Rackham Dissertation Templates

Last updated: May 30, 2017 - 4:29pm

Title Page

  • Paragraph centered on title page matches title page example
  • Names match names in Wolverine Access
  • No mention of “Program in” or “Department of” before program name
  • Year is the year degree is being conferred, not the year the dissertation was completed

Page Numbers

  • Front matter page numbers start with page ii
  • Front matter pages are all numbered with lower case Roman numerals (no page i)
  • No page numbers on Title Page, Frontispiece, or Copyright Page
  • Main body of dissertation starts on page 1

Table of Contents

  • Table of Contents is not listed in the Table of Contents
  • All front matter sections (excluding Title Page, Frontispiece, Copyright Page, and Table of Contents) are listed in Table of Contents as well as the page number on which section begins
  • Chapter numbers, Chapter titles, and page numbers (on which Chapters begin) are listed in Table of Contents

Tables, Figures, Et cetera

  • When more than one Table, Figure, Appendix, etc. exists, separate lists are in Front Matter
  • Tables and Figures in Appendices are included in List of Tables, List of Figures, etc.
  • Tables, Figures, Appendices, etc. are uniquely and sequentially numbered in the lists
  • Lists include (Table, Figure, Appendix, etc.) number, legend/description, and page number


  • There are no blank nor missing pages
  • Format should be consistent
  • Footnotes (if included) and Bibliography/References section(s) are in the format preferred by discipline


Formatting your Ph.D. dissertation can be a huge time sink as you're scrambling to finish. Furthermore, trying to satisfy all of the minute formatting details can be extremely difficult at a time where you're mentally exhausted and likely unable to catch even obvious formatting mistakes. And even if you think you've got everything set to go, the last thing you want is to show up at your post-defense meeting and need to reformat your dissertation. Fortunately, there is hope...LaTeX.

An explanation of the details of TeX and LaTeX is beyond the scope of this entry and there are numerous excellent online resources where you can learn the basics (e.g., here or here). Instead, this entry will focus on the unofficial LaTeX file package for formatting a Rackham Graduate School Ph.D. dissertation at the University of Michigan. These files have been compiled from the work of many doctoral students over the years and represent a functional and fairly straightforward solution to formatting your dissertation. I post this acknowledging the efforts of many before me and with the hope that this might save future students some grief.


Download: Rackham thesis LaTeX files

Package contents

The files in the package fall into six categories:

  1. LaTeX source files (): These are the files that contain document text and figure references
  2. BibTeX source files (): These are the files with article reference information
  3. LaTeX style files (): These are the files that do the typesetting and page layout
  4. BibTeX style files (, ): These are the files with formatting for citations/bibliographies.
  5. script files (, ): These scripts compile the LaTeX documents and clean up output files
  6. README: A condensed version of this document

For most people, you will only be concerned with modifying files in categories 1 and 2 (although I suggest at least having a look at all of the files in a text editor). Within category 1, there are three types of source files:

  • : The main document that contains the major dissertation information (title, dedication, acknowledgments, abstract, etc.), references to the individual chapter and figure documents, the BibTeX source files and some formatting information.
  • : The individual chapter document text.
  • : Chapter figure captions and references to figure files.
For category 2, there is only the BibTeX source file with the dissertation reference library information. You can create this file with all of your reference information and manage it by hand using a text editor (see provided example for format) or use a GUI application, such as Bibdesk for Mac OS X. I suggest the later.

Using this package

To use the LaTeX package above, you must start by inserting some text into one of the LaTeX source files (e.g., chap1.tex). Begin by opening that file in a text editor. You should see something like:

You can replace that text with your desired text, remembering that new paragraphs are indicated by two blank lines (2 carriage returns). Also note that new sections are indicated by using the command (subsections are , etc.) and typically include a section label for use with the hyperref package, which allows you to link text to sections of the document. In addition, you can reference documents in your BibTeX library using the and commmands (e.g., ). is a citation with the entirety of the citation in parentheses, whereas will list the citation inline with the text and place only the year in parentheses. You can have a look at and for an example of a complete chapter with references, multiple sections, tables, etc.

Once you've entered all of the desired text, you need to compile the LaTeX source into a PDF. This is done using the script with the following syntax:

where the is the total number of documents that contain document citations. For example, if you have 4 chapters with references, one appendix with references and reference a document in one figure caption, would be . Running the script will generate the dissertation PDF . As you'll notice, the script creates a lot of other files as well, and you can easily remove all files that can be regenerated using the script as shown below.


Alas, while the LaTeX dissertation document package is quite useful and should save you time formatting your dissertation, it isn't perfect. Below are a few limitations to the package.

  1. Unlike the example I provide, I was told by Rackham that the first sentence of each figure caption must be exactly the same as that listed in the table of contents. Thus, for the files, you should list the entire first sentence within the square brackets of each .
  2. This version of the Rackham-compliant LaTeX files allows the use of full-page figures or figures where the figure and caption cannot fit on one page. HOWEVER, you will need to manually fix two things:
    - The caption page MUST have a 1.5 inch border on the right, rather than left side of the page. Correspondingly, the border on the left should be 1 inch. This is easily fixed in Adobe Acrobat Professional using the Touchup Object Tool under Tools-->Advanced Editing.
    - The page number for the figure listed in the ToC will be that of the figure caption, rather than the figure (as is required). You should be able to fix this in Acrobat as well using the Touchup Text Tool under Tools-->Advanced Editing. Note, however, that you may be required to install the CMR fonts for use in Acrobat, which can be a bit painful. I found a site with a package of those fonts that could be installed on a Mac using FontBook.
  3. I currently have the package disabled. You can turn it back on in the file, if you want to play with that.
  4. I made a custom file for formatting references in the dissertation. I didn't like the default, so feel free to explore the options and see what you think. The file is specified in the file when the command is used. In addition, it is listed in each reference.
  5. The output PDF generated using the included scripts will have the dissertation abstract as the final 2 pages. These must be removed for Rackham to accept the PDF.
  6. Figure references have been commented out (with one %) because the figures are not included in this package
Anyway, that should do it. I hope you find this package accessible and useful and feel free to contact me with any issues.


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