Monday, July 4, 2016

Things you need to know for writing a thesis or dissertation in Microsoft Word: Styles, Style breaks, Tables of Contents, and more!

In writing my dissertation, I've had to become more familiar with some of the more advanced features of Microsoft Word (I know, I know, I should be using LaTeX, but that's just not what people in my field use...). Here are a few of the most critical tricks I've learned. I hope this is helpful to other people as they write long documents like theses and dissertations. The screenshots here are from Word 2016, but all of these things are very similar on Word 2010 and 2013.

Show Formatting:
Images in this post make use of the "Show hidden formatting" mode in Word, which is a nice way to see what's going on with formatting in your document. To turn on show formatting mode: go to the "Home" menu, then press the paragraph symbol. Alternatively: alt, h, 8.

show formatting

Section Breaks, tracking page numbering differently for different sections of a document:
Section breaks are useful if you want to number your front matter differently from the body of the document. In my dissertation I use 2 section breaks. One separates the title page from the front matter (I don't want the title page included in any numbering). The other separates the front matter from the body of the document (which I want numbered independently). alt, p, b, n

Inserting page and section breaks

Page numbering:
Adding page numbering is pretty simple. If you have your document divided with section breaks, then page numbers will only apply to the current section.
alt, n, nu
Insert page number

Styles are really useful . Remember: Styles apply to paragraphs, not to individual words, characters or sentences. When you change a style, it will be applied to the whole paragraph that the currently selected characters are part of, not just to the selected characters. To apply styles to a smaller group of text, you need to use style breaks (see below). Styles are useful if you want consistent formatting among different parts of your document without having to remember all of the precise formatting decisions.
For example if you want all of your chapter headings to look the same. Do it manually once, save it, then apply it to any new chapter headings. Similarly for figure captions, etc.

There are some built-in styles which you can modify, or you can make your own styles. I found that making my own styles was more convenient than using the built-in styles, because I could name them however I wanted, and delete them if I didn't want them any more.

When making a style, pay special attention to the "outline level", and the "Style of following paragraph".
Choosing the right Outline level will make document navigation easier, and will also make it easier to set up the table of contents.
Choosing the right "Style of following paragraph" will save you from having to switch styles when you hit enter (for example between a section heading and the text of a section).

To create a new style. Format some text how you want it, then highlight
it and right-click, then click styles.
Right click on a style and click "Modify" to get more options for customizing the style

Important fields to pay attention to are "Style based on", "Style for following paragraph", and "Outline Level"  To get to the menu where you can change the level, Click Format, then Paragraph.

Outline level of Styles will affect the organization of the Navigation outline

Maintaining a table of contents:
If you've done a good job of defining and using outline levels in your styles, then making a table of contents can be done completely automatically. Go to the "References" tab, click "Table of Contents" and choose one of the automatic tables of contents. alt, s, t. If you haven't been keeping track of outline levels in your styles, all is not lost, you can make a Custom Table of Contents. This allows you to choose specifically which styles should go with which levels of the table of contents. In my case, I used this function to generate my List of Tables and List of Figures. My table and figure titles were tracked using specific titles, but I didn't want them showing up in the main table of contents, or the navigation outline, so I did not give those styles an "outline level".

Adding an automatic table of contents is easy if you've managed your styles right.

To choose which styles to use, click the "Options" button at the bottom of the Custom Table of Contents dialog.


Style Breaks:
Style breaks are useful if you want to have multiple styles in the same paragraph (that is: multiple styles in a single block not broken by a line break). I used style breaks extensively in figure captions to separate the figure name from the explanatory text. In my case my table of figures is autogenerated from anything with the "figure-caption" style


Arrow indicates the location of the style break. Notice that it doesn't show up in the formatting. Oddly, sometimes it is displayed as a paragraph break with a dotted line around it. I don't know why it displays sometimes and sometimes does not.

Formatting symbol for style break (center)

Keeping section headings on the same page as section text:
To be added. For now, have a look at this great explanation from someone else:

Remaining Frustrations:

Styles are local to a particular document. Copying text from one document to another does not necessarily preserve the styles, even if both documents use the same style names (indeed, even if both documents loaded their styles from the same source). This is particularly frustrating if you're writing different chapters in different documents to paste them together at the end (for example, so Zotero can track references separately for different chapters). Whenever you paste an individual chapter back into the master document, you have to go through and check that all the sections, titles, and captions have the correct formatting. I haven't figured out a way around this.

(TO ADD: section breaks, page numbering gaps)

style breaks

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