I have a master's thesis in the humanities undergoing its final throes before readers' examinations. The university's formatting rules are, understandably, very strict and, unfortunately, demand a unique template. So I'm afraid the demands here aren't optional:

So then, do any of you know how to go about limiting a chronological run of lower-case roman numerals, which also must include a few intermittent blank pages, yet they are counted in the chronology? After the Front Matter, the numbering turns into arabic numerals until one gets to the Works Cited title page; then the instructions demand other sporadic blank numerals, and the appendix, too, has its quirks yet is counted.

  • 1
    Doesn't your university have a Word 2013 template? Every journal and conference has one. Check the website; ask the graduate school office.
    – dmm
    Dec 24, 2013 at 21:44
  • 2
    and people think TeX is hard.
    – hildred
    Dec 25, 2013 at 20:34
  • THANK YOU all again. I will advise which one of these actually works when I do it. It had better be very soon! Such Christmas gifts! Lauren has the best one because she addressed controlling the chronology. I've discovered under Insert a "hard" section break so it MAY be possible to make separate docs within the thesis itself. Word to the wise would -be paginator such as I, I do know not to use WORD's merge functions ; 'tis buggy. As for the template replies, thanks go to the template idea but once a thesis is published in ProQuest, it's locked in a pdf. document. No entrez! I will update this Jan 10, 2014 at 20:56

4 Answers 4


To my knowledge the answer to this is no. Unless you are using a stock format provided with Word out of the box there really isn't an easy way to set up a custom format. (The pre-built templates/styles are also apparently developed by grade school kids making holiday cards for their parents...cute but not useful in any sort of professional or educational setting).

All that said you CAN set up your own custom template...with patience. Note that rarely if ever does copying a full document into a template actually yield the results you will want.

The most important thing I can stress when creating a custom template is to make absolutely zero changes to the document prior to setting up your template...the remnants of anything you manipulate prior seem to never disappear.

In an effort not to get your hopes up...if they still were at this point...you will have to do some manual manipulation in the end, I recommend saving that until you are essentially done with the document since any editing/proofreading will make you have to repeat parts of your work.

So for an educational paper I would guess you have to change at the very least the following:

  • Font
  • Font Size
  • Spacing
  • Indent numbering and spacing
  • Page numbering
  • Table of contents
  • Works Cited/Bibliography
  • Margins

A few of these are pretty strait forward I go into font, font size, or page numbering (unless someone asks) but for the rest.

  1. Spacing: A quick rant...whoever changed the default spacing from what it used to be in word is in fact a demon in human form that is hoping to crush our spirits and reap our souls in the end. ANYWAYS...under the home tab go to the paragraph section and find the line and paragraph spacing button and select line spacing options. The third section (Spacing) is generally what I find myself needing to manipulate. Set the before and after options to 0 (unless your paper format calls for something else) and then line spacing to single or double (it defaults to multiple...I am rolling my eyes at MS) and then check the box for Dont add a space between paragraphs of the same style. Even if you do add lines it takes a single stroke of the enter key and you can be in control of the style.
  2. Indent numbering and spacing: This one is...challenging. Again under the Paragraph section of the Home tab select the Multilevel list button and click define new multilevel list. In the window that pops up you can manipulate the amount of indent for each level and the format of the numbering/lettering system. This will require some playing around to get familiar with. When executing this you will likely have breaks in your numbering due to images or well a whole host of things. If you start a new numbered section but want the numbering to continue, right click on the formatting numbering and select continue numbering (cant recall the exact wording...)
  3. That leaves the reference items, ToC and Works/Bib: IF you can get the formatting to fit your style MS actually included some pretty handy reference tools.
    • The ToC is pretty easy. Simply navigate to the References tab and find the Table of Contents section, click on the button and insert the table of contents. To use this functionality (you thought it was going to be easy) you have to utilize the styles that are found on the Home tab. By default I believe Heading 1 and 2 will appear on the ToC. Chances are unless this paper is for your mom and sports a reindeer with a very shiny nose, you will need to change the format of the Heading styles. Find them in the list and right click, it will allow you to edit the styles. Apply the styles to the headings you want to appear on the ToC and you are good to go...probably. I would do this just before your final formatting...
    • Endnotes and footnotes are pretty strait forward and tend to have much simpler styles and rarely require custom formatting.
    • Citations this one...well lets see. Under the References tab again find the Citations and Bibliography section. Several styles are build into word including APA, MLA and a few others. Hopefully one of them is yours. In which case this is actually pretty slick. At the point in your paper where you want the citation click on insert citation and add the reference content you need. Like the table of contents I would wait until the end to manipulate this, again, just before your final tweaks are done. I suggest highlighting text that will later need to be sourced...I use blue :)

In the end creating templates can save you time...the template can be reused...maybe as a graduation gift back to your school you can provide a template built to fit their required format. It would be a great holiday gift for future students ;) good luck.

  • A sad sort of joke just came to me...it was easier to format this post that it is to format documents in MS Word...
    – James
    Dec 30, 2013 at 16:37
  • have you ever even bothered looking at Styles in Word? All of your pecularities should be adjusted by styles in a template, and then that template can be shared and re-used.
    – DougM
    Jan 19, 2014 at 17:22
  • Did you bother to read my actual post? I specifically mentioned out of box setups...they just dont fit this users need nor any other academic or professional need for that matter.
    – James
    Jan 20, 2014 at 15:29
  • you suggest manually adapting the "space after paragraph" setting, instead of using a style. Your post was a bunch of suggestions that read like a list of all the problems styles were designed to solve. They aren't just for "out of the box" setups, and they're trivial to define and use.
    – DougM
    Jan 20, 2014 at 18:26
  • Well, I happen to disagree, but to each their own.
    – James
    Jan 20, 2014 at 19:12

I'm a big fan of cheating (and I hate Word). Make each section a separate document. Start page numbering at whatever number in whatever format you need.

If you need to create a TOC, use a working document to calculate it — figure out what your page numbers are by changing the numbering scheme of the entire document and printing out the result, then changing the numbering scheme for the next section as needed, and so on — and then create it manually in the real document.

Print each piece individually and bind them together.

(Alternatively, use something more powerful like InDesign, but I realize that might not be an option.)

  • Look into word's "Section" feature. Word 2013 is perfectly capable of providing variant page numbering and a sensible table of contents. (As were Word 2010 and 2007, fwiw.)
    – DougM
    Jan 19, 2014 at 17:26
  1. Divide your document into sections, with a section break where you want to change the number formatting.
  2. Switch off the 'link to previous' option for each section.
  3. Set up the page numbering for each section.

A blank page at the end of a section is counted by default.


Did anyone else write a thesis following these guidelines?

Find a former, already accepted thesis document by someone else, eviscerate it of all content leaving only stubs to retain formatting and fill it with your own content, using their styles, numerators, sections etc.

I don't think formatting of a document can be copyrighted, and if their thesis passed the scrutiny regarding formatting, yours should too.

  • This isn't a safe practice -- If you delete the wrong section break, you'll lose page numbering.
    – DougM
    Jan 19, 2014 at 17:24

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