Preparing Your Thesis with LaTeX

This page provides instructions for how to prepare your thesis with LaTeX. It also provides a number of template files which can be used to produce a thesis with relative ease. The page was last updated on 24 September 2012. The template files were also last updated on that same day. The page remains a work in progress, and you use it at your own risk. Feedback is most welcome.


LaTeX is a document preparation and typesetting system. It produces documents that have high visual appeal, and that are easy to read (visually). It also allows for effortless and flexible cross-referencing, automatically produces the table of contents and bibliography, and has other functions of great value to preparing a long document, such as a thesis.

I produced my own PhD thesis using LaTeX, and was pleased with the result. The purpose of this page is to allow others to do the same, with greater ease.

Target Audience

If you use the method provided here, you will produce a thesis which, on 9 September 2012, conformed to the criteria for theses submitted to the Australian National University (ANU). This page is therefore most obviously useful for others who wish to submit a thesis to the ANU. However, I aim to make it reasonably easy to modify certain settings, so as to produce theses suitable for submission to other institutions, as well.

I provide a method for producing a thesis that is identical to my own, in relevant visual respects. In particular, if you follow the procedure outlined on this page, without amending the main file provided, you will produce a thesis:

  • which has one-and-a-half line spacing, rather than the horribly ugly double line spacing
  • which is ready to be printed on both sides of the page (double-sided printing)
  • which has an inner margin (towards the spine) of 4cm, and an outer margin of 3.5cm
  • whose front-matter contains a title page, a dedication, a statement of originality, acknowledgements, an abstract, and a table of contents (in that order)
  • which has a list of references at the end

Many institutions will accept one-and-a-half line spacing. The ANU does at the time of writing. The outer margin exceeds the ANU's requirements. However, as I use marginal notes, a wide outer margin is desirable. It also makes it easy for the reader to make notes.

Note that I assume that you have a functioning LaTeX system installed on your computer, and that you know how to use it. If you don't, you will need to look elsewhere to get started. There are numerous excellent get-started guides for LaTeX, and Google is your friend. (If on a PC, I recommend MiKTeX, WinEdt and JabRef, for whatever that's worth.)


I take no responsibility for your use of the information provided here. In particular, I do not purport to provide you with a way to produce a thesis that conforms to the submission requirements at the ANU, or at any other institution, on whichever date you read this text, or plan to submit. It is your responsibility to check that the thesis you produce meets all relevant requirements.

I also do not promise to provide you with any technical support. You may, if you wish, write to me with questions about this page, but be prepared to have your inquiry ignored.

Before You Start

Before you start, I strongly suggest you download my PhD thesis, which is available from You should, of course, read it from cover to cover, immediately. But aside from that, have a close look at its visual appearance. If you do not like it, using this page may be of limited use to you (although, as I said, I aim to make it fairly easy to make certain adjustments).

The thesis has a number of visual and presentational features which in my view make using LaTeX more than worth the effort. Some result from the system itself, and some from the specific code used. I assume that you are familiar with the former, but it may be worth highlighting some of the latter. In no particular order:

  • The running heads (text at the very top of each page) have been reformatted to look better and be more useful.
  • A centered asterisk provides a break greater than a new paragraph, but smaller than a new section. (The first of these occurs on page 2.)
  • There are marginal notes, used to mark important points. (The first of these occurs on page 7.)
  • Some chapters have specially formatted epigraphs. (The first occurs in Chapter One.)
  • Footnotes do not, as is common, have a horizontal line above them, except when one note runs over more than one page. Similarly, the numbers beginning footnotes themselves are in normal font, not superscripted.
  • Footnotes can have block quotes in them. (The first of these occurs in note 24, on pages 16 — 17.)
  • Block quotes in the main text have the citation aligned to the right, either on the same line as the last part of the text (as on page 18), or, if there is insufficient space for this to look nice, on the next line (as in the second instance on page 21).
  • There is a facility for text to refer back to its definition. For example, Equivalence is defined on page 40, and every subsequent (capitalised) occurrence of that word is a link to the definition.
  • Formal arguments are nicely formatted. They have names that function in the same way as the definitions just described, each line can be named as you chose (e.g., 'Premise 1'), and there is a horizontal line between premises and conclusion(s). (See e.g. page 45.)
  • Footnotes are continuously numbered, rather than starting again in each chapter. This allows for unique cross-reference to footnotes throughout the document.

What You Need to Do

To get started, do the following:
  1. Download either latex.rar or (it doesn't matter which, and you don't need both).
  2. Extract the file into an empty folder.
  3. Run PDFLaTeX on main.tex, twice.

This will give you a skeleton thesis. If it does not, something is wrong with your system. Trust me on this, I have checked and re-checked that the main file works, and that all the required files are included in the .rar and .zip files. Once you've got the skeleton thesis, you can do one of two things. If you do not wish to use any of the nifty presentational / typesetting features outlined above, then:

  1. Paste in your text in the relevant files: your text for chapter one in one.tex, your acknowledgements in acknowledgements.tex, etc.
  2. Edit main.tex, and place a % before any \include command you wish to deactivate. For example, if you have only five chapters, change "\include{six}" to "%\include{six}", if you do not have a dedication, change "\include{dedication}" to %\include{dedication}", etc.
  3. Add \include commands for any further chapters you wish to add, and create the corresponding .tex files (it may be easiest to just copy one the earlier files and rename it).
  4. Place your .bib file in the same folder as where you extracted the .rar or .zip, naming it yourbibfile.bib.
  5. Run PDFLaTeX, BiBTeX, and PDFLaTeX (at least) twice more.

That should do the trick.

However, if you do wish to use some of the nifty presentational / typesetting features, then before you replace my text with your own, take a look at the .pdf file you just produced (main.pdf). The nifty features are demonstrated here. To learn how to use them, simply look in the relevant source .tex file (either one.tex or two.tex).

In Chapter 1 you will see, in addition to a lot of nonsense text, the blockquote with the citation right-aligned, the centered asterisk, the definition (Equivalence on page 2), and a reference back to that definition (at the start of section 1.2). These should all be easy to understand, once you look at the source file (one.tex).

NB:You MUST have a blank line before aquote, or the text above it will take on single line spacing, rather than one-and-a-half line spacing. Note well the \label after \chapter, \section, \subsection, and \item (within description). Inserting such tags is important: it is what allows you to cross-reference later. Again, I'm assuming that you understand how this works. (If not, you should be able to pick it up using the example given.) Here I want to draw your attention to the fact that the labels are systematic. They all have this form: label{x_y:z}. Here x refers to the chapter in which the label occurs, y to the type of entity that is labeled (s for section, ss for subsection, descr for description, i.e., definition, etc). z is the particular label.

The details are not what matter. What matters is that you should devise a labeling system that makes sense to you. If you are using LaTeX to write a thesis, it is madness to overlook the possibilities for cross-referencing, that is one of the system's chief strengths. But a thesis is long, and cross-referencing will quickly become unwieldy without a system. So make one, or adopt the one used here. Chapter 2 demonstrates the epigraph (note the use of \citetalias, this couples with \defcitealias in main.tex), the list with single spacing within items, the marginal note, and the blockquote within footnotes. It also demonstrates the nicely formatted argument. Note again that each item has to be numbered manually. Also note well that the oleargument environment must occur within the description environment, and (just as oleitemize) it must have a blank line above it, to stop single-spacing spreading upward. As an added bonus, this chapter also demonstrates short commands for certain Greek letters, \ga for lowercase Greek alpha, for example, and the \xp{} environment.

Finer Points

To create a version of your thesis where the links are in colour, simply edit main.tex, replacing the '{1,1,1}' which now defines both of the custom colours 'cite' and 'link', with what occurs after the %.

You can use \longpg and \shortpg to lengthen or shorten individual pages. Sometimes doing so can dramatically improve the visual appearance of a page. I recommend, as the very last thing you do, to go through the entire thesis, page by page, making the required adjustments. In main.tex, you will find this line:

Remove the %, and replace 'intro' with the name of a file (without the .tex extension, so for example 'one') to make LaTeX compile only that file. Naturally, it will do so much quicker than if you compile the whole thesis. You will also retain page numbering, chapter and section numbering, and other relevant bits, and you won't get errors from references pointing to the parts of the thesis that you don't compile.

You can use \xp{someword} to make that word smallcaps, bold, and in small font. I used this to name experiences (hence the command), but you can use it for whatever you want.

Use \ga, \gA, \gb, \gB, \gf and \gF for their Greek counterparts.


The main file provided here draws very heavily on a file which Dr Toby Handfield at Monash University very kindly shared with me. He also provided abundant advice throughout the process of preparing the thesis. Many thanks to him.

Creative Commons Licence
Preparing your Thesis with LaTeX by Ole Koksvik is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License -- except that you don't have to give me credit (though of course that is always nice).


       Ole Koksvik | Department of Philosophy | University of Bergen | Pb 7805| 5020 Bergen, Norway | (+47) 5558 2581