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Formatting Your Thesis/Dissertation: 4b. Figures - MAC

Learn about Graduate College formatting requirements.

Linking Figure Titles

Linking Figure Titles

Linking Figure Titles has multiple benefits. This will allow the List of Figures to be updated without having to manually create and manage entries. This will also renumber the items associated with the figure label based on the other linked items throughout the document (meaning, if you insert a new figure between what is currently labeled as Figure 1 and Figure 2 - the new figure will number itself as Figure 2 and the figure formerly numbered Figure 2 will change to Figure 3).

To link the title of a figure, which will allow you to populate and update the List of Figures, click on the item you wish to create a title for to select it. Under the REFERENCES tab, click on "Insert Caption."

Insert Caption button is located under REFERENCES at the top of the document menu


This will open the caption box. You will have an option to select a "Label" - Word will usually detect what kind of object is selected but you may need to switch the label manually. Pick "Figure". You will also need to indicate the position. Figure titles typically appear below the figure. Once you have made those adjustments, enter the title for the item into the "Caption" box (note that it will automatically insert the label that has been selected as well as a number). Once you click OK, the label, number, and title will insert.

Figure Caption

The Figure caption will enter in the designated position. Some formatting may be needed but the title will be linked and the number will automatically renumber as needed

The "Caption Style" will need to be modified one time to help properly format Figure titles (if you have already done this step while inserting a table, you should not need to redo this). Locate the Caption style in the Styles pane located under the HOME tab.

caption style is located under the style pane on HOME

Select the "modify style" option to open the format of the Caption style. Make adjustments to the font that you wish to have consistently occur for all table and figure titles. The default is a small, blue, italicized font. The recommended changes are: set the font to match the rest of the document, change the font size to 12-pt, deselect italics, double space, and change the font color to automatic.

when right clicking on the style, the option to modify shows up

the formatting area on the modify style box will allow for creating necessary changes to the default settings


Editing Linked Figure Titles & Additional Formatting

If a typo is discovered or a title needs to change from what is first inserted, the title can be edited in the body of the document without needing to open up any settings. Simply make the update.

Change the figure title by simply editing it in the body of the work

Any other formatting that you wish to have (such as italics, bolding, etc.) applied to one label (i.e. Table titles in italics but Figure titles in regular font) but not the other will need to be manually and consistently applied. If you wish for all table and figure titles to be bolded, you should select that option in the modify caption style options.

Figures often have notes below the title. To add a note but not have it show up in the List of Figures you will need to press enter/return to create a hard return between the content and then type the note.

Figure Note


List of Tables

Updating List of Tables & List of Figures

The steps to update the List of Tables and to update the List of Figures are the same. Apply these steps to each page. If you inserted the fields for the List of Tables and List of Figures when formatting the Front Matter of your work (see the applicable step 2), you should be able to update the field that was inserted on those pages by right clicking on the field, selecting the option to "Update Field." Always select "update entire table" so that any changes to titles and added tables will appear in the update.

right click on the field and select the option to update field

Always select the option to update the entire table in the popup window

This update should insert an entry for all of the table or figures that are linked in the document (this example shows the List of Tables). If the label and number do not show up you may need to redo the steps to insert the List of Tables or List of Figures (ensuring that the option to insert the label and number is checked). It should appear double spaced, without an extra space between. 

The updated list of tables will have a field with each entry labeled and numbered, with the title, followed by a dot leader, and then the page number


The default "Table of Figures" style (used for both the List of Tables and the List of Figures) should match the thesis and dissertation requirements. If the entries do not appear to be double spaced or if formatting seems to be off, open the Styles dialog box and locate the "Table of Figures" style. Click on it and select "modify" to open the style options. You'll want to check that it is double spaced and no extra spaces are added between lines.

click on table of figures in style pane and select modify to open the modify style dialog box. This will give formatting options that can be adjusted to make the table match the requirements


Formatting a Figure

Formatting a Figure

Figures are any diagram, drawing, graph, chart, map, photograph, or other type of illustration in the document. There should be space before and after the figure to separate it from the text surrounding it. The Thesis & Dissertation Manual requires that Figures appear as soon as possible following the first mention of the figure in text. Figures should be referred to by their number. Never say "the figure above" or "the figure below" as that can be unclear and sometimes figures start on different pages from the reference.

Figures should appear as soon as possible after they are referenced in the text


Spacing Around Figures

Figures should have uniform blank space from the text or materials before and after the figure. Pressing two double space returns before and after the figure will fulfill this. 

There should be an even amount of space before and after the figure to clearly mark where the text ends and figure begins


Inserting a Figure Reference in Text

While it is possible to manually type "Figure #" in the text to reference figures, you must ensure that the numbering remains correct as you are editing and adding more figures. You can also Cross-reference to refer to figures which will create fields that can be updated to renumber when figure numbers change.

To do so, place your cursor where you would like to make the reference. Locate "cross-reference" under the REFERENCES tab in Word.

under the REFERENCES tab, Cross-reference is located towards the middle of the ribbon

Select "Figure" for the Reference Type and select "Only label and number" for the Insert Reference to field. Then, select the figure you are referencing and click insert.



When you click "insert," a field will appear where your cursor is located with the information you selected. Something to note: these fields will not automatically renumber like the table labels do. An easy way to update all of the fields in the document is to select all text (Ctrl + A), right click, and select "Update Field." This action will update all fields, include the Table of Contents and all in text cross-references.


A field is indicated by a light grey box around the text that is inside the field

Update all fields by selecting all (Ctrl + A) and right clicking to update field


Figure Width / Height

Figures should be no more than 6" wide by 8.5" tall. This is the space between the margins of a properly formatted thesis page. If a figure needs to be wider that 6", it may need to be inserted on a landscape page. Generally, figures can be sized by clicking on the figure and locating the "Tools" tab for the item. This may be "Picture Tools" or "SmartArt Tools" or something else depending on how you have created and inserted your figure. This should populate a "Format" tab which will allow you to select "Position" > "More Layout Options"

Click on the figure and located the "Format" tab. There should be an option to select "Position" and then "More Layout Options"

This will open a dialog box. Select the "Size" tab. You will always want to "Lock aspect ratio" so that the figure does not distort. This will allow the height and width to be set. You can manually resize some figures, this should be checked to ensure that the figure is not larger than the page margins allow.

The layout dialog box has tabs at the top. Select size, use the options in the dialog box to resize the figure.

If a figure cannot properly fit on a portrait page and needs to be turned onto a landscape page, follow the steps in section 4c. Landscape Pages & Special Materials to insert the landscape page and then size the figure to be no more than 8.5" wide.