PhD Final Process: Issues on Merging Files, Layout, Printing and Binding

Great… I have just completed my conclusion chapter and abstract.
Grammatical errors: check.
References: check.
Layout: check.
Appendices: check.

As I readied myself to merge all the files together (as I had saved the Front Matter, Main Thesis, and Appendices separately in 3 file names), I gave myself 1 day to sort it out, knowing it might be problematic.

But it was more problematic than what I had expected.

The formatting and layout would split in different places, the page references did not run in order, and the headers and footers could not be sorted out. Combining it all into one Word document felt totally frustrating.

Instead of a day, I think I spent 30 hours non-stop just to make the formatting work in my favour. I had to shift from my Macbook to PC, do a few youtube searches just to learn how to make it work, etc.

After sorting it, I submitted my thesis electronically, thinking that the most painstaking part of the thesis “job” is over.

I then brought my pdf to the printer to have my thesis printed and bound, only to realise that they cannot do it if it’s more than 300 pages. The options given were: (a) do it in 2 volumes, or (b) print it on double-sided pages.

I wasn’t sure what the University expectations were, so I went to and fro from University to printer’s and back, with a couple of emails to my supervisors, worried that it was not allowed, etc before I finally decided to do it on double-sided pages. The printer’s also suggested sewing it together if it’s more than 300 pages, but it would cost about £80, which is almost the price of a hardcover binding. That excludes the cost of printing. And also that was only for 1 copy. I needed at least 2 for my examiners, and 1 for myself. If I did it on double-sided pages and used the regular comb binding, it would be about £5.50 for the binding itself.

Anyhow, I told the University administrator the problem and told her to withdraw my submission — because to do it on double-sided pages, I would now need to have a larger gap on alternate pages (because you would need to open up like a book, so the gap is in the “spine”). That meant that page numbers would not run automatically and I had to manually check and re-do the formatting. Content page numbers and any cross-references in the main thesis would need further changes.


By that time, I was literally quite exhausted, mentally drained, and emotionally wearing thin. I was just glad I got my PhD done — I wanted to go home, take a shower, and sleep. And now, I had to take an extra day to re-do. Truth be told, I was really shutting down, mentally. I was even falling asleep at the computer at 2.30pm. My eyes were glazed. I was a walking zombie.

So, I went home to sleep for an hour. And went back to the University computer lab to start again.

After another painful six hours reformatting it, which felt like hell as I was still having a pounding headache, I finally re-submitted my thesis electronically. The second time.

It was 5 January 2016 at 12:30am.

It was a huge learning curve, and I want to document these steps for future reference – and hopefully be of service to other PhD students, so that the process of completing it is not made worse because of these “non-thesis” matters, which, in my humble opinion, are peripheral to the arguments we had so painstakingly developed for coherence and rigour.

This layout and binding issue, on the other hand, was a time waster. Too bad, it remains part of the PhD process — and other Phd graduates I know have also shared my frustrations.

So here are the final steps.


To ensure that page chapters start on a fresh page each time, insert “page break” or “section break“. (Note: This means that page numbers at every new “page/section break” will not continue automatically once you repaginate it. Go to Step 3)

On a Windows platform, you can click CTRL + ENTER
On a Mac platform, you need to manually INSERT > PAGE BREAK from the menu as shown.

Insert Page Break (Mac)

Insert Page Break (Mac)


At the end of the Front Matter, I inserted a new page break. And from that new page, I then inserted a new file (which is my main thesis). After my conclusion chapter, I inserted a new file again for my Back Matter (which includes references and appendices), as shown:

Insert File (Mac)

Insert File (Mac)


The entire thesis should read coherently in one full document by now.

Now, you can repaginate your full thesis (but do take note that the numbers may not run continuously after each new page break).


To make your thesis into double sided binding, this step can only be found on Word on a Windows platform, not Mac.

(a) As the picture below shows, click on “Page Layout“.

(b) You will find “Breaks”, “Line Numbers” and “Hyphenation” on the horizontal menu bar. Click on the bottom right scrolldown button just below the word “Hyphenation”, and a pop up box “Page Setup” appears as shown.

(c) In the Pages option, look for “mirror margins” – and apply to “whole document
(Take note: this still applies to each section with a new section/page break. This step needs to be manually repeated for each chapter)

(d) Check the margins you want. For me, there was a requirement for 4.0cm from the gutter, and nothing less than 2.0cm for the other margins.

Mirror Margins

Mirror Margins

Now, it’s time to check all the page numbers and headers.


Because each new page break means a break, literally. So I would need to double-click on the page number of a new section, and manually key in the page number at “start numbering at [fill in your own blanks]” as shown below:


Repeat the same process for the header, for example, to change from Appendix 1 to Appendix 2.

Save your document in pdf format and check to see if the document pages and section breaks run “continuously”. I do it in pdf format to check it because the format fixes into position. If it’s not running as desired, I use the Word document and make the necessary changes, save it as pdf again, and double-check one more time.

When you are happy with the final outcome, save it as your final pdf copy.



  1. So I finally filled out the electronic form. These are the data fields that you should know at your fingertips:(i) Your name as registered on the computer system

    (ii) Your thesis title

    (iii) Total number of pages

    (iv) Abstract (copy and paste it from another document; if not you would have to type it out again)

  2. You will have to agree to all the checkboxes, especially confirming that this is your work and no part of it has been plagiarised, or you have not used any copyrighted information.
  3. Click Submit
  4. Depending on your university system, yours might generate a number (an object identifier) as your new cover sheet.
  5. Open the file that generated a coversheet.
  6. Save the new document to a thumb drive and bring it to the printer’s.


  1. Please check the pages after they have been printed, especially for missing pages.
  2. As I had colour pages printed separately, I had to insert them in the correct order.
  3. Once the pages are in order, it can be go through the binding process – which is now out of your hands.


  1. Go back to the postgraduate officer and hand in your beautiful masterpieces.
  2. She would check to ensure that all the necessary front matter and back are in order before she approves it and send it to the examiners.

Check out my sense of relief mixed with nervousness in these two videos.


Well, my academic friends. That’s been a looooooooong and arduous process.

But take heart.

Your academic baby will be perfect, as mine is.