Documentation Status Project License Open Issues PDF Latest

Author: Victor Calderon (

Description: An easy, reasonably standardized, but flexible template for creating Ph.D. theses from the Vanderbilt University

This documentation is part of the repository Vanderbilt Ph.D. Thesis - Cookiecutter

Steps to take to write your dissertation

The dissertation can be found at: Vanderbilt Astro PhD Template

This template is easy to use, and you only need to answer some questions.

Requirements to use cookiecutter templates

The minimum rquirements for creating cookiecutter templates are:

  • Python 2.7 or 3.5

  • Cookiecutter Python package >= 1.4.0: This can be installed with pip or conda depending on how you manage your Python packages.

You can install it by typing this on the terminal

pip install cookiecutter

or via Anaconda:

conda config --add channels conda-forge
conda install cookiecutter

Now you can use cookiecutter to create new templates for projects and papers!

Downloading Vanderbilt PhD Thesis

After having done the steps in _install_requirements, you can start creating the skeleton for the thesis.

You first need to run:

cd /path/to/where/main/thesis/will/be/
pip install cookiecutter

This will install the necessary packages and directories for the PhD Thesis. It will also prompt you to anwer a few questions, and based on what you answer, it will create fill in the template for you.


Make sure you cd into the correct path. Otherwise, you will be downloading the repository to the wrong directory.

cookiecutter Prompts

Next, it will prompt you for some answers. The different prompts are:




Title of the thesis. Should not have ‘_’ symbols in it.


  • Understanding Exoplanets and Other Sources

  • The Clustering of Galaxies on Smallest Scales Across Cosmic Time


Author’s first name. first_name will used for the title page of the dissertation.


  • Adam

  • Rose


Author’s last name. last_name will used for the title page of the dissertation.


  • Calderon

  • Piscionere


Name of the directory/repository, in which the theis will be saved. This name is selected by default, but it can be changed. This field should not contain spaces


  • Calderon_Victor_Astro_PhD_Thesis

  • Szewciw_Adam_Astro_PhD_Thesis


Option for adding signatures to the thesis.


  1. “y” … Add signatures

  2. “n” … Do not add signatures


Name of the department. Default: Physics and Astronomy. Should not contain ‘_’ (underscores) symbols.


  • Physics and Astronomy

  • Name of another department


Date of the Dissertation presentation. Format: Month Year.


  • May 2019

  • August 2020


First and last name of the committee member 1. Should not have ‘_’ symbols in it.


  • Keivan Stassun

  • Andreas Berlind


First and last name of the committee member 2. Should not have ‘_’ symbols in it.


  • Keivan Stassun

  • Andreas Berlind


First and last name of the committee member 3. Should not have ‘_’ symbols in it.


  • Keivan Stassun

  • Andreas Berlind


First and last name of the committee member 4. Should not have ‘_’ symbols in it.


  • Keivan Stassun

  • Andreas Berlind


First and last name of the committee member 5. Should not have ‘_’ symbols in it.


  • Keivan Stassun

  • Andreas Berlind


Author’s Github username. This will be use to link to the paper to the Github repository.


  • username

  • username2018


Name of the project on Github


  • Awesome_Paper_username_2018

  • Another_awesome_paper

open_source_license | Type of License for the paper. Without this,
one cannot use any of.


* BSD 3-Clause
* GNU GPL v3+
* Apache Software Licence 2.0
* BSD 2-Clause*


Option for whether or not you will be uploading it to


  • yes

  • no

Writing the Thesis

Once you’ve downloaded the repository and answered all of the questions, you can start writing your thesis.

My advice would be to follow these steps to guarantee that you’re doing it correctly:

  1. Create a new repository on Github. This will be the repository for your newly created local repository.

  2. git init your local repository.

  3. Follow the instructions to upload the files of your dissertation to Github.

  4. Write your dissertation.

After having downloaded and answered the questions, the repository should look like this:

├── Bibliography
│   └── bibliography.bib
├── Chapters
│   ├── acknowledgments.tex
│   ├── appendix_A.tex
│   ├── chapter_1.tex
│   ├── chapter_2.tex
│   ├── chapter_3.tex
│   ├── chapter_4.tex
│   ├── dedication.tex
│   ├── future_work.tex
│   ├── introduction.tex
│   └── titlepage.tex
├── Extras
│   ├── commands.tex
│   ├── headings_settings.tex
│   └── packages.tex
├── Figures
│   ├── project_1
│   ├── project_2
│   └── project_3
├── Makefile
├── Thesis
│   └── thesis.tex
└── requirements.txt

8 directories, 18 files

This is the file structure after creating the new repository.

The main file of the repository is: Thesis/thesis.tex. This is the file that will get compiled by LaTeX, and will produce a PDF version.

The only files that you will need to edit (aside from thesis.tex) are located in the Chapters directory. These are the ones that you need to edit.

Using the Template

Now that one has answered the questions from _vandy_phd_fields, you just need to fill in the documents in the Chapters directory according to your thesis’ needs.

The structure of the finalized thesis can be found in the Project Structure section.

Uploading your Thesis to Overleaf

Once you have completed setting up your Thesis, and are ready to start the writing process, you can upload your paper to Overleaf.

Overleaf, as explained on their website, is:

Overleaf is a free service that lets you create, edit and share your scientific ideas easily online using LaTeX, a comprehensive and powerful tool for scientific writing.

—Overleaf Team

For a more in-depth tutorial on how to use Overleaf, you can visit Overleaf Tutorial and watch the attached video.

Steps to follow to upload your Thesis to Overleaf

In order to upload your project to Overleaf, you need to follow the following steps:

  • Compress the output of cookiecutter template to a zip file.

  • Create an account on Overleaf. Go to Overleaf Sign-up

  • Create a new, empty “New Project”

  • Click on “Upload Project”

  • Drag and drop or click on Select a .zip file

  • Connect your Mendeley account. Open one if you don’t have one. This will link your bibliography with Overleaf. See more here

For a brief video on how to do this, see the following video:

And now you have a new, working PhD. Thesis.

You can start writing now!

Compiling your Thesis

This repository includes a Makefile. This file serves as the file that will make the cleaning, compiling, and opening the pdf of the thesis.tex file.

To show all of the options of the Makefile, write:

make show-help

This will show you a list of options:

./Calderon_Victor_Vanderbilt_Astro_PhD_Thesis: make show-help
Available rules:

all                 Perform all tasks
clean               Clean all unnecessary latex-related files
open_pdf            List all unnecessary files
thesis.tex          Compiles Main Thesis file

To compile your thesis, you will need to run the following commands:

make all


make thesis.tex

This will create all of the necessary files for compiling your thesis.

To open the PDF version of the thesis, run:

make open_pdf

and a PDF version of the thesis.tex file will pop up.


In order to properly use the Makefile and compile thesis.tex, you will need latexmk installed. If you’re on a MAC, you want to check out the Latexmk documentation, and make sure to have MacTex installed on your computer.

An example of the resulting PDF can be found in:

Documentation Status

Project based on the modified version of the Vanderbilt University Thesis Template