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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 Template

There are several websites dedicated to Using LaTeX to Write a PhD Thesis. But since you're in the UC Davis math department, your best bet is to use a template that was specifically created for UC Davis math students. Here is a very nice template created by Tyrell McAllister, and updated in 2015 by Jeff Irion (with minor changes in order to conform to the format that the Office of Graduate Studies requires): Tyrell McAllister's UCD Math dissertation template

Once you pass your Qual, download the dissertation template! Fill in some basic info (name, major, committee members' names, etc.), and add to your dissertation while you work on your research. After all, it's easier to write and cite as you go than to do it months/years later when that stuff isn't fresh in your mind.

Another template that complies with UCD's requirements was created by Sean Whalen, and can be found on GitHub here.

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".)

How To Graduate: The Paperwork

This is an unofficial guide. Please see Preparing & Filing Your Thesis or Dissertation for the official set of instructions.

In order to graduate, you need to meet with the Student Affairs Officer in Graduate Studies for the Mathematics / Applied Mathematics Department (click on the "People" tab). Email this person several weeks in advance to make an appointment and get a list of what you need to take care of. See the filing dates calendar on the Preparing & Filing Your Thesis or Dissertation page to find out the date by which you need to meet with the Office of Graduate Studies (OGS).

You need to submit your dissertation electronically at least 2 business days before your meeting with OGS so that they can approve it. They're not going to read it, they're just going to make sure it conforms to the formatting specifications. See the Preparing & Filing Your Thesis or Dissertation page for more info on submitting your dissertation electronically. If some formatting changes are required, the Student Affairs Officer will email you and you'll resubmit it after making the necessary changes. Once your dissertation is approved, it can no longer be changed.

Things you'll need when you meet with OGS (see the Degree Candidates page for more details):

  • signed title page (physical copy)
  • proof of completed surveys (as of February 2016, you'll need to complete the Confidential Questionnaire for Exiting Doctoral Students and Survey of Earned Doctorate)
  • dissertation embargo agreement -- your adviser needs to sign it even if you aren't petitioning for an embargo on your dissertation (physical copy)
  • your specially formatted abstract (see the Preparing & Filing Your Thesis or Dissertation page for more info)
  • Graduate Program Exit form

thesistips.txt · Last modified: 2017/09/22 15:28 by jasnyder