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What is a thesis | A Complete Guide with Examples


Table of Contents

A thesis is a comprehensive academic paper based on your original research that presents new findings, arguments, and ideas of your study. It’s typically submitted at the end of your master’s degree or as a capstone of your bachelor’s degree.

However, writing a thesis can be laborious, especially for beginners. From the initial challenge of pinpointing a compelling research topic to organizing and presenting findings, the process is filled with potential pitfalls.

Therefore, to help you, this guide talks about what is a thesis. Additionally, it offers revelations and methodologies to transform it from an overwhelming task to a manageable and rewarding academic milestone.

What is a thesis?

A thesis is an in-depth research study that identifies a particular topic of inquiry and presents a clear argument or perspective about that topic using evidence and logic.

Writing a thesis showcases your ability of critical thinking, gathering evidence, and making a compelling argument. Integral to these competencies is thorough research, which not only fortifies your propositions but also confers credibility to your entire study.

Furthermore, there's another phenomenon you might often confuse with the thesis: the ' working thesis .' However, they aren't similar and shouldn't be used interchangeably.

A working thesis, often referred to as a preliminary or tentative thesis, is an initial version of your thesis statement. It serves as a draft or a starting point that guides your research in its early stages.

As you research more and gather more evidence, your initial thesis (aka working thesis) might change. It's like a starting point that can be adjusted as you learn more. It's normal for your main topic to change a few times before you finalize it.

While a thesis identifies and provides an overarching argument, the key to clearly communicating the central point of that argument lies in writing a strong thesis statement.

What is a thesis statement?

A strong thesis statement (aka thesis sentence) is a concise summary of the main argument or claim of the paper. It serves as a critical anchor in any academic work, succinctly encapsulating the primary argument or main idea of the entire paper.

Typically found within the introductory section, a strong thesis statement acts as a roadmap of your thesis, directing readers through your arguments and findings. By delineating the core focus of your investigation, it offers readers an immediate understanding of the context and the gravity of your study.

Furthermore, an effectively crafted thesis statement can set forth the boundaries of your research, helping readers anticipate the specific areas of inquiry you are addressing.

Different types of thesis statements

A good thesis statement is clear, specific, and arguable. Therefore, it is necessary for you to choose the right type of thesis statement for your academic papers.

Thesis statements can be classified based on their purpose and structure. Here are the primary types of thesis statements:

Argumentative (or Persuasive) thesis statement

Purpose : To convince the reader of a particular stance or point of view by presenting evidence and formulating a compelling argument.

Example : Reducing plastic use in daily life is essential for environmental health.

Analytical thesis statement

Purpose : To break down an idea or issue into its components and evaluate it.

Example : By examining the long-term effects, social implications, and economic impact of climate change, it becomes evident that immediate global action is necessary.

Expository (or Descriptive) thesis statement

Purpose : To explain a topic or subject to the reader.

Example : The Great Depression, spanning the 1930s, was a severe worldwide economic downturn triggered by a stock market crash, bank failures, and reduced consumer spending.

Cause and effect thesis statement

Purpose : To demonstrate a cause and its resulting effect.

Example : Overuse of smartphones can lead to impaired sleep patterns, reduced face-to-face social interactions, and increased levels of anxiety.

Compare and contrast thesis statement

Purpose : To highlight similarities and differences between two subjects.

Example : "While both novels '1984' and 'Brave New World' delve into dystopian futures, they differ in their portrayal of individual freedom, societal control, and the role of technology."

When you write a thesis statement , it's important to ensure clarity and precision, so the reader immediately understands the central focus of your work.

What is the difference between a thesis and a thesis statement?

While both terms are frequently used interchangeably, they have distinct meanings.

A thesis refers to the entire research document, encompassing all its chapters and sections. In contrast, a thesis statement is a brief assertion that encapsulates the central argument of the research.

Here’s an in-depth differentiation table of a thesis and a thesis statement.



Thesis Statement


An extensive document presenting the author's research and findings, typically for a degree or professional qualification.

A concise sentence or two in an essay or research paper that outlines the main idea or argument.  


It’s the entire document on its own.

Typically found at the end of the introduction of an essay, research paper, or thesis.


Introduction, methodology, results, conclusions, and bibliography or references.

Doesn't include any specific components


Provides detailed research, presents findings, and contributes to a field of study. 

To guide the reader about the main point or argument of the paper or essay.

Now, to craft a compelling thesis, it's crucial to adhere to a specific structure. Let’s break down these essential components that make up a thesis structure

15 components of a thesis structure

Navigating a thesis can be daunting. However, understanding its structure can make the process more manageable.

Here are the key components or different sections of a thesis structure:

Your thesis begins with the title page. It's not just a formality but the gateway to your research.


Here, you'll prominently display the necessary information about you (the author) and your institutional details.

  • Title of your thesis
  • Your full name
  • Your department
  • Your institution and degree program
  • Your submission date
  • Your Supervisor's name (in some cases)
  • Your Department or faculty (in some cases)
  • Your University's logo (in some cases)
  • Your Student ID (in some cases)

In a concise manner, you'll have to summarize the critical aspects of your research in typically no more than 200-300 words.


This includes the problem statement, methodology, key findings, and conclusions. For many, the abstract will determine if they delve deeper into your work, so ensure it's clear and compelling.


Research is rarely a solitary endeavor. In the acknowledgments section, you have the chance to express gratitude to those who've supported your journey.


This might include advisors, peers, institutions, or even personal sources of inspiration and support. It's a personal touch, reflecting the humanity behind the academic rigor.

Table of contents

A roadmap for your readers, the table of contents lists the chapters, sections, and subsections of your thesis.


By providing page numbers, you allow readers to navigate your work easily, jumping to sections that pique their interest.

List of figures and tables

Research often involves data, and presenting this data visually can enhance understanding. This section provides an organized listing of all figures and tables in your thesis.


It's a visual index, ensuring that readers can quickly locate and reference your graphical data.


Here's where you introduce your research topic, articulate the research question or objective, and outline the significance of your study.


  • Present the research topic : Clearly articulate the central theme or subject of your research.
  • Background information : Ground your research topic, providing any necessary context or background information your readers might need to understand the significance of your study.
  • Define the scope : Clearly delineate the boundaries of your research, indicating what will and won't be covered.
  • Literature review : Introduce any relevant existing research on your topic, situating your work within the broader academic conversation and highlighting where your research fits in.
  • State the research Question(s) or objective(s) : Clearly articulate the primary questions or objectives your research aims to address.
  • Outline the study's structure : Give a brief overview of how the subsequent sections of your work will unfold, guiding your readers through the journey ahead.

The introduction should captivate your readers, making them eager to delve deeper into your research journey.

Literature review section

Your study correlates with existing research. Therefore, in the literature review section, you'll engage in a dialogue with existing knowledge, highlighting relevant studies, theories, and findings.


It's here that you identify gaps in the current knowledge, positioning your research as a bridge to new insights.

To streamline this process, consider leveraging AI tools. For example, the SciSpace literature review tool enables you to efficiently explore and delve into research papers, simplifying your literature review journey.


In the research methodology section, you’ll detail the tools, techniques, and processes you employed to gather and analyze data. This section will inform the readers about how you approached your research questions and ensures the reproducibility of your study.


Here's a breakdown of what it should encompass:

  • Research Design : Describe the overall structure and approach of your research. Are you conducting a qualitative study with in-depth interviews? Or is it a quantitative study using statistical analysis? Perhaps it's a mixed-methods approach?
  • Data Collection : Detail the methods you used to gather data. This could include surveys, experiments, observations, interviews, archival research, etc. Mention where you sourced your data, the duration of data collection, and any tools or instruments used.
  • Sampling : If applicable, explain how you selected participants or data sources for your study. Discuss the size of your sample and the rationale behind choosing it.
  • Data Analysis : Describe the techniques and tools you used to process and analyze the data. This could range from statistical tests in quantitative research to thematic analysis in qualitative research.
  • Validity and Reliability : Address the steps you took to ensure the validity and reliability of your findings to ensure that your results are both accurate and consistent.
  • Ethical Considerations : Highlight any ethical issues related to your research and the measures you took to address them, including — informed consent, confidentiality, and data storage and protection measures.

Moreover, different research questions necessitate different types of methodologies. For instance:

  • Experimental methodology : Often used in sciences, this involves a controlled experiment to discern causality.
  • Qualitative methodology : Employed when exploring patterns or phenomena without numerical data. Methods can include interviews, focus groups, or content analysis.
  • Quantitative methodology : Concerned with measurable data and often involves statistical analysis. Surveys and structured observations are common tools here.
  • Mixed methods : As the name implies, this combines both qualitative and quantitative methodologies.

The Methodology section isn’t just about detailing the methods but also justifying why they were chosen. The appropriateness of the methods in addressing your research question can significantly impact the credibility of your findings.

Results (or Findings)

This section presents the outcomes of your research. It's crucial to note that the nature of your results may vary; they could be quantitative, qualitative, or a mix of both.


Quantitative results often present statistical data, showcasing measurable outcomes, and they benefit from tables, graphs, and figures to depict these data points.

Qualitative results , on the other hand, might delve into patterns, themes, or narratives derived from non-numerical data, such as interviews or observations.

Regardless of the nature of your results, clarity is essential. This section is purely about presenting the data without offering interpretations — that comes later in the discussion.

In the discussion section, the raw data transforms into valuable insights.

Start by revisiting your research question and contrast it with the findings. How do your results expand, constrict, or challenge current academic conversations?

Dive into the intricacies of the data, guiding the reader through its implications. Detail potential limitations transparently, signaling your awareness of the research's boundaries. This is where your academic voice should be resonant and confident.

Practical implications (Recommendation) section

Based on the insights derived from your research, this section provides actionable suggestions or proposed solutions.

Whether aimed at industry professionals or the general public, recommendations translate your academic findings into potential real-world actions. They help readers understand the practical implications of your work and how it can be applied to effect change or improvement in a given field.

When crafting recommendations, it's essential to ensure they're feasible and rooted in the evidence provided by your research. They shouldn't merely be aspirational but should offer a clear path forward, grounded in your findings.

The conclusion provides closure to your research narrative.

It's not merely a recap but a synthesis of your main findings and their broader implications. Reconnect with the research questions or hypotheses posited at the beginning, offering clear answers based on your findings.


Reflect on the broader contributions of your study, considering its impact on the academic community and potential real-world applications.

Lastly, the conclusion should leave your readers with a clear understanding of the value and impact of your study.

References (or Bibliography)

Every theory you've expounded upon, every data point you've cited, and every methodological precedent you've followed finds its acknowledgment here.


In references, it's crucial to ensure meticulous consistency in formatting, mirroring the specific guidelines of the chosen citation style .

Proper referencing helps to avoid plagiarism , gives credit to original ideas, and allows readers to explore topics of interest. Moreover, it situates your work within the continuum of academic knowledge.

To properly cite the sources used in the study, you can rely on online citation generator tools  to generate accurate citations!

Here’s more on how you can cite your sources.

Often, the depth of research produces a wealth of material that, while crucial, can make the core content of the thesis cumbersome. The appendix is where you mention extra information that supports your research but isn't central to the main text.


Whether it's raw datasets, detailed procedural methodologies, extended case studies, or any other ancillary material, the appendices ensure that these elements are archived for reference without breaking the main narrative's flow.

For thorough researchers and readers keen on meticulous details, the appendices provide a treasure trove of insights.

Glossary (optional)

In academics, specialized terminologies, and jargon are inevitable. However, not every reader is versed in every term.

The glossary, while optional, is a critical tool for accessibility. It's a bridge ensuring that even readers from outside the discipline can access, understand, and appreciate your work.


By defining complex terms and providing context, you're inviting a wider audience to engage with your research, enhancing its reach and impact.

Remember, while these components provide a structured framework, the essence of your thesis lies in the originality of your ideas, the rigor of your research, and the clarity of your presentation.

As you craft each section, keep your readers in mind, ensuring that your passion and dedication shine through every page.

Thesis examples

To further elucidate the concept of a thesis, here are illustrative examples from various fields:

Example 1 (History): Abolition, Africans, and Abstraction: the Influence of the ‘Noble Savage’ on British and French Antislavery Thought, 1787-1807 by Suchait Kahlon.
Example 2 (Climate Dynamics): Influence of external forcings on abrupt millennial-scale climate changes: a statistical modelling study by Takahito Mitsui · Michel Crucifix

Checklist for your thesis evaluation

Evaluating your thesis ensures that your research meets the standards of academia. Here's an elaborate checklist to guide you through this critical process.

Content and structure

  • Is the thesis statement clear, concise, and debatable?
  • Does the introduction provide sufficient background and context?
  • Is the literature review comprehensive, relevant, and well-organized?
  • Does the methodology section clearly describe and justify the research methods?
  • Are the results/findings presented clearly and logically?
  • Does the discussion interpret the results in light of the research question and existing literature?
  • Is the conclusion summarizing the research and suggesting future directions or implications?

Clarity and coherence

  • Is the writing clear and free of jargon?
  • Are ideas and sections logically connected and flowing?
  • Is there a clear narrative or argument throughout the thesis?

Research quality

  • Is the research question significant and relevant?
  • Are the research methods appropriate for the question?
  • Is the sample size (if applicable) adequate?
  • Are the data analysis techniques appropriate and correctly applied?
  • Are potential biases or limitations addressed?

Originality and significance

  • Does the thesis contribute new knowledge or insights to the field?
  • Is the research grounded in existing literature while offering fresh perspectives?

Formatting and presentation

  • Is the thesis formatted according to institutional guidelines?
  • Are figures, tables, and charts clear, labeled, and referenced in the text?
  • Is the bibliography or reference list complete and consistently formatted?
  • Are appendices relevant and appropriately referenced in the main text?

Grammar and language

  • Is the thesis free of grammatical and spelling errors?
  • Is the language professional, consistent, and appropriate for an academic audience?
  • Are quotations and paraphrased material correctly cited?

Feedback and revision

  • Have you sought feedback from peers, advisors, or experts in the field?
  • Have you addressed the feedback and made the necessary revisions?

Overall assessment

  • Does the thesis as a whole feel cohesive and comprehensive?
  • Would the thesis be understandable and valuable to someone in your field?

Ensure to use this checklist to leave no ground for doubt or missed information in your thesis.

After writing your thesis, the next step is to discuss and defend your findings verbally in front of a knowledgeable panel. You’ve to be well prepared as your professors may grade your presentation abilities.

Preparing your thesis defense

A thesis defense, also known as "defending the thesis," is the culmination of a scholar's research journey. It's the final frontier, where you’ll present their findings and face scrutiny from a panel of experts.

Typically, the defense involves a public presentation where you’ll have to outline your study, followed by a question-and-answer session with a committee of experts. This committee assesses the validity, originality, and significance of the research.

The defense serves as a rite of passage for scholars. It's an opportunity to showcase expertise, address criticisms, and refine arguments. A successful defense not only validates the research but also establishes your authority as a researcher in your field.

Here’s how you can effectively prepare for your thesis defense .

Now, having touched upon the process of defending a thesis, it's worth noting that scholarly work can take various forms, depending on academic and regional practices.

One such form, often paralleled with the thesis, is the 'dissertation.' But what differentiates the two?

Dissertation vs. Thesis

Often used interchangeably in casual discourse, they refer to distinct research projects undertaken at different levels of higher education.

To the uninitiated, understanding their meaning might be elusive. So, let's demystify these terms and delve into their core differences.

Here's a table differentiating between the two.





Often for a master's degree, showcasing a grasp of existing research

Primarily for a doctoral degree, contributing new knowledge to the field


100 pages, focusing on a specific topic or question.

400-500 pages, involving deep research and comprehensive findings

Research Depth

Builds upon existing research

Involves original and groundbreaking research

Advisor's Role

Guides the research process

Acts more as a consultant, allowing the student to take the lead


Demonstrates understanding of the subject

Proves capability to conduct independent and original research

Wrapping up

From understanding the foundational concept of a thesis to navigating its various components, differentiating it from a dissertation, and recognizing the importance of proper citation — this guide covers it all.

As scholars and readers, understanding these nuances not only aids in academic pursuits but also fosters a deeper appreciation for the relentless quest for knowledge that drives academia.

It’s important to remember that every thesis is a testament to curiosity, dedication, and the indomitable spirit of discovery.

Good luck with your thesis writing!

Frequently Asked Questions

A thesis typically ranges between 40-80 pages, but its length can vary based on the research topic, institution guidelines, and level of study.

A PhD thesis usually spans 200-300 pages, though this can vary based on the discipline, complexity of the research, and institutional requirements.

To identify a thesis topic, consider current trends in your field, gaps in existing literature, personal interests, and discussions with advisors or mentors. Additionally, reviewing related journals and conference proceedings can provide insights into potential areas of exploration.

The conceptual framework is often situated in the literature review or theoretical framework section of a thesis. It helps set the stage by providing the context, defining key concepts, and explaining the relationships between variables.

A thesis statement should be concise, clear, and specific. It should state the main argument or point of your research. Start by pinpointing the central question or issue your research addresses, then condense that into a single statement, ensuring it reflects the essence of your paper.

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Developing a Thesis Statement

Many papers you write require developing a thesis statement. In this section you’ll learn what a thesis statement is and how to write one.

Keep in mind that not all papers require thesis statements . If in doubt, please consult your instructor for assistance.

What is a thesis statement?

A thesis statement . . .

  • Makes an argumentative assertion about a topic; it states the conclusions that you have reached about your topic.
  • Makes a promise to the reader about the scope, purpose, and direction of your paper.
  • Is focused and specific enough to be “proven” within the boundaries of your paper.
  • Is generally located near the end of the introduction ; sometimes, in a long paper, the thesis will be expressed in several sentences or in an entire paragraph.
  • Identifies the relationships between the pieces of evidence that you are using to support your argument.

Not all papers require thesis statements! Ask your instructor if you’re in doubt whether you need one.

Identify a topic

Your topic is the subject about which you will write. Your assignment may suggest several ways of looking at a topic; or it may name a fairly general concept that you will explore or analyze in your paper.

Consider what your assignment asks you to do

Inform yourself about your topic, focus on one aspect of your topic, ask yourself whether your topic is worthy of your efforts, generate a topic from an assignment.

Below are some possible topics based on sample assignments.

Sample assignment 1

Analyze Spain’s neutrality in World War II.

Identified topic

Franco’s role in the diplomatic relationships between the Allies and the Axis

This topic avoids generalities such as “Spain” and “World War II,” addressing instead on Franco’s role (a specific aspect of “Spain”) and the diplomatic relations between the Allies and Axis (a specific aspect of World War II).

Sample assignment 2

Analyze one of Homer’s epic similes in the Iliad.

The relationship between the portrayal of warfare and the epic simile about Simoisius at 4.547-64.

This topic focuses on a single simile and relates it to a single aspect of the Iliad ( warfare being a major theme in that work).

Developing a Thesis Statement–Additional information

Your assignment may suggest several ways of looking at a topic, or it may name a fairly general concept that you will explore or analyze in your paper. You’ll want to read your assignment carefully, looking for key terms that you can use to focus your topic.

Sample assignment: Analyze Spain’s neutrality in World War II Key terms: analyze, Spain’s neutrality, World War II

After you’ve identified the key words in your topic, the next step is to read about them in several sources, or generate as much information as possible through an analysis of your topic. Obviously, the more material or knowledge you have, the more possibilities will be available for a strong argument. For the sample assignment above, you’ll want to look at books and articles on World War II in general, and Spain’s neutrality in particular.

As you consider your options, you must decide to focus on one aspect of your topic. This means that you cannot include everything you’ve learned about your topic, nor should you go off in several directions. If you end up covering too many different aspects of a topic, your paper will sprawl and be unconvincing in its argument, and it most likely will not fulfull the assignment requirements.

For the sample assignment above, both Spain’s neutrality and World War II are topics far too broad to explore in a paper. You may instead decide to focus on Franco’s role in the diplomatic relationships between the Allies and the Axis , which narrows down what aspects of Spain’s neutrality and World War II you want to discuss, as well as establishes a specific link between those two aspects.

Before you go too far, however, ask yourself whether your topic is worthy of your efforts. Try to avoid topics that already have too much written about them (i.e., “eating disorders and body image among adolescent women”) or that simply are not important (i.e. “why I like ice cream”). These topics may lead to a thesis that is either dry fact or a weird claim that cannot be supported. A good thesis falls somewhere between the two extremes. To arrive at this point, ask yourself what is new, interesting, contestable, or controversial about your topic.

As you work on your thesis, remember to keep the rest of your paper in mind at all times . Sometimes your thesis needs to evolve as you develop new insights, find new evidence, or take a different approach to your topic.

Derive a main point from topic

Once you have a topic, you will have to decide what the main point of your paper will be. This point, the “controlling idea,” becomes the core of your argument (thesis statement) and it is the unifying idea to which you will relate all your sub-theses. You can then turn this “controlling idea” into a purpose statement about what you intend to do in your paper.

Look for patterns in your evidence

Compose a purpose statement.

Consult the examples below for suggestions on how to look for patterns in your evidence and construct a purpose statement.

  • Franco first tried to negotiate with the Axis
  • Franco turned to the Allies when he couldn’t get some concessions that he wanted from the Axis

Possible conclusion:

Spain’s neutrality in WWII occurred for an entirely personal reason: Franco’s desire to preserve his own (and Spain’s) power.

Purpose statement

This paper will analyze Franco’s diplomacy during World War II to see how it contributed to Spain’s neutrality.
  • The simile compares Simoisius to a tree, which is a peaceful, natural image.
  • The tree in the simile is chopped down to make wheels for a chariot, which is an object used in warfare.

At first, the simile seems to take the reader away from the world of warfare, but we end up back in that world by the end.

This paper will analyze the way the simile about Simoisius at 4.547-64 moves in and out of the world of warfare.

Derive purpose statement from topic

To find out what your “controlling idea” is, you have to examine and evaluate your evidence . As you consider your evidence, you may notice patterns emerging, data repeated in more than one source, or facts that favor one view more than another. These patterns or data may then lead you to some conclusions about your topic and suggest that you can successfully argue for one idea better than another.

For instance, you might find out that Franco first tried to negotiate with the Axis, but when he couldn’t get some concessions that he wanted from them, he turned to the Allies. As you read more about Franco’s decisions, you may conclude that Spain’s neutrality in WWII occurred for an entirely personal reason: his desire to preserve his own (and Spain’s) power. Based on this conclusion, you can then write a trial thesis statement to help you decide what material belongs in your paper.

Sometimes you won’t be able to find a focus or identify your “spin” or specific argument immediately. Like some writers, you might begin with a purpose statement just to get yourself going. A purpose statement is one or more sentences that announce your topic and indicate the structure of the paper but do not state the conclusions you have drawn . Thus, you might begin with something like this:

  • This paper will look at modern language to see if it reflects male dominance or female oppression.
  • I plan to analyze anger and derision in offensive language to see if they represent a challenge of society’s authority.

At some point, you can turn a purpose statement into a thesis statement. As you think and write about your topic, you can restrict, clarify, and refine your argument, crafting your thesis statement to reflect your thinking.

As you work on your thesis, remember to keep the rest of your paper in mind at all times. Sometimes your thesis needs to evolve as you develop new insights, find new evidence, or take a different approach to your topic.

Compose a draft thesis statement

If you are writing a paper that will have an argumentative thesis and are having trouble getting started, the techniques in the table below may help you develop a temporary or “working” thesis statement.

Begin with a purpose statement that you will later turn into a thesis statement.

Assignment: Discuss the history of the Reform Party and explain its influence on the 1990 presidential and Congressional election.

Purpose Statement: This paper briefly sketches the history of the grassroots, conservative, Perot-led Reform Party and analyzes how it influenced the economic and social ideologies of the two mainstream parties.


If your assignment asks a specific question(s), turn the question(s) into an assertion and give reasons why it is true or reasons for your opinion.

Assignment : What do Aylmer and Rappaccini have to be proud of? Why aren’t they satisfied with these things? How does pride, as demonstrated in “The Birthmark” and “Rappaccini’s Daughter,” lead to unexpected problems?

Beginning thesis statement: Alymer and Rappaccinni are proud of their great knowledge; however, they are also very greedy and are driven to use their knowledge to alter some aspect of nature as a test of their ability. Evil results when they try to “play God.”

Write a sentence that summarizes the main idea of the essay you plan to write.

Main idea: The reason some toys succeed in the market is that they appeal to the consumers’ sense of the ridiculous and their basic desire to laugh at themselves.

Make a list of the ideas that you want to include; consider the ideas and try to group them.

  • nature = peaceful
  • war matériel = violent (competes with 1?)
  • need for time and space to mourn the dead
  • war is inescapable (competes with 3?)

Use a formula to arrive at a working thesis statement (you will revise this later).

  • although most readers of _______ have argued that _______, closer examination shows that _______.
  • _______ uses _______ and _____ to prove that ________.
  • phenomenon x is a result of the combination of __________, __________, and _________.

What to keep in mind as you draft an initial thesis statement

Beginning statements obtained through the methods illustrated above can serve as a framework for planning or drafting your paper, but remember they’re not yet the specific, argumentative thesis you want for the final version of your paper. In fact, in its first stages, a thesis statement usually is ill-formed or rough and serves only as a planning tool.

As you write, you may discover evidence that does not fit your temporary or “working” thesis. Or you may reach deeper insights about your topic as you do more research, and you will find that your thesis statement has to be more complicated to match the evidence that you want to use.

You must be willing to reject or omit some evidence in order to keep your paper cohesive and your reader focused. Or you may have to revise your thesis to match the evidence and insights that you want to discuss. Read your draft carefully, noting the conclusions you have drawn and the major ideas which support or prove those conclusions. These will be the elements of your final thesis statement.

Sometimes you will not be able to identify these elements in your early drafts, but as you consider how your argument is developing and how your evidence supports your main idea, ask yourself, “ What is the main point that I want to prove/discuss? ” and “ How will I convince the reader that this is true? ” When you can answer these questions, then you can begin to refine the thesis statement.

Refine and polish the thesis statement

To get to your final thesis, you’ll need to refine your draft thesis so that it’s specific and arguable.

  • Ask if your draft thesis addresses the assignment
  • Question each part of your draft thesis
  • Clarify vague phrases and assertions
  • Investigate alternatives to your draft thesis

Consult the example below for suggestions on how to refine your draft thesis statement.

Sample Assignment

Choose an activity and define it as a symbol of American culture. Your essay should cause the reader to think critically about the society which produces and enjoys that activity.

  • Ask The phenomenon of drive-in facilities is an interesting symbol of american culture, and these facilities demonstrate significant characteristics of our society.This statement does not fulfill the assignment because it does not require the reader to think critically about society.
Drive-ins are an interesting symbol of American culture because they represent Americans’ significant creativity and business ingenuity.
Among the types of drive-in facilities familiar during the twentieth century, drive-in movie theaters best represent American creativity, not merely because they were the forerunner of later drive-ins and drive-throughs, but because of their impact on our culture: they changed our relationship to the automobile, changed the way people experienced movies, and changed movie-going into a family activity.
While drive-in facilities such as those at fast-food establishments, banks, pharmacies, and dry cleaners symbolize America’s economic ingenuity, they also have affected our personal standards.
While drive-in facilities such as those at fast- food restaurants, banks, pharmacies, and dry cleaners symbolize (1) Americans’ business ingenuity, they also have contributed (2) to an increasing homogenization of our culture, (3) a willingness to depersonalize relationships with others, and (4) a tendency to sacrifice quality for convenience.

This statement is now specific and fulfills all parts of the assignment. This version, like any good thesis, is not self-evident; its points, 1-4, will have to be proven with evidence in the body of the paper. The numbers in this statement indicate the order in which the points will be presented. Depending on the length of the paper, there could be one paragraph for each numbered item or there could be blocks of paragraph for even pages for each one.

Complete the final thesis statement

The bottom line.

As you move through the process of crafting a thesis, you’ll need to remember four things:

  • Context matters! Think about your course materials and lectures. Try to relate your thesis to the ideas your instructor is discussing.
  • As you go through the process described in this section, always keep your assignment in mind . You will be more successful when your thesis (and paper) responds to the assignment than if it argues a semi-related idea.
  • Your thesis statement should be precise, focused, and contestable ; it should predict the sub-theses or blocks of information that you will use to prove your argument.
  • Make sure that you keep the rest of your paper in mind at all times. Change your thesis as your paper evolves, because you do not want your thesis to promise more than your paper actually delivers.

In the beginning, the thesis statement was a tool to help you sharpen your focus, limit material and establish the paper’s purpose. When your paper is finished, however, the thesis statement becomes a tool for your reader. It tells the reader what you have learned about your topic and what evidence led you to your conclusion. It keeps the reader on track–well able to understand and appreciate your argument.

thesis for guideline

Writing Process and Structure

This is an accordion element with a series of buttons that open and close related content panels.

Getting Started with Your Paper

Interpreting Writing Assignments from Your Courses

Generating Ideas for

Creating an Argument

Thesis vs. Purpose Statements

Architecture of Arguments

Working with Sources

Quoting and Paraphrasing Sources

Using Literary Quotations

Citing Sources in Your Paper

Drafting Your Paper

Generating Ideas for Your Paper



Developing Strategic Transitions


Revising Your Paper

Peer Reviews

Reverse Outlines

Revising an Argumentative Paper

Revision Strategies for Longer Projects

Finishing Your Paper

Twelve Common Errors: An Editing Checklist

How to Proofread your Paper

Writing Collaboratively

Collaborative and Group Writing

While Sandel argues that pursuing perfection through genetic engineering would decrease our sense of humility, he claims that the sense of solidarity we would lose is also important.

This thesis summarizes several points in Sandel’s argument, but it does not make a claim about how we should understand his argument. A reader who read Sandel’s argument would not also need to read an essay based on this descriptive thesis.  

Broad thesis (arguable, but difficult to support with evidence) 

Michael Sandel’s arguments about genetic engineering do not take into consideration all the relevant issues.

This is an arguable claim because it would be possible to argue against it by saying that Michael Sandel’s arguments do take all of the relevant issues into consideration. But the claim is too broad. Because the thesis does not specify which “issues” it is focused on—or why it matters if they are considered—readers won’t know what the rest of the essay will argue, and the writer won’t know what to focus on. If there is a particular issue that Sandel does not address, then a more specific version of the thesis would include that issue—hand an explanation of why it is important.  

Arguable thesis with analytical claim 

While Sandel argues persuasively that our instinct to “remake” (54) ourselves into something ever more perfect is a problem, his belief that we can always draw a line between what is medically necessary and what makes us simply “better than well” (51) is less convincing.

This is an arguable analytical claim. To argue for this claim, the essay writer will need to show how evidence from the article itself points to this interpretation. It’s also a reasonable scope for a thesis because it can be supported with evidence available in the text and is neither too broad nor too narrow.  

Arguable thesis with normative claim 

Given Sandel’s argument against genetic enhancement, we should not allow parents to decide on using Human Growth Hormone for their children.

This thesis tells us what we should do about a particular issue discussed in Sandel’s article, but it does not tell us how we should understand Sandel’s argument.  

Questions to ask about your thesis 

  • Is the thesis truly arguable? Does it speak to a genuine dilemma in the source, or would most readers automatically agree with it?  
  • Is the thesis too obvious? Again, would most or all readers agree with it without needing to see your argument?  
  • Is the thesis complex enough to require a whole essay's worth of argument?  
  • Is the thesis supportable with evidence from the text rather than with generalizations or outside research?  
  • Would anyone want to read a paper in which this thesis was developed? That is, can you explain what this paper is adding to our understanding of a problem, question, or topic?
  • picture_as_pdf Thesis

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What is a thesis?

What is a dissertation, getting started, staying on track.

A thesis is a long-term project that you work on over the course of a semester or a year. Theses have a very wide variety of styles and content, so we encourage you to look at prior examples and work closely with faculty to develop yours. 

Before you begin, make sure that you are familiar with the dissertation genre—what it is for and what it looks like.

Generally speaking, a dissertation’s purpose is to prove that you have the expertise necessary to fulfill your doctoral-degree requirements by showing depth of knowledge and independent thinking.

The form of a dissertation may vary by discipline. Be sure to follow the specific guidelines of your department.

  • PhD This site directs candidates to the GSAS website about dissertations , with links to checklists,  planning, formatting, acknowledgments, submission, and publishing options. There is also a link to guidelines for the prospectus . Consult with your committee chair about specific requirements and standards for your dissertation.
  • DDES This document covers planning, patent filing, submission guidelines, publishing options, formatting guidelines, sample pages, citation guidelines, and a list of common errors to avoid. There is also a link to guidelines for the prospectus .
  • Scholarly Pursuits (GSAS) This searchable booklet from Harvard GSAS is a comprehensive guide to writing dissertations, dissertation-fellowship applications, academic journal articles, and academic job documents.

Finding an original topic can be a daunting and overwhelming task. These key concepts can help you focus and save time.

Finding a topic for your thesis or dissertation should start with a research question that excites or at least interests you. A rigorous, engaging, and original project will require continuous curiosity about your topic, about your own thoughts on the topic, and about what other scholars have said on your topic. Avoid getting boxed in by thinking you know what you want to say from the beginning; let your research and your writing evolve as you explore and fine-tune your focus through constant questioning and exploration.

Get a sense of the broader picture before you narrow your focus and attempt to frame an argument. Read, skim, and otherwise familiarize yourself with what other scholars have done in areas related to your proposed topic. Briefly explore topics tangentially related to yours to broaden your perspective and increase your chance of finding a unique angle to pursue.

Critical Reading

Critical reading is the opposite of passive reading. Instead of merely reading for information to absorb, critical reading also involves careful, sustained thinking about what you are reading. This process may include analyzing the author’s motives and assumptions, asking what might be left out of the discussion, considering what you agree with or disagree with in the author’s statements and why you agree or disagree, and exploring connections or contradictions between scholarly arguments. Here is a resource to help hone your critical-reading skills:



Your thesis or dissertation will incorporate some ideas from other scholars whose work you researched. By reading critically and following your curiosity, you will develop your own ideas and claims, and these contributions are the core of your project. You will also acknowledge the work of scholars who came before you, and you must accurately and fairly attribute this work and define your place within the larger discussion. Make sure that you know how to quote, summarize, paraphrase ,  integrate , and cite secondary sources to avoid plagiarism and to show the depth and breadth of your knowledge.

A thesis is a long-term, large project that involves both research and writing; it is easy to lose focus, motivation, and momentum. Here are suggestions for achieving the result you want in the time you have.

The dissertation is probably the largest project you have undertaken, and a lot of the work is self-directed. The project can feel daunting or even overwhelming unless you break it down into manageable pieces and create a timeline for completing each smaller task. Be realistic but also challenge yourself, and be forgiving of yourself if you miss a self-imposed deadline here and there.

Your program will also have specific deadlines for different requirements, including establishing a committee, submitting a prospectus, completing the dissertation, defending the dissertation, and submitting your work. Consult your department’s website for these dates and incorporate them into the timeline for your work.


Sometimes self-imposed deadlines do not feel urgent unless there is accountability to someone beyond yourself. To increase your motivation to complete tasks on schedule, set dates with your committee chair to submit pre-determined pieces of a chapter. You can also arrange with a fellow doctoral student to check on each other’s progress. Research and writing can be lonely, so it is also nice to share that journey with someone and support each other through the process.

Common Pitfalls

The most common challenges for students writing a dissertation are writer’s block, information-overload, and the compulsion to keep researching forever.

There are many strategies for avoiding writer’s block, such as freewriting, outlining, taking a walk, starting in the middle, and creating an ideal work environment for your particular learning style. Pay attention to what helps you and try different things until you find what works.

Efficient researching techniques are essential to avoiding information-overload. Here are a couple of resources about strategies for finding sources and quickly obtaining essential information from them.



Finally, remember that there is always more to learn and your dissertation cannot incorporate everything. Follow your curiosity but also set limits on the scope of your work. It helps to create a folder entitled “future projects” for topics and sources that interest you but that do not fit neatly into the dissertation. Also remember that future scholars will build off of your work, so leave something for them to do.

Browsing through theses and dissertations of the past can help to get a sense of your options and gain inspiration but be careful to use current guidelines and refer to your committee instead of relying on these examples for form or formatting.

DASH Digital Access to Scholarship at Harvard.

HOLLIS Harvard Library’s catalog provides access to ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global .

MIT Architecture has a list of their graduates’ dissertations and theses.

Rhode Island School of Design has a list of their graduates’ dissertations and theses.

University of South Florida has a list of their graduates’ dissertations and theses.

Harvard GSD has a list of projects, including theses and professors’ research.

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Harvard University Digital Accessibility Policy

Thesis & Dissertation Guidelines

These guidelines provide students at Vanderbilt University with essential information about how to prepare and submit theses and dissertations in a format acceptable to the Graduate School. You can either explore the guidelines by topic below or review the complete Format Guidelines document .

General Information

Manuscript preparation.

  • NEW: Dissertation Template
  • Approved LATEX Template for Dissertations

Submission Requirements

Students in foreign language departments may submit manuscripts in a language other than English. The abstract, however, must be in English.

You may use a multi-part presentation format for combining original research that has been conducted in two or more related or non-related areas, or for presentation of combined journal articles (published or submitted for publication). You should organize the parts or articles into chapters, with well-defined subheadings, including an introduction, methods, results and discussion. Each chapter may contain its own list of references and appendices, or you may list them all at the end, depending on the custom of your discipline.When using this format, the thesis or dissertation should nonetheless consist of an integrated argument that binds the chapters together. You should include the appropriate preliminary pages, an introduction presenting the general theme of the research, and a conclusion summarizing and integrating the major findings. Any additional appendices related to the dissertation as a whole or any general references from the introduction, conclusion or transitional sections should come at the end of the dissertation.

When you have previously published portions of your thesis or dissertation as an article or book chapter, you must ensure the work may also be published as part of the dissertation or thesis. The  standard provisions of copyright law  regarding quoted and previously published material under copyright apply to the publication of theses and dissertations. Many publishers provide exceptions to work published as part of graduation requirements and this is often clearly outlined as part of the publication agreement signed by the author.In order to include your own previously published or co-authored material in your thesis or dissertation, you must comply with the following:

  • You must be the first author, or obtain permission from your committee, to be uploaded as an Administrative file in Vireo.
  • The article must be based on research completed while you were enrolled at Vanderbilt University.
  • You must have permission from the publisher to reuse the work, which should be uploaded to VIREO as an Administrative file. The record of permission may take the form of the publishing agreement, a copy of the publisher’s webpage describing reuse rights, or an email approval from the publisher. You should also identify which chapters are associated with which articles when prompted within VIREO.
  • If there are co-authors, you must obtain the permission of all co-authors to include the work in the thesis or dissertation as a matter of both copyright law and professional courtesy. Include these permissions (email approval is acceptable) as an Administrative file in VIREO.
  • You must properly acknowledge previously published material and any co-authors within the text of your manuscript. This would typically take the form of a footnote, or, alternately, an italicized statement beneath the relevant chapter heading. The rubric should be: “This chapter is adapted from [Title] published in [Journal] and has been reproduced with the permission of the publisher and my co-authors [List co-authors]” and include the full citation required by the publisher, if any, or appropriate to your discipline.

If the work is submitted to the ProQuest database, ProQuest will scan the document to ensure it contains no copyrighted material without consent and proper citation.

Inclusion of Third-Party Content

If you are including content in your dissertation not authored or created by you, consider copyright issues. If your use of the content would exceed fair use under the Copyright Act, then you will need to seek the copyright holder’s permission in order to use the material. Obtaining copyright permissions often takes time and should not be left until the last minute.You should discuss questions about copyrighted material with your dissertation advisor or contact the VU Librarian for Copyright and Scholarly Communications at  [email protected]  for help evaluating fair use or obtaining permissions.

Your thesis or dissertation is automatically protected by copyright as soon as it is fixed in a tangible form, such as being saved as an electronic file.  Although not required, it is good practice to include the copyright symbol, your name, and the year on the title page of your work (© 2017 by [your name]).You also may choose to register your copyright, which will gain you additional protections in case of litigation for copyright infringement. You can file a copyright registration online directly with the  U.S. Copyright Office  for a fee of $45.00.

You will be asked to agree to the license to deposit your submission to the Vanderbilt Institutional Repository.  The Library, with the Vanderbilt Institutional Repository, enhances the metadata provided with your dissertation and adds your record to discovery tools like the Library Catalog and WorldCat, making it easily findable for scholars worldwide. The library also maintains the technical infrastructure of the repository.  If you plan to make your dissertation open access, we can assist you in understanding the options for licensing. If your dissertation makes use of copyrighted content, you will want to think early on about whether you may rely on fair use or need to acquire licenses. We will be glad to meet with you to discuss the requirements of your particular project.PhD students also have the option to request deposit of your submission with ProQuest, at no additional cost to you. If you elect to deposit your submission with ProQuest, you must also agree to the ProQuest license. This agreement is entirely between you and ProQuest.  Vanderbilt’s sole responsibility is to pass on the license agreement and your work to ProQuest.  Please contact ProQuest Dissertation Publishing, at 1(800) 521-0600 or  [email protected]  with any questions.

The expectation of the Graduate School is that all theses and dissertations will be made publicly available absent these limited circumstances.  You have the option to make your submission available immediately or to temporarily embargo its release for a limited period of time. Students may elect to embargo their work if they anticipate publication, are making a patent application, have restrictions imposed by sponsors, or privacy concerns.  Metadata, including the abstract, about your submission will still be visible in the Vanderbilt Institutional Repository, thereby indicating that your submission was accepted.  You should discuss any anticipated hold on publication with your advisor. If selecting the ProQuest publishing option, be sure that you make the same embargo selection under the Vanderbilt options. Once your submission has been released to ProQuest, we have no ability to retract it.If, after consultation with your advisor, you would like to request a temporary embargo, you can elect from the following:

  • No embargo and release immediately for worldwide access
  • Six (6) month embargo
  • Twelve (12) month embargo
  • Twenty-four (24) month embargo

If you, after consultation with your advisor, determine that you need to extend your embargo beyond your initial selection, you can only do so with permission from the Graduate School. If you have questions about your embargo, you may email  [email protected]

The Graduate School recommends Campus Copy for procuring bound copies of theses and dissertations. You may contact them directly at 615-936-4544, or online at  Printing Services .

These guidelines provide students at Vanderbilt University with essential information about how to prepare and submit theses and dissertations in a format acceptable to the Graduate School. The topics range from writing style to the completion of required forms. There are instructions and sample pages on the Graduate School website for guidance through this process.

There is a distinct difference between submitting a manuscript to a publisher and providing a completed thesis or dissertation to the Graduate School. A manuscript represents a pre-publication format; a thesis or dissertation is a final, completely edited, published document. Students should use these guidelines, not other style manuals, as the final authority on issues of format and style. Areas not covered in this document or deviation from any of the specifications should be discussed with a Graduate School format editor. Do not use previously accepted theses and dissertations as definite models for style.

Manuscripts consist of four major sections and must be placed in the order listed:

  • Title Page (required)
  • Copyright (optional)
  • Dedication (optional)
  • Acknowledgments/Acknowledgment of Support (optional)
  • Table of Contents (required)
  • List of Tables (required, if tables are in the body of the manuscript)
  • List of Figures (required, if figures are in the body of the manuscript)
  • List of Abbreviations/Nomenclature/Symbols (optional)
  • Introduction (may be referred to as Chapter 1)

Body of Manuscript

  • References  (required)
  • Appendices  (optional)

The dedication is an optional portion of the academic manuscript. It is a personal message from the author in tribute to a person, group, or cause. Most dedications are brief statements beginning with “To…” or “For…” such as “To my family” or “For my daughter, Samantha.” The dedication, if any, is considered to be the sole work of the author and does not reflect endorsement of the views and opinions expressed therein by Vanderbilt University, the Graduate School, or the members of the faculty committee.

The acknowledgment is another optional portion of the academic manuscript. It is appropriately used to thank those people and organizations that have helped or encouraged the author in the process of obtaining the degree or otherwise making the graduate degree possible: advisers, the committee, labmates or members of one’s cohort, family, friends, etc. Typically, an acknowledgment is no more than 1 page in length.Acknowledgment of grant/contract or other financial support may be included on the acknowledgment page. Similarly, permission to reprint copyrighted material may be included here.The acknowledgment, if any, is considered to be the sole work of the author and does not reflect endorsement of the views and opinions expressed therein by Vanderbilt University, the Graduate School, or the members of the faculty committee.

The abstract is a separate document from the manuscript; it is not bound with the thesis or dissertation. Abstracts must be printed on white, 8 ½ x 11-inch paper. No page numbers are printed on the abstract. One copy is required. Abstracts must have the original signature(s) of the faculty advisor(s). The maximum length of the thesis abstract is 250 words. The maximum length of the dissertation abstract is 350 words, including the dissertation title. Majors are listed on the last pages of these guidelines. NEW: Abstract sample

The title page must be printed on white, 8 ½ x 11-inch paper. Committee member signatures on the title page must be originals. Spacing on the title page will vary according to the length of the title. The five lines following your name must be formatted exactly as found on the sample title page. The title page is considered page ‘i’ but the page number is not printed on the page.  The month, day, and year representing the conferral date must be listed on the title page.

  • NEW: ETD Title Page sample
  • NEW: Title Page With Signatures sample

Use a standard font consistently throughout the manuscript. Font size should be 10 to 12-point for all text, including titles and headings. It is permissible to change point size in tables, figures, captions, footnotes, and appendix material. Retain the same font, where possible. When charts, graphs, or spreadsheets are “imported,” it is permissible to use alternate fonts. Italics are appropriate for book and journal titles, foreign terms, and scientific terminology.  Boldface  may be used within the text for emphasis and/or for headings and subheadings. Use both in moderation.

Measure the top margin from the edge of the page to the top of the first line of text. Measure the bottom page margin from the bottom of the last line of text to the bottom edge of the page. Page margins should be a minimum of one-half inch from top, bottom, left, and right and a maximum of one inch from top, bottom, left, and right. Right margins may be justified or ragged, depending upon departmental requirements or student preference.

The title page is considered to be page ‘i’ but the page number should not be printed on this page. All other pages should have a page number centered about ½ inch from the bottom of the page. Number the preliminary pages in lowercase Roman numerals. Arabic numerals begin on the first page of text. Pages are numbered consecutively throughout the remainder of the manuscript. The Introduction may be placed before the first page of Chapter 1, if it is not considered a chapter. The use of Arabic numbers may begin on the first page of the Introduction.

The entire text may be single-spaced, one and one-half spaced, or double-spaced. Block quotations, footnotes, endnotes, table and figure captions, titles longer than one line, and individual reference entries may be single-spaced. With spacing set, the following guidelines should be applied: Two enters after chapter numbers, chapter titles and major section titles (Dedication, Acknowledgements, Table of Contents, List of Tables, List of Figures, List of Abbreviations, Appendices, and References). Two enters before each first- level and second-level heading. Two enters before and after tables and figures embedded in the text. One enter after sub-level headings.

Chapters may be identified with uppercase Roman numerals or Arabic numbers. Styles used on the Table of Contents should be consistent within the text. Tables, figures, footnotes, and equations should be numbered consecutively throughout the manuscript with Arabic numerals. These may also be numbered consecutively by each chapter. Equation numbers should be placed to the right of the equation and contained within parentheses or brackets. Use uppercase letters to designate appendices.

Departments will determine acceptable standards for organizing master’s theses into chapters, sections, or parts.  Usually, if a thesis has headings, a Table of Contents should be included. The dissertation must be divided into chapters. The use of parts, in addition to chapters, is acceptable.

Words and Sentences

Take care to divide words correctly. Do not divide words from one page to the next. Word processing software provides for “widow and orphan” protection. Utilize this feature to help in the proper division of sentences from one page to another. In general, a single line of text should not be left at the bottom or top of a page. Blank space may be left at the bottom of a page, where necessary.

Headings and Subheadings

Use headings and subheadings to describe briefly the material in the section that follows. Be consistent with your choice of “levels” and refer to the instructions on spacing for proper spacing between headings, subheadings, and text. First-level headings must be listed on the Table of Contents. Second-level and subsequent subheadings may be included.


Abbreviations on the title page should appear as they do in the body of the thesis or dissertation. (Examples:  Xenopus laevis , Ca, Mg, Pb, Zn; TGF-β, p53.) Capitalize only the first letter of words of importance, distinction, or emphasis in titles and headings. Do not alter the all-cap style used for acronyms (Example: AIDS) and organizational names (Example: IBM). Use the conventional style for Latin words (Examples:  in vitro, in vivo, in situ ). Genus and species should be italicized. Capitalize the first letter of the genus, but not that of the species name (Example:  Streptococcus aureus ).

Figures commonly refer to photographs, images, maps, charts, graphs, and drawings. Tables generally list tabulated numerical data. These items should appear as close as possible to their first mention in the text. Tables and figures may be placed in appendices, if this is a departmental requirement or standard in the field. Tables and figures should be numbered with Arabic numerals, either consecutively or by chapter. Be consistent in the style used in the placement of tables and figure captions. Tables and figures may be embedded within the text or placed on a page alone. When placed on its own page, a figure or table may be centered on the page. When included with text, a table or figure should be set apart from the text. Tables and figures, including captions, may be oriented in landscape. Make sure to use landscape page positioning on landscape-oriented pages. Table data and figure data must be kept together, if the information fits on one page.

The submission process for theses and dissertations begins at the Graduate School. Forms must be digitally submitted to the Graduate School. View the Checklist for Graduation

The Vanderbilt Libraries have recently implemented  VIREO , an Electronic Thesis & Dissertation review and submission system for the Graduate School. The Graduate School requires electronic submission of all theses and dissertations through this new platform. Format reviews now occur within the VIREO submission process. If you have questions or would like an in-person format review,  contact administrators .Students will use their VUnet ID and password to log in and begin completing the appropriate information, as outlined below.

Verify Your Information

  • Orcid ID (can obtain in VIREO)
  • Department/Program, Degree, Major
  • Phone & Address

 License & Publication Agreements

  • Vanderbilt License Agreement (required)
  • ProQuest Publication (optional)

 Document Information

  • Title, degree month/year, defense date, abstract, keywords, subjects, language
  • Your committee, Chair email
  • Previously published material (optional)
  • Embargo options

Upload Your Files

  • Primary document: thesis/dissertation
  • Additional files: supplemental, source, administrative (CV, Survey of Earned Doctorates (additional SED information is in the Ph.D. Dissertation Requirements accordion below))

Confirm and Submit

  • Students will receive a confirmation email once submitted

Any documents you will be uploading into VIREO as administrative files should be saved as a PDF, and named with your last name, first name-file-conferral month and year. Examples:

  • King, Amanda-IntraTermApp-032021.pdf
  • King, Amanda-CV-052021.pdf
  • King, Amanda-SED-052021.pdf
  • King, Amanda-Title Page-052021.pdf
  • King, Amanda-Permissions-052021.pdf
  • King, Amanda-DGS Approval-052021.pdf

Intent to Graduate

Students planning to graduate at the end of the fall, spring, or summer term should submit the Intent to Graduate form through YES by clicking on Graduation – Intent. Note that all masters students should submit this form , even if they are receiving a master’s in passing to the PhD.

Format Review

A format review is required before thesis or dissertation approval. Review will take place through VIREO when you first upload your document. Allow time before the deadline for review and revisions. For questions contact  [email protected] .

Submit one copy of the title page, with original signatures of the advisor and a second reader (either a member of the committee or DGS of the program). The date on the title page will reflect the month, day, year of degree conferral.

Submit one copy of the abstract with the signature of the advisor.

Intent to Graduate 

Students planning to graduate at the end of the fall, spring, or summer term should submit the Intent to Graduate form through YES by clicking on Graduation – Intent.

Defense Results

Students must schedule the Defense Exam with the Graduate School two weeks prior to the exam. Students will bring the Defense Results Form (along with the Title Page & Abstract) to obtain committee signatures. Upload the signed title page and abstract as one administrative file (title page first followed by abstract) to VIREO as an administrative file, and have your department submit the defense results to the graduate school submissions portal.

Upload your signed title page as an administrative file in VIREO. The date on the title page will reflect the month, day, year of degree conferral. Be sure it is the date of conferral and not the date of your defense.

Upload your signed abstract as an administrative file in VIREO.

Survey of Earned Doctorates (SED)

Students finishing a doctorate degree are required to complete the  SED survey . Information provided to the National Opinion Research Council remains confidential and will be used for research or statistical purposes. Submit the Certificate of Completion with your VIREO submission as an administrative file.

Curriculum Vitae

Submit your CV through your VIREO submission as an administrative file. Directions on preparing a curriculum vitae are available here.


Instructions for the Thesis

  • Thesis Workshop
  • Thesis Guidance and Allocation of Responsibilities
  • Research Ethics and Data Protection
  • Sources of Thesis Guidelines
  • Ideation, Selection, and Approval of Your Topic
  • Project Plan or Research Plan
  • Planning and Initiation of the Thesis
  • Formats of a Thesis
  • Writing the Theoretical Framework
  • Selection and Description of the Method
  • Guidelines for Reporting
  • Citations and Creating a Reference List
  • Language Guidance for the Thesis
  • Plagiarism Check
  • Guidelines for Theseus
  • Maturity Test
  • Instructions for the Final Stage of Master’s Thesis
  • Evaluation of the Thesis
  • Defining the search topic
  • Evaluating the search results
  • Choosing and using sources
  • Finna search services
  • Open access (OA)
  • Google Scholar
  • Evaluating online sources
  • Good to know about search engines
  • Databases and articles
  • Other resources

Guidelines for writing the Thesis

The purpose of the thesis is to develop your abilities in critical thinking, applying knowledge, creativity, independent problem-solving, as well as developing your own expertise, work, and professional field. With your thesis, you demonstrate that you can work in expert positions in your future professional field. The thesis in a university of applied sciences is characterized by applied research, analysis, development, and project work.

Through your thesis:

The process of the thesis

The thesis process consists of various stages and is phased as follows starting from August 1, 2023:

  • Topic selection and approval
  • Project plan and timeline
  • Thesis Planning and Initiation (3cr/5cr)
  • Thesis Theory and Implementation (6cr/10cr)
  • Thesis Final Stage (6cr/15cr)

Master’s Thesis

The aim of the master's thesis in a University of Applied Sciences is to guide you towards critical thinking, creativity, problem-solving, and the development of your own work and professional field. You are expected to be able to create a research or project plan, adhere to timelines, maintain communication with various stakeholders, independently gather information related to the theoretical framework and empirical data, analyse, and process the acquired theoretical knowledge and empirical data, report on your work, and ensure the language and formatting of documents and work are appropriate. In your thesis, you adhere to research ethics principles in all aspects. Additionally, you must demonstrate through your thesis that you can work in expert and managerial positions within your future professional domain.

Taxation of scholarships related to thesis

Regarding the taxation of scholarships related to the theses, according to the clarified interpretation guidelines received from the West Finland Tax Office, the following taxation practices have been applied since January 1, 2001, for the scholarships distributed from Vaasa University of Applied Sciences Scholarship Fund:

  • If the recipient of the scholarship has been employed by the scholarship-paying company while working on the thesis, the scholarship is considered as compensation for work performed, and Vaasa University of Applied Sciences acts as a substitute payer and withholds income tax from the scholarship. The employer is responsible for paying the employer's contributions related to the scholarship.
  • If the thesis is related to the field of activity or operations of the paying company but there has been no employment relationship as mentioned above, the scholarship is also considered as compensation for work performed, and Vaasa University of Applied Sciences withholds income tax.
  • If there are no connections between the scholarship donors and the scholarship recipient as mentioned above, no income tax withholding is conducted. For all scholarships amounting to at least €1,000, Vaasa University of Applied Sciences provides a notification to the recipient's local tax office.

Regardless of the amount of the scholarship received, the recipient is required to report the received scholarships in their tax return or provide additional information in the tax assessment process.

Forms and links


  • Word template Updated on Nov 13th, 2023.
  • Thesis or project agreement
  • Thesis Assessment Criteria at VAMK, University of Applied Sciences
  • Thesis Assesment Criteria for Master’s Thesis 
  • The old guidelines If you have already been working on your thesis, you can use the old guidelines.
  • For questions related to thesis instructions, please contact your thesis supervisor or group advisor.
  • Regarding matters related to updating the instructions, please contact: Principal Lecturer Piia Uusi-Kakkuri, puu(a)vamk.fi
  • Next: Thesis Workshop >>
  • Last Updated: May 17, 2024 10:30 AM
  • URL: https://vamk.libguides.com/instructions_thesis

Thesis and Dissertation Guide

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  • Introduction
  • Copyright Page
  • Dedication, Acknowledgements, Preface (optional)
  • Table of Contents
  • List of Tables, Figures, and Illustrations
  • List of Abbreviations
  • List of Symbols

Non-Traditional Formats

Font type and size, spacing and indentation, tables, figures, and illustrations, formatting previously published work.

  • Internet Distribution
  • Open Access
  • Registering Copyright
  • Using Copyrighted Materials
  • Use of Your Own Previously Published Materials
  • Submission Steps
  • Submission Checklist
  • Sample Pages

Thesis and Dissertation Guide

II. Formatting Guidelines

All copies of a thesis or dissertation must have the following uniform margins throughout the entire document:

  • Left: 1″ (or 1 1/4" to ensure sufficient room for binding the work if desired)
  • Right: 1″
  • Bottom: 1″ (with allowances for page numbers; see section on Pagination )
  • Top: 1″

Exceptions : The first page of each chapter (including the introduction, if any) begins 2″ from the top of the page. Also, the headings on the title page, abstract, first page of the dedication/ acknowledgements/preface (if any), and first page of the table of contents begin 2″ from the top of the page.

Non-traditional theses or dissertations such as whole works comprised of digital, artistic, video, or performance materials (i.e., no written text, chapters, or articles) are acceptable if approved by your committee and graduate program. A PDF document with a title page, copyright page, and abstract at minimum are required to be submitted along with any relevant supplemental files.

Fonts must be 10, 11, or 12 points in size. Superscripts and subscripts (e.g., formulas, or footnote or endnote numbers) should be no more than 2 points smaller than the font size used for the body of the text.

Space and indent your thesis or dissertation following these guidelines:

Spacing and Indentation with mesaurements described in surrounding text

  • The text must appear in a single column on each page and be double-spaced throughout the document. Do not arrange chapter text in multiple columns.
  • New paragraphs must be indicated by a consistent tab indentation throughout the entire document.
  • The document text must be left-justified, not centered or right-justified.
  • For blocked quotations, indent the entire text of the quotation consistently from the left margin.
  • Ensure headings are not left hanging alone on the bottom of a prior page. The text following should be moved up or the heading should be moved down. This is something to check near the end of formatting, as other adjustments to text and spacing may change where headings appear on the page.

Exceptions : Blocked quotations, notes, captions, legends, and long headings must be single-spaced throughout the document and double-spaced between items.

Paginate your thesis or dissertation following these guidelines:

  • Use lower case Roman numerals (ii, iii, iv, etc.) on all pages preceding the first page of chapter one. The title page counts as page i, but the number does not appear. Therefore, the first page showing a number will be the copyright page with ii at the bottom.
  • Arabic numerals (beginning with 1, 2, 3, 4, etc.) start at chapter one or the introduction, if applicable. Arabic numbers must be included on all pages of the text, illustrations, notes, and any other materials that follow. Thus, the first page of chapter one will show an Arabic numeral 1, and numbering of all subsequent pages will follow in order.
  • Do not use page numbers accompanied by letters, hyphens, periods, or parentheses (e.g., 1., 1-2, -1-, (1), or 1a).
  • Center all page numbers at the bottom of the page, 1/2″ from the bottom edge.
  • Pages must not contain running headers or footers, aside from page numbers.
  • If your document contains landscape pages (pages in which the top of the page is the long side of a sheet of paper), make sure that your page numbers still appear in the same position and direction as they do on pages with standard portrait orientation for consistency. This likely means the page number will be centered on the short side of the paper and the number will be sideways relative to the landscape page text. See these additional instructions for assistance with pagination on landscape pages in Microsoft Word .

Pagination example with mesaurements described in surrounding text

Format footnotes for your thesis or dissertation following these guidelines:

Footnote spacing  with mesaurements described in surrounding text

  • Footnotes must be placed at the bottom of the page separated from the text by a solid line one to two inches long.
  • Begin at the left page margin, directly below the solid line.
  • Single-space footnotes that are more than one line long.
  • Include one double-spaced line between each note.
  • Most software packages automatically space footnotes at the bottom of the page depending on their length. It is acceptable if the note breaks within a sentence and carries the remainder into the footnote area of the next page. Do not indicate the continuation of a footnote.
  • Number all footnotes with Arabic numerals. You may number notes consecutively within each chapter starting over with number 1 for the first note in each chapter, or you may number notes consecutively throughout the entire document.
  • Footnote numbers must precede the note and be placed slightly above the line (superscripted). Leave no space between the number and the note.
  • While footnotes should be located at the bottom of the page, do not place footnotes in a running page footer, as they must remain within the page margins.

Endnotes are an acceptable alternative to footnotes. Format endnotes for your thesis or dissertation following these guidelines:

Endnotes with mesaurements described in surrounding text

  • Always begin endnotes on a separate page either immediately following the end of each chapter, or at the end of your entire document. If you place all endnotes at the end of the entire document, they must appear after the appendices and before the references.
  • Include the heading “ENDNOTES” in all capital letters, and center it 1″ below the top of the first page of your endnotes section(s).
  • Single-space endnotes that are more than one line long.
  • Number all endnotes with Arabic numerals. You may number notes consecutively within each chapter starting over with number 1 for the first note in each chapter, or you may number notes consecutively throughout the entire document.
  • Endnote numbers must precede the note and be placed slightly above the line (superscripted). Leave no space between the number and the note.

Tables, figures, and illustrations vary widely by discipline. Therefore, formatting of these components is largely at the discretion of the author.

For example, headings and captions may appear above or below each of these components.

These components may each be placed within the main text of the document or grouped together in a separate section.

Space permitting, headings and captions for the associated table, figure, or illustration must be on the same page.

The use of color is permitted as long as it is consistently applied as part of the finished component (e.g., a color-coded pie chart) and not extraneous or unprofessional (e.g., highlighting intended solely to draw a reader's attention to a key phrase). The use of color should be reserved primarily for tables, figures, illustrations, and active website or document links throughout your thesis or dissertation.

The format you choose for these components must be consistent throughout the thesis or dissertation.

Ensure each component complies with margin and pagination requirements.

Refer to the List of Tables, Figures, and Illustrations section for additional information.

If your thesis or dissertation has appendices, they must be prepared following these guidelines:

Appendices with mesaurements described in surrounding text

  • Appendices must appear at the end of the document (before references) and not the chapter to which they pertain.
  • When there is more than one appendix, assign each appendix a number or a letter heading (e.g., “APPENDIX 1” or “APPENDIX A”) and a descriptive title. You may number consecutively throughout the entire work (e.g., 1, 2 or A, B), or you may assign a two-part Arabic numeral with the first number designating the chapter in which it appears, separated by a period, followed by a second number or letter to indicate its consecutive placement (e.g., “APPENDIX 3.2” is the second appendix referred to in Chapter Three).
  • Include the chosen headings in all capital letters, and center them 1″ below the top of the page.
  • All appendix headings and titles must be included in the table of contents.
  • Page numbering must continue throughout your appendix or appendices. Ensure each appendix complies with margin and pagination requirements.

You are required to list all the references you consulted. For specific details on formatting your references, consult and follow a style manual or professional journal that is used for formatting publications and citations in your discipline.

References with mesaurements described in surrounding text

Your reference pages must be prepared following these guidelines:

  • If you place references after each chapter, the references for the last chapter must be placed immediately following the chapter and before the appendices.
  • If you place all references at the end of the thesis or dissertation, they must appear after the appendices as the final component in the document.
  • Select an appropriate heading for this section based on the style manual you are using (e.g., “REFERENCES”, “BIBLIOGRAPHY”, or “WORKS CITED”).
  • Include the chosen heading in all capital letters, and center it 1″ below the top of the page.
  • References must be single-spaced within each entry.
  • Include one double-spaced line between each reference.
  • Page numbering must continue throughout your references section. Ensure references comply with margin and pagination requirements.

In some cases, students gain approval from their academic program to include in their thesis or dissertation previously published (or submitted, in press, or under review) journal articles or similar materials that they have authored. For more information about including previously published works in your thesis or dissertation, see the section on Use of Your Own Previously Published Materials and the section on Copyrighting.

If your academic program has approved inclusion of such materials, please note that these materials must match the formatting guidelines set forth in this Guide regardless of how the material was formatted for publication.

Some specific formatting guidelines to consider include:

Formatting previously published work with mesaurements described in surrounding text

  • Fonts, margins, chapter headings, citations, and references must all match the formatting and placement used within the rest of the thesis or dissertation.
  • If appropriate, published articles can be included as separate individual chapters within the thesis or dissertation.
  • A separate abstract to each chapter should not be included.
  • The citation for previously published work must be included as the first footnote (or endnote) on the first page of the chapter.
  • Do not include typesetting notations often used when submitting manuscripts to a publisher (i.e., insert table x here).
  • The date on the title page should be the year in which your committee approves the thesis or dissertation, regardless of the date of completion or publication of individual chapters.
  • If you would like to include additional details about the previously published work, this information can be included in the preface for the thesis or dissertation.

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Required sections, guidelines, and suggestions.

Beyond those noted on the Formatting Requirements page , the Graduate School has no additional formatting requirements. The following suggestions are based on best practices and historic requirements for dissertations and theses but are not requirements for submission of the thesis or dissertation. The Graduate School recommends that each dissertation or thesis conform to the standards of leading academic journals in your field.

For both master’s and doctoral students, the same basic rules apply; however, differences exist in some limited areas, particularly in producing the abstract and filing the dissertation or thesis.

  • Information in this guide that pertains specifically to doctoral candidates and dissertations is clearly marked with the term “ dissertation ” or “ doctoral candidates .”
  • Information pertaining specifically to master’s candidates and theses is clearly marked with the term “ thesis ” or “ master’s candidates .”
  • All other information pertains to both.

Examples of formatting suggestions for both the dissertation and thesis are available as downloadable templates .

Required? Yes.

Suggested numbering: Page included in overall document, but number not typed on page.

The following format for your title page is suggested, but not required.

  • The title should be written using all capital letters, centered within the left and right margins, and spaced about 1.5 inches from the top of the page. (For an example, please see the template .)
  • Carefully select words for the title of the dissertation or thesis to represent the subject content as accurately as possible. Words in the title are important access points to researchers who may use keyword searches to identify works in various subject areas.
  • Use word substitutes for formulas, symbols, superscripts, Greek letters, etc.
  • Below the title, at the vertical and horizontal center of the margins, place the following five lines (all centered):

Line 1: A Dissertation [or Thesis]

Line 2: Presented to the Faculty of the Graduate School

Line 3: of Cornell University

Line 4: in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of

Line 5: Doctor of Philosophy [or other appropriate degree]

  • Center the following three lines within the margins:

Line 2: Primary or Preferred Name [as registered with the University Registrar’s Office and displayed in Student Center]

Line 3: month and year of degree conferral [May, August, December; no comma between month and year]

Copyright Page

Suggested numbering: Page included in overall document, but number not typed on page

The following format for your copyright page is suggested, but not required.

  • A notice of copyright should appear as the sole item on the page centered vertically and horizontally within the margins: © 20__ [Primary or Preferred Name [as registered with the University Registrar’s Office]. Please note that there is not usually a page heading on the copyright page.
  • The copyright symbol is a lowercase “c,” which must be circled. (On Macs, the symbol is typed by pressing the “option” and “g” keys simultaneously. If the font does not have the © symbol, type the “c” and circle it by hand. On PCs, in the insert menu, choose “symbol,” and select the © symbol.)
  • The date, which follows the copyright symbol, is the year of conferral of your degree.
  • Your name follows the date.

Required?  Yes.

Suggested numbering: Page(s) not counted, not numbered

Abstract formats for the doctoral dissertation and master’s thesis differ greatly. The Graduate School recommends that you conform to the standards of leading academic journals in your field.

Doctoral candidates:

  • Student’s Primary or Preferred Name, Ph.D. [as registered with the University Registrar’s Office]
  • Cornell University 20__ [year of conferral]
  • Following the heading lines, begin the text of the abstract on the same page.
  • The abstract states the problem, describes the methods and procedures used, and gives the main results or conclusions of the research.
  • The abstract usually does not exceed 350 words in length (about one-and-one-half correctly spaced pages—but not more than two pages).

Master’s candidate:

  • In a thesis, the page heading is simply the word “ABSTRACT” in all capital letters and centered within the margins at the top of the page. (The thesis abstract does not display the thesis title, author’s name, degree, university, or date of degree conferral.)
  • The abstract should state the problem, describe the methods and procedures used, and give the main results or conclusions.
  • The abstract usually does not exceed 600 words in length, which is approximately two-and-one-half to three pages of correctly spaced typing.
  • In M.F.A. theses, an abstract is not required.

Biographical Sketch

Suggested numbering: iii (may be more than one page)

  • Type number(s) on page(s).

The following content and format are suggested:

  • The biographical sketch is written in third-person voice and contains your educational background. Sometimes additional biographical facts are included.
  • As a page heading, use “BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH” in all capital letters, centered on the page.
  • Number this page as iii.

Required? Optional.

Suggested numbering: iv (may be more than one page)

The dedication page is not required and can contain whatever text that you would like to include. Text on this page does not need to be in English.


Suggested numbering: v (may be more than one page)

The following content and format are suggested, not required.

  • The acknowledgements may be written in first-person voice. If your research has been funded by outside grants, you should check with the principal investigator of the grant regarding proper acknowledgement of the funding source. Most outside funding sources require some statement of acknowledgement of the support; some also require a disclaimer from responsibility for the results.
  • As a page heading, use “ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS” in all capital letters, centered on the page.

Table of Contents

Suggested numbering: vi (may be more than one page)

The following are suggestions.

  • As a page heading, use “TABLE OF CONTENTS” in all capital letters and centered on the page.
  • List the sections/chapters of the body of the dissertation or thesis. Also, list preliminary sections starting with the biographical sketch. (Title page, copyright page, and abstract are not listed.)
  • For theses and dissertations, the conventional format for page numbers is in a column to the right of each section/chapter title. The first page of each chapter/section is stated with a single number. Table of contents usually do not include a range of page numbers, such as 7-22.
  • The table of contents is often single-spaced.

Two-Volume Theses or Dissertations

If the dissertation or thesis consists of two volumes, it is recommended, but not required, that you list “Volume II” as a section in the table of contents.

List of Figures, Illustrations, and Tables

Suggested numbering: vii (may be more than one page)

  • If included, type number(s) on page(s).

As described in the formatting requirements above, figures and tables should be consecutively numbered. The Graduate School recommends that you conform to the styles set by the leading academic journals in your field. The items below are formatting suggestions based on best practices or historic precedents.

Table of contents format:

  • As a page heading, use “LIST OF FIGURES,” “LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS,” or “LIST OF TABLES” in all capital letters, centered on the page.
  • There should be separate pages for “LIST OF FIGURES,” “LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS,” or “LIST OF TABLES” even if there is only one example of each.
  • The list should contain enough of the titles or descriptions so readers can locate items using the list. (It may not be necessary to include entire figure/illustration/table captions.)
  • The list should contain the page number on which each figure, illustration, or table is found, as in a table of contents.
  • The list of figures/illustrations/tables may be single-spaced.

Page format:

  • Figures/illustrations/tables should be placed as close as possible to their first mention in the text. They may be placed on a page with no text above or below, or placed directly into the text. If a figure/illustration/table is placed directly into the text, text may appear above or below the figure/illustration/table; no text may wrap around the figure/illustration/table.
  • If a figure/illustration/table appears on a page without other text, it should be centered vertically within the page margins. Figures/illustrations/tables should not be placed at the end of the chapter or at the end of the dissertation or thesis.
  • Figure/illustration/table numbering should be either continuous throughout the dissertation or thesis, or by chapter (e.g. 1.1, 1.2; 2.1, 2.2, etc.). The word “Figure,” “Illustration,” or “Table” must be spelled out (not abbreviated), and the first letter must be capitalized.
  • A caption for a figure/illustration should be placed at the bottom of the figure/illustration. However, a caption for a table must be placed above the table.
  • If the figure/illustration/table, not including the caption, takes up the entire page, the figure/illustration/table caption should be placed alone on the preceding page and centered vertically and horizontally within the margins. (When the caption is on a separate page, the List of Figures or List of Illustrations or List of Tables can list the page number containing the caption.)
  • If the figure/illustration/table, not including the caption, takes up more than two pages, it should be preceded by a page consisting of the caption only. The first page of the figure/illustration/table must include the figure/illustration/table (no caption), and the second and subsequent pages must also include, at the top of the figure/illustration/table, words that indicate its continuance—for example, “Figure 5 (Continued)”—and on these pages the caption is omitted.
  • If figures/illustrations/tables are too large, they may be reduced slightly so as to render a satisfactory product or they must either be split into several pages or be redone. If a figure/illustration/table is reduced, all lettering must be clear, readable, and large enough to be legible. All lettering, including subscripts, must still be readable when reduced 25% beyond the final version. All page margin requirements must be maintained. Page numbers and headings must not be reduced.
  • While there are no specific rules for the typographic format of figure/illustration/table captions, a consistent format should be used throughout the dissertation or thesis.
  • The caption of a figure/illustration/table should be single-spaced, but then captions for all figures/illustrations/tables must be single-spaced.
  • Horizontal figures/illustrations/tables should be positioned correctly—i.e., the top of the figure/illustration/table will be at the left margin of the vertical page of the dissertation or thesis (remember: pages are bound on the left margin). Figure/illustration/table headings/captions are placed with the same orientation as the figure/illustration/table when they are on the same page as the figure/illustration/table. When they are on a separate page, headings and captions are always placed in vertical orientation, regardless of the orientation of the figure/illustration/table. Page numbers are always placed as if the figure/illustration/table was vertical on the page.

Photographs should be treated as illustrations. To be considered archival, photographs must be black-and-white. (If actual color photographs are necessary, they should be accompanied by black-and-white photographs of the same subject.) Color photos obtained digitally do not need to be accompanied by a black-and-white photograph. Make a high-resolution digital version of each photograph and insert it into your electronic document, following the guideline suggestions for positioning and margins.

Optional Elements

List of abbreviations.

As a page heading, use “LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS” in all capital letters, centered on the page.

List of Symbols

As a page heading, use “LIST OF SYMBOLS” in all capital letters, centered on the page.

Suggested numbering: xi (may be more than one page)

As a page heading, use “PREFACE” in all capital letters, centered on the page.

Body of the Dissertation or Thesis: Text

Suggested numbering: Begin page number at 1

  • Text (required)
  • Appendix/Appendices (optional)
  • Bibliography, References, or Works Cited (required)

Please note that smaller font size may be appropriate for footnotes or other material outside of the main text. The following suggestions are based on best practice or historic precedent, but are not required.

  • Chapter headings may be included that conform to the standard of your academic field.
  • Textual notes that provide supplementary information, opinions, explanations, or suggestions that are not part of the text must appear at the bottom of the page as footnotes. Lengthy footnotes may be continued on the next page. Placement of footnotes at the bottom of the page ensures they will appear as close as possible to the referenced passage.

Appendix (or Appendices)

An appendix (-ces) is not required for your thesis or dissertation. If you choose to include one, the following suggestions are based on best practice or historic precedent.

  • As a page heading, use “APPENDIX” in all capital letters, centered on the page.
  • Place in an appendix any material that is peripheral, but relevant, to the main text of the dissertation or thesis. Examples could include survey instruments, additional data, computer printouts, details of a procedure or analysis, a relevant paper that you wrote, etc.
  • The appendix may include text that does not meet the general font and spacing requirements of the other sections of the dissertation or thesis.

Bibliography (or References or Works Cited)

A bibliography, references, or works cited is required for your thesis or dissertation. Please conform to the standards of leading academic journals in your field.

  • As a page heading, use “BIBLIOGRAPHY” (or “REFERENCES” or “WORKS CITED”) in all capital letters, centered on the page. The bibliography should always begin on a new page.
  • Bibliographies may be single-spaced within each entry but should include 24 points of space between entries.

Suggested numbering: Continue page numbering from body

If you choose to include a glossary, best practices and historic precedent suggest using a page heading, use “GLOSSARY” in all capital letters, centered on the page.

Suggested numbering: Continue page numbering from glossary

If you choose to include one, best practices and historic precedent suggest using a page heading, use “INDEX” in all capital letters, centered on the page.

Font Samples

Sample macintosh fonts.

  • Palatino 12
  • Garamond 14
  • New Century School Book
  • Helvetica 12 or Helvetica 14
  • Times New Roman 12
  • Times 14 (Times 12 is not acceptable)
  • Symbol 12 is acceptable for symbols

Sample TeX and LaTeX Fonts

  • CMR 12 font
  • Any font that meets the above specifications

Sample PC Fonts

  • Helvetica 12

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Formatting Guidelines For Theses, Dissertations, and DMA Documents

Guidelines for Formatting Theses, Dissertations, and DMA Documents is intended to help graduate students present the results of their research in the form of a scholarly document.

Before beginning to write a master’s thesis, PhD dissertation, or DMA document, students should read the relevant sections of the  Graduate School Handbook, section 7.8  for dissertations and/ or  section 6.4  for master’s theses.

Candidates for advanced degrees should also confer with their advisors and members of their graduate studies committees to learn about any special departmental requirements for preparing graduate degree documents.

Members of the graduation services staff at the Graduate School are available to provide information and to review document drafts at any stage of the planning or writing process. While graduation services is responsible for certifying that theses and/or dissertations have been prepared in accordance with Graduate School guidelines, the student bears the ultimate responsibility for meeting these requirements and resolving any related technical and/or software issues . Graduation services will not accept documents if required items are missing or extend deadlines because of miscommunication between the student and the advisor.

Accessibility Features

As of Spring, 2023, all theses and dissertations will need to incorporate the following accessibility features to align with the university’s accessibility policy.  When you submit your final document to OhioLINK you will be verifying that accessibility features have been applied.

  • PDF file includes full text
  • PDF accessibility permission flag is checked
  • Text language of the PDF is specified
  • PDF includes a title

Features and Other Notes

Some features are required, and some are optional. Each component is identified with a major heading unless otherwise noted. The major heading must be centered with a one-inch top margin. 

Sample Pages and Templates

Templates are available for use in formatting dissertations, theses, and DMA documents. Please read all instructions before beginning. 

  • Graduate Dissertations and Theses Templates - OSU Login Required


If used, no heading is included on this page.


The title page should include:

  • the use of title case is recommended
  • dissertation, DMA. document, or thesis
  • Presented in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree [insert the applicable degree such as Doctor of Philosophy, Doctor of Musical Arts, Master of Science, etc.] in the Graduate School of The Ohio State University
  • Name of the candidate 
  • Initials of previous earned degrees
  • insert correct name from program directory
  • Year of graduation
  •  Dissertation, document, or thesis [select applicable title] committee and committee member names


Notice of copyright is centered in the following format on the page immediately after the title page. This page is not identified with a page number.

Copyright by John James Doe 2017


The heading Abstract is centered without punctuation at least one inch from the top of the page. The actual abstract begins four spaces below the heading. See sample pages.


If used, the dedication must be brief and centered on the page.



Either spelling of the word, acknowledgments or acknowledgments, is acceptable. The acknowledgment is a record of the author’s indebtedness and includes notice of permission to use previously copyrighted materials that appear extensively in the text. The heading Acknowledgments is centered without punctuation at least one inch from the top of the page.


Begin the page with the heading Vita, centered, without punctuation, and at least one inch from the top of the page. There are three sections to the vita: biographical information (required), publications (if applicable), and fields of study (required).

There is no subheading used for the biographical information section. In this section, include education and work related to the degree being received.

Use leader dots between the information and dates. The publication section follows. The subheading Publications should be centered and in title case. List only those items published in a book or journal. If there are none, omit the Publication subheading. The final section of the vita is Fields of Study, which is required. Center the subheading and use title case. Two lines below the Fields of Study subheading, place the following statement: Major Field: [insert only the name of your Graduate Program as it reads on the title page] flush left. Any specialization you would like to include is optional and is placed flush left on the lines below Major Field.


The heading Table of Contents (title case preferred) appears without punctuation centered at least one inch from the top of the page. The listing of contents begins at the left margin four spaces below the heading. The titles of all parts, sections, chapter numbers, and chapters are listed and must

be worded exactly as they appear in the body of the document. The table of contents must include any appendices and their titles, if applicable. Use leader dots between the listed items and their page numbers.


Lists of illustrations are required if the document contains illustrations. The headings List of Tables , List of Figures , or other appropriate illustration designations (title case preferred) appear centered without punctuation at least one inch from the top of the page. The listing begins at the left margin four spaces below the heading. Illustrations should be identified by the same numbers and captions in their respective lists as they have been assigned in the document itself. Use leader dots between the listed items and their page numbers. See sample pages .


Include a complete bibliography or reference section at the end of the document, before the appendix, even if you have included references at the end of each chapter. You may decide how this section should be titled. The terms References or Bibliography are the most commonly chosen titles. The heading must be centered and at least one inch from the top of the page.

Include this heading in the table of contents.


An appendix, or appendices, must be placed after the bibliography. The heading Appendix (title case preferred) centered at least one inch from the top of the page. Appendices are identified with letters and titles. For example: Appendix A: Data. Include all appendix headers and titles in the table of contents.

Other Notes

Candidates are free to select a style suitable to their discipline as long as it complies with the format and content guidelines given in this publication. Where a style manual conflicts with Graduate School guidelines, the Graduate School guidelines take precedence. Once chosen, the style must remain consistent throughout the document.

Top, bottom, left, and right page margins should all be set at one inch. (Keep in mind that the left margin is the binding edge, so if you want to have a bound copy produced for your personal use, it is recommended that the left margin be 1.5 inches.)

It is recommended that any pages with a major header, such as document title, chapter/major section titles, preliminary page divisions, abstract, appendices, and references at the end of the document be set with a 2-inch top margin for aesthetic purposes and to help the reader identify that a new major section is beginning.

The selected font should be 10 to 12 point and be readable. The font should be consistent throughout the document. Captions, endnotes, footnotes, and long quotations may be slightly smaller than text font, as long as the font is readable.

Double spacing is preferred, but 1.5 spacing (1.5 × the type size) is acceptable for long documents. Single spacing is recommended for bibliography entries, long quotations, long endnotes or footnotes, and long captions. Double spacing between each bibliography entry is recommended.

Each major division of the document, including appendices, must have a title. Titles must be centered and have at least a one inch top margin. The use of title case is recommended. If chapters are being used, they should be numbered and titled. For example: Chapter 1: Introduction. Appendices are identified with letters and titles. For example: Appendix A: Data.


Every page must have a page number except the title page and the copyright page. If a frontispiece is included before the title page, it is neither counted nor numbered. The page numbers are centered at the bottom center of the page above the one inch margin. Note: You may need to set the footer margin to 1-inch and the body bottom margin to 1.3 or 1.5- inches to place the page number accurately.

Preliminary pages (abstract, dedication, acknowledgments, vita, table of contents, and the lists of illustrations, figures, etc.) are numbered with small Roman numerals (i, ii, iii, iv, etc.). Page numbering begins with the first page of the abstract, and this can be either page i or ii (The title page is technically page i, but the number is not shown on the page).

Arabic numerals are used for the remainder of the document, including the text and the reference material. These pages are numbered consecutively beginning with 1 and continue through the end of the document.

Notation practices differ widely among publications in the sciences, the humanities, and the social sciences. Candidates should confer with their advisors regarding accepted practice in their individual disciplines. That advice should be coupled with careful reference to appropriate general style manuals.

  • Arabic numerals should be used to indicate a note in the text. 
  • Notes may be numbered in one of two ways: either consecutively throughout the entire manuscript or consecutively within each chapter.
  • Notes can be placed at the bottom of the page (footnotes) or at the end of a chapter or document (endnotes). Once chosen, the notation style must be consistent throughout the document.
  • Notes about information within tables should be placed directly below the table to which they apply, not at the bottom of the page along with notes to the text.


Tables, figures, charts, graphs, photos, etc..

Some documents include several types of illustrations. In such cases, it is necessary that each type of illustration (table, figure, chart, etc.) be identified with a different numbering series (Table 1, Table 2, and so on, or Chart 1, Chart 2, and so on). For each series, include a list with captions and page numbers in the preliminary pages (for example, List of Tables, List of Charts, etc.). These lists must be identified with major headings that are centered and placed at the two-inch margin.

Each illustration must be identified with a caption that includes the type of illustration, the number, and a descriptive title (for example, Map 1: Ohio). Numbering may be sequential throughout the document (including the appendix, if applicable) or based on the decimal system (corresponding to the chapter number, such as Map 2.3: Columbus). When using decimal numbering in an appendix, the illustration is given a letter that corresponds with the appendix letter (for example, Figure A.1: Voter Data). Captions can be placed either above or below the illustration, but be consistent with the format throughout the document. If a landscape orientation of the illustration is used, make sure to also orient the illustration number and caption accordingly. The top of the illustration should be placed on the left (binding) edge of the page.

If an illustration is too large to ft on one page it is recommended that you identify the respective pages as being part of one illustration. Using a “continued” notation is one method. For example, the phrase continued is placed under the illustration on the bottom right hand side of the first page. On the following pages, include the illustration type, number, and the word continued at the top left margin; for example, Map 2: Continued. Whatever method you choose just make sure to be consistent. The caption for the illustration should be on the first page, but this does not need repeated on subsequent pages.

If an illustration is placed on a page with text, between the text and the top and/or bottom of the illustration, there must be three single spaced lines or two double spaced lines of blank space. The same spacing rule applies if there are multiple illustrations on the same page. The top/bottom of the illustration includes the caption.

All final Ph.D. dissertations, DMA. documents, and master’s theses are submitted to the Graduate School through OhioLINK at https://etdadmin. ohiolink.edu. The document must be saved in PDF embedded font format (PDF/A) before beginning the upload at OhioLINK. During the submission process, OhioLINK will require an abstract separate from your document. This abstract has a 500-word limit. You will get a confirmation from OhioLINK that the submission is complete. The submission then goes to the Graduate School for review. After it is reviewed by staff of the Graduate School, you will receive an email that it has been accepted or that changes need to be made. If changes are required, you will need to re-submit the revised document via an amended OhioLINK submission. You will receive an “accepted” email from the Graduate School once the document has been approved.


The Graduate School has no policy specifically permitting graduate degree documents to be written in a foreign language. The practice is allowed as long as it is approved by the student’s advisor and Graduate Studies Committee. Documents in a foreign language must comply with the following requirements:

  • The title page must be in English, but the title itself may be in the same language as the document.
  • If the title is in a language using other than Roman characters, it must be transliterated into Roman character equivalents.
  • The abstract must be in English.
  • The academic unit must notify the Graduate School of dissertations in a foreign language so that an appropriate graduate faculty representative can be found to participate in the final oral examination

Dissertation and Theses

The dissertation is the hallmark of the research expertise demonstrated by a doctoral student. It is a scholarly contribution to knowledge in the student’s area of specialization. 

A thesis is a hallmark of some master’s programs. It is a piece of original research, generally less comprehensive than a dissertation and is meant to show the student’s knowledge of an area of specialization.

Still Have Questions?

Dissertations & Theses 614-292-6031 [email protected]

Doctoral Exams, Master's Examination, Graduation Requirements 614-292-6031 [email protected]

thesis for guideline

Academics | Candidacy & Defense

Thesis format guidelines.

After reviewing these guidelines, if doubt exists as to the correct format of the thesis, the candidate is encouraged to consult with the Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies Office before the final copies are submitted.

Thesis Templates

Some of your colleagues have contributed thesis templates which you may find helpful as you begin your thesis writing. If you have developed a template that you would like to share, please let us know and we will add it to our library.

LaTeX Files Full Thesis Template

Fonts and Desktop Publishing

Features that should stand out in the thesis include the quality of the scholarship or research, the soundness of the logic, the originality of ideas, and the lucidity of the prose, but not the size of the headlines. The use of headers or chapter titles larger than 3/16" is discouraged and the use of excessive italics or bold print is discouraged.

Theses should generally be written in font 12. Possibilities include, but are not restricted to: Times New Roman, Helvetica, Arial, Calibri. The font provided through LaTeX is acceptable. However, if LaTeX is used, be careful to ensure proper margins when producing the final copy.

Use 1.5 or double spaced text. Only footnotes, long quotations, bibliography entries (double space between entries), table captions, and similar special material may be single-spaced.

The thesis should be formatted to be printed on 8.5 x 11 inch paper within your PDF. Students in the School of Architecture and the Shepherd School of Music may format their theses to a larger size.

We recommend a left margin of 1.5" and a top, bottom, and right margin of 1" if the thesis is to be bound. Page numbers do not need to meet the 1" margin requirement. If you do not follow the appropriate margin guidelines that are included here, you might lose content if your thesis is later bound. Some students may wish to extend their work beyond the margin requirement for aesthetic reasons; this is acceptable.

The title page is now signed via an AdobeSign document. This is sent to the student a couple of days before the student's thesis defense. The student may create a placeholder thesis title page for the rough draft of the thesis. A sample title page is available.

The degree must be shown as Doctor of Philosophy, Master of Arts, Master of Science, Master of Music, or Master of Architecture.

The month shown on the title page should be the month when the final copy is submitted to the Office of Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies OR the month in which the degree will be conferred (May, August or December). The month of the oral defense should not be shown unless the thesis is actually presented to the Office of Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies during that month.

The titles (i.e., faculty rank) of committee members should be typed below the signature lines with their names and departments. For example, John Smith, Associate Professor of Biology. The word chair or director should appear after the faculty title as appropriate.

All signatures on the title page are collected via AdobeSign. Please make arrangements in advance if one or more of your committee members will be unavailable to sign. You may also review specific signature requirements .

Once the committee has signed the title page, you will separate the title page from the other documents and merge it into a single document with the PDF of your thesis. To complete your thesis, please follow the directions here and ensure that you complete the online thesis submission form .

An abstract is to be included with the thesis. Particular care should be taken in preparing the abstract since it will be published in Dissertation Abstracts or Master's Abstracts and the length is limited by the publisher. The abstract may not exceed 350 words for a doctorate or 150 words for a master's. In style, the abstract should be a miniature version of the thesis. It should be a summary of the results, conclusions or main arguments presented in the thesis.

The heading of the abstract must contain the word Abstract, and must show the title of the thesis and the writer's name as indicated here.

Hyperlinks are not to be used as a substitute for complete bibliographic citations.

Assembling the Thesis

Your thesis should be assembled as a PDF. In some cases a thesis might be created as multiple documents; these must be merged into a single document. The thesis must be assembled in this order:

  • Copyright Notice (if applicable; for information on copyright, see the thesis FAQ page .)
  • Acknowledgments
  • Table of Contents
  • List of Tables, etc., if any
  • Preface, if any
  • Text (the first page of the text is the first Arabic-numbered page)
  • Notes (unless they appear on pages of text or at end of chapters)
  • Bibliography or list of references
  • Appendices, if any, may follow 8, 9 or 10

Page Numbering

Page numbers should be placed in the upper right corner of the page. Only the number should appear, not "page 9" or the abbreviation "p. 9." On the first page of each chapter, the number may be placed at the center bottom, one double space below the last line of type (the conventional placement), or at the top right corner.

Page numbers should not be shown on the Title Page, the Abstract, or on the first page of the Acknowledgments, Table of Contents, List of Tables or the Preface. However, the following pages (e.g., the second and succeeding pages) of each of these sections should be numbered using Roman numerals. The count for these preliminary pages should start with the title page. For example, if the thesis has a two-page abstract, then the second page of the acknowledgments should be the first page showing a number, and it should be numbered with the Roman numeral v.

Pages of the text itself and of all items following the text (i.e. the notes and bibliography) should be numbered consecutively throughout in Arabic numbers, beginning with number 1 on the first page of the first chapter or introduction (but not preface). Please number every page to be bound, including pages on which only illustrations, drawings, tables, or captions appear. The page numbers do not need to meet the 1" margin requirements.

Please note that when a graph, map, etc. is oversized, there is a limit on how much of this can be handled by the archiving process with ProQuest/UMI. All figures should appear within the text at the point where reference to them is first made.

In presenting footnotes and bibliography, use a consistent form acceptable in your discipline, such as Kate L. Turabian, A Manual for Writers (University of Chicago Press), the MLA Style Sheet, or Campbell's Form and Style (Houghton Mifflin). Electronic Styles: A Handbook for Citing Electronic Information (Information Today, Inc.) is helpful for noting electronic information. There are style guides for almost every discipline. Check with the library for further information.

Thesis Acknowledgements

Use this space to thank the funding and folks that contributed to your success in graduate school. Some view this as an informal section of the thesis, while others still consider this a piece within a formal document. You can thank people like your advisor(s), committee members, peers, friends, family, and even a special pet if you couldn't have done all the late nights without them! Be cautious to not reveal too much sensitive personal information that could be used in identity theft. Consider checking out these sites about acknowledgements: https://www.scribbr.com/dissertation/acknowledgements/ and https://elc.polyu.edu.hk/FYP/html/ack.htm .

Extra Copies

You may also choose to bind copies of your thesis for personal use through a bindery.

Updated May 2024

Main navigation

  • Graduate Students
  • Faculty & Staff

Thesis drop-in hours now available.

  • General requirements
  • Preparation of a thesis
  • Initial Thesis Submission
  • Thesis examination
  • Doctoral oral defence
  • Final Thesis Submission
  • Thesis Writing and Support Resources
  • Letters of Completion/PGWP

Thesis Guidelines

For all upcoming defences taking place on Zoom: Hosts should make sure they have reactivated their Zoom license to avoid having the defence cut off after 40 minutes.

The pages in this section provide a comprehensive overview of the guidelines for every step of the thesis process from thesis requirements to thesis evaluation to final thesis submission. Please also refer to the Regulations Concerning Theses in McGill's e-calendar. 

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0 International License . Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, McGill University .

Department and University Information

Graduate and postdoctoral studies.

Purdue University Graduate School

Markets for Diversifying Agriculture: Case Studies of the U.S Midwest

Agricultural diversification stands out as a critical strategy for addressing challenges and seizing opportunities within the agricultural landscape, especially in regions like the Midwest of the U.S. This research delves into the dynamics, opportunities, challenges, and key success drivers associated with agricultural diversification in the Midwest, focusing on three primary crops: oats, peas, and wheat. Employing a case study methodology grounded in empirical and contextual inquiry principles, the research aims to grasp the nuances of diversified agriculture. Data collection integrates primary and secondary sources, including semi-structured interviews and participation in field days. The data collection period spanned from October 2022 to February 2024. Interviews with 29 stakeholders, including farmers, industry representatives, agricultural cooperatives, and non-profits, provided insights into diversified agriculture practices.

Each case study provides in-depth insights into the opportunities, challenges, and key drivers of success associated with promoting diversified agriculture initiatives. These case studies underscore the significance of innovation, market access, sustainability, and collaboration in driving success within the industry. The cross-case analysis offers a comprehensive examination of the potential for agricultural diversification in the US Midwest. Through a comparative analysis of the three case studies, commonalities and key themes emerge, shedding light on stakeholder dynamics, business strategies, operational aspects, and scalability factors.

In summary, this research significantly contributes to the body of knowledge on agricultural diversification, offering insights that can guide future decisions, agricultural practices, and research endeavors aimed at promoting sustainability and resilience in the agricultural sector in the US Midwest.

Degree Type

  • Master of Science
  • Horticulture

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Additional committee member 2, additional committee member 3, usage metrics.

  • Sustainable agricultural development
  • Agricultural land planning

CC BY 4.0

40 Phrases Every Graduate Student Should Know

  • Publication date June 28, 2024
  • Categories: Grad School
  • Categories: glossary , graduate school , online grad school , online learning , terminology , terms to know

Three University students are seen sitting together in class as they work together on an grad school terminology. They have a laptop open between them as they each give input for the assignment.

Graduate school can feel like it has its own language. You may have heard students and faculty say certain phrases in passing, but what does it mean? Are these terms critical for your own studies, or are they just academic lingo? At WPI, we are experts in all things  graduate school , and we’ve got your back! Click through to discover some essential phrases you may encounter during grad school and what they really mean!

You may have heard this phrase before from faculty describing student status.  refers to students who have been formally accepted into a degree program.  refers to students taking courses at the university without being formally admitted to a degree program.
  When considering advanced education, you might choose between a graduate certificate and a graduate degree. A graduate certificate is a focused, shorter program that provides specialized knowledge in a specific area. A graduate degree, such as a master’s or doctorate, involves more extensive study and research in a broader field. 
These are terms that refer to the type of courses students are taking.   refers to learning that occurs   without real-time interaction, such as recorded lessons and flexible deadlines.   refers to learning in real-time, with live interaction between students and instructors, such as a traditional classroom.
You may have encountered these terms when exploring graduate engineering programs. refers to a professionally oriented degree focusing on practical skills, designed to prepare students for engineering practice. , on the other hand, is usually research-oriented, requiring a thesis or significant research project, and focuses on developing theoretical knowledge and research skills.
In graduate programs, you might hear about TAs and RAs. A is a graduate student who assists with teaching duties, such as grading, leading discussion sections, or lecturing. A , in contrast, is a graduate student who assists with research projects, often working closely with faculty on experiments, data analysis, and other research activities.

thesis for guideline

These terms often come up in discussions about graduate research requirements. A is a research project required for a master’s degree, involving original research on a specific topic and presenting the findings in a written document. A , however, is an extensive research project required for a doctoral degree, involving more comprehensive and in-depth research.
In academic settings, you might hear about cohorts and classes. A is a group of students who start and progress through a program together, fostering a sense of community and support. A , however, refers to a group of students attending a particular course who may or may not interact outside that course.
Graduate students often face these exams at different stages. cover a wide range of material from the student’s field of study and are usually required to earn a degree. assess a student’s readiness to undertake dissertation research and are typically part of doctoral programs.
Graduate students often have both advisors and mentors. An is a faculty member assigned to guide a student through their academic program, helping with course selection and research direction. A , meanwhile, is a more experienced individual who provides broader career and personal guidance, often going beyond academic concerns.
In academic and professional contexts, you might be asked to provide a CV or a resume. A curriculum is a detailed document outlining your academic achievements, publications, and professional history. A , in contrast, is a concise document highlighting your skills, experiences, and education, typically for job applications.

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  These terms are often used interchangeably in academic institutions. Credits are points earned by completing courses, used to measure academic progress toward a degree. Units, though often synonymous with credits, can sometimes refer to different measurements depending on the institution. 
  When writing research papers, you’ll encounter both the abstract and the introduction. An abstract is a brief summary of the research paper, providing an overview of the main points and findings. The introduction, on the other hand, is the opening section that introduces the topic, provides background information, and outlines the research question and objectives.
  Graduate students often seek financial support through fellowships and scholarships. A fellowship is financial support that often includes a stipend, tuition, and research funds, and is usually awarded based on academic merit. A scholarship, however, is financial aid awarded based on merit or need, typically for tuition support. 
  In the context of research funding, you’ll hear about grants and fellowships. A is funding provided for a specific research project, often requiring detailed proposals and reports. A offers broader financial support for a student, which may include a stipend and tuition, without being tied to a specific project. 
  In the journey of a PhD student, candidacy and postdoctoral positions are important milestones. Candidacy refers to a stage in a PhD program where the student has passed required exams and can begin dissertation research. A postdoctoral position, however, is a research position undertaken after completing a doctoral degree, focusing on further specialized research. 

thesis for guideline

In professional programs, you might encounter internships and practicums. An internship is work experience, often paid, that provides practical experience in a student’s field. A practicum, on the other hand, is a supervised practical application of previously studied theory, often part of professional programs like education or healthcare. 
  Many universities and colleges alike refer to , or classes required to take in a degree program. You will also hear about , which are optional courses that students can choose based on their interests.  
  You might already be familiar with GPA terminology if you attended high school in America. is a numerical representation of a student’s academic performance. However, some classes or exams may be referred to as where students receive either a “pass” or “fail” instead of a traditional letter or number grade. 
  You may hear this term referring to student academic work. An is a short, written overview of a research study’s purpose, methods, results, and conclusions, usually about a paragraph or so. A refers to a longer synopsis that can include various aspects of the entire document or topic to provide the reader with more context. 
  You may hear this term referring to student academic work. An is a short, written overview of a research study’s purpose, methods, results, and conclusions, usually about a paragraph or so. A refers to a longer synopsis that can include various aspects of the entire document or topic to provide the reader with more context. 

We hope that this article can help you decipher some of the tricky terminology you might hear about grad school. Understanding these terms can make navigating your graduate education journey smoother and more manageable. Whether you’re just starting to explore graduate programs or are already immersed in your studies, having a clear grasp of these concepts will help you make informed decisions and better communicate with your peers and faculty. Good luck on your academic journey and remember, every step you take brings you closer to achieving your goals! 

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  • Knowledge Base
  • Dissertation
  • Checklist: Writing a dissertation

Checklist: Writing a Thesis or Dissertation

Published on August 30, 2022 by Shona McCombes . Revised on July 18, 2023.

Your thesis or dissertation is probably the longest academic text you’ve ever had to write, and there are a lot of different elements to keep in mind.

Use this simple checklist to make sure you’ve included all the essentials and submit your dissertation with confidence.

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Upload your document to correct all your mistakes in minutes


Table of contents

Other interesting articles, checklist: dissertation.

My title page includes all information required by my university.

I have included acknowledgements thanking those who helped me.

My abstract provides a concise summary of the dissertation, giving the reader a clear idea of my key results or arguments.

I have created a table of contents to help the reader navigate my dissertation. It includes all chapter titles, but excludes the title page, acknowledgements, and abstract.

My introduction leads into my topic in an engaging way and shows the relevance of my research.

My introduction clearly defines the focus of my research, stating my research questions and research objectives .

My introduction includes an overview of the dissertation’s structure (reading guide).

I have conducted a literature review in which I (1) critically engage with sources, evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of existing research, (2) discuss patterns, themes, and debates in the literature, and (3) address a gap or show how my research contributes to existing research.

I have clearly outlined the theoretical framework of my research, explaining the theories and models that support my approach.

I have thoroughly described my methodology , explaining how I collected data and analyzed data.

I have concisely and objectively reported all relevant results .

I have (1) evaluated and interpreted the meaning of the results and (2) acknowledged any important limitations of the results in my discussion .

I have clearly stated the answer to my main research question in the conclusion .

I have clearly explained the implications of my conclusion, emphasizing what new insight my research has contributed.

I have provided relevant recommendations for further research or practice.

If relevant, I have included appendices with supplemental information.

I have included an in-text citation every time I use words, ideas, or information from a source.

I have listed every source in a reference list at the end of my dissertation.

I have consistently followed the rules of my chosen citation style .

I have followed all formatting guidelines provided by my university.


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More From Forbes

How not to write your college essay.

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If you are looking for the “secret formula” for writing a “winning” college essay, you have come to the wrong place. The reality is there is no silver bullet or strategy to write your way to an acceptance. There is not one topic or approach that will guarantee a favorable outcome.

At the end of the day, every admission office just wants to know more about you, what you value, and what excites you. They want to hear about your experiences through your own words and in your own voice. As you set out to write your essay, you will no doubt get input (both sought-after and unsolicited) on what to write. But how about what NOT Notcoin to write? There are avoidable blunders that applicants frequently make in drafting their essays. I asked college admission leaders, who have read thousands of submissions, to share their thoughts.

Don’t Go In There

There is wide consensus on this first one, so before you call on your Jedi mind tricks or predictive analytics, listen to the voices of a diverse range of admission deans. Peter Hagan, executive director of admissions at Syracuse University, sums it up best, saying, “I would recommend that students try not to get inside of our heads. He adds, “Too often the focus is on what they think we want.”

Andy Strickler, dean of admission and financial aid at Connecticut College agrees, warning, “Do NOT get caught in the trap of trying to figure out what is going to impress the admission committee. You have NO idea who is going to read your essay and what is going to connect with them. So, don't try to guess that.” Victoria Romero, vice president for enrollment, at Scripps College adds, “Do not write about something you don’t care about.” She says, “I think students try to figure out what an admission officer wants to read, and the reality is the reader begins every next essay with no expectations about the content THEY want to read.” Chrystal Russell, dean of admission at Hampden-Sydney College, agrees, saying, “If you're not interested in writing it, we will not be interested when reading it.” Jay Jacobs, vice provost for enrollment management at the University of Vermont elaborates, advising. “Don’t try to make yourself sound any different than you are.” He says, “The number one goal for admission officers is to better understand the applicant, what they like to do, what they want to do, where they spend the majority of their time, and what makes them tick. If a student stays genuine to that, it will shine through and make an engaging and successful essay.”

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Don’t Be Artificial

The headlines about college admission are dominated by stories about artificial intelligence and the college essay. Let’s set some ground rules–to allow ChatGPT or some other tool to do your work is not only unethical, it is also unintelligent. The only worse mistake you could make is to let another human write your essay for you. Instead of preoccupying yourself with whether or not colleges are using AI detection software (most are not), spend your time focused on how best to express yourself authentically. Rick Clark is the executive director of strategic student success at Georgia Institute of Technology, one of the first institutions to clearly outline their AI policy for applicants. He says, “Much of a college application is devoted to lines, boxes, and numbers. Essays and supplements are the one place to establish connection, personality, and distinction. AI, in its current state, is terrible at all three.” He adds, “My hope is that students will use ChatGPT or other tools for brainstorming and to get started, but then move quickly into crafting an essay that will provide insight and value.”

Don’t Overdo It

Michael Stefanowicz, vice president for enrollment management at Landmark College says, “You can only cover so much detail about yourself in an admission essay, and a lot of students feel pressure to tell their life story or choose their most defining experience to date as an essay topic. Admission professionals know that you’re sharing just one part of your lived experience in the essay.” He adds, “Some of the favorite essays I’ve read have been episodic, reflecting on the way you’ve found meaning in a seemingly ordinary experience, advice you’ve lived out, a mistake you’ve learned from, or a special tradition in your life.” Gary Ross, vice president for admission and financial aid at Colgate University adds, “More than a few applicants each year craft essays that talk about the frustration and struggles they have experienced in identifying a topic for their college application essay. Presenting your college application essay as a smorgasbord of topics that ultimately landed on the cutting room floor does not give us much insight into an applicant.”

Don’t Believe In Magic

Jason Nevinger, senior director of admission at the University of Rochester warns, “Be skeptical of anyone or any company telling you, ‘This is the essay that got me into _____.’ There is no magic topic, approach, sentence structure, or prose that got any student into any institution ever.” Social media is littered with advertisements promising strategic essay help. Don’t waste your time, energy, or money trying to emulate a certain style, topic, or tone. Liz Cheron is chief executive officer for the Coalition for College and former assistant vice president of enrollment & dean of admissions at Northeastern University. She agrees with Nevinger, saying “Don't put pressure on yourself to find the perfect, slam dunk topic. The vast majority of college essays do exactly what they're supposed to do–they are well-written and tell the admission officer more about the student in that student's voice–and that can take many different forms.”

Don’t Over Recycle

Beatrice Atkinson-Myers, associate director of global recruitment at the University of California at Santa Cruz tells students, “Do not use the same response for each university; research and craft your essay to match the program at the university you are interested in studying. Don't waste time telling me things I can read elsewhere in your application. Use your essay to give the admissions officer insights into your motivations, interests, and thinking. Don't make your essay the kitchen sink, focus on one or two examples which demonstrate your depth and creativity.” Her UC colleague, Jim Rawlins, associate vice chancellor of enrollment management at the University of California at San Diego agrees, saying “Answer the question. Not doing so is the surest way we can tell you are simply giving us a snippet of something you actually wrote for a different purpose.”

Don’t Overedit

Emily Roper-Doten, vice president for undergraduate admissions and financial assistance at Clark University warns against “Too many editors!” She says, “Pick a couple of trusted folks to be your sounding board when considering topics and as readers once you have drafts. You don’t want too many voices in your essay to drown you out!” Scripps’ Romero agrees, suggesting, “Ask a good friend, someone you trust and knows you well, to read your essays.” She adds, “The goal is for the admission committee to get to know a little about you and who better to help you create that framework, than a good friend. This may not work for all students because of content but helps them understand it’s important to be themselves.” Whitney Soule, vice provost and dean of admissions at The University of Pennsylvania adds, “Avoid well-meaning editorial interference that might seem to polish your writing but actually takes your own personal ‘shine’ right out of the message.” She says, “As readers, we connect to applicants through their genuine tone and style. Considering editorial advice for flow and message is OK but hold on to the 'you' for what you want to say and how you want to say it.”

Don’t Get Showy

Palmer Muntz, senior regional admissions counselor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks cautions applicants, “Don’t be fancier than you are. You don’t need to put on airs.” He adds, “Yes, proofread your work for grammar and spelling, but be natural. Craft something you’d want to read yourself, which probably means keeping your paragraphs short, using familiar words, and writing in an active voice.” Connecticut College’s Strickler agrees, warning, “Don't try to be someone you are not. If you are not funny, don't try to write a funny essay. If you are not an intellectual, trying to write an intellectual essay is a bad idea.”

Anthony Jones, the vice president of enrollment management at Loyola University New Orleans offers a unique metaphor for thinking about the essay. He says, “In the new world of the hyper-fast college admission process, it's become easy to overlook the essential meaning of the college application. It's meant to reveal Y...O...U, the real you, not some phony digital avatar. Think of the essay as the essence of that voice but in analog. Like the completeness and authenticity captured in a vinyl record, the few lines you're given to explain your view should be a slow walk through unrestrained expression chock full of unapologetic nuances, crevices of emotion, and exactness about how you feel in the moment. Then, and only then, can you give the admissions officer an experience that makes them want to tune in and listen for more.”

Don’t Be A Downer

James Nondorf, vice president and dean of admissions and financial aid at The University of Chicago says, “Don’t be negative about other people, be appreciative of those who have supported you, and be excited about who you are and what you will bring to our campus!” He adds, “While admissions offices want smart students for our classrooms, we also want kind-hearted, caring, and joyous students who will add to our campus communities too.”

Don’t Pattern Match

Alan Ramirez is the dean of admission and financial aid at Sewanee, The University of the South. He explains, “A big concern I have is when students find themselves comparing their writing to other students or past applicants and transform their writing to be more like those individuals as a way to better their chances of offering a more-compelling essay.” He emphasizes that the result is that the “essay is no longer authentic nor the best representation of themselves and the whole point of the essay is lost. Their distinctive voice and viewpoint contribute to the range of voices in the incoming class, enhancing the diversity of perspectives we aim to achieve.” Ramirez simple tells students, “Be yourself, that’s what we want to see, plus there's no one else who can do it better than you!”

Don’t Feel Tied To A Topic

Jessica Ricker is the vice president for enrollment and dean of admissions and financial aid at Skidmore College. She says, “Sometimes students feel they must tell a story of grief or hardship, and then end up reliving that during the essay-writing process in ways that are emotionally detrimental. I encourage students to choose a topic they can reflect upon positively but recommend that if they choose a more challenging experience to write about, they avoid belaboring the details and instead focus on the outcome of that journey.” She adds, "They simply need to name it, frame its impact, and then help us as the reader understand how it has shaped their lens on life and their approach moving forward.”

Landmark College’s Stefanowicz adds, “A lot of students worry about how personal to get in sharing a part of their identity like your race or heritage (recalling last year’s Supreme Court case about race-conscious admissions), a learning difference or other disability, your religious values, LGBTQ identity…the list goes on.” He emphasizes, “This is always your choice, and your essay doesn’t have to be about a defining identity. But I encourage you to be fully yourself as you present yourself to colleges—because the college admission process is about finding a school where your whole self is welcome and you find a setting to flourish!”

Don’t Be Redundant

Hillen Grason Jr., dean of admission at Franklin & Marshall College, advises, “Don't repeat academic or co-curricular information that is easily identifiable within other parts of your application unless the topic is a core tenant of you as an individual.” He adds, “Use your essay, and other parts of your application, wisely. Your essay is the best way to convey who your authentic self is to the schools you apply. If you navigated a situation that led to a dip in your grades or co-curricular involvement, leverage the ‘additional information’ section of the application.

Thomas Marr is a regional manager of admissions for the Americas at The University of St Andrews in Scotland and points out that “Not all international schools use the main college essay as part of their assessment when reviewing student applications.” He says, “At the University of St Andrews, we focus on the supplemental essay and students should avoid the mistake of making the supplemental a repeat of their other essay. The supplemental (called the Personal Statement if using the UCAS application process) is to show the extent of their passion and enthusiasm for the subject/s to which they are applying and we expect about 75% of the content to cover this. They can use the remaining space to mention their interests outside of the classroom. Some students confuse passion for the school with passion for their subject; do not fall into that trap.”

A Few Final Don’ts

Don’t delay. Every college applicant I have ever worked with has wished they had started earlier. You can best avoid the pitfalls above if you give yourself the time and space to write a thoughtful essay and welcome feedback openly but cautiously. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to be perfect . Do your best, share your voice, and stay true to who you are.

Brennan Barnard

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