Book Review: Writing Your Dissertation With Microsoft Word

Just finishing skimming through Writing Your Dissertation with Microsoft Word. This handy little reference book covers several important topics. Each section includes screen shots and step by step what to click.

Chapter 1 covers how to set up a template for your chapters, front matter and back matter. The templates cover not only the margins and page numbers, but also the style of headers, fonts, indents, block quotations, footnotes, endnotes, and even fixes widows & orphans. Need that for sure! Kiernan highly recommends starting with the template your university provides, if they do. Here’s the AU Word template, although the caveat mentions that it doesn’t include the front matter required for dissertations.

Formatting Chapters
Chapter 2 covers formatting chapters. It includes how to bring in existing text and not lose important formatting, lists, block quotations, auto text and more. The gem from this chapter is creating cross-reference. I.e. if you plan to reference Table 1, it may not still be Table 1 when you’re done editing. So instead you cross-reference Table 1, and Word keeps track of the latest title. Cool!

Tables & Figures
Chapters three and four include important tips for creating tables and figures. Important tips are – plan your table before you start making it in Word. It’s a pain to add columns later! Word can deal with “column spanners” which are important for some types of statistical tables as I learned in the last class. How to deal with page breaks is another important section.

A critical tip from the equation chapter is for dealing with subscript and superscript. Most universities don’t want the smaller typeface due to it being unclear in microfilmed versions of the text. So, instead you use Raised Position or Lowered Position. Cool tip! Wouldn’t have found that on my own!

Back and front matter
Chapters six and seven deal with the beginning and ending pages. Setting the paragraph style for the bibliography is a key section in these pages. Getting Word to automatically create your table of contents and figure/table lists is another critical section. This requires following the instructions about headings and chapter titles in section one. Clearly it’s critical to start off on the right foot!

Final documents
Chapter seven suggests two options for putting it all together – merging into one file, or keeping a master document. Instructions for both methods are included. The author also highly recommends saving each chapter separately until the very end for backup and sharing reasons.

Finally, the book ends with tips to avoid a total loss: antivirus software, backups, multiple copies, etc. I’m sure I’ll be referencing this resource again in the future!

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