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


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 will be able to meet the demands without great intellectual effort. Unfortunately, this is not the case for students who use LaTeX, because that system is not designed to let writers manipulate formats easily. (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 (working without help or support from FGS) 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.)

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 (mythesis.tex), and a sample bibliography file (literature.bib).

It seems that the style sheet satisfies the FGS rules as of early 2007. However, these rules are a moving target, so it seems certain 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.

Known errors in this version

  1. Cross-references to appendices, such as in the first line of the Hello section of mythesis.tex, fail on my (OS X system), but seem to work on PC systems.
  2. As of March 2009, FGS requested that entries in the table of contents be in an upper-case font. However, they relaxed this requirement after I explained that I had worked for a morning trying to do this, with no luck, and that our department had submitted dozens of theses in the format provided by this package. (In case they make the request again, a hint: the tocloft package should be able to handle this, but it seems not to, at least in my trials. There is an issue of where to put the usepackage command, I think.)