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Thesis Guide

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

Standard Document Format

Standard Document Format refers to one thesis document that addresses a single theme. The Pretext Pages, Introduction, Conclusion, and Bibliography are mandatory. Your committee determines the additional chapters; you choose the chapter titles. The following parts comprise the Standard Document Format:

  • Pretext Pages (see model pages illustrated in Figures 2-11)
  • Chapter 1 – Introduction
  • Chapter 2 – Literature Review
  • Chapter 3 – Materials and Methods
  • Chapter 4 – Results
  • Chapter 5 – Discussion
  • Chapter 6 – Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Appendices (optional) – refer to specific departmental guidelines


Manuscript Document Format

Manuscript Document Format is a single thesis document made up of one to several scholarly manuscripts or journal articles addressing a common theme. All manuscripts/articles must be related or address a single, common theme. You must be the primary author of each manuscript. Co-authors other than your major professor must be mentioned in a Contribution of Authors page (see Figure 7) in the pretext section of the document. The following parts comprise the Manuscript Document Format:

  • Pretext Pages (see model pages illustrated in Figures 2-11)
  • Chapter 1 – General Introduction (common introduction linking all manuscripts thematically)
  • Chapter 2 – First Manuscript
  • Chapter 3 – Second Manuscript
  • Chapter 4 – General Conclusion (common conclusion linking all manuscripts thematically)
  • Bibliography (common bibliography covering all manuscripts, although each manuscript may have its own reference section)
  • Appendices – (optional)

Note: Within the larger Manuscript Format thesis document, Chapter Heading Pages (see Figure 1 below) precede individual manuscripts that have already been published. Manuscripts must uniformly conform to these thesis guidelines.

 Figure 1. Chapter Heading Page for Manuscript Document Format

Sample Papers

Please verify all formatting with your thesis committee.  These examples should illustrate proper formatting.

Page Layout and Text Requirements



The left margin must be at least 1.5 inches (recommend 1.7). All other margins must be at least 1 inch. Nothing may invade a margin. Every page must meet margin requirements.

Page Numbering

Page numbers must appear at the top right corner of pages, at least 1inch from the top edge of the page and at least 1 inch from the right edge of the page. Page numbers must not invade any margins. There should be at least one return between the page number and the first line of text.

  • Pretext pages:The abstract, copyright page, title page, and signature page in the pretext section are not numbered. Beginning with the page after the signature page, pretext pages are numbered with lower case Roman numerals (e.g., i, ii, iii, iv)
  • Body: The body of the text, including Appendix/Appendices and Bibliography, are numbered consecutively with Arabic Numbers (e.g. 2, 3, etc.). Page one, although counted, is not numbered. Most software comes with the ability to suppress page one numbering. If your software does not have this ability, remove the page number from page one manually.


Your document begins with its title repeated and centered on page one. Titles longer than one line should be single-spaced. The document’s title does not count as a heading level.

Text Spacing

Use either double or single spacing for the body of text. Do not mix the spacing. Single spacing is preferred. If you use double spacing use single spacing in the following situations:

    For headings longer than one line
    For figure titles/legends
    For bibliographical and reference citations
    For direct quoted material
    For items listed within the body of the text (optional)
    Where indicated in the pretext section

Text Format Requirements



Use regular, unadorned print, 10- to 12-point size for text (headings may be 14-point only if all headings are 14-point). Use the same font style and font size throughout.


Chapter names are Level 1 headings. Subheadings of a chapter are Level 2 headings. Subheadings of chapter subheadings are Level 3 headings, and so forth. Each level must look different from the other levels. Headings of the same level must look the same throughout the document. All headings, regardless of level, must be the same font size. Either number all headings or number none (See figures 9 and 10). Single space headings that are more than one line, and use adequate and consistent spacing between headings and the text. A minimum of two subheadings may be used within a given level. Each level 1 heading begins a new page.

Appendix Heading Page

A numbered, counted page should be inserted in front of your document’s appendix/appendices. The word APPENDIX (or APPENDICES) should be centered about 1/3 down this page. This heading page and its page number should appear in the Table of Contents.

Blocked Quotes

Use Blocked Quotes for quoted material longer than three lines. Use the same font size as within the text. Single-space the quotation, and indent it evenly on both sides. There is no need to justify quotations.


Use the same font size as within the text. Choose a reference style with the guidance of your major professor and your committee and be consistent. Single-space each citation, and use adequate and consistent spacing between citations.


Footnotes collected at the end of a chapter are called endnotes. Use the same font size as within the text. Single-space each endnote, and use adequate and consistent spacing between endnotes.

Orphan Lines/Headers/Footnotes

No orphan lines may appear at the top or bottom of a page. No headers or footers may be used. Footnotes are acceptable.


Figures may be located in one of two places in your document. You must choose one system, and use it consistently throughout your work.

  • Insert the figure within the text, as close as possible after the first reference is made to it
  • Place your figures at the end of the chapter in which it is first discussed or referenced

Figure Labels and Captions

Figures include charts, diagrams, drawings, examples, graphs, illustrations, maps, photographs, etc. In the majority of cases, if it’s not a table, it is a figure. A figure’s labels denote the type of figure and its number, and a figure’s caption is its title and description.

Every figure must have a label and caption unless there is only one figure of its type in the document. Use consecutive label numbers by order of appearance within the text. Each figure must have a unique number. Illustrations that take up more than one page should have the label followed by “(Continued)” on the second page.

Label and caption font size is the same as body text size. Use adequate (at least one return) and consistent spacing between and figure and its label and caption and between the figure and text. A figure’s label and caption should be placed outside its boundaries, commonly above a table and below an illustration. If both a figure and its label and caption do not fit on one page, place only the label on the page with the figure, and place the label and caption on a separate page that precedes the figure (called a legend page). Single-space the label and caption and center it 1/3 of the way down the page. Include no other text on this page.

All figures must be listed in the pretext pages’ List of Figures. List the page number of the legend page in the pretext list.


A table is broadly defined as a compact, systematic list of data (facts, figures, values, etc.), generally arranged in columns and/or rows. All tables must be listed in the pretext pages’ List of Tables.

Table Captions

Are located above the table, on the same page as the table. Table captions should contain the illustration number, i.e., Table 1 and its title. You may number tables consecutively throughout the text or within the chapter, i.e., Table 1.1 for the first table in Chapter 1 and Table 2.1 for the first title in Chapter 2. As always, pick one method and use it consistently throughout your document.


Because of their shape, some figures may need to be placed crosswise on a page. If so, the top of the figure should be at the left margin as viewed normally (i.e. portrait orientation), and the caption should be parallel to the right margin. The page number keeps the same location and orientation as all other page numbers in the text. Margin requirements apply.


Figures should be photocopied directly onto the paper whenever possible. If it is necessary to use original figures, they must be mounted onto the paper with a spray adhesive. Rubber cement should not be used, because it yellows and deteriorates over time. To test if your figure is correctly mounted, put your fingernail under an edge and try to lift it away from the paper—if it lifts even slightly at any edge, you must fasten it again.


Color used to differentiate lines, bars, or segments will reproduce as shades of gray on microfilm and in photocopies. Choose high-contrast colors that will remain distinct in the black-and-white process, or use symbols with or without the color. Photocopy the image directly onto the paper or use a laser printer. Do not print with water-based ink.

Oversized Figures

There are 3 ways of managing the inclusion of oversized figures:

  • Reduction: Photographically reduce the size of figures to meet margin requirements. Page numbers and figure captions must remain the same font size as the text.
  • Accordion Fold: The final, folded page must be 11 inches in height and no more than 8 inches wide. Fold the page from right to left, making the final folded width 8 inches. Fold the page a second time from left to right so the page number appears in the same position as all other pages in the text.
  • Pocket Addition: The Library will attach a pocket to the back binding and fold the figure to fit it.

Printing and Packaging Specifications

Because bound copies will be placed on shelves in Lamson Library, the following paper and printing specifications will help us preserve your thesis or dissertation for a longer shelf life.

  • Use the same white acid free resume/thesis paper for the entire document (recommended: 20-30 lb. paper).
  • Document text must appear on only one side of the paper (no double-sided pages).
  • Photocopy the final document, OR print using a laser printer. Do not use an inkjet printer or water-soluble ink.
  • Please check over your entire document before and after printing to avoid any pagination, textual formatting, or ink blemish errors.