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MIT Thesis template

Scott W Olesen - (homepage)

This is the source code for my PhD thesis. It's designed for an MIT Course 20 thesis. It might be adaptable for other departments.

Where this stuff came from

I got this template from here. I modified some of the files, removing comments and rewriting the readme.

The files here and what they do


I typeset my thesis by writing some information directly in LaTeX, which is in the .tex files. I also wholesale included some .pdf files (in the three subfolders) because they were either typeset in other LaTeX documents (and I didn't want to transfer them) or they were typeset in Word (and I wasn't interested in manually transcribing and correcting them).

When you put everything together, it should come out like the expected-output.pdf, which is the thesis I submitted to MIT.

The front matter

This is where the template really shines. It's confusing how to typeset all those pages.

  • The abstract of the thesis, in plain text, goes into abstract.tex. It's wise to keep another copy of this file that has no linebreaks, because you'll be asked to cut-and-paste the abstract a few times during the submission process.
  • contents.tex says how the Table of Contents should be typeset. If you want a list of figures or something like that, it will also go in here.
  • cover.tex contains a lot of information: the title of the thesis, your name, etc.
  • main.tex is where you can include packages, change the formatting of the thesis, and specify what files (i.e., the chapters, see below) will go into the document.

The main body

The main body of the thesis goes in the .tex files. I put each chapter into its own file:

  • Chapter 1 in chap1.tex
  • Chapter 2 in chap2.tex
  • Appendix A in appa.tex

and so forth.

Including pdfs

You'll see that my middle chapters have many pages but a short LaTeX file: most of their content comes from pdfs that are included using the \includepdf command. I had to fiddle with the scale= option to make sure they the pages fit the library's margin requirements and I changed the pagecommand= option to make sure that the monolithic, continuous numbering was present on all pages.

The pdfs I included are in the subfolders texmex, lake, and fmt.

Including images

The pdfs I included were mostly the manuscript files from submitting the papers, which means that the figures were kept separate. I therefore put the figures and their captions directly into the LaTeX chapter files. Those figures are mostly in the subfolders mentioned above.


The bibliography information is in main.bib, which is a BibTex file. All the citations that you will reference in the TeX files go in there.

The file biblio.tex contains the information about how to typeset the bibliography. It is the last "chapter" in the thesis.

The other stuff

The style files lgrind.sty and mitthesis.cls help make the magic of the template happen. I didn't mess with these.

How to use this

  1. Figure out what your chapters are going to be. Write them in LaTeX, including pdfs as you need.
  2. Redo the front matter stuff in contents.tex, cover.tex, and main.tex.
  3. Change any packages or formatting in main.tex.
  4. Actually make the document using the Makefile, which requires latexmk. Running make will make the document, make view should open it with a viewer, and make clean should clean up anything made from the source files.
  5. Consider putting it under version control, e.g., with git.


You can email


Source of my MIT PhD thesis; maybe a useful template



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