for:" is set to Standard
  5. Click Options
  6. In the Options window, check the box for "PDF/A compliant"
  7. Check the box for "Create bookmarks using: Headings"
  8. Ensure that the boxes for "Create Bookmarks" and "Convert Word Headings to Bookmarks" are checked.
  9. Click OK to close the window
  10. Select the location to save your file, and click Save
  11. You're done



 — MAC —

Word on a Mac won't give you an option to save as PDF/A directly, so we'll first have to create a PDF and then use Adobe Acrobat to convert that file to PDF/A. This adds a few steps over what Windows users have to do, unfortunately.

  1. With your file open, go to the File menu and select Save As...
  2. From the File Format: pop-up menu, select "PDF"
  3. Select "Best for electronic distribution"
  4. Then click Export
    • If Word complains that your file is too big, then start again and this time instead of "Best for electronic distribution", choose "Best for Printing". This will happen if your file size is greater than about 40MB, and it just means that the Table of Contents and your various Lists won't be "clickable".  Rackham doesn't require that, and the document will still be accessible and in good shape when we're done.

Once your PDF is finished exporting, open it in Adobe Acrobat (not Acrobat Reader)

If you don't already have Adobe Acrobat on your computer, U-M students can download it for free from here. When you launch Acrobat, be sure to log in  with your umich credentials (more info available here).

  1. With your file open in Acrobat, open the File menu and select Save as Other
  2. Choose Archivable PDF (PDF/A)
  3. Select the location to save your file, and click Save
  4. You're done

Deposit Supplemental Materials with Deep Blue

When your dissertation file is complete, you will submit the final dissertation file to Rackham Graduate School (as described on Rackham’s Submitting the Dissertation page). Your dissertation will be preserved by the University of Michigan Library in our institutional repository, Deep Blue.

In addition to your final dissertation file, you may have additional, supplemental materials that the Library can preserve as part of your scholarship. This could include materials such as:

  • Research data (e.g. excel files, MatLab Files)
  • Original formats (e.g. dissertation file in LaTeX)
  • Digital objects (e.g. 3D models, audio or video media) 

Depositing such materials will ultimately make your scholarship more accessible and complete for those who wish to access it in the future. To consult with a librarian about additional materials you may wish to include, please contact You may contact us at any stage in your research or deposit process.