Pièce de Résistance: Master Thesis Template

I would now like to present my pièce de résistance, my gift to you: a LaTeX-template, including a BiBTeX-database with all the examples discussed in my previous blogposts. You can find all the code in either (ironically) a .docx-file, or a PDF. You will also need the figures attached at the end of this blogpost.

The bones of the front page come from the Faculty of Science template, which I adapted by replacing some colors and text. The document is well structured and the comments explain what each block of code does. This means you can adapt page settings, additional cover settings, and so on. Before you get started, add the title and subtitle, your name, (co)supervisor, master and academic year.

Before the table of contents, the template starts with acknowledgements and an abstract. You can add the copyright-page by removing the % sign in front of \input{docs/copyright}. Furthermore, the table of contents precedes a list of tables and figures, which are all numbered in roman style (i, ii, iii). The page numbering switches to arabic numbers from the introduction on. The master file then starts including five exemplary chapters, as well as the bibliography in the plainnat style as explained in BiBTeX – your new best friend.

Here is everything you need:

Guide and code of the Master Thesis Template (docx)

Guide and code of the Master Thesis Template (PDF)

Master Thesis Template (PDF)


BiBTeX – your new best friend

We’ve all been there. You finished your text, your lay out is great, you more or less added footnotes and references. But now you have to start adding your bibliography. Preferably adhering to pages and pages of guidelines and rules. Luckily, 20 years ago, Oren Patashnik figured you needed help. He created BiBTeX to work along LaTeX by utilizing a plain-text file-format which can be created and modified in any arbitrary text-editor (learn more here).

A BiBTeX database contains all your entries in a .bib file, which can be used and reused in any LaTeX file. An example of an entry in this database is:

title={Has the Battle Been Won? The Feminzation of History},
author={Hunt, L.},
journal={Perspectives on History},

In this case the reference type is an @article, while all details are listed inbetween {}. The first word after the opening curly brace is the citation key or the BiBTeX key, unique for each entry and used to cross-reference a citation to your bibliography. This means you don’t even have to manually add the author and year to your in-text references, but simply \cite{citation key} in your text. In this case I can refer to the article by \cite{perspectiveshistory}, but more on citations later. An article entry needs to contain the author, journal, title, and year of publication. You can add these elements as demonstrated in the example, by element={} or element=””. The optional elements in case of the article type are the month, note, number, pages, and volume. I also included the doi, or domain object identifier, a specific and unique link to the article. You can find the required and optional fields for each reference type here.

The standard BiBTeX entries include: @article, @book, @booklet, @inbook (for a specific chapter or entry in a book), @inproceedings (a conference paper), @manual, @mastersthesis or @phdthesis, @misc (for other publication types), @proceedings (a collection of conference papers), @techreport, and @unpublished. For more information on standard templates, you can always go the the wikibooks documentation.

Once you added all your references to your BiBTeX database – no worries, most online bibliographies allow you to export the citation in a BiBTeX format – you need to insert your bibliography in your LaTeX file. Usually a bibliography comes after your content, but before you \end{document}. First, you choose the \bibliographystyle{plain}, which refers to the standard included plain.bst or style file. You can also find style files for most journals that defined their own reference style. Next, you simply include your \bibliography{bibfile} withouth adding the .bib extension. If your BiBTeX database is located in another file, you need to add the location such as \bibliography{refs/references}. Once you included your bibliography, you can create citations easily with \cite{reference}, or \citep{reference} if you want to use the plain bibliography style for your citations.

Finally, I would like to add that in order to adapt the appearance of your bibliograhpy to the document language for words such as editors, and, or in, you can add \usepackage[fixlanguage]{babelbib} to your preamula and \selectbiblanguage{dutch}. You also need to select a bibliography style which supports this package, such as \bibliographystyle{babplain}. If you want LaTeX to also display BiBTeX entries which were not cited in the text, you can add \notice{*} to show all entries, or \notice{name} for a specific entry. For my next and final entry on LaTeX, I will try to create a template for the master thesis of the faculty of Arts at the KU Leuven. Wish me luck!

LaTeX – The Ulyssis Workshop (part 2)

Last time I introduced the very basics of LaTeX after a workshop organised by Ulyssis, which you can find here. As I promised earlier, today I will talk you through the code to insert tables and figures into your text. For those of you who want to really impress their peers, I will also explain how you can format two figures next to each other (which required some serious googling skills on my behalf). But let’s get started with the basics first.

You can add your table within a \part{Title goes here}, \section{Subtitle goes here}, or \subsection{Subsubtitle goes here} of your \begin{document}, but before your \end{document}. There are several kinds of tables, the most basic one starts by \begin{tabular}{c c c} to specify that you want three columns, and for each row you add item & item & item \\ to fill in the three columns. After you added several rows, don’t forget to \end{tabular}.

For your fancy table you \begin{table}[h] right here, but you want it in the \begin{center} and then you can \begin{tabular}{c c c} with some columns, which you know how to fill in by now (item & item & item \\ for each row). After you \end{tabular}, you add a \caption{fancy table}, you \end{center} and finally, you \end{table}. Once you understand the basics, you can make your life easier by creating your tables in a tool such as http://www.tablesgenerator.com/.

Now in order to add figures to your document, you need to add a package in your preambula – the thing that comes right after \documentclass[11pt]{article} at the start of your document. You can \usepackage{graphicx} to insert some fancy figures. Of course you need to save your picture in the same folder as your .tex file, otherwise it might be hard to find. Now you’re ready to \begin{figure} and \includegraphcs[width=0.5\textwidth]{your figure}, where you define the width of your figure, in this case 50%, but you could also set [width=100mm] to include a figure of 10 cm wide. To center your figure you can use the \centering command, and adding a \caption{your figure} works the same as for tables. Again you need to \end{figure} before you start with the rest of your text.

If you want two figures side by side (or even three, but you can probably figure it out if you understand the mechanism), stackexchange comes to the rescue. Because you need a specific type of \caption, you need to add another package in your preambula called \usepackage{caption}. So again you \begin{figure} by \centering both your figures in the middle of the page. But you now split your figure into two \begin{minipage}{.5\textwidth} each taking up 50% of the width of your page. In order for each figure to look spot on, you should use \centering again, then \includegraphics[width=0.9\linewidth]{first image}. In this case the linewidth for each figure takes up only half of the page, so the 90% used here, actually means you have a 10% margin between this figure and the next. In this case, you need the \captionof{figure}{This figure} to add a caption to the first figure. If you want to refer to your figure in the text you can always add a \label{fig:figure1} and inside your text \ref{fig:figure1} so that the number of the figure is always correct, even if you add other figures. Now you need to \end{minipage} number one, and in order for the two minipages to appear next to each other, you need a % inbetween. Now you can repeat the \begin{minipage}{.5\textwidth} process to add one more figure, and after you \end{minipage}, also \end{figure}.

So there you go, the perfect tables and figures to impress any reader! Next time, I will explain how to add your citations and bibliographic references, BiBTeX style.

LaTeX – The Ulyssis Workshop (part 1)

Because I wanted to try a different approach to learning LaTeX, I went to a workshop organised by Ulyssis, a group of KU Leuven students offering workshops to other students. They explained the basics of LaTeX in about two hours, creating a template for a paper in the first hour and explaining BibTex in the second hour of the workshop. During the workshop they helped install an easy LaTeX editor and a team of students was at hand all the time to answer individual questions. So in this blogpost, I would like to share my newly acquired knowledge!

The structure of a LaTeX document always has the same basic elements, opening the document with the preambula, containing all metadata (the hidden specifics of the document itself). First, we specified the \documentclass adding the size of our font [11pt] and the type of document, namely {article}. If we need to import packages to do the fancy stuff dreams are made of, we need to \usepackage{awesomeness} to add some more functionalities and funky features -for your information, there is no package awesomeness for all I know, but please feel free to make one. Of course you can add the \title{Anything you like}, as well as the \author{me!} and the \date{\today} or any other day you like. No one needs to know you started your paper the day of the deadline.

Alright, we have our metadata, now we can \begin{document} by \maketitle and starting a \newpage for your magical automatically created \tableofcontents on a \newpage. Most papers contain an \abstract, but since LaTeX needs some help understanding what you want exactly, you should still \begin{abstract} and after writing your brilliant summary of everything you are about to write, you need to \end{abstract} for LaTeX to know you are done.

Now you need to start providing your table of contents some content. In an article you can divide your text into \part{one, two, three} and add \section{one, two, three} which can exist of \subsection{one, two, three}. You can add \paragraph{With a lot of witty, smart, funny, intelligent text} and even \textbf{bold text} and \textit{italics}. Furthermore you can also create different types of lists, starting with a bullet list by \begin{itemize} containing several \item items untill you decide to \end{itemize}. Sometimes you need to specify the order of your list \begin{enumerate} again containing \item one and ending your \end{enumerate}. Finally, if you want to provide descriptions to your awesome concepts, you \begin{description} adding \item[awesome concept] with your clear explination before adding another \item[greatness] adding your own brilliant definition and bringing an \end{description} to your awesomeness.

Before you go, don’t forget to \end{document} and feel like a professional programmer while you let LaTeX do the work (press run!), typesetting the best paper you ever wrote. Catch up next time for some more on tables and figures sprucing up your text!

LaTeX vs. MS Word – The Battle

Most master students of KU Leuven need to write their thesis sooner or later. However, finding your template might cause nervous breakdowns before you even start writing. Once you do find the page containing the specific template for your masters program, KU Leuven often doens’t offer any choice: you have to use MS Word.

In order to assert whether this situation only occurs in certain faculties, I created this list:

MS Word 9 – 4 LaTeX.

Even though I couldn’t find all faculty templates, this list shows me exactly what I was expecting – with one exception. LaTeX is mostly used in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics or STEM-programs only, with the notable exception of Economics and Business. Luckily, you don’t have to take my word for it.

In the article Don’t Format Manuscripts by Brischoux and Legagneux, they discuss a frequent occuring issue in academia. If an academic paper got rejected by a journal, resubmitting an improved version usually requires the researcher to reformat the text to the journals standard which can be very time consuming. Only LaTeX users can save time on reformatting if the journal offers an automatic template. Mathematics, Statistics and Probability and Physics show the highest rates of LaTeX users for submitted papers (ranging from 96,9% to 74%), followed by Computer Sciences (45,8%) (Brischoux and Legagneux, 2009).

But does this mean LaTeX is better than Word? José Luis Blanco discusses a scientific experiment determining which typesetting tool is more productive. Turns out that Word is unbeatable – when it comes to long blocks of continuous text and creating tables. However, LaTeX  beats Word on all levels when it comes to texts full of equations. In their usability questionnaire, the researchers on Experimental Psychology from the University of Giessen (Germany) also found that:

LaTeX users significantly more often reported to enjoy their work with their respective software than Word users […]. (Knauff, Nejasmic, 2014)

Even though the ease of use might convince you to never look outside the comfort of the Word-box, here are some of my personal opinions on the advantages of LaTeX:

  1. It is Open Source software, need I say more?
  2. The focus during writing is on content, not markup.
  3. It saves you time adapting to other templates.
  4. It doesn’t crash when you have more than 100 pages – personal experience.
  5. It looks more professional.
  6. Implementing citations, footnotes and bibliography is easy using extensions like BiBTeX.

Maybe some of you are still wondering, what is LaTeX? Well, the the LaTeX Project gives this definition:

LaTeX, which is pronounced «Lah-tech» or «Lay-tech» (to rhyme with «blech» or «Bertolt Brecht»), is a document preparation system for high-quality typesetting.

You could compare it to the Hyper Text Markup Language or HTML, with the important difference that LaTeX is used for documents instead of webpages.

So if you are taking the Online Publishing course, and are already learning how to use HTML, why not push yourself further out of your comfort zone? I used LaTeX for an essay I wrote last year for another course, and taught myself while working on the essay for three days using the Five minute guide to LaTeX.


Knauff, M., & Nejasmic, J. (2014). An Efficiency Comparison of Document Preparation Systems Used in Academic Research and Development. PloS one, 9(12), e115069.

Brischoux, F., & Legagneux, P. (2009). Don’t Format Manuscripts. The Scientist, 23(7), 24.