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How to add wide landscape scientific tables to your thesis - like a Pro! [video included]



I literally spent hours trying to add wide tables to my PhD thesis. I especially remember the day I nearly threw my computer out the window!

Don't worry, I finally figured it out!

In eight easy steps, I’ll explain how to add a landscape page in Microsoft Word®, so you can quickly insert a wide scientific table or wide figure without wasting hours of your time.

I’ve also added a video at the top of this post, so you can see the steps in action.

So, this post should prevent frustration and unnecessary computer repairs!



1. Turn on the ‘Show/Hide’ feature

If you don’t know where the paragraph or page breaks are, weird things will happen in your file when you add new text, tables or images.

You can prevent these issues by turning on the 'Show/Hide' button in Microsoft Word®.

The 'Show/Hide' button is found under 'Home' > ‘Paragraph' and is represented by this symbol: .  I've circled it in the screenshot below:



Google tells me this is called a pilcrow – who knew? 😊

When the 'Show/Hide' button is turned on, all of the spaces between words (when you used the spacebar) will be marked by little dots.

You’ll also see the paragraph breaks (when you used the 'Return' button) marked by symbols.  And of course, the ‘Show/Hide’ button will also reveal page breaks.

In the next step, I’ll explain why all page breaks are not the same.


2. Use section breaks (not page breaks) 

When you add a page break in Microsoft Word®, any text located after/below the page break will immediately move onto the next page.

This is really useful – for example, if you want to place a figure on its own page or start a new chapter on a new page, just add a page break!


However, if you want to add a wide scientific table on a landscape page, you need to use section breaks.

Sections breaks are upgraded page breaks. They also allow you to create separate sections within your file.

You can do all sorts of fancy things within each section.

For example, you could apply different page layouts (landscape or portrait), numbering styles, margins, and countless other styles to each section of your file.

Now you know how the difference between page breaks and section breaks, I’ll show you the easiest way to insert them.


Adding normal page breaks is easy!

Firstly, click on the text where you want to add a page break.

Then look under the ‘Insert’ tab at the top of Microsoft Word® and select ‘Page Break’.



Adding section breaks is a bit harder!

One option is to type “section break” into the search bar at the top of Microsoft Word®. The option to insert a section break will appear.

But...this will be a real pain if you need to add lots of section breaks!

Don’t worry – I’ll show you a shortcut!


3. The time-saving Quick Access Toolbar

Look at the dark blue area at the top of Microsoft Word®.  You should see the ‘Save’ and ‘Undo’ icons on the left.

This area is called the Quick Access Toolbar, and you can add shortcuts here.

In the image below, you can see I’ve added several shortcuts to my Quick Access Toolbar — paragraph spacing, line spacing, comments, highlighting and page/section breaks.



I use these features frequently when I edit manuscripts, so having these shortcuts saves me lots of time!

I don’t need to click through multiple tabs or menus to find these options each time I need one.

Let me walk you through how to add the ‘Insert Page Section Breaks’ icon to your Quick Access Toolbar.


4. Add shortcuts to your Quick Access Toolbar

Find the symbol I've circled in red in the image above. Look for a small arrowhead pointing down with a line above it.

Click on this symbol and pick ‘More Commands’ from the menu that appears.

You will see lots of options for customizing your Quick Access Toolbar, something like the panel below:



From the left-hand side, find and click on ‘Insert Page Section Breaks’.

Simply click the ‘Add ≫’ button to move this shortcut over to the box on the right (as indicated by the arrow I've drawn in the image above).

The box on the right represents the shortcuts in your Quick Access Toolbar.


Feel free to search for and add other shortcuts – I promise, they can make your life so much easier!

Click ‘OK’ when you are finished to save the settings.

Now you can admire your shiny new Quick Access Toolbar. Feel free to dream about what to do with all the time you’ll save with these shortcuts! 😊

Now we’re ready to add some section breaks!


5. Adding section breaks

Let’s get back to the business of adding section breaks — so we create a landscape page for a wide table.

Look at your fancy new Quick Access Toolbar and find the ‘Insert Page Section Breaks’ icon.

In the image below, it’s the icon highlighted in dark blue.

The arrowhead indicates that a menu will appear when you click the icon.



For our purpose (and most scientific writing), you only need to use ‘Page Breaks’ > ‘Page’ or ‘Section Breaks’ > ‘Next Page’.

‘Section Breaks’ > ‘Next Page’ is highlighted in grey in the image; this is the option you need.


Now you can easily add section breaks!

Find the place in your file where you want to add a wide table. Click on this position with your cursor.

Make sure to place the cursor below any text you want to stay on the page before your table.

Remember to check the ‘Show/Hide’ button is turned on, so you can see the page breaks (if you’ve skipped ahead, see Step 1 of this post).

Now, jump up to your Quick Access Toolbar, open the 'Page Breaks' menu by clicking on the icon, and pick ‘Section Breaks’ > ‘Next Page’ (as shown in the image above).

Without clicking away to another position in your file, repeat this process to add another ‘Next Page Section Break’.

If you scroll out to see multiple pages, you should see something like the image below. I’ve marked the positions of the two Next Page Section Breaks with red arrows.

(Press the Ctrl key at the same time as moving your mouse wheel to scroll out and view multiple pages at the same time).



You may need to use the ‘Return’ key to move your section breaks about a little, so you have a single blank page 'sandwiched' between two section breaks.

Make sure your first section break is on the page before the table and the second section break is on the page where you’ll put the table.


6. Change the layout of the new page to landscape

Nearly there, I promise!

Click your mouse onto the new blank page where you want to insert your table.

Make sure you click between the two section breaks — not before the first section break or after the second section break, OK?

Move up to the ‘Layout’ tab at the top menu of Microsoft Word®, click ‘Orientation’, and choose ‘Landscape’ (see the arrow in the image below).


Hey presto! You should now have a single ‘wide’ landscape page sandwiched between normal portrait pages and text.

Hopefully, something like this:



7. Add your table

Now, add your table!

You can create a new table using the ‘Insert’ > ‘Table’ options or cut and paste a table from another file.

Make sure to add the table between the two section breaks, so it will sit on the landscape page.


8. Adjust the top margin of the page for printing

If you are printing and binding your thesis, you also need to think about the margins.

It’s a good idea to use a generous top margin on landscape pages.

Remember, when a landscape page is printed, the top of the page will be bound - not the left side.

If your top margin is too small, the top of your table might be eaten by the book binder 😊 and be impossible to read.

Adjust the top margin of the page by clicking 'Layout' > 'Margins' > 'Custom Margins' and change the top margin to 4 cm (or whatever your thesis guidelines ask for).


Video guide

You can watch me turn on the ‘Show/Hide’ button, add shortcuts to the Quick Access Toolbar and use 'Next Page Section Breaks' to create a landscape page for a wide scientific table in the video above.

You might also like to watch me adjust the margins of the pages in a thesis or journal paper.


Quick summary

  1. Click the ‘Show/Hide’ button so you can see page and paragraph breaks.
  2. If necessary, add the ‘Insert Page Section Breaks’ shortcut to your Quick Access Toolbar.
  3. Use two ‘Next Page Section Breaks’ (not normal page breaks!) to create a new blank page for your scientific table.
  4. Make sure the first section break is on the page before the table and the second is on the page you made for the table.
  5. Change the new page to landscape by clicking ‘Layout’ > ‘Orientation’ > ‘Landscape’.
  6. Add your table.
  7. If necessary, adjust the top margin by clicking ‘Layout’ > ‘Margins’ > ‘Custom Margins’.


You can also learn my #1 tip for great scientific tables or read a series of posts on how to create scientific tables.


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