Post Graduate Workshop: Microsoft Word formatting for dissertations and theses

Posted on September 01, 2022

Research is hard. This statement is a trope (something often repeated in a particular context) in the researcher’s life – or maybe even a cliché (something that has been repeated to death). It is true, though; and it is not going to change. What can change, though, is the ease with which you report on your research. Well, reporting on your research is the ultimate point of research: not having a report effectively equates to having conducted no research in the eyes of a research-reading public/audience. What every report on research – whether at Master’s or PhD levels or beyond – needs is structure and consistency. How does one do this? Microsoft Word has the answers. But, there is a but: one needs to know what tools in the Microsoft Office program to use to make reporting on research (and, by extension, managing the writing thereof) easier.

So, the Merensky Research Commons staff set out to create a series of workshop sessions – all with the same content – to show researchers just how to unlock the right (set of) tools in MS Word. These tools are simple in principle. They allow one to:

  1. Create a recognisable and navigable structure in a dissertation or thesis; and
  2. Keep the formatting throughout the document consistent.

Though these tools are complex to learn at first, they make a world of difference. We started by arranging two workshop sessions. The demand was crazy high! So, in August 2022, the Merensky Research Commons ended up reaching 91 participants over five sessions.

The format: Face-to-face (thank goodness!)
The setting: Merensky 2 Library’s Training Room 1
The crowd: Registered Master’s and PhD students at UP
The duration: 3 hours of interactive learning with a 15-minute break
The setup: one presenter, two support staff members, all working on the same document and from computers that look and work exactly the same.
Some of the feedback received:

“Perfect; perfect; perfect”

“Continue with these kinds of workshops”

“Awesome presentation. Very professional and friendly”

“Can’t take anything away from it: It couldn’t have gone any better”

“It was a very nice learning environment”

“I was particularly motivated by the team spirit exhibited”

“The workshop is held in a suitable venue with suitable equipment for it”

“I am very grateful for this opportunity. This will assist me to work faster and also present my thesis in the correct format”

The Merensky Research Commons staff also created a 30-minute video edition of the workshop for those who could not attend the face-to-face sessions. The structure and content of this edition are almost identical to the face-to-face workshops, and there were 64 views recorded at the time of writing this article.

Many researchers asked for more of these workshops to be either repeated or held earlier in the academic year. This reflects the great need that workshops of this kind satisfy. Similarly, researchers wanted more of these kinds of workshops, whether they be related to MS Word, MS Excel, MS PowerPoint, or a combination of these and their integration. Though we had several requests for refreshments (and even snacks), which we could not, sadly, provide, we are convinced – based on the feedback – that these workshop sessions were (really!) refreshing to the Master’s and PhD students that make use of the Department of Library Services and the training offered here.


- Author Neill van Graan
Published by Elsabe Olivier

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