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Dissertation Uom

I dedicate this article to all those people who will be writing their dissertation soon, especially those currently at the University of Mauritius. I know most of you folks of UoM will be using Microsoft Word, possibly Word 2007 to write your document, so I’m covering a set of tools which I made use myself while writing my own undergraduate dissertation. I’ve included a section for beginners too, in case you don’t have extensive knowledge of Microsoft Word.

Technically, I should recommend that you use Latex and Lyx to produce a professional-grade publication, but I know learning Latex and Lyx will take time and time is something you people won’t be having. So let’s just see what Word 2007 can do for you. I hope you find the points below useful in some way.

Note: This article may take time to load because I’ve included a video at the end to show you a live example of all the various points at work, so if you are not understanding something, just see the video at the end.

0. Check your Requirements (margins, etc) and Plan Your Work

Forget the word processor. Before you start writing, plan your work!

Research the requirements for your document – layouts, fonts allowed, heading styles, line spacing and margins. You can find those in your Department’s “Dissertation Guidelines” or Chapter 7 of the UoM regulations.

Next, decide how you want to proceed with the structure of the document. I believe there are 2 ways to go about it:

  • Break your dissertation in its individual chapters, with 1 word document per chapter, then collate everything at the end.
  • Write everything together in one big word document.

Personally, I’d go with the first one. Why? Because it’s easier to manage:

  • Navigation is easier – better having to scroll through tens of pages rather than hundreds!
  • You can send one section for correction while working on another, and knowing you’re not accidentally modifying an already-corrected section.
  • Group work is easier
  • Less risk of Word crashing on you due to the large size of the document + figures + tables etc.

So decide what you want to do, and stick to it.

1. Devise your Templates

You need to establish some templates. Not only for documents, but for folder structure too. You’ll need to keep track of references, images, charts, reports and various other documents while working on your dissertation and having a correct folder structure helps a lot with that.

I created the following folder structure while working on my own dissertation:

Dissertation...... Templates...... Images...... References...... Backups...... Archive... (My chapters were in the folder Dissertation itself)

After you have created the folders, it’s time to create the document template based on your font, paragraph, line-spacing and margin settings. You can use Word’s template function, but I found it tough to use.

Instead I did those steps:

  • Open a blank document
  • Configure all your settings for margins, fonts, line spacing etc in it
  • Save it as “Template.docx” in the Templates folder
  • When you need to write a new chapter:
    • Open “Template.docx”
    • Do Save As your new chapter name e.g. “Introduction.docx” in the Dissertation folder.
    • Close “Template.docx”
    • Open your new “Introduction.docx” and work on that, while leaving “Template.docx” untouched.

This may seem like a lot, but remember, you’ll only do that once for every new chapter, so it’s not that annoying.

2. Styles

Use styles! They make management of formatting in a document much easier!

Styles allow you define groups of formatting: you can set text to be “Paragraph” style and another set to be “List”. Say you now want all your lists to be Bold – instead of going to each list and changing manually, you just change the “List” style and whatever text has that style applied to it, will get changed to bold.

You can set various parameters, such as numbering, bold/italic/underline styles and borders for example as a style and apply that wherever you want.

If you use styles, you can also have Word auto-generate your Table of Contents for you. We’ll see how to do that in the next point. Conclusion? USE STYLES!

3. Global replace a formatting style with another

What if you have a paragraph full of bold-ed words, and you suddenly want all those bold words to be changed to underlined instead. You have to go to each word manually and change it? Nah! You use format-replacement!

Just like you can search-and-replace text, you can search-and-replace formatting too! Best of all, you’ll be using the Search-and-Replace box for that task.

See that “More>>” button (actually, it’s Less<< in the screenshot, since I’ve expanded it)? Inside that, you’ll find Font and other formatting which you can replace. See the video at the end of the article for the complete steps since it’s quite difficult to explain in text.

4. Generate Table of Contents

No, you don’t have to write your Table of Contents manually! It’s extremely annoying to do that by hand, and if ever you add stuff and some heading jumps to another page, you’re screwed. You have to go edit everything manually to adjust for the new page numbers. You don’t want that, so let Word handle that for you.

How? First, you have to make use of Styles.

Next, you have to set your Headings as either “Heading 1”, “Heading 2” etc… styles, depending if it’s a heading, sub-heading, sub-sub-heading, sub-sub-sub-heading etc…

After that:

  • Go to “References” tab
  • Select “Table of Contents”
  • If you like the pre-defined style, just click on it:
  • Otherwise, you can select “Insert Table of Contents…” and customize various settings

Easy huh? Best thing is that if ever page numbers change, you just need to hover on the Table of Contents and select “Update Table” then either update the full table – if you modified text or update page numbers – if you only displaced a few things across pages, but modified nothing else.

5. Manage Bibliography / Citations automatically!

You probably know that you have to stick to a specific “referencing style” which varies as per Universities right? For UoM, the “Harvard referencing style” is recommended.

Yes, it’s annoying to write those by hand. Very annoying. Let Word do it for you!

You only need to write a few details about the various documents, such as the author, date of publication, etc… and then you can instruct Word to insert your Bibliography wherever your cursor is at a click.

If you need alternate reference styles, such as the “Harvard Reference Style”, check BibWord for a zip-archive of various styles and instructions on how to install them – just extracting the styles to a folder.

6. Save, Save! Sync, Sync!

You absolutely do not want your document to be lost due to a power cut or something! So configure Auto-Save! It’s actually called “Auto-Recover” in Word 2007, and it’s found there:

  • Click the Office Orb icon at the top-left corner
  • Click the “Word Options” button
  • Go to Save section
  • Make sure the “Save auto-recovery information every X minutes” box is checked
  • I’d say, set the minutes to 2 – 5 mins at most
  • Click Ok and be done with it

Now, you’re safe… NOT!

What if your hard-disk crashes? Not safe at all. There are a couple of things you can do:

  • Save your documents on an external disk or Pen-drive and store that somewhere safely.
    • You need to make sure your external drive has the updated copies.
      • You can use a software such as SyncBack or Allway Sync to make sure your files are always updated on your external drive.
      • (I’ll probably have a tutorial on syncing using Allway Sync soon. Allway Sync is quite easy to use anyway.)
    • If you’re using that method, make sure you have an offsite backup too, such as a copy of your dissertation on your University-allocated computer (if you have one).
  • Store your files online using a service like Dropbox or Mozy
    • It automatically updates your “online-store” as you modify files since it “watches” a folder you define for changes.
    • You can access your files anywhere, say at University without having to carry pendrives etc.
    • It’s very easy to use and you get 2GB storage for free!
    • Cons: You need to upload files to Internet, so your connection should be fast enough.

It’s critical that you ensure you have backup copies of your “Dissertation” folder. “Sir, my computer crashed” is a poor excuse for not submitting your dissertation on time

7. Split View

Has it ever happened that you need to refer to two parts of the same document at the same time? Like referring to a set of points on page 3 while writing a paragraph on page 5?

If yes, use the Split View feature of Microsoft Word. The feature is quite well hidden and there are two ways to use it.

You can access the “Split” button on the “View” tab, or you can use that small black bar you see above the scroll bar. Both will allow you to split your window in 2.

8. Equations

If you’re writing a scientific or engineering dissertation, you’ll probably need to enter quite a few equations.

Don’t try to type them normally! Due to formatting, they will usually break and cause a mess in your document. Absolutely not recommended!

You can write the equations and save it as an image, then insert them into your document. It becomes annoying when you have to modify those equations, so you have to edit them, save image, replace image in document etc… for each equation. Uhh, no thanks.

Use Microsoft Word’s “Equation” functions. See the video for how you can insert an equation with brackets, indices and fractions into Word 2007.

Basically, you just go to the Insert tab, then select the Equation function and start typing.

9. Sections and Merging

If you’ve used the “split chapters as separate documents” way of writing, you’ll eventually have to collate your different chapters together.

To append a document to another:

  • Go to the Insert tab
  • Select the “Insert Object” button
  • Select “Text from File” and browse your file
  • The text from your file should be appended.

I’d advise you to create new sections before doing the steps above:

  • Go to the Page Layout tab
  • Select the “Breaks” button
  • Select Section Breaks – Next Page or Continuous
    • Depending on how you like changing chapters: Next Page starts on a fresh page, Continuous starts on the current page if there is space
    • Prefer to start on Next Page. It is easier to know when a chapter ends when the new one starts on a fresh page!

Ensure your heading numbers etc are in order. I actually numbered my chapter filenames with chapter numbers and in each chapter, I started the heading number with the appropriate chapter number. Yes, it’s like cheating, but it simplifies life greatly!

To properly create multi-level headings, see the animation. Note, you have to select a List Style associated with “Headings”. You’ll see the heading styles change.

As you change chapters, just right-click the heading number and select “Set Numbering Value”. Again, this is cheating the system, but hey, it works fine!

10. Comments and Collaboration

If you’re working with a partner on the dissertation, you’ll probably be exchanging various sections with each other for review and comments.

If that’s the case, you may want to use the Track Changes and the other Reviewing tools of Word.

Say you need to send your “Introduction” to Alice for review. Alice can turn the “Track Changes” functionality on. Word will now monitor changes Alice makes to the document. When Alice returns the document to you, you can see what she modified by viewing the “Final Markup”. You can then either accept or reject her changes one by one, or accept/reject all of them.

Another way out of this scenario would be that Alice doesn’t modify anything, but uses the “Comments” functionality to write down her ideas and annotate the document. Then you can go through the document and make amends where needed.

The choice of the tool is yours to make.

A. Appendix – How to do various common tasks in Word 2007

Set Margins

Margin specifications will be  defined in your “Dissertation Guidelines” or whatever it’s called in your Department. See that, and you can then set your margins according to the requirements you need.


If ever you have to write a line such as “Please see page X for details” and X is a number, don’t do it by hand. You’ll have to constantly update that line as your referred page moves.

Instead, use the Cross-reference feature. Then at the end, just select everything with CTRL+A and do “Update Field” then “Page Numbers”. All your cross-references will be automatically updated.

You can cross-ref various things, such as paragraphs, headings, figures among other things.

Table of Figures, List of Tables etc…

If you’re using

  • Image Captions (right-click the image and select Insert Caption) and
  • Table Captions (hover over the table and click the 4-arrows icon. That will select the whole table. Then right-click the table and select Insert Caption)

you can have Word auto-insert your Table of Figures and List of Tables for you, just like it can insert your Table of Contents.

The advantages and the process are the same, except that you’ll be using the “Insert Table of Figures” feature instead. Oh, and you will also use that same “Insert Table of Figures” to insert your “List of Tables”. You only need to change “Caption Label” from “Figure” to “Table” in the “Insert Table of Figures” window and you’re set.


Well, you use that feature to insert various symbols in your document.

Switching Orientations (Portrait – Landscape – Portrait)

If you want to include a Landscape page among portrait pages or the reverse, you will have to make use of sections.

You have to insert a section and set the orientation = portrait, set another section and orientation = landscape and finally set another section and set orientation = portrait again.

Use the “Sections” part above for guidelines, or the video for further instructions.


Footnotes… Not much to say. You just click a button, then type. Not much here.

Word Count Issues when using Styles (Headings)

There is a small quirk with the in-built Word Count feature of Microsoft Word: apparently, it includes spaces as words. So if you see the picture below, there are only 2 words, but Word Count says there are 3. If you remove the space, it correctly reports there are 2 words.

Just keep that in mind when you do a word count at the end of your dissertation: this behavior is not what you might really expect.

The other way round is tedious: select each paragraph or blocks of paragraphs together, do a word count, add the headings manually etc…

Export PDF

The requirement for your dissertation is that you have to submit a PDF soft-copy along with your hard-copies. So how do you save a Word document as PDF?

You install a “PDF Printer” such as CutePDF Writer or PrimoPDF, both of which are free.

After that, you will get a new “Printer” when you try to print your document. Yes, strange I know, but that’s how it works.

You just select that “PDF Printer” and after some time, it’ll ask you to save your newly created PDF file.

Always check the PDF file created thoroughly. You never know, there may be some things incorrectly printed.

And finally, the Video!

Well, that’s it for this tutorial. I hope you find something in it that will help you write your dissertation more easily, when you’re using Word 2007. As usual, if you got questions, use the Comments section below.

Note to students registered for dissertation for this semester (Semester 1 of 2009-2010 – Aug-Dec 2009)
Deadline for submission is: 30th November 2009
All students should submit 3 copies (two spiral-bound copies and one copy on disk) to the Registry with the declaration form, dissertation submission form and project progress log.
You are strongly advised to read carefully and adhere to the regulations which are on the UOM website. You should pay particular attention to the following:
– Referencing & Plagiarism
– Word limit (8,000-12,000)
– Presentation and layout
– Penalties for not respecting word limit and late submissions



The UoM Guide to the Harvard System of Referencing

Important Update (16th March 2009)
The final deadline for submission is 31st March 2009. All students should submit 3 copies (two spiral-bound copies and one copy on disk) to the Registry with the declaration form and dissertation submission form.

You are strongly advised to read carefully and adhere to the regulations which are on the UOM website. You should pay particular attention to the following:
– Referencing & Plagiarism
– Word limit (8,000-12,000)
– Presentation and layout
– Penalties for not respecting word limit and late submissions

Please note there will be oral presentations (viva) in the presence of the external examiner.

Online documents to be read at:



The UoM Guide to the Harvard System of Referencing

Important Update (16th Jan 2009):
Deadline for dissertation is the last working day of March according to the online Regulations page on the UOM website.

This page contains information about dissertation, especially for Year 4 students who normally need to complete their dissertation in the second semester by the month of March in 2009.

Here’s the dissertation proposal form for 2008/09 that you will have to fill in the preliminary stage.

The deadline for submission of proposals is Friday 19th September. I will give some explanations tomorrow Wednesday 10th September in class. Also, hopefully, my two other colleagues, Ms Paroomal and Dr Kasenally will come for a short meeting next Wednesday (17th Sep). In the meantime, you are encouraged to discuss your potential theme/topic with any of us before finalising your topic.

Important Update (19th September)
The deadline has been extended to Friday 26th September. The meeting will be held most probably on Wednesday 24th if my other colleagues are available. Otherwise, you can still contact any of us by e-mail.

Below is the list of students per supervisor. Kindly note that Mr A. Chenganna will act as co-supervisor or adviser in some cases. You will be informed by your respective supervisor.
Please also note that you will be given a progress log by your supervisor who will keep a duplicate. This log has to be carried with you for all appointments and has to be filled in and signed by both the supervisor and yourself.

Dr R. Kasenally
M. Anthony
C. Arokeum
R. Boyjoonauth
T. Joomun
M. Nowbuth
G. Nicole

Ms M. Paroomal
W. Goonoo
V. Gunesie
N. Hector
V. Lamarre
S. Mahamodally
J. Racoude
S. Ramsamy

Mrs C. Chan-Meetoo
R. Bahadoor
P. Bholah
A. Bucktowarsing
R. Byraub
A. Dussaye
B. Gobin
K. Narayen

You may have a look at the following online resource which gives some good advice about how to proceed. The resource is meant for Geography students but 80% of the advice given is also applicable to you.

I would also strongly advise consulting the Regulations section of the UOM website, especially the page devoted to dissertations.

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