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Study Skills

Wolfson College Academic Skills: Finishing a long document in Word

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Final touches to a Long Document

This page contains some generic guidance on getting your thesis or dissertation finished. It is in response to a number of questions we've received at the library around dissertation submission time. However, you should always follow the advice of your department before consulting this page.

If you have a question that isn't answered here, please get in touch

Before you create your table of contents or page numbers, you'll need everything in a single document. If you have been working in separate documents, use the following method to combine them in Word:

  • On the ribbon, open the Insert menu. Under the Text group, select Object - Text from File. Browse to the correct file you want to add to the master document. This inserts the formatted document, rather than you copying and pasting and risking missing something.

Inserting a Table of Contents

A table of contents (ToC) in Word is based on applying headings in your document. Either as you write or when you have finished, apply a hierarchy of headings e.g. a chapter may be Heading 1, a sub-heading would be Heading 2.

To do this, select the text in the document and chose the correct heading style from the home tab.


When you have applied to this to some or all of your document,  you can generate a ToC.

Select the References tab.  Put the cursor in the document where you want the ToC to appear. Click on Table of Contents and choose Automatic Table 1 or Automatic Table 2.


This should generate a ToC for you. If you make changes to your document that affect the table of contents, update the table of contents by right-clicking the ToC and choosing Update Field or update the whole table from the Table of Contents menu (see above).

Settings default to allowing you three levels of headings in your ToC. For most people this is enough (e.g. chapter, sub-heading, sub-sub, heading) but if you need more, you can edit the settings for your style.

Under the ToC menu on the References tab, select Custom Table of Contents. From here you can edit the settings for the number of headings that show. By clicking on Modify you can also change the size of font and other features of your ToC.


Inserting a Table of Figures

step by step instructions

If you would like a separate Table of Figures (ToF), you need to add a special label to each figure, rather than using the headings options, which are reserved for items that you want to appear in your ToC.

Highlight your picture or table. Select the References tab, then Insert Caption. Name it (checking or unchecking the box that inserts the word 'Figure'; at the start of the name) and choose whether the caption sits above or below the figure.

When you have labeled your pictures and tables, move the cursor to where you want the ToF to appear (usually on a separate page after the ToC). Select the References tab and then click on Insert Table of Figures.This menu lets you modify the appearance of the table before creating it.

Inserting Multiple Sets of Page Numbers

Here we show you how to insert a single set of numbers into a document as well as a second set, useful for pages at the start of the thesis (such as contents, acknowledgements etc.) or for an appendix.

To create a single run of number pages in a document, select the Insert tab and then Page number


This menu lets you alter the location of the number and the format in which it appears.

To insert a second set of numbers, you need to insert sections into your document (rather than just page breaks).

Choose where you want one set of numbers to appear and another to begin, for example, between the front matter and the Introduction. Insert the cursor into the document at this point. Select the Layout menu and click on Breaks. Click on Next Page or Continuous, depending on what fits your formatting.


If you want two running sets of numbers you'll need to specify which type of page number. For example, you may want Roman Numerals (i, ii, iii, ...) for the introductory pages. Change the format, as specified above. This will change the whole document. Then you need to specify where the Arabic Numerals (1,2,3,...) should begin.

Return to the Insert menu, insert your cursor into your document where you want to make the change. Select Page number and then Format page number.  Change the Number format to Arabic Numerals. Highlight the radio button next to Start at:  and change to 1.


Remember to update your Table of Contents if you have one.

Using Section Breaks to Insert Headers

Changing view in Word to help edit a long document

Text for the start of a doctoral thesis

The University provides separate guidance for students taking MPhils and those taking research degrees. Generally this includes a cover page with your name (as it appears on your passport), title, college, which degree the thesis is submitted for and date;  a statement of length (where appropriate) and a declaration that this is your own work. For all research degrees, there are additional requirements (such as copies of your abstract) and specific forms that need filling in too.

Sample text, forms and exact requirements for different types of degree are listed on the University's Submitting your dissertation page. However, always consult specific advice provided by your department.


Unless otherwise stated, this work is licenced under a CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0 licence by Wolfson College Cambridge.

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