I am in the process of writing up a PhD thesis (on an Engineering topic) in the LyX environment, and I'm trying to decide what class/layout to use. I'm new to LyX & LaTeX.

My supervisor seems to have fairly rigid requirements on what the document looks like:

  • Approx. 2.5cm margin each side of pages
  • All chapter, section headings to be left aligned. No paragraph indents
  • Very plain (read: ugly) format, typically a Times font with 1.5 spacing, etc. etc.

I have worked so far using the template Lyx template for UNSW thesis, which is close to what I need, but the layout file seems to use the amsbook document class. It does not seem straightforward (or very transparent) to make the few style changes I need.

Basically, I just want to get the format nice (as nice as I can make it within the bounds of what my supervisor will accept). I don't want to mess around too much with styles.

Can you recommend a template I should use, or document class I should use, given these constraints? I have read a bit about the memoir class, but I'm not sure if that is the best option. Alternatively, I have read about KOMA-Script classes, which are maybe another option?

Keen for your insight - because at the moment I'm not sure whether I should try to battle on with the template I'm using (try to fix up chapter headings, figure labels, etc), or start from scratch using something else. I don't want to mess around for a long time, before realising I should have just started off with a different class/template.

  • 8
    For some comparison between memoir and KOMA-script: tex.stackexchange.com/questions/7742/…
    – mythealias
    Commented Oct 31, 2012 at 3:20
  • 5
    imho, one of the best things about TeX and friends is that it allows you to separate content from style. So you shouldn't need to worry about the template too much initially- you can bash out the writing using a simple documentclass, and save the style tweaking for the inevitable days when you lack the energy for the hard stuff :) have a look at the 'related' links to the right hand side, there's some good questions and answers there too :) Welcome to TeX.SE!
    – cmhughes
    Commented Oct 31, 2012 at 3:36
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    First: ask your departmental people (secretaries etc.), computer help desk, or the people in charge of graduate studies whether your university or institute already has a thesis template file for LaTeX. Most schools have very rigid guidelines on how PhD dissertations should be formatted, and when available it is much safer to use the provided document class rather than trying to hack your own and run the risk of the copy being sent back to be reformatted because you missed one minor detail. Commented Nov 20, 2012 at 12:32
  • 2
    Now, memoir and KOMA are both very configurable. But both also come with pretty hefty user manuals. If the formatting requirements form a fairly short list (such as the three bullet points above), you may be better off just using the standard book class with the packages geometry, titling, titlesec, and setspace (for double spacing). The user manuals for those are quicker to read. Commented Nov 20, 2012 at 12:36

3 Answers 3


To begin with, cmhuges is absolutely right:

[O]ne of the best things about TeX and friends is that it allows you to separate content from style. So you shouldn't need to worry about the template too much initially- you can bash out the writing using a simple documentclass, and save the style tweaking for the inevitable days when you lack the energy for the hard stuff :)

I'll add that when preparing for a bulky LaTeX document, there are some package/formatting decisions that should be made at the beginning insofar as they will influence the user macros and environments to be used in the document body. Examples are:

  • Using biblatex for bibliography/citation management vs. relying on more traditional solutions;

  • Using csquotes for handling inline and display quotations (especially if one wants to use "active quotes");

  • Using cleveref for automatic type-specific formatting of cross-references vs. relying on the standard \ref macro;

  • Using listings for displaying source code vs. relying on simpler (verbatim-like) environments.

Contrary to that, the style requirements mentioned in your question (regarding margins, sectioning headings alignment, paragraph indentation, line spacing, and fonts) are not related to macros/environments in the document body at all. That is, you'll have to deal with them eventually by tweaking the preamble (using means provided either by whatever document class you've chosen or by additional packages), but you don't have to deal with them before writing your text. (And to avoid procrastination, perhaps you shouldn't deal with them at the start.)

  • I understand and agree that I shouldn't be worrying too much about style at the start of the thesis - in my case, it was mainly to stop my supervisor from 'reminding me' to fix up stylistic changes. Making it look OK, even if not neat, gets him off my back (he is not very familiar with Latex). I'm using biblatex and putting effort into my ref's, so that is definitely good advice. In my case, I'll have a fair no. of figures and formulae - but not much quotes/code. For the moment, I'm sticking with the amsbook class (I've managed to tweak it a bit) and will look at style more closely later!
    – James DB
    Commented Nov 21, 2012 at 21:44

I suggest to start using KOMA-script, because it gives you most of the things you need, but if you decide at a later stage to change to something else, you may proceed with a different class and the package scrextend. This package allows usage of KOMA-script posibilities under other classes.

There is an excellent manual in English as well as in German.

My advice is to invest your time and effort into the content of your thesis. That means that you neither fiddle around (if you know what I'm talking about) with EVIL RED TEXT (=ERT), nor make a mess with your formulas and tables. Just put it all like Lyx suggests and in the end let's see which parts need improvement. The more you do manually in your text, the more effort will be necessary to sort it out.

One thing worth effort in the beginning is the administration of your bibliography.

  • Hello. What about the learning curve and total time (learning latex and writing the document)? For somebody starting almost from scratch and wanting to learn the basics to write a thesis with Latex... Is it going to be faster to learn plain Latex (using a book such as Latex Friends) and (find about and) add some extras (such as tabu, longtable, microtype, biblatex, tikz, kpfonts) or is it better to go directly to Koma or memoir? My thesis will have some equations, many tables and many graphics, most of them generated from R with knitr and xtable.
    – skan
    Commented Nov 5, 2016 at 13:02
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    Why don't you ask this as a new question? However, you need to read a introduction into LaTeX. KOMA-script doesn't provide equations, tabulars and so on. Read the tabel of contents of the manual. You get the manual of nearly every package with texdoc packagename on the command line. Regarding KOMA-script you get the PDF with texdoc scrguien.
    – Keks Dose
    Commented Nov 7, 2016 at 7:53

As others mentioned before you can use every class you want or which fits you better.

For the required ugly output you could use the package wordlike.

Wordlike is made especially to do this job.

  • Oh my God! I cant't believe it!
    – karloswitt
    Commented Mar 6, 2022 at 7:58

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