Looking for a roommate, a room, or someone to sublet? Then visit the Galois Group Housing Exchange List!

Writing Your Doctoral Thesis

Note: What appears below, with permission, is a slightly edited version of unofficial advice from MGSA, the UC Berkeley Mathematics Graduate Student Associate, with Berkeley specific information removed. Information specific to filing a doctoral thesis at UC Davis can be found via the Office of Graduate Studies Website.

LaTeX dissertation templates

Here are some dissertation templates following UC Davis formatting requirements. There are also several websites dedicated to Using LaTeX to Write a PhD Thesis.

Using the templates below (with the exception of the template by Tyrrell McAllister), you might find a problem with the page number (or lack thereof) on the first page of the biblography when using BibTeX. Grad Studies requires a page number in the upper right corner. To fix this:

  • Take the BBL file that comes from running BibTeX and manually paste this at the end of your LaTeX file and recompile. (Note that you have to undo the whole thing to recompile the biblography.)
  • Even better (just discovered by Tyler Skorczewski), use the \thispagestyle{fancy} and rhead{\thepage} commands on the biblography page.

thesis_template.tex This is a simple thesis template using the amsart class

This is a more sophisticated doctoral thesis template using the book class, with lorem_ipsum.tex included so that the page formatting can easily be seen when just compiling the template itself. To use this template, download both files into the same directory, and then edit the one called ucd_dissertation_template.tex.
Dissertation_Template.zip This is a very nice dissertation template put together by our very own Tyrrell McAllister.

Writing and Submitting a Master's or Ph.D. Thesis

(Thanks to Megumi Harada)

Steps to your goal:

  • Start early. Jot down notes when you talk to your advisor. Keep them somewhere that you'll be able to find them again. Often, you find that little notes you write can serve as a "seed" to start the writing process.

  • Write a little each day. Obvious, and yet few people follow this advice. Even just one hour a day, divided into four 15-minute sessions, goes a long way if you keep at it for a month.

  • Learn Latex early. Here are some basic references to get you started.
    • The Not-So-Short Introduction to Latex, by Tobias Oetiker, et al.
    • For diagrams, use xy-pic.


    • While you're working on a draft, use the "draft" option to avoid double-spacing (it'll save you printing time). Take it out at the end for your final draft.
    • To get the margins exactly right, you might have to tamper with the header settings.

  • Get your advisor to look at small parts of drafts and chapters early on.
  • Get Graduate Division's outline of formatting, pagination, thesis paper brand requirements, and other sundry annoyances.

  • What to do before you run over to the Grad Degrees office:
    • Re-read the Grad Degree Office's requirements handout.
    • Call the Office to double-check with them your records fit theirs. Your name has to match theirs (e.g. if you got married and changed your name), the exact degree you hold from your undergraduate institution has to match exactly what they have (e.g. is it a "B.Sc." or "A.B." or "B.A."?), and your dissertation committee, with a Chair specified, has to match their most recent records (if you switched advisors or changed your outside member, you should double check).

    • You have to fill out quite a few long forms that the Grad Deg Office before you hand in your thesis. To minimize your suffering in dealing with the utter chaos of the Grad Degrees Office close to filing deadlines, get these forms and fill them out well ahead of time.

    • Make 4-5 extra copies of your title page and abstract. Take these with you when you file.

    • Bring something into which to put your library-copy thesis plus the extra copy. The boxes that your expensive thesis paper come in will do -- bring two of them, one for each copy.

    • If you elect to add a copyright page, it should be the page immediately after the cover/title/signature page, and it should NOT have a page number. (In other words, the title page is page "i", and the page after the copyright page is page "ii".)