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Materials for writing a dissertation at Utah State University in R Markdown
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dissertateUSU v0.2.0


The goal of dissertateUSU is to make two aspects of writing a dissertation at Utah State University better:

  1. Formatting of the dissertation is automatically done for you
  2. All analyses are intimately tied to the document, making the work more reproducible

Ultimately, this allows the student to focus on the writing and the results without having to worry excessively about updating tables and figures, adjusting formatting of things like the title page and table of contents, and other minor (but important) aspects of getting the document correct.


You can install dissertateUSU with:



Importantly, this package requires the new release of LaTeX from your preferred distribution. Older versions will often encounter an error regarding “\counterwithin”. If this error comes up for you, then you need to update your LaTeX.


To use the package, after installing it, open up a new RMarkdown file:

and select the “Dissertate USU” template:

This will open up a new folder with a skeleton RMarkdown file:

This produces a document that matches the USU dissertation guidelines:

If you’d rather have the Master’s Thesis cover page, just remove the committee5 and committee4 lines in the main .Rmd file.

Some Important Notes

  • To put the title on two lines (see the thesis cover page above), use \newline (or if that doesn’t work, use \\newline) at the point where you want the title to split to the second line. In general, USU wants the first of the two title lines to be longer than the second part.
  • If you don’t need a section (e.g., “Public Abstract”, “Chapter 5”, etc.), remove it from the main .Rmd file. For example, if you want to remove the “Public Abstract”, remove all the lines starting from the \newpage in that section down to the actual words Publically abstracted words go here.. It will then not be included in the knitted document.
  • Currently, the package uses APA 6 formatting for citations (by default) but this can be altered by downloading a new .csl file and specifying it in the yaml, by replacing the apa6.csl in the pandoc_args: [ "--csl", "apa6.csl" ] argument with your file name.

Writing, Writing, Writing

In the folder, there are other RMarkdown files called Chapter1.Rmd, Chapter2.Rmd, etc. These are the files where you will do the writing and analyzing. The main RMarkdown file will bring all these files together into one document. The only things you need to update in the main RMarkdown file is the yaml information, the abstracts, acknowledgments, and dedication.


The package is still undergoing some development and we would love feedback on any aspect that doesn’t work as expected.

We also want to thank the rticles package for the functionality for dissertateUSU. The idea to make this package, as well as its design, was derived from the rticles package.

And thanks to David Jenks for his help finding LaTeX bugs from older LaTeX releases.

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