Open-source thesis design?
June 27, 2012 10:40 AM   Subscribe

Where can I find dissertations with excellent design? I would like to directly copy someone's LaTeX formatting for a hard-science thesis.

I never got very much into LaTeX, but I imagine there are people who enjoy it and, more than simply posting the pdf online (common these days), would be proud of sharing their formatting with the world.

Do you know of an exquisitely designed thesis-book? Better yet, someone who posted the formatting code (class?) too?

Please assume that my University will accept whatever deviation I make from the provided template.
posted by tintexas to Writing & Language (9 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: When I was writing my undergrad thesis, I hacked this class until it more or less matched my undergrad uni's format.
posted by BostonEnginerd at 11:12 AM on June 27, 2012

Best answer: There are sometimes neat examples posted at The great thing about LaTeX is that you can get on with writing the content and only worry about formatting when it's finished.

Also, get it in writing that the uni will be okay with your style choices ... here sits someone who had to redesign and paste in their thesis title page on the morning of submission when the chief librarian rejected it for not exactly following guidelines.
posted by scruss at 11:14 AM on June 27, 2012

Best answer: The Memoir documentclass is nicely suited for book-length works, and unbelievably customizable, making it very easy to tinker and tweak the design until you have one you like. The manual is basically a small textbook on typography and page design, and it includes a lot of tips on how to make something attractive that still fits your university's guidelines (which I assume do exist, even though you don't want us tailoring our advice to specific assumptions about them).

Warning: If your advisor knew you were worrying about the format of your dissertation, rather than writing the damn thing, he would be very angry at us for egging you on.
posted by nebulawindphone at 11:28 AM on June 27, 2012 [4 favorites]

This is not exactly an answer to your question, but re: "Please assume that my University will accept whatever deviation I make from the provided template", I hope you aren't assuming this personally, or else that you have this assumption based on good authority. In my experience universities are extremely particular about the formatting of theses. So if the university says double-spaced 11-point Arial and you fail to use double-spaced 11-point Arial, they can actually reject your thesis, which would not only be an embarrassing nightmare (e.g., you might have to reschedule the defense at the last minute) but also potentially costly (e.g., costs of re-printing and re-binding). If you are not absolutely, 100% sure that this is acceptable, you may want to have a printed version that conforms exactly to the formatting requirements, which you submit to the library, and a .pdf version for your own site (or printed version for your own use) which is more expressive.
posted by en forme de poire at 12:41 PM on June 27, 2012

Have you verified that your university doesn't already have a class file that matches the university's guidelines? When I got my PhD there was a small army of folks whose job was to measure---with rulers---the margins, check the line spacing, etc. "Exquisite design" didn't enter into the discussion. Luckily, I had access to a LaTeX class file so all I had to do was compile, but some folks were really put through the wringer.
posted by leahwrenn at 12:56 PM on June 27, 2012

Response by poster: Hi, I like some of these suggestions but I may have to ask to have this deleted and just start over next week. Please assume that this formatting is for me only; I'm asking for examples of other people's theses online because I can't find many, and so that I won't waste my own time constructing one.

At this point, I'd take even just well-designed pdfs without source. Thanks!
posted by tintexas at 1:37 PM on June 27, 2012

I don't know if this helps but you can find a lot of freely available dissertations & theses here: Ohiolink ETD. If you click on the school's name you can choose which discipline you're interested in or you can search by topic.
posted by katieanne at 2:42 PM on June 27, 2012

Some people put their thesis up on the arXiv and you can get the tex/source. Searching for 'thesis' using Google gets plenty of results. (They look to be overwhelmingly actual theses, not papers that happen to contain the word 'thesis', though curse Church and Turing a bit.)

However, I'm not sure you'll find what you want. As far as I know, universities overwhelmingly specify what they want theses to look like. If you're lucky, they'll have made a document class for you. Otherwise, someone else will probably have done it at some point. Even if university requirements aren't relevant to you, they're surely going to limit how much beautiful design is out there.
posted by hoyland at 3:13 PM on June 27, 2012

I'm asking for examples of other people's theses online because I can't find many, and so that I won't waste my own time constructing one.

Make sure to cite them, since you'll be using their work.
posted by spunweb at 4:44 PM on June 27, 2012

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