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Thesis Guide

Information for master's students preparing for, writing, or submitting their theses.

For Dissertations

Doctoral students should refer here instead:

Citing Your Work

Citation Managers


Master Thesis Guide

Congratulations! You are now ready to begin writing your thesis. You have put considerable time and effort into your program of study and completed original scholarly work that must now be documented. The primary purpose of a thesis is to learn the processes of scholarly research and writing under the direction of your graduate committee. After graduation, the thesis will serve as a published contribution to knowledge, useful to scholars and general audiences. The purpose of this document is to outline the formatting requirements of your thesis.

Therefore, the College of Graduate Studies, the Lamson Library, and the Graduate Faculty of Plymouth State University have established format standards that a thesis must meet before it receives final approval as a fulfillment of a graduate requirement. This publication sets forth those standards. Some of these thesis requirements are purely technical; others have been established to ensure that certain vital information is presented in an orderly, uniform manner. The format is designed to allow for maximum flexibility in minor matters, which vary among academic disciplines (e.g., reference styles). Thus, while you will need to comply with the specifications given here, you will probably also need to consult a specialized manual of scholarly style in your field or the style sheet of a leading journal.

The student and thesis advisor is responsible for certifying that theses have been prepared in accordance with the regulations in this guide. The text should be proofread and free of grammatical errors and typos. For support with editing, students may contact the Writing Center. The thesis author bears ultimate responsibility for meeting all of the formatting and style requirements set forth by the University and the graduate thesis committee. If format errors exist, the thesis will be returned and possibly delay graduation. It is extremely important that the author carefully review and proofread the thesis before the final submission to the Library; changes will not be permitted after submission. Please arrange to drop off your thesis by making an appointment with Lamson Library personnel. (See Library Submission.)

The overall thesis format can be either manuscript or standard style. In academic areas where research is published in the form of journal articles, you and your advisor may choose to have the format of the thesis approximate that of a manuscript to be submitted for journal publication. In this case, the main body of the thesis, for example, may be relatively brief, with sections such as the literature review or future research directions placed in separate chapters or as appendices. Tables and figures whose importance to the text is tangential may also be handled as appendix material, or the thesis may consist of chapters that are essentially separate journal articles.

Electronic Publication

Once accepted, your thesis will be uploaded to the PSU repository, Summit Institutional Repository@PSU, where scholarly and artistic works of the faculty and students are collected. Theses and dissertations are included in the repository, but are accessible only on campus unless the author grants permission to make their thesis or dissertation openly available online.

Open Access Publishing

Some of the benefits of making work openly available are:

  • Increased awareness and broad dissemination of the work, often resulting in increased citations
  • A permanent location for the work, with a stable URL that can be shared on future applications and CVs

In some situations there may be reasons not to make a thesis or dissertation available immediately. Research that includes personal information of research subjects, a patentable discovery, or is undergoing peer review for journal publication may need to be restricted in some way. In these cases either an embargo or partial redaction may be appropriate. More information on these situations as well as restriction options can be found in the FAQs below.

Publishing an openly available copy in the PSU repository is strongly encouraged. If you would like to make your thesis or dissertation openly available, please print and sign this permission form below and return it with your submission. This permission form requests a non-exclusive license to publish your work electronically. That means that you retain all of your copyrights and are free to enter into agreements to publish this work or another version of it elsewhere. 

If you have any questions please contact librarian Alice Pearman via phone (603-535-2226) or email (ajpearman (at) plymouth (dot) edu).


How is this different than the release I sign on the approval page of my thesis or dissertation?

“I understand that my dissertation will become part of the permanent collection of Plymouth State University, Lamson Learning Commons.  My signature below authorizes release of my dissertation to any reader upon request.” 

The above text, which appears on the approval page, is the permission the library needs in order to make your thesis or dissertation available in print and online within the Plymouth State campus community and outside of it should we receive an interlibrary loan (ILL) request. This signature is required.

The permission form to make your thesis or dissertation openly available online is entirely optional. There is no penalty for choosing not to make your work openly available, other than not reaping the benefits described above.

Why might someone want to restrict access to their thesis or dissertation?

The thesis or dissertation contains sensitive information, for example personal details about individuals involved in the research. If applicable, consult the application and approval of the Institutional Review Board for guidance on what limitations are appropriate. 

The thesis contains a patentable discovery. To successfully patent an invention, it must not have been previously published or presented.

A journal article based on the thesis or dissertation is currently undergoing or is likely to undergo a peer review process. Open availability of the work would threaten a blind peer review process.

What are the options for restricting access to my thesis or dissertation? 

Embargo: A publication delay of usually 6 months to 2 years may be appropriate while journal articles derived from a thesis or dissertation are undergoing the peer review process or when a patent application is pending. Longer embargoes are possible but not encouraged.

Redaction: Removing parts of the thesis or dissertation maybe appropriate in cases where sensitive personal information is involved. 

I am planning to submit an article to a journal based on the work described in my thesis or dissertation. Will making my thesis or dissertation openly available interfere with this process?

It is not unusual for an author to derive one or more journal articles from the work of their thesis or dissertation in order to share their discoveries in a more succinct way. You should always be upfront with the journal editor about the relationship between the article and your thesis or dissertation, but generally open access thesis or dissertation publication is not an impediment to journal publication.

Theses/dissertations and journal articles have very different requirements, formats, and audiences. Because significant edits to sections of a thesis or dissertation are likely in order to produce an article, there is generally not a “self-plagiarism” problem with this practice.  However, one possible concern is that an open access copy of a dissertation, especially one that shares a title with the article, makes it impossible to guarantee a blind peer review process for the article. If you or your editor have concerns about this, consider placing an embargo on your thesis or dissertation.

Someday I might want to turn my manuscript into a book.  Does this count as previous publication?

As most works undergo significant editing and changes in format before becoming a book, most publishers do not consider an open access copy of a thesis or dissertation an impediment to subsequent publication of a book based that thesis or dissertation. (2011 Survey of Publishers)

Ok, I’m in, how do I know when my work is available in the repository or what my permanent URL is?

Authors will receive an email containing their URL when their work become available in the repository. Authors can expect their work to appear in the repository 4-6 weeks after submitting the permission form and digital copy to the library. If you have concerns about the timeline, please contact librarian Alice Pearman via phone (603-535-2226) or email (ajpearman (at) plymouth (dot) edu).

Submitting to ProQuest

You may also choose to submit your thesis for inclusion in the ProQuest database Dissertation & Theses Abstracts Online, where it will be discoverable by PSU students, faculty, and staff as well as patrons of other institutions.  

Please note: Sending your thesis to ProQuest is optional. Your permission is required in order for us to upload your thesis to ProQuest. Please include a signed copy of the ProQuest permission form when you submit your thesis.