Thesis Formatting


If you write a Ph.D. thesis, you have to follow the specifications of the graduate school.

Additional information and answers to frequently asked questions can be found the graduate school’s Doctoral Degree Programs page.

A thesis in mathematics is invariably written in some form of LaTeX. It is usually quite a large LaTeX project, so it should not be your first attempt at typesetting. This implies that you should have typed a couple articles, quizzes, homeworks or exams in LaTeX before embarking on this. Below, two options have been created that conform to the guidelines set forth by the graduate school. The first is a minimal option that builds on the familiar book class that comes standard with any LaTeX distribution, while the second is a class file to be used in place of the book class, but contains extra content not suitable for all users. You may choose the option that works best in your case.

Below are a few of the well-done thesis variants from our department.

After unzipping put files into one directory. Some browsers (e.g. Safari on the Macs in the department) will put the files on your desktop. In this case create a new folder and put them all in there. In any case, make this move before you start compiling, because LaTeX generates a multitude of files when compiling and your desktop will turn into a (more?) disorderly mess.

Also make sure that the extensions are preserved. Some browsers have a tendency to slap on “.txt” at the end.

 Step 2

Open a text editor or a dedicated LaTeX editor,  such as TeXShop (installed on department Macs).  When you are typing LaTeX code, it is usually clearer to use a fixed width font so that you have a clear view of your indentations and matrices (should there be any). In TeXShop, a good choice is “Courier Bold 14pts”. This font also has different characters for “|” and lowercase L. This is particularly important if you are trying to typeset tables where both “|” and lowercase L are used in the declaration.

Step 3

You will now have to open some of the files that you downloaded and edit them. Here are descriptions of the set of files prepared by Ben Salisbury, listed (as best as possible) in order of priority.

  • macros.tex This file is the heart of your personalization. If you have been using LaTeX for your other manuscripts and have developed your own set of user-defined commands, then you should put them in this file. If you are importing text into one of the later files from an older LaTeX file with predefined commands, you will want your personal macros to be loaded already before fumbling with LaTeX error messages.
  • preamble.tex This file has both editable and non-editable sections. (They have been clearly noted in the file itself). If you use certain packages (i.e., TikZ, hyperref, xypic, graphicx, etc.), you will need to include them in this file. Additionally, the declarations of the proclaim environments (Theorem, Proposition, etc.) are defined here. Update their definition to match the convention you find most appropriate. For example, the default name for the “Example” environment is

    so those who prefer to use, say,


    should change the line \newtheorem{ex}[thm]{Example} to \newtheorem{example}[thm]{Example}. The other environments may be changed similarly. For more information, do a Google search on the term amsthm. **Caution: if you do not understand what something does in the editable section, then DO NOT change it. Only make adjustments to those commands for which you are familiar.**

  • thesis.tex Lines 8 through 17 of this file require the user to input their personal data; i.e., name, degrees, year of graduation, advisory committee, and title. Further down in the file, you’ll notice the command\input{ch1.tex}. This imports the text from ch1.tex to the current position in this file. By copying the command and changing ch1 to ch2 (and so on), you will be able to link all chapters of your work to this file. Essentially, this file is the glue that holds the whole project together. This is also the file on which the TeX engine is run to obtain the desired output.
  • abstract.texacknowledgments.tex, and ch1.tex should be self-explanatory. Of course, you should have more than one chapter to their thesis. The challenge of creating LaTeX files for the subsequent chapters is left to the user. Good luck!
  • thesis.bib This is a standard BibTeX file to be used as the source for your bibliography output. This may take some time to learn, so the file comes preloaded with a sample .bib file. Your best bet is find some literature on BibTeX to tackle this beast. Of course, one could simply replace the bibligraphy declarations in the thesis.tex with a manual bibliography, as Marc Corluy does in his setup below. To each his own.
  • frontmatter.tex Simply put: don’t touch it. If you need to make changes here, you should probably consider using Marc Corluy’s template (unless you are familiar enough to make the appropriate changes).

Here are comments on the files prepared by Marc Corluy.

  • bibliography.tex is not your first concern. The references that are listed in there are there to give you an idea about the exact format in which a book or article should be entered into this file.
  • chapter1.texchapter2.tex, and introchapter.tex are almost empty; they are merely there to show you how to use titles and sections.
  • The file definitions.tex you can completely ignore if you want to. It contains (re)definitions of some symbols and a fairly long list of basic mathematical symbols and functions. It can be handy to get a certain feel for how to use “def” in LaTeX and you can also add whatever you end up using often in your thesis.
  • Most of the static data (title of the thesis, your previous degrees, your advisors, acknowledgment etc.) are entered in front_matter.tex. The comments in this file will explain you what to put where.
  • If you want to explain some of the notation that you use in your thesis, you should do so innotationpage.tex. It is technically part of the front matter of the thesis, but it is a separate file because this is probably the only part of the front matter data that changes as the thesis evolves.
  • You will probably not change much to settings.tex. This file loads a lot of the extensions to LaTeX and defines the elements of the amsthm.sty package, as is explained in the comments in settings.tex.
  • As you can guess, thesis.tex is the file where it all comes together. The includeonly command will allow you to compile only parts of your thesis if you prefer to do so. Note that you should compile the thesis twice to make sure that all the labels are set correctly.
  • In principle, you should never change anything to uconnthesis.cls.

 Step 4

Write your thesis. Good Luck.