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Formatting Your Thesis The Right Way – Here’s how

Format without frustration! This is how you format your thesis with fun & finesse. In this tutorial you will discover the most important formatting rules at a glance. From font & font size to margins and cover page. In just 7 minutes. Watch it now for free!

Welcome to the tutorial “Format your thesis in 5 steps“. Writing a thesis is a big challenge in itself. But what can be even more frustrating and nerve-wracking is formatting. If you don't want to jeopardize a good grade on your thesis, you need to ensure correct and consistent formatting. We'll tell you how to do that in this video. In just a few minutes, you'll be familiar with the most common formatting rules and know which aspects of formatting are important.



Preparing formatting



Before we get started, here are some important tips you should take into account: Sometimes the university has special formatting requirements that differ from the standard. Therefore, you should find out which requirements apply before you start writing. Both guides to academic writing and your supervisor can serve as good sources for this purpose.


Once you know the formatting requirements of the university, it is advisable to make the most important formatting settings right at the beginning, rather than at the end. In this way, you can avoid unnecessary problems shortly before submission. For example, if you consistently use different fonts and font sizes or the wrong margins, you will end up finding that the scope of your thesis does not match the specifications. To avoid having to quickly shorten or add a few pages at the end in order to meet the required scope, you should use the correct settings right from the start.


In addition, it is a good idea to use a style sheet for your table of contents right from the start and not to type in the table of contents by hand at the end. The automatic creation of the table of contents makes it possible that all headings that you mark as such are automatically included in the table of contents. This not only saves time, but also prevents headings from slipping onto another page.


Formatting rules you need to know



Now let's move on to the individual formatting rules. There are a total of five aspects to consider when formatting a thesis: Font and font size, alignment, line spacing and margins, page numbering, and cover page.


Unless otherwise specified, you can choose the font for your thesis yourself. However, you should choose a font that is common in academic writing and is easy to read. This includes Times New Roman, Arial, Calibri or Helvetica. The difference between these fonts is that Times New Roman is a serif font, while the others are sans serif fonts. In a serif font, the characters are provided with so-called serifs. These are final extensions of the letter in the form of thin strokes or ticks. While serif fonts are easier to read on printed paper, sans serif fonts are easier to read on a computer screen. Under no circumstances should you use fancy fonts, comic fonts such as Comic Sans, or handwritten fonts. Playful fonts like these do not belong in any academic text, even if you are studying a creative subject.


When it comes to font size, one must differentiate between body text, footnotes, figure and table captions, and headings. While the line size 12pt is used by default in body text, the font size for footnotes and figure and table captions is smaller. Typically, 10pt is recommended. Block quotations can also be written in a 10pt font.


As for headings, the font size depends on the level, and each level must have at least two subheadings. The first level is constituted by main chapter headings, which should be formatted in a larger font. The guideline is 16pt. The other levels are the subchapter headings of levels 2 and 3, for which a font size of 14pt and 13pt, respectively, is usual. To ensure clarity, your outline should not exceed four levels. The font size of the fourth level is 12pt. Also, pay attention to this for your headings: Headings are always bold and not underlined. Also, make sure that headings are never placed at the end of a page. If this happens, you should move them to the next page. First-level headings always start on a new page.


While left-aligned justified typesetting is common for magazines, books, and websites, the alignment for academic theses is usually justified. This applies to both the body text and the footnote area. Justified text aligns the text so that the lines are visually the same width. This is achieved by widening the spaces between the words. Justification offers the advantage of making paragraphs easier for the reader to recognize. However, the following should be noted: If words are too long and have no more space at the end of the line, large gaps will appear between them. To ensure even spacing, you should use the manual hyphenation function. By the way, headings are not justified; they are left-aligned at the same height as the body text.


Line spacing in the body text of a thesis is 1.5 by default. Only footnotes, figure signatures, and block quotations are usually formatted with single line spacing.


Moreover, leave a 12pt space between a heading and the preceding text. After the heading you can leave a text paragraph spacing of 3 to 6pt.


As far as page margins are concerned, it is customary for dissertations to leave a margin of 2.5 centimeters at the top, bottom and left. Somewhat wider is the right margin, which serves as the margin for corrections. In order for the lecturer to have enough space for corrections and comments, you should specify a margin of 3 cm here.


The pages in a thesis are numbered consecutively. Since the cover page and table of contents do not receive any page numbers, the numbering usually starts from the introduction or the third page, respectively.

The placement of page numbers varies depending on the requirements. While some lecturers prefer to center or right-justify the pages in the footer, others require placement in the top right of the header. Therefore, find out in advance what type of placement is desired. Regardless of the placement, however, you should make sure that the font of the page numbers matches the font in the text. To edit page numbers, you first need to double-click on them.


The cover page is the first thing your examiner will see. To avoid a bad first impression, you should not make any mistakes here. The cover page should include all relevant key data about your thesis. At the very top of the page, enter the name of the university, the faculty, the course of study and the chair. In the middle you indicate the type of thesis as well as the title and, if applicable, the subtitle. At the bottom, enter your personal details. This includes your name, address and contact details. This is followed by your matriculation number, the semester, the date of submission and the name of your first and second supervisor including the title.

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