Formatting: An unexpected challenge of thesis-writing!

Photo credit Help Desk,

As spring approaches, so do some important deadlines for graduate students. For many of us, we’ll be submitting an initial draft of our thesis in April, which is (eep) less than a month away!

As I putter on, editing my manuscripts, polishing my introduction and conclusion, I can’t help but notice something I truly didn’t expect. Who would have thought formatting could take up so much time?

Maybe you Word-savvy readers would scoff at the reality I’m facing. What’s odd is that I always found myself to be pretty competent at copy editing and formatting. Maybe it’s the size of the thesis that is making things a little complicated. For one, my citation management software, EndNote, is acting a little funny; like it’s tuckered out and can’t handle more than 70 citations at once. Or, maybe it’s that my table of contents is three pages long and his having a little meltie.

My table of contents just can’t handle it right now
Photo credit: Nancy K. Sullivan

All I know is this should be a cautionary tale for those of us thesis-writers who wait to the last minute to submit and forget to budget time for unexpected challenges such as formatting issues.

Luckily, McGill students do not have to use form-like style sheets anymore for the electronic submission of our theses. This should make our lives easier. I tried using a style sheet for a little while a few weeks ago and gave up when a figure suddenly showed up in my table of contents.



After several Youtube views and forum searches, here are my top three tips for formatting issues I ran into.

The table of contents

Have something showing up in your table of contents that doesn’t belong there?

  1. Select the section in the text that is showing up in your table of contents
  2. References > (left hand side) Add text > “do not show in table of contents” (thank you, captain obvious)

The bibliography

Your EndNote bibliography is centered and you can’t figure out why?

  1. Select your bibliography
  2. Right click > Styles > Apply Styles > Endnote Bibilography > Modify
  3. Click “left” alignment > Apply > OK

Page orientation

Have some big tables that won’t all fit in a portrait-style page? Want to turn only certain pages into landscape orientation?

  1. Click your cursor where you want to insert text.
  2. Insert > Page Break
  3. Insert > (another) Page Break
  4. Click  your cursor after the first Page Break (sometimes it’s easiest to see where that is when you hit the “show/hide” button (Home > “¶”)
  5. Page Layout > Open Page Setup Window > click on “landscape” orientation” > Apply to “this section” > OK


Good luck to all of your writing your thesis right now. We’re all in this together!



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