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latex style for MSc / PhD theses at Dalhousie University (esp. in Oceanography)
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LaTeX style file for Oceanography theses

Dan Kelley

2007-05-23, 2009-03-19, 2010-05-26, 2011-12-14, 2012-04-04, 2012-07-10, 2014-04-21


Dalhousie's Faculty of Graduate Studies (FGS) places some fairly stringent demands on the formatting of theses. Students who use GUI-based document preparation systems should be able to meet the demands without great intellectual effort. Unfortunately, this is not the case for students who use LaTeX, which is not designed to let writers manipulate formats easily. This poses a problem, because switching from LaTeX to a GUI-based system is not a sensible option for students whose theses contain significant mathematical notation.

To ease the burden, Dalhousie students and faculty members have developed a set of LaTeX style sheets. The present website provides one of these, ocethesis.cls, which is based closely on the Department of Computer Science dalcsthesis.cls style file. (The latter is so well described at []( that any sensible reader of the present document will follow the link.)

The ocethesis.cls style sheet may also be used to prepare a BSc thesis, as exemplified in the mythesis-honours-coop.tex file provided here.

Contents of this directory

This directory contains the Dalhousie Oceanography thesis LaTex style (ocethesis.cls), two bibliography style files (ocethesis.bst and ocethesisbib.sty), a sample LaTeX file for postgraduate work (mythesis.tex), a sample LaTeX file for undergraduate work (mythesis-honours-coop.tex), and a sample bibliography file (literature.bib).

It seems that the style sheet satisfies the FGS rules most of the time. However, these rules are a moving target, so it seems likely that further changes to the style files will be required at some point. The whole purpose of this website is to facilitate this development. The reader is cautioned, however, that changing LaTeX style sheets is not for the faint of heart.

Using the style file

Your first step should be to try to run the sample file named mythesis.tex on your machine. (If you don't know how to run a LaTeX file, you'll need to learn that from another source. Luckily, LaTeX is the lingua franca of mathematically-inclined technical writing, so many resources are available.)

Note that this sample file uses a figure, in the file figure1.pdf. You'll need to find out how to work with whatever type of figures your software creates. Do that and test it with this sample file, before going on. This will be the biggest decision you'll have to make. The simplest scheme would be to chat with another student who uses similar software to make figures.

Once you've got it working with figures, you should start changing some of the blocks in which definitions are given for the thesis title, etc. Then it will be time to start adding lines to include your various chapters and appendices. At that stage -- which should be within an hour of your first experiment -- you'll be working on your thesis, and you won't have to think about the format again!


  1. The margins are 0.05 inches wider than the width specified by the Faculty of Graduate Studies. This is to avoid problems that arise by slight displacements in different printers.
  2. To get rotated captions and tables, put \usepackage{lscape} in the .tex file, and then put \begin{landscape} before content that is to go into landscape mode, and \end{landscape} to return to normal mode. (Thanks to John Foster for this hint.)
  3. To get degree symbols with less typesetting, put \usepackage{textcomp} in your .tex file and then write e.g. 10\textdegree{} instead of 10$^\circ$. (Thanks to John Foster for this hint.)
  4. The title of the bibliography may be changed by putting something like \renewcommand{\bibname}{References} in the beginning of the .tex file. (Thanks to John Foster for this hint.)

Known errors in this version

  1. If PhD examination committee has two supervisors and just two readers, it will prove be necessary to alter the <span class="filename">ocethesis.cls</a> file at line 466, changing \def\phd...\degreesignatures{5} to \def\phd...\degreesignatures{4}.
  2. As of March 2009, FGS requested that entries in the table of contents be in a title-case font. They relaxed this requirement for a while, but are enforcing it again in 2011. There is no obvious latex solution to this, because it is tricky issue to decide which words are important, deserving of upper case, and which are less important; "on" could refer to a bird on a wire, or it could be the name of a person. So, the solution lies with the thesis author: a heading as The Old Brown Cow instead of The old brown cow. The publishing industry is somewhat divided on whether title case is to be used in books, and perhaps one day FGS will recognize that and let authors decide.

Other resources

The Dalhousie Computing Science style sheet is available at

History of recent changes


  • Advise the use of title-case for section/chapter headings.
  • Alter the aesthetics of chapter pages slightly (with lines above and below the chapter number).


  • Increase font size for section headings
  • Make chapter and section headings single-spaced.
  • Use zero parindent on signature page.


  • Fix an appendix problem.
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