As anyone who has written a thesis will tell you: Like it or not, at some point in the writing process, you will spend far too much time tweaking a minor formatting issue. Thankfully, typesetting tools like LaTeX can minimize this headache by providing consistent, structured formatting.
LaTeX and similar tools follow a “what you see is what you mean” model, unlike Microsoft Word, which is “what you see is what you get”. When you’re starting a new section in a LaTeX document, you don’t click bold and increase the font size. Instead, you type , and the engine automatically assigns a section number and format, updates the table of contents, and even adds within-document links. This all sounds complicated, but if you’ve written HTML, you know the idea. (Word power-users will reply that Word has similar tricks up its sleeve. This is true, but LaTeX explicitly separates text from layout, preventing a lot of the “gremlins” that creep into Word documents.)
Of course, this paradigm creates a significant disconnect between the text you type and the beautiful PDF document that results. This is where a good template comes in. It defines everything from how the title page is laid out to what the page header looks like in the bibliography. For a LaTeX user (and anyone writing a document as long as a thesis should be), a good template is everything. I was lucky enough to find a template that Sam Evans adapted for social sciences use based on the original maths template by Keith Gillow. I wound up making my own modifications, and re-packaged the template for posterity.
Download the Oxford thesis template here.
If you prefer, you can also view on GitHub.
Some of the features of this template are:
Fantastic chapter pages. The template retains Sam Evans’s use of the quotchap and minitoc packages to (optionally) include an epigraph and brief table of contents at the beginning of each chapter. I found this a great way to inject a bit of personality into the thesis (via the epigraph) and ensure that my reader wasn’t getting lost (table of contents). My modifications cleaned up some of the spacing, ensuring single-spaced tables and slightly more compact chapter headings.
Table of Contents refinements. Careful attention was paid to spacing and page headings in the table of contents as well as other heading sections. This can get tricky in documents using lots of packages. This template also inserts an “Appendices” page (and ToC entry) between chapters and appendices.
Table of abbreviations. Many science and engineering theses use lots of abbreviations. Humanities and social sciences theses often need glossaries. While there are some dedicated LaTeX classes that meet these needs in complex cases, I decided to create a simple list environment to handle the routine cases.
Highlighted corrections. Most Oxford theses go through a round of corrections, as time-honored a tradition as the viva itself. Minor corrections generally just involve sending a PDF of your revised thesis to your internal examiner. (Major corrections often require a more exacting process.) This class allows you to designate text (or figures, etc) as a correction. You can then toggle between generating a document in which these corrections are highlighted in blue (ideal for sending to your examiner for a quick read-through) and just printing them without any adornment (for generating your final copy).
Page layout, draft, and spacing options. In a few keystrokes, you can switch between a double-spaced, single-sided, binding-margin document (ideal for submission), a 1.5-spaced, double-sided document (for your parents’ copy), or a version with equal left and right margins (for submitting as a PDF). An optional draft notice (with date) can be included in the footer — just remember to turn it off before submitting!
Master’s thesis title page. Some masters’ degrees require title pages with a candidate number and word count rather than a name and college, to ensure anonymity for the examinees. They also require a statement of authenticity / originality on the title page. This template has a quick option to switch to this master’s submission format. And, just as importantly, it can be turned off when you want to print a version for yourself.
When it comes to quotations and quotation marks each language has its own symbols and rules. For this reason several LaTeX packages have been created to assist in typesetting quotations either in-line, in display mode or at the beginning of each chapter. It's important to remark that even if you are typing quotes on English there are different quotation marks used in English (UK) and English (US). There are plenty of quotation marks and almost each language has own features with them (see the reference guide).
dirtytalk is a very small LaTeX package with only one available command: , shown in the next example:
The package is loaded by putting in the preamble:
Supports one nested quotation and have options to redefine the quotes glyphs. For instance, in a document in French the next code should work
The first two commands define the primary left and right quotation marks, the second pair of commands define the secondary set of quotation marks.
This package is suitable for most of the situations. Very simple since only one command is needed and supports one nested quotations.
If a more complex quotation mark structure is required, the options listed in the next sections may be more effective.
Open an example of the dirtytalk package in ShareLaTeX
The csquotes package provides advanced facilities for in-line and display quotations. Supports a wide-range of commands, environments and user-definable quotes. Quotes can be automatically adjusted to the current language by means of the babel or polyglossia packages. This package is suitable for documents with complex quotation requirements, therefore it has a vast variety of commands to insert in-line quotes, quotes with sources, block-quotes with the support of changing language.
Below is an example of the csquotes package working with babel in a document in Spanish to automatically load the proper quotation glyphs (gillemets) in this language.
The package is imported by
right after importing babel. In the example the environment prints a display quotation and the command an in-line quotation.
This package may be a bit overwhelming because of the large number of available commands and environments, but for most of the cases the two commands shown above might suffice.
Open an example of the csquotes package in ShareLaTeX
Some authors like to write quotations at the beginning of a chapter, these quotations are known as epigraphs. The epigraph package provides a vast set of options to typeset the epigraphs and epigraphs lists.
The package is imported by
Then the quotation is typed with the command whose first parameter is the quotation itself and the second parameter is the quotations source (author, book, etc.)
This package can handle several quotations by means of a special environment and also has many customization options.
Open an example of the epigraph package in ShareLaTeX
There's another package to typeset epigraphs or quotations at the beginning of each chapter, fancychapters. This package provides a new command to define chapter titles:
For this package to work, the first line in the document must be
The type can also be set instead of .
The command takes two parameters inside braces. The first one is the quote to by printed on top of the title, the second one is the chapter title. There's and additional optional parameter inside brackets that corresponds to the optional parameter of the regular command.
This package only works on books and reports. Even though the package works fine and automatically computes the width and height of the quotation and the chapter title, it seems that it's not longer maintained.
Open an example of the fancychapters package in ShareLaTeX
The package quotechap is somehow similar to fancychapters but more complex. It redefines the commands and its starred version to reformat them, you can even change the colour of the chapter number with this package. Also, provides a special environment to typeset quotations and the corresponding authors.
The package is imported by the command
then, inside the environment the quotes are typed. The parameter inside brackets, , sets the width of the quotation area. After each quote the command is used to typeset and format the author's name.
Open an example of the quotechap package in ShareLaTeX
A small table of quotation marks in several languages:
|Polish||„…”||‚…’ or «…»|
For more information see