5 Customisations and extensions

This chapter describes a number of additional tips and tricks as well as possible customizations to the oxforddown thesis.

5.1 Chunk caching and the _bookdown_files folder

If you set cache=TRUE in a code chunk, in order to cache its results if it’s time-consuming to run see the R Markdown documentation, then the files for the caching are stored in the **_bookdown_files** folder.

If you don’t use caching and you would like to just have the **_bookdown_files** folder deleted after the build process is complete, then set allow_cache = FALSE in index.Rmd’s call to knit_thesis.

That is, your YAML should then look like this:

knit: (function(input, ...) {
    thesis_formats <- "pdf";
    knit_thesis(input, thesis_formats, allow_cache = FALSE, ...)

5.2 Front matter

5.2.1 Shorten captions shown in the list of figures (PDF)

You might want your list of figures (which follows the table of contents) to have shorter (or just different) figure descriptions than the actual figure captions.

Do this using the chunk option fig.scap (‘short caption’), for example {r captain-image, fig.cap="A very long and descriptive (and potentially boring) caption that doesn't fit in the list of figures, but helps the reader understand what the figure communicates.", fig.scap="A concise description for the list of figures"

5.2.2 Shorten captions shown in the list of tables (PDF)

You might want your list of tables (which follows the list of figures in your thesis front matter) to have shorter (or just different) table descriptions than the actual table captions.

If you are using knitr::kable to generate a table, you can do this with the argument caption.short, e.g.:

              caption = "A very long and descriptive (and potentially
              boring) caption that doesn't fit in the list of figures,
              but helps the reader understand what the figure 
              caption.short = "A concise description for the list of tables")

5.3 Shorten running header (PDF)

You might want a chapter’s running header (i.e. the header showing the title of the current chapter at the top of page) to be shorter (or just different) to the actual chapter title.

Do this by adding the latex command \chaptermark{My shorter version} after your chapter title.

For example, chapter 3‘s running header is simply ’Cites and cross-refs’, because it begins like this:

# Citations, cross-references, and collaboration {#cites-and-refs} 
\chaptermark{Cites and cross-refs}

5.4 Unnumbered chapters

To make chapters unnumbered (normally only relevant to the Introduction and/or the Conclusion), follow the chapter header with {-}, e.g. # Introduction {-}.

When you do this, you must also follow the heading with these two latex commands:

\markboth{The Name of Your Unnumbered Chapter}{}

Otherwise the chapter’s mini table of contents and the running header will show the previous chapter.

5.5 Beginning chapters with quotes (PDF)

The OxThesis LaTeX template lets you inject some wittiness into your thesis by including a block of type savequote at the beginning of chapters. To do this, use the syntax ```{block type='savequote'}.4

Add the reference for the quote with the chunk option quote_author="my author name". You will also want to add the chunk option include=knitr::is_latex_output() so that quotes are only included in PDF output.

It’s not possible to use markdown syntax inside chunk options, so if you want to e.g. italicise a book name in the reference use a ‘text reference’: Create a named piece of text with ‘(ref:label-name) My text’, then point to this in the chunk option with quote_author='(ref:label-name)'.

5.6 Highlighting corrections (HTML & PDF)

For when it comes time to do corrections, you may want to highlight changes made when you submit a post-viva, corrected copy to your examiners so they can quickly verify you’ve completed the task. You can do so like this:

5.6.1 Short, inline corrections

Highlight short, inline corrections by doing [like this]{.correction} — the text between the square brackets will then be highlighted in blue in the output.

Note that pandoc might get confused by citations and cross-references inside inline corrections. In particular, it might get confused by "[what @Shea2014 said]{.correction}" which becomes what Shea et al. (2014) said In such cases, you can use LaTeX syntax directly. The correction highlighting uses the soul package, so you can do like this:

  • If using biblatex for references, use "\hl{what \textcite{Shea2014} said}
  • If using natbib for references, use "\hl{what \cite{Shea2014} said}

Using raw LaTeX has the drawback of corrections then not showing up in HTML output at all, but you might only care about correction highlighting in the PDF for your examiners anyway!

5.6.2 Blocks of added or changed material

Highlight entire blocks of added or changed material by putting them in a block of type correction, using the syntax ```{block type='correction'}.5 Like so:

For larger chunks, like this paragraph or indeed entire figures, you can use the correction block type. This environment highlights paragraph-sized and larger blocks with the same blue colour.

Note that correction blocks cannot be included in word output.

5.6.3 Stopping corrections from being highlighted

To turn off correction highlighting, go to the YAML header of index.Rmd, then:

  • PDF output: set corrections: false
  • HTML output: remove or comment out - templates/corrections.css

5.7 Apply custom font color and highlighting to text (HTML & PDF)

The lua filter that adds the functionality to highlight corrections adds two more tricks: you can apply your own choice of colour to highlight text, or change the font color. The syntax is as follows:

Here’s [some text in pink highlighting]{highlight="pink"}
Becomes: Here’s some text in pink highlighting.

[Here's some text with blue font]{color="blue"}
Becomes: Here’s some text with blue font

Finally — never, ever actually do this – [here's some text with black highlighting and yellow font]{highlight="black" color="yellow"}
Becomes: here’s some text with black highlighting and yellow font

The file scripts_and_filters/colour_and_highlight.lua implements this, if you want to fiddle around with it. It works with both PDF and HTML output.

5.8 Adding a second abstract (PDF)

You may need two abstracts in your thesis, if you e.g. need both an abstract in English and some other language.

You can add a second abstract in index.Rmd like so:

abstract-second-heading: "Resumé"
abstract-second: "This is the second abstract, for example in beautiful French." 

5.9 Including another paper in your thesis - embed a PDF document

You may want to embed existing PDF documents into the thesis, for example if your department allows a ‘portfolio’ style thesis and you need to include an existing typeset publication as a chapter.

In gitbook output, you can simply use knitr::include_graphics and it should include a scrollable (and downloadable) PDF. You will probably want to set the chunk options out.width='100%' and out.height='1000px':


In LaTeX output, however, this approach can cause odd behaviour. Therefore, when you build your thesis to PDF, split the PDF into an alphanumerically sorted sequence of single-page PDF files (you can do this automatically with the package pdftools). You can then use the appropriate LaTeX command to insert them, as shown below (for brevity, in the oxforddown PDF sample content we’re only including two pages). Note that the chunk option results='asis' must be set. You may also want to remove margins from the PDF files, which you can do with Adobe Acrobat (paid version) and likely other software.

# install.packages(pdftools)
# split PDF into pages stored in figures/sample-content/pdf_embed_example/split/
# pdftools::pdf_split("figures/sample-content/pdf_embed_example/Lyngs2020_FB.pdf",
#        output = "figures/sample-content/pdf_embed_example/split/")

# grab the pages
pages <- list.files("figures/sample-content/pdf_embed_example/split", full.names = TRUE)

# set how wide you want the inserted PDFs to be: 
# 1.0 is 100 per cent of the oxforddown PDF page width;
# you may want to make it a bit bigger
pdf_width <- 1.2

# for each PDF page, insert it nicely and
# end with a page break
cat(stringr::str_c("\\newpage \\begin{center} \\makebox[\\linewidth][c]{\\includegraphics[width=", pdf_width, "\\linewidth]{", pages, "}} \\end{center}"))

5.10 Including another paper in your thesis - R Markdown child document

Sometimes you want to include another paper you are currently writing as a chapter in your thesis. Above 5.9, we described the simplest way to do this: include the other paper as a pdf. However, in some cases you instead want to include the R Markdown source from this paper, and have it compiled within your thesis. This is a little bit more tricky, because you need to keep careful track of your file paths, but it is possible by including the paper as a child document. There are four main steps:

  1. Include the paper as a child document
  2. Make file paths compatible with knitting the article on its own, as well as when it’s include in your thesis
  3. Make header levels correct
  4. Make figure widths correct

5.10.1 An example paper in another folder

Take this simple example (files for this are in this GitHub repository):

|  |--my_paper.Rmd
|  |--data
|  |  |--cat_salt.csv
|  |--figures
|  |  |--cat.jpg

As the chart suggests, you have another folder, paper_to_include/ living in the same containing folder as your thesis folder. In the paper_to_include folder, the file my_paper.Rmd is where you write the paper. In my_paper.Rmd, you read in a CSV file found in the subfolder data/cats.csv, and also an image from the subfolder figures/cat.jpg.

5.10.2 Step 1: Include paper as a child document

In your thesis folder, create an Rmd file for the chapter where you want to include another paper. Add one or more code chunks that include R Markdown files from that paper as child documents:

# Including an external chapter 

```{r child = "../paper_to_include/my_paper.Rmd"}

5.10.3 Step 2: Make file paths compatible

Use parameters to adjust the file path of images based on values you set in the YAML header of an R Markdown file. In my_paper.Rmd, create a parameter called other_path and set it to an empty string:

title: "A fabulous article in a different folder"
  other_path: ""

In my_paper.Rmd, put this at the start of the filepath when you read in data or include images:


cat_data <- read_csv(str_c(params$other_path, "data/cats.csv"))
include_graphics(str_c(params$other_path, "figures/cat.jpg"))

Finally, in your thesis folder’s index.Rmd file, also create the parameter other_path. But here, set it to where the paper_to_include/ folder is relative to your thesis folder:

  other_path: "../paper_to_include/" Note on HTML output

Note that if you want to host an HTML version on your thesis online, you will need to include graphics in the content that you host online - the internet obviously won’t be able to see filepaths that are just referring to stuff in another folder on your computer!

5.10.4 Step 3: Make sure header levels are correct

Unless the paper you want to include is also written as a book, your header levels are probably going to be off. That is, the level 1 headers (# Some header) you use for main sections in the other paper turns into chaper titles when included in your thesis.

To avoid this, first increment all heading levels by one in paper_to_include/my_paper.Rmd (# Some header -> ## Some header). Then in paper_to_include/ create a lua filter that decrements header levels by one: Create a text file, save it as reduce_header_level.lua, and give it the content below.

function Header(el)
  if (el.level <= 1) then
    error("I don't know how to decrease the level of h1")
  el.level = el.level - 1
  return el

In the YAML header of paper_to_include/my_paper.Rmd, use this filter:

title: "A fabulous article in a different folder"
  other_path: ""
    pandoc_args: ["--lua-filter=reduce_header_level.lua"]

Now, your header levels will be correct both when you knit the paper on its own and when its included in your thesis.

NOTE: There might be no need to use a lua filter to shift heading - it seems you could simply use pandoc_args: ["--shift-heading-level-by=-1"] (see https://pandoc.org/MANUAL.html#reader-options)

5.10.5 Step 4. Make sure figure widths are correct

It might be that your figure widths when knitting your paper on its own, and when including it in your thesis, need to be different. You can again use parameters to set figure widths.

Imagine you want figure width to be 80% of the page width when knitting your paper on its own, but 100% in your thesis. In paper_to_include/my_paper.Rmd, first add a parameter we could call out_width and set it to the string “80%”:

title: "A fabulous article in a different folder"
  other_path: ""
  out_width: "80%"
    pandoc_args: ["--lua-filter=reduce_header_level.lua"]

Then, make sure use that parameter to set the output width when you include figures in paper_to_include/my_paper.Rmd:

```{r, out.width=params$out_width, fig.cap="A very funny cat"}
include_graphics(str_c(params$other_path, "figures/cat.jpg"))

Finally, create the parameter out_width in your thesis’ index.Rmd file:

  other_path: "../paper_to_include/"
  out_width: "80%"

Now, the output width of your figure will be 80% when knitting your paper on its own, and 100% when knitting it as child document of your thesis.

5.11 Customizing citations and referencing

5.11.1 Using a .csl file with pandoc

See section 3.1.1.

The only drawbacks to letting pandoc handle citations is that (i) it does not support chapter bibliographies, (ii) if you’re a LaTeX veteran, you might be more comfortable with biblatex or natbib.

5.11.2 Using biblatex

To use biblatex to handle citations, first uncomment this in index.Rmd, YAML header:

use-biblatex: true
bib-latex-options: "style=authoryear, sorting=nyt, backend=biber, maxcitenames=2, useprefix, doi=true, isbn=false, uniquename=false"

Then tell R Markdown to use biblatex when inserting citations, by setting citation_package: biblatex:

    citation_package: biblatex

To customise the appearance of citations, change bib-latex-options. For example, to get numerical citations, with references in order of their appearance in the text, set it to

bib-latex-options: "style=numeric-comp, sorting=none, backend=biber, maxcitenames=2, useprefix, doi=true, isbn=false, uniquename=false" Adding chapter bibliographies

If you would like chapter bibliographies, first add “refsection=chapter” to the biblatex options, for example like this:

bib-latex-options: "refsection=chapter, style=authoryear, sorting=nyt, backend=biber, maxcitenames=2, useprefix, doi=true, isbn=false, uniquename=false"

Second, set the parameter insertHeadingInPDF: false in index.Rmd, to suppress the inclusion of a ‘References’ heading at the end of the thesis.

  insertHeadingInPDF: false

Finally insert this line at the end of each chapter, to print the bibliographies there:


5.11.3 Using natbib

To use natbib to handle citations, first uncomment this in index.Rmd, YAML header:

use-natbib: true
natbib-citation-style: authoryear #for science, you might want numbers,square
natbib-bibliography-style: templates/ACM-Reference-Format.bst #e.g. "plainnat", unsrtnat, or path to a .bst file

Then tell R Markdown to use natbib when inserting citations, by setting citation_package: natbib:

    citation_package: natbib

To customise the appearance of citations, change what .bst file you point to in natbib-bibliography-style.

5.12 Customizing the page headers and footers (PDF)

This can now be done directly in index.Rmd’s YAML header. If you are a LaTeX expert and need further customisation that what’s currently provided, you can tweak the relevant sections of templates/template.tex - the relevant code is beneath the line that begins \usepackage{fancyhdr}.

5.13 Diving in to the OxThesis LaTeX template (PDF)

For LaTeX minded people, you can read through templates/template.tex to see which additional customisation options are available as well as templates/ociamthesis.cls which supplies the base class. For example, template.tex provides an option for master’s degree submissions, which changes identifying information to candidate number and includes a word count. At the time of writing, you must set this directly in template.tex rather than from the YAML header in index.Rmd.

5.14 Customising to a different university

5.14.1 The minimal route

If the front matter in the OxThesis LaTeX template is suitable to your university, customising oxforddown to your needs could be as simple as putting the name of your institution and the path to your university’s logo in index.Rmd:

university: University of You
university-logo: figures/your-logo-here.pdf

5.14.2 Replacing the entire title page with your required content

If you have a .tex file with some required front matter from your university that you want to replace the OxThesis template’s title page altogether, you can provide a filepath to this file in index.Rmd. oxforddown’s sample content includes and example of this — if you use the YAML below, your front matter will look like this:

alternative-title-page: front-and-back-matter/alt-title-page-example.tex