Thesis Preparation

Using LaTeX

IMPORTANT NOTE:  Rensselaer's Office of Graduate Education offers graduate students a preparation guide which provides guidelines for writing and submitting a thesis, project, or dissertation.  Please refer to this document for more complete thesis-related instructions.

An important notice to all LaTeX users

Rensselaer's current LaTeX thesis style sheets, templates, and macros were last updated for TeXLive 2007 and do not necessarily work for more recent versions of TeXLive. Regrettably, the person who developed, tested, and maintained these TeX templates has since retired.

Students may still download TexLive for free and use the software under the Linux, Windows, or Macintosh operating systems. However, there is no consulting support available for this application.

We regret any inconvenience this may cause.

1. Use the Approved LaTeX Thesis Class

The thesis document class is used to produce either a master's or a doctoral thesis that meets the formatting requirments of the Graduate School.

To use this class, first  save the file thesis.cls on your computer and either put it in the same directory with the other .tex files that make up your thesis, or put it in LaTeX's normal input path in a subfolder called "thesis". For example, if you have the TeXLive 2007 TeX/LaTeX distribution, you would put it in C:\texmf-local\tex\latex\thesis\. With another distribution, you could check to see where other .cls and .sty files are located.

If your thesis includes algorithms, you may be interested in the algorithm2e package, consisting of the two files algorithm2e.sty and algorithm2e.pdf (the manual). If not already on your system, you can download the files from the TeX archive website.

2. The Template Files Provide a Quick Start

A set of thesis template (or prototype) files is available, with each file containing the commands to produce a particular part of a thesis. If you wish, you may copy these files to your own computer and use them to get started on your thesis. The template files are:

For a short thesis (about 20-30 pages), assuming a masters thesis:

rpithes-short.tex (complete thesis)

For a longer thesis:

rpititle-mas.tex   or   rpititle-phd.tex

3. Read the Documentation

The ARC document Preparing a Thesis with LaTeX [PDF file, dated February 2008] provides instructions on how to use the RPI thesis document class and includes an example of using the templates. The documents rpithes-mas.pdf and rpithes-phd.pdf also provide examples of the recommended formatting for Master's and Doctoral theses, respectively.

Please note that when you submit your thesis electronically, you will be asked for files in PDF format. Conversion from LaTeX to PDF is free and straightforward; please read the instructions in Creating a PDF File from a LaTeX Thesis.

Also note that, although the RPI thesis class produces an acceptable format, you should be familiar with the regulations on thesis preparation prepared by the Office of Graduate Education.

If you are not familiar with LaTeX, the ARC introductory document, Text Formatting with LaTeX (dated April 2009), will get you started. You might also want to go through the on-line course materials.

Using Microsoft Word

Using the Rensselaer thesis template and "front pages" files

At Rensselaer, Academic and Research Computing provides Microsoft Word templates designed to produce either a master's or a doctoral thesis that meets the formatting requirements of the Graduate School. The names of these template files are RPIthesis.dotx for Microsoft Word 2010 and 2007, and for Microsoft Word 2003. These templates should be used in conjunction with the appropriate prototype "front pages" file for either a master's or doctoral thesis, which includes the boiler plate material for the title page as well as the table of contents, abstract, and so on.

In the instructions below, choose the files that correspond to your version of Microsoft Word.

To get started, first download the appropriate Microsoft Word Template file:

To do this, right-click on the appropriate link above, choose "Save Target As" or "Save Link As", and place it in the Microsoft Office Templates folder. This folder is usually located at:

  • Windows 7 -- C:\Users\your-userid\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Templates
  • Windows Vista -- C:\Users\your-userid\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Templates
  • Windows XP -- C:\Documents and Settings\your-userid\Application Data\Roaming\Microsoft\Templates

When downloading .docx or .dotx files, some browsers will use a .zip file extension. Be sure that the downloaded files have the correct .docx or .dotx file extension.

Next, download the appropriate Word prototype files. Please note that you will need two files: one that you will use for your complete thesis or dissertation, and the other for just the abstract title page and the abstract itself. Place the files in the folder you will use for writing your thesis, such as "My Documents\Thesis". The files you want to download are:

For a master's thesis

Microsoft Word 2010 and 2007

Microsoft Word 2003

For a doctoral thesis

Microsoft Word 2010 and 2007

Microsoft Word 2003

Reading the style instructions

Among other things, the Rensselaer MSWord thesis template provides a collection of styles, where a style is set of formatting instructions that can be applied to text. The template includes the styles you need to produce numbered headings and automatically create the table of contents and the tables of figures and tables. You must remember to use the styles and apply them consistently! The following documents provide instructions for using styles, inserting tables, figures, cross references and footnotes, and describes how to assemble the thesis from multiple chapter files and build the tables of contents.

When you submit your thesis/dissertation electronically, the system will prompt you to provide your files in PDF format.

Please also note that the department of Graduate Education has prepared specific guidelines for the formatting and layout of your thesis. Although the RPI MSWord template produces an acceptable format, you should be familiar with the regulations on thesis preparation.