I'm using the file "Dissertation template and document class for Princeton University" on sharelatex.com.

I heard it's easy to work on sharelatex.com because it's interactive. However, I'm unable to customize it as per my need. For example I cannot change the name from Princeton University to my university. I'm thinking of ditching LaTeX and writing my master thesis in word. Can anyone help me?

P.S. I'm new to LaTeX.

  • 7
    If your University has specific requirements for how a thesis should be formatted, using a template from some other university is not a good idea. But American university 'templates' are usually very bad because American universities impose bizarre formatting requirements on their theses. You should check out the following for a really nice guide on what to do: Using LaTeX to Write a PhD Thesis.
    – Alan Munn
    Commented Jan 19, 2016 at 16:52
  • Latex can be hard to setup at times, but there is plenty of material on the internet, including this site, that it's going to be worth it in the end and will make your life easier in the long run.
    – Alenanno
    Commented Jan 19, 2016 at 17:09
  • 1
    Related: my answer and others from How to write a LaTeX class file for my thesis. You need to be able to answer a couple of questions before you can decide if this is a good idea for you or not. Commented Jan 19, 2016 at 17:16
  • 1
    Why do you want to use LaTeX? If it is because you've been told that it is easy, then you need to rethink. LaTeX is easier than word processing in some ways once you get over the initial hurdles involved in learning it. It is certainly not easier in the beginning or easier in all ways, even when you are more experienced. I think you need an initial, strong motive to overcome the hurdles: because an advisor requires it, because your discipline demands it, because you want to create beautiful documents, because you hate Word, sheer bloody-mindedness ... but you need something.
    – cfr
    Commented Jan 19, 2016 at 22:21

2 Answers 2


A template1 is often viewed as something ready to use, even for beginners. For many, that is true. If you are a student at Princeton University, you don't have to think about the title page, margins, line spacing etc. Somebody else did.

Imagine the whole construct of a template is like a ready-made house you can move into. You cannot just change the tiling in the kitchen or remove a wall, chances are pretty high that somethings will break. Better look for another template/house.

The more simple a template is to use, the harder it is to customize.

Starting from scratch and reading some basic introductory material often gets you running quicker and safer.

1 Of course, nobody ever defined what a template in LaTeX is.


The way templates work in Latex is that it is a file called a .cls or class file. When you are defining your document you can select it instead of selecting a more common option like so.

\documentclass[12pt]{article} % a more normally seen case

\documentclass[12pt]{myschoolstemplate} % what you are looking for

Inside those templates are commands and formatting choices that will make your document look like how it does. That said, if you want to edit the way the template works you need to get your hands on the .cls file and edit its contents. I have not used sharelatex (I prefere overleaf) but you can probably edit the .cls which you can open in any text editor. If you rename the file to .tex you can probably open it in your sharelatex program too.

  • Although I just opened up the file in question. On puthesis.cls go to line 80 and on thesis.tex go to line 24. You can edit these to be what you need. But others are correct, look into your schools needs first, but know you know how to do it regardless which may help you with your own template.
    – Bob
    Commented Jan 19, 2016 at 18:16
  • 1
    I think that for someone who is just learning LaTeX, delving into a class file is really not a good idea at all, for a couple of reasons. First, the code may just be really bad (I haven't looked at this particular class, but there's a lot of bad code out in the wild). Second, even if the code is good, there will be a lot of code which may not make much sense at all to a beginner. On the other hand, learning how to format things the proper way using packages will be faster and less error prone. For the basic things one would want to do there are great answers here which reflect best practices.
    – Alan Munn
    Commented Jan 19, 2016 at 19:11
  • While you are right on all accounts I cannot help but remember how infuriating it was when I was starting to learn LaTeX and the answers to all of my questions were non-answers saying not to do something -- it made me want to stop. Word users are used to having all the formatting tools right at their finger tips and it is probably the first thing they are going to want to do, trying to tell them not to and best practices is not helpful until they have their foot in the door.
    – Bob
    Commented Jan 19, 2016 at 19:48
  • 1
    I agree that some people go overboard on saying "just use LaTeX defaults", and I'm not suggesting that. Many things are not hard to learn to do even when you are beginning, but in my experience delving into someone else's code is not a good way to learn as a beginner. And many of the "don't do this" answers are promoting best practices which in the long run will help you. But I understand your frustration.
    – Alan Munn
    Commented Jan 19, 2016 at 21:32

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .