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What Is a Dissertation? | Guide, Examples, & Template

Structure of a Dissertation

A dissertation is a long-form piece of academic writing based on original research conducted by you. It is usually submitted as the final step in order to finish a PhD program.

Your dissertation is probably the longest piece of writing you’ve ever completed. It requires solid research, writing, and analysis skills, and it can be intimidating to know where to begin.

Your department likely has guidelines related to how your dissertation should be structured. When in doubt, consult with your supervisor.

You can also download our full dissertation template in the format of your choice below. The template includes a ready-made table of contents with notes on what to include in each chapter, easily adaptable to your department’s requirements.

Download Word template Download Google Docs template

  • In the US, a dissertation generally refers to the collection of research you conducted to obtain a PhD.
  • In other countries (such as the UK), a dissertation often refers to the research you conduct to obtain your bachelor’s or master’s degree.

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Table of contents

Dissertation committee and prospectus process, how to write and structure a dissertation, acknowledgements or preface, list of figures and tables, list of abbreviations, introduction, literature review, methodology, reference list, proofreading and editing, defending your dissertation, free checklist and lecture slides.

When you’ve finished your coursework, as well as any comprehensive exams or other requirements, you advance to “ABD” (All But Dissertation) status. This means you’ve completed everything except your dissertation.

Prior to starting to write, you must form your committee and write your prospectus or proposal . Your committee comprises your adviser and a few other faculty members. They can be from your own department, or, if your work is more interdisciplinary, from other departments. Your committee will guide you through the dissertation process, and ultimately decide whether you pass your dissertation defense and receive your PhD.

Your prospectus is a formal document presented to your committee, usually orally in a defense, outlining your research aims and objectives and showing why your topic is relevant . After passing your prospectus defense, you’re ready to start your research and writing.

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requirements of a dissertation

The structure of your dissertation depends on a variety of factors, such as your discipline, topic, and approach. Dissertations in the humanities are often structured more like a long essay , building an overall argument to support a central thesis , with chapters organized around different themes or case studies.

However, hard science and social science dissertations typically include a review of existing works, a methodology section, an analysis of your original research, and a presentation of your results , presented in different chapters.

Dissertation examples

We’ve compiled a list of dissertation examples to help you get started.

  • Example dissertation #1: Heat, Wildfire and Energy Demand: An Examination of Residential Buildings and Community Equity (a dissertation by C. A. Antonopoulos about the impact of extreme heat and wildfire on residential buildings and occupant exposure risks).
  • Example dissertation #2: Exploring Income Volatility and Financial Health Among Middle-Income Households (a dissertation by M. Addo about income volatility and declining economic security among middle-income households).
  • Example dissertation #3: The Use of Mindfulness Meditation to Increase the Efficacy of Mirror Visual Feedback for Reducing Phantom Limb Pain in Amputees (a dissertation by N. S. Mills about the effect of mindfulness-based interventions on the relationship between mirror visual feedback and the pain level in amputees with phantom limb pain).

The very first page of your document contains your dissertation title, your name, department, institution, degree program, and submission date. Sometimes it also includes your student number, your supervisor’s name, and the university’s logo.

Read more about title pages

The acknowledgements section is usually optional and gives space for you to thank everyone who helped you in writing your dissertation. This might include your supervisors, participants in your research, and friends or family who supported you. In some cases, your acknowledgements are part of a preface.

Read more about acknowledgements Read more about prefaces

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requirements of a dissertation

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The abstract is a short summary of your dissertation, usually about 150 to 300 words long. Though this may seem very short, it’s one of the most important parts of your dissertation, because it introduces your work to your audience.

Your abstract should:

  • State your main topic and the aims of your research
  • Describe your methods
  • Summarize your main results
  • State your conclusions

Read more about abstracts

The table of contents lists all of your chapters, along with corresponding subheadings and page numbers. This gives your reader an overview of your structure and helps them easily navigate your document.

Remember to include all main parts of your dissertation in your table of contents, even the appendices. It’s easy to generate a table automatically in Word if you used heading styles. Generally speaking, you only include level 2 and level 3 headings, not every subheading you included in your finished work.

Read more about tables of contents

While not usually mandatory, it’s nice to include a list of figures and tables to help guide your reader if you have used a lot of these in your dissertation. It’s easy to generate one of these in Word using the Insert Caption feature.

Read more about lists of figures and tables

Similarly, if you have used a lot of abbreviations (especially industry-specific ones) in your dissertation, you can include them in an alphabetized list of abbreviations so that the reader can easily look up their meanings.

Read more about lists of abbreviations

In addition to the list of abbreviations, if you find yourself using a lot of highly specialized terms that you worry will not be familiar to your reader, consider including a glossary. Here, alphabetize the terms and include a brief description or definition.

Read more about glossaries

The introduction serves to set up your dissertation’s topic, purpose, and relevance. It tells the reader what to expect in the rest of your dissertation. The introduction should:

  • Establish your research topic , giving the background information needed to contextualize your work
  • Narrow down the focus and define the scope of your research
  • Discuss the state of existing research on the topic, showing your work’s relevance to a broader problem or debate
  • Clearly state your research questions and objectives
  • Outline the flow of the rest of your work

Everything in the introduction should be clear, engaging, and relevant. By the end, the reader should understand the what, why, and how of your research.

Read more about introductions

A formative part of your research is your literature review . This helps you gain a thorough understanding of the academic work that already exists on your topic.

Literature reviews encompass:

  • Finding relevant sources (e.g., books and journal articles)
  • Assessing the credibility of your sources
  • Critically analyzing and evaluating each source
  • Drawing connections between them (e.g., themes, patterns, conflicts, or gaps) to strengthen your overall point

A literature review is not merely a summary of existing sources. Your literature review should have a coherent structure and argument that leads to a clear justification for your own research. It may aim to:

  • Address a gap in the literature or build on existing knowledge
  • Take a new theoretical or methodological approach to your topic
  • Propose a solution to an unresolved problem or advance one side of a theoretical debate

Read more about literature reviews

Theoretical framework

Your literature review can often form the basis for your theoretical framework. Here, you define and analyze the key theories, concepts, and models that frame your research.

Read more about theoretical frameworks

Your methodology chapter describes how you conducted your research, allowing your reader to critically assess its credibility. Your methodology section should accurately report what you did, as well as convince your reader that this was the best way to answer your research question.

A methodology section should generally include:

  • The overall research approach ( quantitative vs. qualitative ) and research methods (e.g., a longitudinal study )
  • Your data collection methods (e.g., interviews or a controlled experiment )
  • Details of where, when, and with whom the research took place
  • Any tools and materials you used (e.g., computer programs, lab equipment)
  • Your data analysis methods (e.g., statistical analysis , discourse analysis )
  • An evaluation or justification of your methods

Read more about methodology sections

Your results section should highlight what your methodology discovered. You can structure this section around sub-questions, hypotheses , or themes, but avoid including any subjective or speculative interpretation here.

Your results section should:

  • Concisely state each relevant result together with relevant descriptive statistics (e.g., mean , standard deviation ) and inferential statistics (e.g., test statistics , p values )
  • Briefly state how the result relates to the question or whether the hypothesis was supported
  • Report all results that are relevant to your research questions , including any that did not meet your expectations.

Additional data (including raw numbers, full questionnaires, or interview transcripts) can be included as an appendix. You can include tables and figures, but only if they help the reader better understand your results. Read more about results sections

Your discussion section is your opportunity to explore the meaning and implications of your results in relation to your research question. Here, interpret your results in detail, discussing whether they met your expectations and how well they fit with the framework that you built in earlier chapters. Refer back to relevant source material to show how your results fit within existing research in your field.

Some guiding questions include:

  • What do your results mean?
  • Why do your results matter?
  • What limitations do the results have?

If any of the results were unexpected, offer explanations for why this might be. It’s a good idea to consider alternative interpretations of your data.

Read more about discussion sections

Your dissertation’s conclusion should concisely answer your main research question, leaving your reader with a clear understanding of your central argument and emphasizing what your research has contributed to the field.

In some disciplines, the conclusion is just a short section preceding the discussion section, but in other contexts, it is the final chapter of your work. Here, you wrap up your dissertation with a final reflection on what you found, with recommendations for future research and concluding remarks.

It’s important to leave the reader with a clear impression of why your research matters. What have you added to what was already known? Why is your research necessary for the future of your field?

Read more about conclusions

It is crucial to include a reference list or list of works cited with the full details of all the sources that you used, in order to avoid plagiarism. Be sure to choose one citation style and follow it consistently throughout your dissertation. Each style has strict and specific formatting requirements.

Common styles include MLA , Chicago , and APA , but which style you use is often set by your department or your field.

Create APA citations Create MLA citations

Your dissertation should contain only essential information that directly contributes to answering your research question. Documents such as interview transcripts or survey questions can be added as appendices, rather than adding them to the main body.

Read more about appendices

Making sure that all of your sections are in the right place is only the first step to a well-written dissertation. Don’t forget to leave plenty of time for editing and proofreading, as grammar mistakes and sloppy spelling errors can really negatively impact your work.

Dissertations can take up to five years to write, so you will definitely want to make sure that everything is perfect before submitting. You may want to consider using a professional dissertation editing service , AI proofreader or grammar checker to make sure your final project is perfect prior to submitting.

After your written dissertation is approved, your committee will schedule a defense. Similarly to defending your prospectus, dissertation defenses are oral presentations of your work. You’ll present your dissertation, and your committee will ask you questions. Many departments allow family members, friends, and other people who are interested to join as well.

After your defense, your committee will meet, and then inform you whether you have passed. Keep in mind that defenses are usually just a formality; most committees will have resolved any serious issues with your work with you far prior to your defense, giving you ample time to fix any problems.

As you write your dissertation, you can use this simple checklist to make sure you’ve included all the essentials.

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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Format Requirements for Your Dissertation or Thesis

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The final dissertation or thesis manuscript must have a ready-for-publication appearance and standard features.

The Office of the University Registrar does not endorse or verify the accuracy of any dissertation or thesis formatting templates that may be available to you.

It is your student responsibility to make sure that the formatting meets these requirements. Introductory material, text, and appendices must all be clearly and consistently prepared and must meet all of the specifications outlined below.

Once you upload and submit your dissertation or thesis in Axess, and it has been approved by the university, the submission is considered final and no further changes are permitted.

The digital file of the dissertation or thesis, which is sent to Stanford Libraries for cataloging, must meet certain technical requirements to ensure that it can be easily accessed by readers now and into the future. 

Follow the specifications outlined below.

Style and Format

Word and text divisions, style guides, content and layout, special instructions for d.m.a. students, order and content, page orientation, embedded links, supplementary material and publishing, supplementary material, scholarly reference, published papers and multiple authorship, use of copyrighted material, copyrighting your dissertation, file security and file name, stanford university thesis & dissertation publication license.

Pages should be standard U.S. letter size (8.5 x 11 inches).

In order to ensure the future ability to render the document, standard fonts must be used. 

For the main text body, type size should be 10, 11, or 12 point. Smaller font sizes may be used in tables, captions, etc. 

The font color must be black. 

Font Families

Acceptable font styles include:

  • Times New Roman (preferred)
  • Courier, Courier Bold, Courier Oblique, Courier Bold-Oblique;
  • Helvetica, Helvetica Bold, Helvetica Oblique, Helvetica Bold-Oblique;
  • Times, Times Bold, Times Italic, Times Bold-Italic;
  • Computer Modern (or Computer Modern Roman).

Note: Do not use script or ornamental fonts. Do not use proprietary fonts.

If you use mathematical or other scientific notation in your dissertation or thesis using a font other than Symbol, you must embed the font into the PDF that is submitted to the university. 

Inner margins (left edge if single-sided; right edge for even-numbered pages, and left edge for odd-numbered pages if double-sided) must be 1.5 inches. All other margins must be one inch.

Pagination, headers, and/or footers may be placed within the margin, but no closer than one-half inch from the edge of the page.

For double-sided copies, 1.5 inches must be maintained as the inner margin. Margin requirements should apply to the entire document, including the title page.

The main text of the manuscript should be one-and-a-half or double-spaced lines, except where conventional usage calls for single spacing, such as footnotes, indented quotations, tables, etc.

Words should be divided correctly at the end of a line and may not be divided from one page to the next. Use a standard dictionary to determine word division. 

Avoid short lines that end a paragraph at the top of a page, and any heading or subheading at the bottom of a page that is not followed by text.

The dissertation and thesis must be in English. 

Language Exceptions for Dissertations Only

Approval for writing the dissertation in another language is normally granted only in cases where the other language or literature in that language is also the subject of the discipline. 

Exceptions are granted by the school dean upon submission of a written request from the chair of your major department. Approval is routinely granted for dissertations in the Division of Literature, Cultures, and Languages within department specifications.

Prior to submitting in Axess, you must send a copy of the approval letter (or email message chain) from the department dean to [email protected]    

Dissertations written in another language must include an extended summary in English (usually 15 to 20 pages in length). In this case, you should upload your English summary as a supplemental file, during Step 4 of the online submission process.

Select a standard style approved by your department and use it consistently. 

Some reliable style guides are:

  • K.A. Turabian’s A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, 
  • Theses and Dissertations (University of Chicago Press), and 
  • the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations (Modern Language Association).

If you are a student in the Doctor of Musical Arts program, you may submit musical scores formatted at 11 x 17 inches in size. 

If you are submitting a performance as your dissertation, submit the audio file in WAV format as a supplemental file. 

Note: The maximum file size accepted for submission is 100 MB. If a performance recording exceeds the maximum file size, break the file into multiple files and submit the parts individually as supplemental files.

Your dissertation or thesis must contain the following sections. All sections must be included in a single digital file for upload.

  • Title Page — The format must be followed exactly. View these title page examples for Ph.D. Dissertation and this title page sample for an Engineer Thesis . Use uppercase letters. The title of the dissertation or thesis should be a meaningful description of the content of the manuscript. Use word substitutes for formulas, symbols, superscripts, subscripts, Greek letters, etc. The month and year must be the actual month and year in which you submit your dissertation or thesis electronically to the university. (Note: A student who submits in Autumn quarter is conferred his/her degree in the following calendar year.)
  • Copyright Page — The dissertation or thesis PDF uploaded in Axess should not contain a copyright page. The copyright page will be created automatically by the online submission system and inserted into the file stored by Stanford Libraries.
  • Signature Page — The dissertation or thesis PDF uploaded in Axess should also not contain a signature page. The submission process has moved away from ink-signatures, so a digital facsimile of the signature page will be created automatically by the online submission system and inserted into the dissertation or thesis in its final format stored by Stanford Libraries.
  • Abstract — An abstract may be included in the preliminary section of the dissertation or thesis. The abstract in the body of the dissertation or thesis follows the style used for the rest of the manuscript and should be placed following the signature page. There is no maximum permissible length for the abstract in the dissertation or thesis.    Dissertation authors must enter an abstract using the online submission form for uploading the digital dissertation or thesis file to the library. This abstract, which will be indexed for online searching, must be formatted in plain text (no HTML or special formatting). It should be a pithy and succinct version of the abstract included in the dissertation or thesis itself.
  • Preface, an Acknowledgment, or a Dedication
  • Table of Contents – Include page references.
  • List of Tables –  Include titles and page references. This list is optional.
  • List of Illustrations – Include titles and page references. This list is optional
  • Introduction  
  • Main body – Include suitable, consistent headings for the larger divisions and more important sub-divisions.
  • Appendices.
  • Bibliography or List of References.

Except for the title page, which counts as 'i' but is not physically numbered, each page of the manuscript, including all blank pages, pages between chapters, pages with text, photographs, tables, figures, maps, or computer code must be assigned a number. 

Consistent placement of pagination, at least one-half inch from the paper’s edge, should be used throughout the manuscript.

Follow these pagination instructions exactly:

  • For the preliminary pages, use small Roman numerals (e.g., iv, v, vi).
  • The title page is not physically numbered, but counts as page i.
  • Keep in mind that a copyright page ii and augmented signature page iii (based off your student record) will automatically be inserted to your manuscript during submission.  This means you must ensure to remove pages ii and iii from your dissertation or thesis.
  • Failing to remove pages ii and iii is most common formatting mistake: you must remove your copyright page ii and signature page iii from the pdf file before you submit your dissertation or thesis, and begin pagination on your abstract with page number "iv". If the document is formatted for double-sided printing with each section starting on the right page, then pagination will begin on a blank page (page"iv") and the Abstract should be numbered as page "v", and so forth.
  • For the remainder of the manuscript, starting with the Introduction or Chapter 1 of the Main Body, use continuous pagination (1, 2, 3, etc) for text, illustrations, images, appendices, and the bibliography. Remember to start with Arabic numbered page 1, as this is not a continuation of the Roman numeral numbering from the preliminary pages.
  • The placement of page numbers should be consistent throughout the document.

For text, illustrations, charts, graphs, etc., printed in landscape form, the orientation should be facing away from the bound edge of the paper.

Images (color, grayscale, and monochrome) included in the dissertation or thesis should be clearly discernible both on screen and when printed. The dimensions should not exceed the size of the standard letter-size page (8.5” x 11”).

Image resolution should be 150 dots per inch (dpi), though resolutions as low as 72 dpi (and no lower) are acceptable. 

The format of images embedded in the PDF should be JPEG or EPS (the format JPEG2000 is also acceptable when it is supported in future versions of the PDF format). GIF and PNG are not preferred image file formats.

Large images, including maps and charts or other graphics that require high resolution, should not be included in the main dissertation or thesis file. Instead, they can be submitted separately as supplemental files and formatted in other formats as appropriate. 

Multimedia, such as audio, video, animation, etc., must not be embedded in the body of the dissertation or thesis. These media types add size and complexity to the digital file, introducing obstacles to users of the dissertation or thesis who wish to download and read (and “play back”) the content, and making it more difficult to preserve over time.

If you wish to include multimedia with your submission, upload the media separately as a stand-alone file in an appropriate media format. See Supplementary Material section below.

It is acceptable to include “live” (i.e., clickable) web URLs that link to online resources within the dissertation or thesis file. Spell out each URL in its entirety (e.g., http://www.stanford.edu ) rather than embedding the link in text (e.g., Stanford homepage ). By spelling out the URL, you improve a reader’s ability to understand and access the link reference.

Supplementary material may be submitted electronically with the dissertation or thesis. This material includes any supporting content that is useful for understanding the dissertation or thesis, but is not essential to the argument. It also covers core content in a form that can not be adequately represented or embedded in the PDF format, such as an audio recording of a musical performance.

Supplementary materials are submitted separately than the dissertation or thesis file, and are referred to as supplemental files.

A maximum of twenty supplemental files can be submitted. There are no restrictions on the file formats. The maximum file size is 1 GB.

You are encouraged to be judicious about the volume and quality of the supplemental files, and to employ file formats that are widely used by researchers generally, if not also by scholars of the discipline.

The following table outlines recommended file formats for different content types. By following these recommendations, the author is helping to ensure ongoing access to the material.

After uploading each supplemental file, it is important to enter a short description or label (maximum 120 characters for file name and the description). This label will be displayed to readers in a list of the contents for the entire submission.

If copyrighted material is part of the supplementary material, permission to reuse and distribute the content must be obtained from the owner of the copyright. Stanford Libraries requires copies of permission letters (in PDF format) to be uploaded electronically when submitting the files, and assumes no liability for copyright violations. View this sample permission letter .

System restrictions allow for a maximum of 10 individually uploaded permission files. If you have more than 10 permission files we recommend combining all permission letters into a single PDF file for upload.

In choosing an annotation or reference system, you should be guided by the practice of your discipline and the recommendations of your departments. In addition to the general style guides listed in the Style section above, there are specific style guides for some fields. When a reference system has been selected, it should be used consistently throughout the dissertation or thesis. The placement of footnotes is at your discretion with reading committee approval.

An important aspect of modern scholarship is the proper attribution of authorship for joint or group research. If the manuscript includes joint or group research, you must clearly identify your contribution to the enterprise in an introduction.

The inclusion of published papers in a dissertation or thesis is the prerogative of the major department. Where published papers or ready-for-publication papers are included, the following criteria must be met:

  • There must be an introductory chapter that integrates the general theme of the research and the relationship between the chapters. The introduction may also include a review of the literature relevant to the dissertation or thesis topic that does not appear in the chapters.
  • Multiple authorship of a published paper should be addressed by clearly designating, in an introduction, the role that the dissertation or thesis author had in the research and production of the published paper. The student must have a major contribution to the research and writing of papers included in the dissertation or thesis.
  • There must be adequate referencing of where individual papers have been published.
  • Written permission must be obtained for all copyrighted materials. Letters of permission must be uploaded electronically in PDF form when submitting the dissertation or thesis. 
  • The submitted material must be in a form that is legible and reproducible as required by these specifications. The Office of the University Registrar will approve a dissertation or thesis if there are no deviations from the normal specifications that would prevent proper dissemination and utilization of the dissertation or thesis. If the published material does not correspond to these standards, it will be necessary for you to reformat that portion of the dissertation or thesis.
  • Multiple authorship has implications with respect to copyright and public release of the material. Be sure to discuss copyright clearance and embargo options with your co-authors and your advisor well in advance of preparing your thesis for submission.

If copyrighted material belonging to others is used in your dissertation or thesis or is part of your supplementary materials, you must give full credit to the author and publisher of the work in all cases, and obtain permission from the copyright owner for reuse of the material unless you have determined that your use of the work is clearly fair use under US copyright law (17 USC §107). 

The statute sets out four factors that must be considered when assessing Fair Use:

  • the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purpose;
  • the nature of the copyrighted work;
  • the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
  • the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

The Association of American University Presses requires permission for any quotations that are reproduced as complete units (poems, letters, short stories, essays, journal articles, complete chapters or sections of books, maps, charts, graphs, tables, drawings, or other illustrative materials). You can find this guideline and other detailed information on Fair Use at http://fairuse.stanford.edu . 

If you are in doubt, it is safest to obtain permission. Permission to use copyrighted material must be obtained from the owner of the copyright. Stanford Libraries requires copies of permission letters (in PDF format) to be uploaded electronically when submitting the dissertation or thesis, and assumes no liability for copyright violations. For reference, view this sample permission letter .

Copyright protection is automatically in effect from the time the work is in fixed form. A proper copyright statement consisting of the copyright symbol, the author’s name, year of degree conferral, and the phrase “All Rights Reserved” will be added automatically to the dissertation or thesis in its final form.

Registration of copyright is not required, but it establishes a public record of your copyright claim and enables copyright owners to litigate against infringement. You need not register your copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office at the outset, although registration must be made before the copyright may be enforced by litigation in case of infringement. 

Early registration does have certain advantages: it establishes a public record of your copyright claim, and if registration has been made prior to the infringement of your work, or within three months after its publication, qualifies you to be awarded statutory damages and attorney fees in addition to the actual damages and profits available to you as the copyright owner (should you ever have to sue because of infringement).

For more information about copyright, see the Stanford Libraries' resource on Copyright Considerations .

For further information on Registration of Copyright, see https://www.copyright.gov/registration/ .

Do not require a password to make changes to your submitted PDF file, or apply other encryption or security measures. Password-protected files will be rejected.

The file name and description will be printed on a page added to your dissertation or thesis, so choose a file name accordingly.

Important note: File names may only consist of alphanumeric characters, hyphen, underscore, at sign, space, ampersand, and comma – before the ending period and file extension.  Specifically,

  • A file name cannot start with a space, period (nor contain a period), underscore, or hyphen.
  • Files names must be 120 characters or less.

Here is an example of a filename that is allowed, including all of the possible characters:

  • A Study of Social Media with a Focus on @Twitter Accounts, Leland Student_30AUG2023.pdf

In submitting a thesis or dissertation to Stanford, the author grants The Trustees of Leland Stanford Junior University (Stanford) the non-exclusive, worldwide, perpetual, irrevocable right to reproduce, distribute, display and transmit author's thesis or dissertation, including any supplemental materials (the Work), in whole or in part in such print and electronic formats as may be in existence now or developed in the future, to sub-license others to do the same, and to preserve and protect the Work, subject to any third-party release or display restrictions specified by Author on submission of the Work to Stanford.

Author further represents and warrants that Author is the copyright holder of the Work, and has obtained all necessary rights to permit Stanford to reproduce and distribute third-party materials contained in any part of the Work, including use of third-party images, text, or music, as well as all necessary licenses relating to any non-public, third-party software necessary to access, display, and run or print the Work. Author is solely responsible and will indemnify Stanford for any third party claims related to the Work as submitted for publication.

Author warrants that the Work does not contain information protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), confidentiality agreements, or contain Stanford Prohibited, Restricted or Confidential data described on the University IT website , or other data of a private nature.

Stanford is under no obligation to use, display or host the work in any way and may elect not to use the work for any reason including copyright or other legal concerns, financial resources, or programmatic need.

  • Formatting Your Dissertation
  • Introduction

Harvard Griffin GSAS strives to provide students with timely, accurate, and clear information. If you need help understanding a specific policy, please contact the office that administers that policy.

  • Application for Degree
  • Credit for Completed Graduate Work
  • Ad Hoc Degree Programs
  • Acknowledging the Work of Others
  • Advanced Planning
  • Dissertation Submission Checklist
  • Publishing Options
  • Submitting Your Dissertation
  • English Language Proficiency
  • PhD Program Requirements
  • Secondary Fields
  • Year of Graduate Study (G-Year)
  • Master's Degrees
  • Grade and Examination Requirements
  • Conduct and Safety
  • Financial Aid
  • Registration

On this page:

Language of the Dissertation

Page and text requirements, body of text, tables, figures, and captions, dissertation acceptance certificate, copyright statement.

  • Table of Contents

Front and Back Matter

Supplemental material, dissertations comprising previously published works, top ten formatting errors, further questions.

  • Related Contacts and Forms

When preparing the dissertation for submission, students must follow strict formatting requirements. Any deviation from these requirements may lead to rejection of the dissertation and delay in the conferral of the degree.

The language of the dissertation is ordinarily English, although some departments whose subject matter involves foreign languages may accept a dissertation written in a language other than English.

Most dissertations are 100 to 300 pages in length. All dissertations should be divided into appropriate sections, and long dissertations may need chapters, main divisions, and subdivisions.

  • 8½ x 11 inches, unless a musical score is included
  • At least 1 inch for all margins
  • Body of text: double spacing
  • Block quotations, footnotes, and bibliographies: single spacing within each entry but double spacing between each entry
  • Table of contents, list of tables, list of figures or illustrations, and lengthy tables: single spacing may be used

Fonts and Point Size

Use 10-12 point size. Fonts must be embedded in the PDF file to ensure all characters display correctly. 

Recommended Fonts

If you are unsure whether your chosen font will display correctly, use one of the following fonts: 

If fonts are not embedded, non-English characters may not appear as intended. Fonts embedded improperly will be published to DASH as-is. It is the student’s responsibility to make sure that fonts are embedded properly prior to submission. 

Instructions for Embedding Fonts

To embed your fonts in recent versions of Word, follow these instructions from Microsoft:

  • Click the File tab and then click Options .
  • In the left column, select the Save tab.
  • Clear the Do not embed common system fonts check box.

For reference, below are some instructions from ProQuest UMI for embedding fonts in older file formats:

To embed your fonts in Microsoft Word 2010:

  • In the File pull-down menu click on Options .
  • Choose Save on the left sidebar.
  • Check the box next to Embed fonts in the file.
  • Click the OK button.
  • Save the document.

Note that when saving as a PDF, make sure to go to “more options” and save as “PDF/A compliant”

To embed your fonts in Microsoft Word 2007:

  • Click the circular Office button in the upper left corner of Microsoft Word.
  • A new window will display. In the bottom right corner select Word Options . 
  • Choose Save from the left sidebar.

Using Microsoft Word on a Mac:

Microsoft Word 2008 on a Mac OS X computer will automatically embed your fonts while converting your document to a PDF file.

If you are converting to PDF using Acrobat Professional (instructions courtesy of the Graduate Thesis Office at Iowa State University):  

  • Open your document in Microsoft Word. 
  • Click on the Adobe PDF tab at the top. Select "Change Conversion Settings." 
  • Click on Advanced Settings. 
  • Click on the Fonts folder on the left side of the new window. In the lower box on the right, delete any fonts that appear in the "Never Embed" box. Then click "OK." 
  • If prompted to save these new settings, save them as "Embed all fonts." 
  • Now the Change Conversion Settings window should show "embed all fonts" in the Conversion Settings drop-down list and it should be selected. Click "OK" again. 
  • Click on the Adobe PDF link at the top again. This time select Convert to Adobe PDF. Depending on the size of your document and the speed of your computer, this process can take 1-15 minutes. 
  • After your document is converted, select the "File" tab at the top of the page. Then select "Document Properties." 
  • Click on the "Fonts" tab. Carefully check all of your fonts. They should all show "(Embedded Subset)" after the font name. 
  •  If you see "(Embedded Subset)" after all fonts, you have succeeded.

The font used in the body of the text must also be used in headers, page numbers, and footnotes. Exceptions are made only for tables and figures created with different software and inserted into the document.

Tables and figures must 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 they may be placed directly into the text. If a table or a figure is alone on a page (with no narrative), it should be centered within the margins on the page. Tables may take up more than one page as long as they obey all rules about margins. Tables and figures referred to in the text may not be placed at the end of the chapter or at the end of the dissertation.

  • Given the standards of the discipline, dissertations in the Department of History of Art and Architecture and the Department of Architecture, Landscape Architecture, and Urban Planning often place illustrations at the end of the dissertation.

Figure and table numbering must be continuous throughout the dissertation or by chapter (e.g., 1.1, 1.2, 2.1, 2.2, etc.). Two figures or tables cannot be designated with the same number. If you have repeating images that you need to cite more than once, label them with their number and A, B, etc. 

Headings should be placed at the top of tables. While no specific rules for the format of table headings and figure captions are required, a consistent format must be used throughout the dissertation (contact your department for style manuals appropriate to the field).

Captions should appear at the bottom of any figures. If the figure takes up the entire page, the caption should be placed alone on the preceding page, centered vertically and horizontally within the margins.

Each page receives a separate page number. When a figure or table title is on a preceding page, the second and subsequent pages of the figure or table should say, for example, “Figure 5 (Continued).” In such an instance, the list of figures or tables will list the page number containing the title. The word “figure” should be written in full (not abbreviated), and the “F” should be capitalized (e.g., Figure 5). In instances where the caption continues on a second page, the “(Continued)” notation should appear on the second and any subsequent page. The figure/table and the caption are viewed as one entity and the numbering should show correlation between all pages. Each page must include a header.

Landscape orientation figures and tables must be positioned correctly and bound at the top so that the top of the figure or table will be at the left margin. Figure and table headings/captions are placed with the same orientation as the figure or table when on the same page. When on a separate page, headings/captions are always placed in portrait orientation, regardless of the orientation of the figure or table. Page numbers are always placed as if the figure were vertical on the page.

If a graphic artist does the figures, Harvard Griffin GSAS will accept lettering done by the artist only within the figure. Figures done with software are acceptable if the figures are clear and legible. Legends and titles done by the same process as the figures will be accepted if they too are clear, legible, and run at least 10 or 12 characters per inch. Otherwise, legends and captions should be printed with the same font used in the text.

Original illustrations, photographs, and fine arts prints may be scanned and included, centered between the margins on a page with no text above or below.

Use of Third-Party Content

In addition to the student's own writing, dissertations often contain third-party content or in-copyright content owned by parties other than you, the student who authored the dissertation. The Office for Scholarly Communication recommends consulting the information below about fair use, which allows individuals to use in-copyright content, on a limited basis and for specific purposes, without seeking permission from copyright holders.

Because your dissertation will be made available for online distribution through DASH , Harvard's open-access repository, it is important that any third-party content in it may be made available in this way.

Fair Use and Copyright 

What is fair use?

Fair use is a provision in copyright law that allows the use of a certain amount of copyrighted material without seeking permission. Fair use is format- and media-agnostic. This means fair use may apply to images (including photographs, illustrations, and paintings), quoting at length from literature, videos, and music regardless of the format. 

How do I determine whether my use of an image or other third-party content in my dissertation is fair use?  

There are four factors you will need to consider when making a fair use claim.

1) For what purpose is your work going to be used?

  • Nonprofit, educational, scholarly, or research use favors fair use. Commercial, non-educational uses, often do not favor fair use.
  • A transformative use (repurposing or recontextualizing the in-copyright material) favors fair use. Examining, analyzing, and explicating the material in a meaningful way, so as to enhance a reader's understanding, strengthens your fair use argument. In other words, can you make the point in the thesis without using, for instance, an in-copyright image? Is that image necessary to your dissertation? If not, perhaps, for copyright reasons, you should not include the image.  

2) What is the nature of the work to be used?

  • Published, fact-based content favors fair use and includes scholarly analysis in published academic venues. 
  • Creative works, including artistic images, are afforded more protection under copyright, and depending on your use in light of the other factors, may be less likely to favor fair use; however, this does not preclude considerations of fair use for creative content altogether.

3) How much of the work is going to be used?  

  • Small, or less significant, amounts favor fair use. A good rule of thumb is to use only as much of the in-copyright content as necessary to serve your purpose. Can you use a thumbnail rather than a full-resolution image? Can you use a black-and-white photo instead of color? Can you quote select passages instead of including several pages of the content? These simple changes bolster your fair use of the material.

4) What potential effect on the market for that work may your use have?

  • If there is a market for licensing this exact use or type of educational material, then this weighs against fair use. If however, there would likely be no effect on the potential commercial market, or if it is not possible to obtain permission to use the work, then this favors fair use. 

For further assistance with fair use, consult the Office for Scholarly Communication's guide, Fair Use: Made for the Harvard Community and the Office of the General Counsel's Copyright and Fair Use: A Guide for the Harvard Community .

What are my options if I don’t have a strong fair use claim? 

Consider the following options if you find you cannot reasonably make a fair use claim for the content you wish to incorporate:

  • Seek permission from the copyright holder. 
  • Use openly licensed content as an alternative to the original third-party content you intended to use. Openly-licensed content grants permission up-front for reuse of in-copyright content, provided your use meets the terms of the open license.
  • Use content in the public domain, as this content is not in-copyright and is therefore free of all copyright restrictions. Whereas third-party content is owned by parties other than you, no one owns content in the public domain; everyone, therefore, has the right to use it.

For use of images in your dissertation, please consult this guide to Finding Public Domain & Creative Commons Media , which is a great resource for finding images without copyright restrictions. 

Who can help me with questions about copyright and fair use?

Contact your Copyright First Responder . Please note, Copyright First Responders assist with questions concerning copyright and fair use, but do not assist with the process of obtaining permission from copyright holders.

Pages should be assigned a number except for the Dissertation Acceptance Certificate . Preliminary pages (abstract, table of contents, list of tables, graphs, illustrations, and preface) should use small Roman numerals (i, ii, iii, iv, v, etc.). All pages must contain text or images.  

Count the title page as page i and the copyright page as page ii, but do not print page numbers on either page .

For the body of text, use Arabic numbers (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc.) starting with page 1 on the first page of text. Page numbers must be centered throughout the manuscript at the top or bottom. Every numbered page must be consecutively ordered, including tables, graphs, illustrations, and bibliography/index (if included); letter suffixes (such as 10a, 10b, etc.) are not allowed. It is customary not to have a page number on the page containing a chapter heading.

  • Check pagination carefully. Account for all pages.

A copy of the Dissertation Acceptance Certificate (DAC) should appear as the first page. This page should not be counted or numbered. The DAC will appear in the online version of the published dissertation. The author name and date on the DAC and title page should be the same. 

The dissertation begins with the title page; the title should be as concise as possible and should provide an accurate description of the dissertation. The author name and date on the DAC and title page should be the same. 

  • Do not print a page number on the title page. It is understood to be page  i  for counting purposes only.

A copyright notice should appear on a separate page immediately following the title page and include the copyright symbol ©, the year of first publication of the work, and the name of the author:

© [ year ] [ Author’s Name ] All rights reserved.

Alternatively, students may choose to license their work openly under a  Creative Commons  license. The author remains the copyright holder while at the same time granting up-front permission to others to read, share, and (depending on the license) adapt the work, so long as proper attribution is given. (By default, under copyright law, the author reserves all rights; under a Creative Commons license, the author reserves some rights.)

  • Do  not  print a page number on the copyright page. It is understood to be page  ii  for counting purposes only.

An abstract, numbered as page  iii , should immediately follow the copyright page and should state the problem, describe the methods and procedures used, and give the main results or conclusions of the research. The abstract will appear in the online and bound versions of the dissertation and will be published by ProQuest. There is no maximum word count for the abstract. 

  • double-spaced
  • left-justified
  • indented on the first line of each paragraph
  • The author’s name, right justified
  • The words “Dissertation Advisor:” followed by the advisor’s name, left-justified (a maximum of two advisors is allowed)
  • Title of the dissertation, centered, several lines below author and advisor

Dissertations divided into sections must contain a table of contents that lists, at minimum, the major headings in the following order:

  • Front Matter
  • Body of Text
  • Back Matter

Front matter includes (if applicable):

  • acknowledgements of help or encouragement from individuals or institutions
  • a dedication
  • a list of illustrations or tables
  • a glossary of terms
  • one or more epigraphs.

Back matter includes (if applicable):

  • bibliography
  • supplemental materials, including figures and tables
  • an index (in rare instances).

Supplemental figures and tables must be placed at the end of the dissertation in an appendix, not within or at the end of a chapter. If additional digital information (including audio, video, image, or datasets) will accompany the main body of the dissertation, it should be uploaded as a supplemental file through ProQuest ETD . Supplemental material will be available in DASH and ProQuest and preserved digitally in the Harvard University Archives.

As a matter of copyright, dissertations comprising the student's previously published works must be authorized for distribution from DASH. The guidelines in this section pertain to any previously published material that requires permission from publishers or other rightsholders before it may be distributed from DASH. Please note:

  • Authors whose publishing agreements grant the publisher exclusive rights to display, distribute, and create derivative works will need to seek the publisher's permission for nonexclusive use of the underlying works before the dissertation may be distributed from DASH.
  • Authors whose publishing agreements indicate the authors have retained the relevant nonexclusive rights to the original materials for display, distribution, and the creation of derivative works may distribute the dissertation as a whole from DASH without need for further permissions.

It is recommended that authors consult their publishing agreements directly to determine whether and to what extent they may have transferred exclusive rights under copyright. The Office for Scholarly Communication (OSC) is available to help the author determine whether she has retained the necessary rights or requires permission. Please note, however, the Office of Scholarly Communication is not able to assist with the permissions process itself.

  • Missing Dissertation Acceptance Certificate.  The first page of the PDF dissertation file should be a scanned copy of the Dissertation Acceptance Certificate (DAC). This page should not be counted or numbered as a part of the dissertation pagination.
  • Conflicts Between the DAC and the Title Page.  The DAC and the dissertation title page must match exactly, meaning that the author name and the title on the title page must match that on the DAC. If you use your full middle name or just an initial on one document, it must be the same on the other document.  
  • Abstract Formatting Errors. The advisor name should be left-justified, and the author's name should be right-justified. Up to two advisor names are allowed. The Abstract should be double spaced and include the page title “Abstract,” as well as the page number “iii.” There is no maximum word count for the abstract. 
  •  The front matter should be numbered using Roman numerals (iii, iv, v, …). The title page and the copyright page should be counted but not numbered. The first printed page number should appear on the Abstract page (iii). 
  • The body of the dissertation should be numbered using Arabic numbers (1, 2, 3, …). The first page of the body of the text should begin with page 1. Pagination may not continue from the front matter. 
  • All page numbers should be centered either at the top or the bottom of the page.
  • Figures and tables Figures and tables must be placed within the text, as close to their first mention as possible. Figures and tables that span more than one page must be labeled on each page. Any second and subsequent page of the figure/table must include the “(Continued)” notation. This applies to figure captions as well as images. Each page of a figure/table must be accounted for and appropriately labeled. All figures/tables must have a unique number. They may not repeat within the dissertation.
  • Any figures/tables placed in a horizontal orientation must be placed with the top of the figure/ table on the left-hand side. The top of the figure/table should be aligned with the spine of the dissertation when it is bound. 
  • Page numbers must be placed in the same location on all pages of the dissertation, centered, at the bottom or top of the page. Page numbers may not appear under the table/ figure.
  • Supplemental Figures and Tables. Supplemental figures and tables must be placed at the back of the dissertation in an appendix. They should not be placed at the back of the chapter. 
  • Permission Letters Copyright. permission letters must be uploaded as a supplemental file, titled ‘do_not_publish_permission_letters,” within the dissertation submission tool.
  •  DAC Attachment. The signed Dissertation Acceptance Certificate must additionally be uploaded as a document in the "Administrative Documents" section when submitting in Proquest ETD . Dissertation submission is not complete until all documents have been received and accepted.
  • Overall Formatting. The entire document should be checked after all revisions, and before submitting online, to spot any inconsistencies or PDF conversion glitches.
  • You can view dissertations successfully published from your department in DASH . This is a great place to check for specific formatting and area-specific conventions.
  • Contact the  Office of Student Affairs  with further questions.


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  • Academic Policies & Procedures
  • Dissertation Publication

Dissertation Formatting Requirements

Quick links.

University Library Digital Publishing Services Dissertation Information

ProQuest Dissertation Submission FAQ

ProQuest Resources and Guidelines Formatting, intellectual property, and copyright guides.

The Graduate School sets the minimum formatting standards for the PhD dissertation to ensure uniformity, legibility, and to comply with ProQuest and University Library requirements for publishing/archiving.  These guidelines do not address all facets of formatting and style.  Students should consult with their adviser, committee, and academic program’s choice of style manual for formatting questions outside what is described below.

A sample template providing examples of what is outlined below can downloaded as either a PDF or Word document.

Arrangement of Pages

Dissertations must be arranged in the following order.  Items in italics are optional.  

  • Copyright page
  • Acknowledgment page
  • List of Abbreviations (required in dissertations with significant use of abbreviations)
  • Table of Contents
  • List of Tables, Illustrations, Figures, or Graphs
  • Introduction
  • Tables, Illustrations, Figures, Graphs (if not incorporated into body of text)
  • Vita (optional, but recommended)
  • The page size should be 8.5" x 11”, standard US Letter size (not A4).
  • Margins must be 1” on all sides with the exception of page numbers, figures, headers/footers, footnotes/endnotes, and full-page images, which may be ¾" from edge of page.
  • The abstract, dedication, acknowledgements, table of contents, and body of the manuscript should be double spaced.
  • Quotations as paragraphs, captions, items in tables, lists, graphs, charts, footnotes/endnotes, bibliographic entries, and lists in appendices may be single spaced.
  • Any legible font is permitted except script or ornamental fonts.
  • Fonts must be embedded.
  • Font size should be equivalent in scale to 10pt Arial or 12pt Times New Roman.
  • Every page in a dissertation is numbered, except the title page .
  • Page numbering will begin on the second page with Arabic numeral 2 .
  • Page number should appear in upper right corner of page at least ¾” from both the top and right edges of the page.
  • For best screen readability: page numbers should appear in the upper right corner when the page is viewed on a screen. This is usually what word processing software does by default when pages are changed to landscape layout within a document. Note that page numbers with this layout may end up being obscured in bound copies of the dissertation.
  • For best on-paper readability (for printed/bound copies): page numbers should appear in the correct position when the page is printed and bound, i.e., as if the page were actually portrait-oriented. A landscape page tutorial appears in the formatting template .
  • If the primary language of the dissertation is not English, a 10-20 page summary of the dissertation in English must be included as an appendix.
  • The abstract of a foreign language dissertation must be in English.
  • Layout: The title page should conform to this sample .
  • The title of the dissertation should be in mixed case; the first and last words and all nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, and adverbs are capitalized. Articles (a, an, the), coordinating conjunctions (and, but, or, for, nor), and prepositions, regardless of length, are lowercased unless they are the first or last word of the title or subtitle.
  • Special characters cannot be used in titles. Use word substitutes in place of formulas, symbols, superscripts, or Greek letters.
  • See Dissertation Title Best Practices
  • Program name: Should be the name of the students’ academic program as listed here .
  • Date: The date should be the month and year in which the degree will be officially conferred (December 20XX for Fall graduates, March 20XX for Winter graduates, June 20XX for Spring graduates, September 20XX for Summer graduates).

Copyright (optional)

  • If the choice is made to register copyright in the manuscript, a copyright notice should be included on its own page immediately after the title page.
  • Additional information about dissertation copyright can be found on the University Library Copyright Basics website as well as on ProQuest’s resources and guidelines website .
  • A double-spaced abstract is required and should immediately follow the title page (or the copyright page, if one is included).
  • There is no word limit.
  • Mathematical formulas, photographs, diagrams, and other illustrative materials should not be included in the abstract.

Lists of Tables, Illustrations, Figures, or Graphs

  • Lists should reproduce the specific titles and page locations of illustrative materials.
  • If not incorporated into the main body of the text, these items should immediately follow the text, not at the end of chapters.
  • Each dissertation must include references to document the text.
  • References may be included at the bottom of the page or at the end of the text, but cannot be placed at the end of each chapter.
  • The format for references should conform to the guidelines in an approved style manual. References may be single-spaced.

Supplementary Materials (optional)

  • If supplementary materials—such as audio, video, data sets and spreadsheets—are part of the dissertation or thesis, they can be submitted as supplementary files during the online submission process.

Use of Copyrighted Material

  • Information about including previously published materials can be found in the ProQuest Copyright Guide. 
  • In many cases it is fine to include sections of previously published (or in-press/forthcoming) papers in the dissertation, but students should (1) obtain written permission from co-authors in order to quote extensively and/or reproduce tables, figures, etc. and (2) seek or verify permission from the original publisher of the paper to ensure it is permitted.
  • It is recommended that a line be included in those chapters such as, “Printed with permission of [co-author] and [original publisher].” 
  • How it works

How to Structure a Dissertation – A Step by Step Guide

Published by Owen Ingram at August 11th, 2021 , Revised On September 20, 2023

A dissertation – sometimes called a thesis –  is a long piece of information backed up by extensive research. This one, huge piece of research is what matters the most when students – undergraduates and postgraduates – are in their final year of study.

On the other hand, some institutions, especially in the case of undergraduate students, may or may not require students to write a dissertation. Courses are offered instead. This generally depends on the requirements of that particular institution.

If you are unsure about how to structure your dissertation or thesis, this article will offer you some guidelines to work out what the most important segments of a dissertation paper are and how you should organise them. Why is structure so important in research, anyway?

One way to answer that, as Abbie Hoffman aptly put it, is because: “Structure is more important than content in the transmission of information.”

Also Read:   How to write a dissertation – step by step guide .

How to Structure a Dissertation or Thesis

It should be noted that the exact structure of your dissertation will depend on several factors, such as:

  • Your research approach (qualitative/quantitative)
  • The nature of your research design (exploratory/descriptive etc.)
  • The requirements set for forth by your academic institution.
  • The discipline or field your study belongs to. For instance, if you are a humanities student, you will need to develop your dissertation on the same pattern as any long essay .

This will include developing an overall argument to support the thesis statement and organizing chapters around theories or questions. The dissertation will be structured such that it starts with an introduction , develops on the main idea in its main body paragraphs and is then summarised in conclusion .

However, if you are basing your dissertation on primary or empirical research, you will be required to include each of the below components. In most cases of dissertation writing, each of these elements will have to be written as a separate chapter.

But depending on the word count you are provided with and academic subject, you may choose to combine some of these elements.

For example, sciences and engineering students often present results and discussions together in one chapter rather than two different chapters.

If you have any doubts about structuring your dissertation or thesis, it would be a good idea to consult with your academic supervisor and check your department’s requirements.

Parts of  a Dissertation or Thesis

Your dissertation will  start with a t itle page that will contain details of the author/researcher, research topic, degree program (the paper is to be submitted for), and research supervisor. In other words, a title page is the opening page containing all the names and title related to your research.

The name of your university, logo, student ID and submission date can also be presented on the title page. Many academic programs have stringent rules for formatting the dissertation title page.


The acknowledgments section allows you to thank those who helped you with your dissertation project. You might want to mention the names of your academic supervisor, family members, friends, God, and participants of your study whose contribution and support enabled you to complete your work.

However, the acknowledgments section is usually optional.

Tip: Many students wrongly assume that they need to thank everyone…even those who had little to no contributions towards the dissertation. This is not the case. You only need to thank those who were directly involved in the research process, such as your participants/volunteers, supervisor(s) etc.

Perhaps the smallest yet important part of a thesis, an abstract contains 5 parts:

  • A brief introduction of your research topic.
  • The significance of your research.
  •  A line or two about the methodology that was used.
  • The results and what they mean (briefly); their interpretation(s).
  • And lastly, a conclusive comment regarding the results’ interpretation(s) as conclusion .

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Tip: Make sure to highlight key points to help readers figure out the scope and findings of your research study without having to read the entire dissertation. The abstract is your first chance to impress your readers. So, make sure to get it right. Here are detailed guidelines on how to write abstract for dissertation .

Table of Contents

Table of contents is the section of a dissertation that guides each section of the dissertation paper’s contents. Depending on the level of detail in a table of contents, the most useful headings are listed to provide the reader the page number on which said information may be found at.

Table of contents can be inserted automatically as well as manually using the Microsoft Word Table of Contents feature.

List of Figures and Tables

If your dissertation paper uses several illustrations, tables and figures, you might want to present them in a numbered list in a separate section . Again, this list of tables and figures can be auto-created and auto inserted using the Microsoft Word built-in feature.

List of Abbreviations

Dissertations that include several abbreviations can also have an independent and separate alphabetised  list of abbreviations so readers can easily figure out their meanings.

If you think you have used terms and phrases in your dissertation that readers might not be familiar with, you can create a  glossary  that lists important phrases and terms with their meanings explained.

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Introduction chapter  briefly introduces the purpose and relevance of your research topic.

Here, you will be expected to list the aim and key objectives of your research so your readers can easily understand what the following chapters of the dissertation will cover. A good dissertation introduction section incorporates the following information:

  • It provides background information to give context to your research.
  • It clearly specifies the research problem you wish to address with your research. When creating research questions , it is important to make sure your research’s focus and scope are neither too broad nor too narrow.
  • it demonstrates how your research is relevant and how it would contribute to the existing knowledge.
  • It provides an overview of the structure of your dissertation. The last section of an introduction contains an outline of the following chapters. It could start off with something like: “In the following chapter, past literature has been reviewed and critiqued. The proceeding section lays down major research findings…”
  • Theoretical framework – under a separate sub-heading – is also provided within the introductory chapter. Theoretical framework deals with the basic, underlying theory or theories that the research revolves around.

All the information presented under this section should be relevant, clear, and engaging. The readers should be able to figure out the what, why, when, and how of your study once they have read the introduction. Here are comprehensive guidelines on how to structure the introduction to the dissertation .

“Overwhelmed by tight deadlines and tons of assignments to write? There is no need to panic! Our expert academics can help you with every aspect of your dissertation – from topic creation and research problem identification to choosing the methodological approach and data analysis.”

Literature Review 

The  literature review chapter  presents previous research performed on the topic and improves your understanding of the existing literature on your chosen topic. This is usually organised to complement your  primary research  work completed at a later stage.

Make sure that your chosen academic sources are authentic and up-to-date. The literature review chapter must be comprehensive and address the aims and objectives as defined in the introduction chapter. Here is what your literature research chapter should aim to achieve:

  • Data collection from authentic and relevant academic sources such as books, journal articles and research papers.
  • Analytical assessment of the information collected from those sources; this would involve a critiquing the reviewed researches that is, what their strengths/weaknesses are, why the research method they employed is better than others, importance of their findings, etc.
  • Identifying key research gaps, conflicts, patterns, and theories to get your point across to the reader effectively.

While your literature review should summarise previous literature, it is equally important to make sure that you develop a comprehensible argument or structure to justify your research topic. It would help if you considered keeping the following questions in mind when writing the literature review:

  • How does your research work fill a certain gap in exiting literature?
  • Did you adopt/adapt a new research approach to investigate the topic?
  • Does your research solve an unresolved problem?
  • Is your research dealing with some groundbreaking topic or theory that others might have overlooked?
  • Is your research taking forward an existing theoretical discussion?
  • Does your research strengthen and build on current knowledge within your area of study? This is otherwise known as ‘adding to the existing body of knowledge’ in academic circles.

Tip: You might want to establish relationships between variables/concepts to provide descriptive answers to some or all of your research questions. For instance, in case of quantitative research, you might hypothesise that variable A is positively co-related to variable B that is, one increases and so does the other one.

Research Methodology

The methods and techniques ( secondary and/or primar y) employed to collect research data are discussed in detail in the  Methodology chapter. The most commonly used primary data collection methods are:

  • questionnaires
  • focus groups
  • observations

Essentially, the methodology chapter allows the researcher to explain how he/she achieved the findings, why they are reliable and how they helped him/her test the research hypotheses or address the research problem.

You might want to consider the following when writing methodology for the dissertation:

  • Type of research and approach your work is based on. Some of the most widely used types of research include experimental, quantitative and qualitative methodologies.
  • Data collection techniques that were employed such as questionnaires, surveys, focus groups, observations etc.
  • Details of how, when, where, and what of the research that was conducted.
  • Data analysis strategies employed (for instance, regression analysis).
  • Software and tools used for data analysis (Excel, STATA, SPSS, lab equipment, etc.).
  • Research limitations to highlight any hurdles you had to overcome when carrying our research. Limitations might or might not be mentioned within research methodology. Some institutions’ guidelines dictate they be mentioned under a separate section alongside recommendations.
  • Justification of your selection of research approach and research methodology.

Here is a comprehensive article on  how to structure a dissertation methodology .

Research Findings

In this section, you present your research findings. The dissertation findings chapter  is built around the research questions, as outlined in the introduction chapter. Report findings that are directly relevant to your research questions.

Any information that is not directly relevant to research questions or hypotheses but could be useful for the readers can be placed under the  Appendices .

As indicated above, you can either develop a  standalone chapter  to present your findings or combine them with the discussion chapter. This choice depends on  the type of research involved and the academic subject, as well as what your institution’s academic guidelines dictate.

For example, it is common to have both findings and discussion grouped under the same section, particularly if the dissertation is based on qualitative research data.

On the other hand, dissertations that use quantitative or experimental data should present findings and analysis/discussion in two separate chapters. Here are some sample dissertations to help you figure out the best structure for your own project.

Sample Dissertation

Tip: Try to present as many charts, graphs, illustrations and tables in the findings chapter to improve your data presentation. Provide their qualitative interpretations alongside, too. Refrain from explaining the information that is already evident from figures and tables.

The findings are followed by the  Discussion chapter , which is considered the heart of any dissertation paper. The discussion section is an opportunity for you to tie the knots together to address the research questions and present arguments, models and key themes.

This chapter can make or break your research.

The discussion chapter does not require any new data or information because it is more about the interpretation(s) of the data you have already collected and presented. Here are some questions for you to think over when writing the discussion chapter:

  • Did your work answer all the research questions or tested the hypothesis?
  • Did you come up with some unexpected results for which you have to provide an additional explanation or justification?
  • Are there any limitations that could have influenced your research findings?

Here is an article on how to  structure a dissertation discussion .

Conclusions corresponding to each research objective are provided in the  Conclusion section . This is usually done by revisiting the research questions to finally close the dissertation. Some institutions may specifically ask for recommendations to evaluate your critical thinking.

By the end, the readers should have a clear apprehension of your fundamental case with a focus on  what methods of research were employed  and what you achieved from this research.

Quick Question: Does the conclusion chapter reflect on the contributions your research work will make to existing knowledge?

Answer: Yes, the conclusion chapter of the research paper typically includes a reflection on the research’s contributions to existing knowledge.  In the “conclusion chapter”, you have to summarise the key findings and discuss how they add value to the existing literature on the current topic.

Reference list

All academic sources that you collected information from should be cited in-text and also presented in a  reference list (or a bibliography in case you include references that you read for the research but didn’t end up citing in the text), so the readers can easily locate the source of information when/if needed.

At most UK universities, Harvard referencing is the recommended style of referencing. It has strict and specific requirements on how to format a reference resource. Other common styles of referencing include MLA, APA, Footnotes, etc.

Each chapter of the dissertation should have relevant information. Any information that is not directly relevant to your research topic but your readers might be interested in (interview transcripts etc.) should be moved under the Appendices section .

Things like questionnaires, survey items or readings that were used in the study’s experiment are mostly included under appendices.

An Outline of Dissertation/Thesis Structure

An Outline of Dissertation

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FAQs About Structure a Dissertation

What does the title page of a dissertation contain.

The title page will contain details of the author/researcher, research topic , degree program (the paper is to be submitted for) and research supervisor’s name(s). The name of your university, logo, student number and submission date can also be presented on the title page.

What is the purpose of adding acknowledgement?

The acknowledgements section allows you to thank those who helped you with your dissertation project. You might want to mention the names of your academic supervisor, family members, friends, God and participants of your study whose contribution and support enabled you to complete your work.

Can I omit the glossary from the dissertation?

Yes, but only if you think that your paper does not contain any terms or phrases that the reader might not understand. If you think you have used them in the paper,  you must create a glossary that lists important phrases and terms with their meanings explained.

What is the purpose of appendices in a dissertation?

Any information that is not directly relevant to research questions or hypotheses but could be useful for the readers can be placed under the Appendices, such as questionnaire that was used in the study.

Which referencing style should I use in my dissertation?

You can use any of the referencing styles such as APA, MLA, and Harvard, according to the recommendation of your university; however, almost all UK institutions prefer Harvard referencing style .

What is the difference between references and bibliography?

References contain all the works that you read up and used and therefore, cited within the text of your thesis. However, in case you read on some works and resources that you didn’t end up citing in-text, they will be referenced in what is called a bibliography.

Additional readings might also be present alongside each bibliography entry for readers.

You May Also Like

When writing your dissertation, an abstract serves as a deal maker or breaker. It can either motivate your readers to continue reading or discourage them.

Make sure to develop a conceptual framework before conducting research. Here is all you need to know about what is a conceptual framework is in a dissertation?

Your dissertation introduction chapter provides detailed information on the research problem, significance of research, and research aim & objectives.



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  • How It Works

What is a Ph.D. Dissertation?

[I wrote this in 1993 as a letter to a student concerning a draft of his dissertation. In 2003 I edited it to remove some specific references to the student and present it as a small increment to the information available to my grad students. In 2023 I made small edits for grammar and to expand coverage.--spaf]

Let me start by reviewing some things that may seem obvious:

  • Your dissertation is part of the requirements for a PhD. The research, theory, experimentation, et al. also contribute. One does not attempt to capture everything in one's dissertation.
  • The dissertation is a technical work that documents and proves one's thesis. It is intended for a technical audience and must be clear and complete but not necessarily exhaustively comprehensive. Also note -- experimental data, if used, is not the proof -- it is evidence. The proof is presented as an analysis and critical presentation. Generally, every statement in your dissertation must be common knowledge, supported by citation to technical literature, or original results proved by the candidate (you). Each of those statements must directly relate to the proof of the thesis, or else they are unnecessary.

Let's revisit the idea of the thesis itself. It is a hypothesis, a conjecture, or a theorem. The dissertation is a formal, stylized document used to argue your thesis. The thesis must be significant, original (no one has yet demonstrated it to be true), and it must extend the state of scientific knowledge.

The first thing you need to do is to come up with no more than three sentences that express your thesis. Your committee must agree that your statements form a valid thesis statement. You, too, must be happy with the statement -- it should be what you will tell anyone if they ask you what your thesis is (few people will want to hear an hour's presentation as a response).

Once you have a thesis statement, you can begin developing the dissertation. The abstract, for instance, should be a one-page description of your thesis and how you present the proof of it. The abstract should summarize the results of the thesis and should stress the contributions to science made thereby.

Perhaps the best way to understand how an abstract should look would be to examine the abstracts of several dozen dissertations that have already been accepted. Our university library has a collection of them. This is a good approach to see how an entire dissertation is structured and presented. MIT Press has published the ACM doctoral dissertation award series for decades, so you may find some of those to be good examples to read -- they should be in any large technical library.

The dissertation itself should be structured into 4 to 6 chapters. The following is one commonly-used structure:

  • Introduction. Provide an introduction to the basic terminology, cite appropriate background work, and briefly discuss related work that has already covered aspects of the problem.
  • Abstract model. Discuss an abstract model of what you are trying to prove. This chapter should not discuss any specific implementation (see below)
  • Validation of model/proof of theorems. This is a chapter showing proof of the model. It could be a set of proofs or a discussion of the construction and validation of a model or simulation to gather supporting data.
  • Measurements/data. This would present data collected from actual use, simulations, or other sources. The presentation would include analysis to show support for the underlying thesis.
  • Additional results. In some work, there may be secondary confirmation studies, or it might be the case that additional significant results are collected along the way to the proof of the central thesis. These would be presented here.
  • Conclusions and future work. This is where the results are all tied together and presented. Limitations, restrictions, and special cases should be clearly stated here, along with the results. Some extensions as future work may also be described.

Let's look at these in a little more detail

Chapter I, Introduction. Here, you should clearly state the thesis and its importance. This is also where you define terms and other concepts used elsewhere. There is no need to write 80 pages of background on your topic here. Instead, you can cover almost everything by saying: "The terminology used in this work matches the definitions given in [citation, citation] unless noted otherwise." Then, cite some appropriate works that give the definitions you need. The progress of science is that we learn and use the work of others (with appropriate credit). Assume you have a technically literate readership familiar with (or able to find) standard references. Do not reference popular literature or WWW sites if you can help it (this is a matter of style more than anything else -- you want to cite articles in refereed conferences and journals, if possible, or in other theses).

Also, in the introduction, you want to survey any related work that attempted something similar to your own or has a significant supporting role in your research. This should refer only to published references. You cite the work in the references, not the researchers themselves. E.g., "The experiments described in [citation] explored the foo and bar conditions, but did not discuss the further problem of baz, the central point of this work." You should not make references such as this: "Curly, Moe, and Larry all believed the same in their research [CML53]" because you do not know what they believed or thought -- you only know what the paper states. Every factual statement you make must have a specific citation tied to it in this chapter, or else it must be common knowledge (don't rely on this too much).

Chapter II. Abstract Model. Your results are to be of lasting value. Thus, the model you develop and write about (and indeed, that you defend) should have lasting value. Thus, you should discuss a model not based on Windows, Linux, Ethernet, PCMIA, or any other technology. It should be generic and capture all the details necessary to overlay the model on likely environments. You should discuss the problems, parameters, requirements, necessary and sufficient conditions, and other factors here. Consider that 20 years ago (ca 1980), the common platform was a Vax computer running VMS or a PDP-11 running Unix version 6, yet well-crafted theses of the time are still valuable today. Will your dissertation be valuable 20+ years from now (ca 2050), or have you referred to technologies that will be of only historical interest?

This model is tough to construct but is the heart of the scientific part of your work. This is the lasting part of the contribution, and this is what someone might cite 50 years from now when we are all using MS Linux XXXXP on computers embedded in our wrists with subspace network links!

Chapters III & IV, Proof.There are basically three proof techniques that I have seen used in a computing dissertation, depending on the thesis topic. The first is analytic, where one takes the model or formulae and shows, using formal manipulations, that the model is sound and complete. A second proof method is stochastic, using statistical methods and measurements to show that something is true in the anticipated cases.

  • clearly showing how your implementation model matches the conditions of your abstract model,
  • describing all the variables and why you set them as you do,
  • accounting for confounding factors, and
  • showing the results.

Chapter V. Additional results. This may be folded into Chapter III in some theses or multiple chapters in a thesis with many parts (as in a theory-based thesis). This may be where you discuss the effects of technology change on your results. This is also a place where you may wish to point out significant results that you obtained while seeking to prove your central thesis but which are not supportive of the thesis. Often, such additional results are published in a separate paper.

Chapter VI. Conclusions and Future Work. This is where you discuss what you found from your work, incidental ideas and results that were not central to your thesis but of value nonetheless (if you did not have them in Chapter V), and other results. This chapter should summarize all the important results of the dissertation --- note that this is the only chapter many people will ever read, so it should convey all the important results.

This is also where you should outline some possible future work that can be done in the area. What are some open problems? What are some new problems? What are some significant variations open to future inquiry?

Appendices usually are present to hold mundane details that are not published elsewhere but are critical to the development of your dissertation. This includes tables of measurement results, configuration details of experimental testbeds, limited source code listings of critical routines or algorithms, etc. It is not appropriate to include lists of readings by topic, lists of commercial systems, or other material that does not directly support the proof of your thesis.

Here are some more general hints to keep in mind as you write/edit:

  • Adverbs should generally not be used -- instead, use something precise. For example, do not say that something "happens quickly." How fast is quickly? Is it relative to CPU speeds? Network speeds? Does it depend on connectivity, configuration, programming language, OS release, etc? What is the standard deviation?
  • As per the above, the use of the words "fast," "slow," "perfect," "soon," "ideal," "lots of," and related should all be avoided. So should "clearly," "obviously," "simple," "like," "few," "most," "large," et al.
  • What you are writing is scientific fact. Judgments of aesthetics, ethics, personal preference, and the like should be in the conclusions chapter, if they should be anywhere at all. With that in mind, avoid the use of words such as "good," "bad," "best," and any similar discussion. Also, avoid stating "In fact," "Actually," "In reality," and any similar construct -- everything you are writing must be factual, so there is no need to state such things. If you feel compelled to use one of these constructs, then carefully evaluate what you are saying to ensure you are not injecting relative terms, opinions, value judgments, or other items inappropriate for a dissertation.
  • Computers and networks do not have knees, so poor performance cannot bring them to something they do not have. They also don't have hands, so "On the one hand..." is not good usage. Programs don't perform conscious thought (nor do their underlying computers), so your system does not "think" that it has seen a particular type of traffic. Generalizing from this, do not anthropomorphize your IT components!
  • Avoid mention of time and environment. "Today's computers" are antiques far sooner than you think. Your thesis should still be true many years from now. If a particular time or interval is necessary, be explicit, as in "Between 1905 and 1920" rather than "Over the last 15 years." (See the difference, given some distance in time?)
  • Be sure that any scientist or mathematician would recognize something you claim as proof.
  • Focus on the results and not the methodology. The methodology should be clearly described but not the central topic of your discussion in chapters III & IV
  • Keep concepts and instances separate. An algorithm is not the same as a program that implements it. A protocol is not the same as the realization of it; a reference model is not the same as a working example, and so on.

As a rule of thumb, a CS dissertation should probably be longer than 100 pages but less than 160. Anything outside that range should be carefully examined with the above points in mind.

Keep in mind that you -- the Ph.D. candidate -- are expected to become the world's foremost expert on your topic area. That topic area should not be unduly broad but must be big enough to be meaningful. Your advisor and committee members are not supposed to know more about the topic than you do -- not individually, at least. Your dissertation is supposed to explain your findings and, along with the defense, demonstrate your mastery of the area in which you are now the leading expert. That does not mean writing everything you know -- it means writing enough about the most important points that others can agree with your conclusions.

Last of all, don't fall into the trap that ties up many candidates and causes some of them to flame out before completion: your thesis does not need to be revolutionary. It simply needs to be an incremental advancement in the field. Few Ph.D. dissertations have ever had a marked impact on the field. Instead, it is the author's set of publications and products of the author that may change the field.

If your dissertation is like most, it will only be read by your committee and some other Ph.D. candidates seeking to build on your work. As such, it does not need to be a masterwork of literature, nor does it need to solve a long-standing problem in computing. It merely needs to be correct, to be significant in the judgment of your committee, and it needs to be complete. We will all applaud when you change the world after graduation. And at that, you will find that many well-known scientists in CS have made their careers in areas different from their dissertation topic. The dissertation is proof that you can find and present original results; your career and life after graduation will demonstrate the other concerns you might have about making an impact.

So get to work!

/images/cornell/logo35pt_cornell_white.svg" alt="requirements of a dissertation"> Cornell University --> Graduate School

Formatting requirements.

Requirements for format and final production of the dissertation and thesis, as specified below, meet UMI standards and American Library Association (ALA) suggestions for preserving archival copies of the dissertation and thesis.

1. Language

The dissertation or thesis must be written in English.

2. Page Size and Specifications

  • Page size must be 8.5 x 11 inches (or 216 x 279 millimeters), also known as “letter” size in U.S. standards. (ISO standard paper sizes, such as A4, are not allowed.)
  • The inclusion of oversized pages or sheets of paper larger than 8.5 x 11 inches (known as “foldouts”) is discouraged. When necessary, 11 x 17 inch pages may be used for large tables, illustrations, etc.
  • Text must be embedded, 11-point or larger font.
  • Smaller font size may be appropriate for footnotes or other material outside of the main text.
  • Black text is recommended; although, color may be appropriate in some limited parts of the document.
  • Font requirements apply to all text, including captions, footnotes, citations, etc.

Margins should be at least 1 inch with page numbers at least 3/4 inch from the edge of the page. The templates use 1.6 inches for the left margin and 1.1 inches for the right.

Document must be double-spaced with the exception of quotations as paragraphs, captions, lists, graphs, charts, footnotes/endnotes, bibliographic entries, items within tables, and lists in appendices.

Exceptions may include the following:

  • Quotations and footnotes may be single-spaced within each entry.
  • Lengthy tables may be single-spaced.
  • Irregular spacing may be used to accommodate poetry or other creative writing.

Tables should be consecutively numbered.

Figures should be consecutively numbered.

Email forwarding for @cs.stanford.edu is changing on Feb 1, 2024. More details here

PhD | Dissertation Requirement

Main navigation.

The most important requirement for the PhD degree is the dissertation. The dissertation must be accepted by the student's reading committee. The Graduate Degree Progress office in the Registrar's Office distributes a comprehensive list of directions concerning the preparation and submission of the final draft. Students have the option of submitting their dissertation online. 

See the Registrar's Graduate Degree Progress webpage for detailed information on dissertation submission.

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Thesis & Dissertation

Your thesis or dissertation is the capstone work of your academic career.

Your thesis or dissertation is your opportunity to apply everything you have studied leading up to and during graduate school and to contribute to the academic community.

A thesis or dissertation can take months or even years to complete, and it is one of the final steps in achieving a graduate degree.

At IU, master’s degree candidates complete theses, while doctoral candidates complete dissertations. Each work comes with its own set of requirements, including formatting and deadlines.

Almost finished with your degree? This one-stop checklist helps you keep track of everything you need to do to graduate.

Start planning   Find requirements

Find guides here to help you through the process

Master’s thesis guide

Doctoral dissertation guide

Indiana University offers a variety of resources to aid in the completion of your thesis or dissertation requirements.

The Indiana Statistical Consulting Center offers assistance for all stages of research:

  • Planning projects (experimental design, sample size calculations, grant preparation, and so on)
  • Data analysis
  • Interpreting and reporting results

Go to the center

The ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Database  is a searchable database of dissertation and thesis abstracts from around the world, which you can use to see what your contemporaries are researching.

Go to the database

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Student Manual

Dissertation requirements.

Doctoral dissertations are original contributions to scholarship. As a condition for receipt of the doctorate, all students are required to execute a publication agreement with ProQuest UMI Dissertation Publishing granting ProQuest non-exclusive rights to reproduce, distribute, and sell their dissertations. If a dissertation includes copyrighted material beyond fair use, the author must obtain permission from the holder of the copyright.

The public sharing of original dissertation research is a principle to which the University is deeply committed, and dissertations should be made available to the scholarly community at the University of Chicago and elsewhere in a timely manner. If dissertation authors are concerned that making their research publicly available might endanger research subjects or themselves, jeopardize a pending patent, complicate publication of a revised dissertation, or otherwise be unadvisable, they may, in consultation with faculty in their field (and as appropriate, research collaborators), restrict access to their dissertation for a limited period of time according to the guidelines outlined by the Dissertation Office. If a dissertation author needs to renew an embargo at the end of its term or initiate an embargo after graduation, the author must contact the Dissertation Office with the embargo request. Embargo renewals may be approved only in rare instances, and in general no more than one renewal will be allowed.

All dissertations must follow the instructions provided in the University-Wide Requirements for the Ph.D. Dissertation, available from the Dissertation Office on the first floor of the Joseph Regenstein Library.

Overview of Changes

Starting Spring 2024, the Graduate College will release a new set of Thesis/Dissertation templates and requirement checklists. The requirements have been carefully reviewed and discussed with interdisciplinary consultants to optimize Iowa State University theses and dissertations for accessibility, usability, readability, and consistency.   Skip to the end of this page to read definitions of these priorities. The updated requirements also take into account basic academic norms and variation across disciplines. This page lays out the requirements that will be put into place.

One aim of releasing these format requirement updates at this time is to ensure that the Graduate College is in compliance with Iowa State University's Digital Accessibility policy , which will go into full effect in July 2026.

The updated requirements are presented in three sections:

  • New Format Requirements. Prior to January 2024, these requirements have not been listed in the checklist or enforced by Iowa State University thesis/dissertation reviewers. Graduate students and faculty are advised to carefully review the new requirements. Tutorials and support will be available to students to ensure they have the skills to incorporate these requirements into their thesis/dissertation manuscripts.
  • Continuing Format Requirements . These requirements have been listed in the checklist and enforced by Iowa State University thesis/dissertation reviewers since the last template update. Tutorials and support will continue to be available to students to ensure they have the skills to incorporate these requirements into their thesis/dissertation manuscripts.
  • Discontinued Format Requirements. Some requirements listed in the checklist prior to January 2024 will now be designated as recommendations.

Grace Period (Gradual Implementation)

To accommodate students who are currently close to completing their thesis/dissertation, and who started their writing process with the old templates, there will be a 12-month grace period from January 2024-December 2024 . During this grace period:

  • The New Format Requirements and the Discontinued Format Requirements will be treated as recommendations .
  • Only the Continuing Format Requirements will be treated as requirements .
  • Starting in January 2025, the New Format Requirements will be treated as requirements .

The following section delineates the differences between recommendations and requirements .

Protocols for Requirements and Recommendations


Iowa State University thesis/dissertation reviewers will check all theses and dissertations submitted to ProQuest after the student passes their Final Oral Exam. Where the submitted mansucript fails to meet one or more requirements, the reviewer will issue a request for revisions. Students must implement these revisions and resubmit their manuscript within one week of the submission deadline for that semester. If the requirements still are not met, the reviewer will issue another request for revisions. The thesis/dissertation will not be accepted until all requirements are met , even if this results in a delay to the student's graduation.


Students are strongly encouraged to implement these recommendations, which enhance usability, readability, and consistency in theses/dissertations. Iowa State University thesis/dissertation reviewers will check all theses and dissertations submitted to ProQuest after the student passes their Final Oral Exam. Where the submitted mansucript fails to meet one or more recommendations, the reviewer will issue a single request for students to revise. If the thesis/dissertation is resubmitted without the recommendations implemented, it will be acceptable. It is important to note that theses and dissertations cannot be revised after they are accepted. Students who resubmit theses and dissertations that do not follow the recommendations will not have another chance to improve the appearance of their manuscript. 

New Format Requirements for 2024

Continuing format requirements, discontinued format requirements (no longer required after november 30, 2023).

Back to Overview

Ph.D. in Cinema Studies

The Ph.D. curriculum draws on the methods of a number of disciplines, including art history, cultural studies, American studies, psychoanalytic theory, and philosophy. It involves intensive seminar level study in film theory, history and research methods. Graduates of the program have gone onto positions of academic leadership in the field.  The Doctor of Philosophy degree is conferred for advanced studies in which the student demonstrates outstanding original scholarship. It signifies the student can conduct independent research and has both a broad basic knowledge of all areas of his or her field and an intensive knowledge of one field in particular.

Over the first two years of the program, you’ll enroll in nine courses. In addition to the three courses listed below, a number of lectures and seminars are offered each semester in the department. Additionally, you will have the option to take up to two courses in other departments within NYU.

PhD Methodologies

In your first semester, you will meet with your cohort to examine a range of activities entailed in being in the program specifically, and in preparing for a career in cinema and media studies generally.  The course covers professional activities, research protocols, and practical exercises.

Directed Reading

In your third semester, you will complete a Directed Reading in your dissertation topic area with supervision by your anticipated dissertation advisor.

Dissertation Seminar

In your fourth semester, your cohort will come back together to prepare dissertation proposals through in-class debate, written feedback, and guests with experience in the process.  With regular presentations of work in progress, you will spend the semester finishing your dissertation proposal.

Qualifying Exams

You will be required to pass three Qualifying Examinations during your first two years in the program. The two written exams, one each in the fields of Film/Media History and Film/Culture/Media Theory, consist of 10-page essays completed over the course of a week and graded by three faculty members. The oral exam comprises questions relating to your specific area of research during your dissertation proposal, conducted and graded by three faculty members.

Read more about the Ph.D. Comprehesive Examinations.

Language Requirement

You will be expected to demonstrate proficiency in one foreign language.  Six languages are accepted toward fulfilling this requirement: Chinese, French, German, Italian, Russian, and Spanish.  Students for whom English is a second language may request an exemption from this requirement.  To demonstrate proficiency, you must pass an exam from either the department or the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

You will be given the opportunity to serve as a teaching assistant during your second year of coursework.  Once your coursework and qualifying examinations are complete, you will be eligible to submit course proposals for adjunct teaching positions in the department.

Current students should consult the Ph.D. Handbook for rules and regulations.

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Senior seminar information (class of 2025).

requirements of a dissertation

Both senior seminar and senior thesis satisfy the Bates W3 writing requirement and highlight mathematical research, presentation, writing, and group collaboration. Senior seminar is a good choice for students wanting to improve all these, with special emphasis on presentation and group collaboration. Senior seminars also involve writing, as well as mathematical research on topics curated by the instructor.

For the 2024-2025 academic year, the senior seminar topics are Generalized Stokes Theorem and Introduction to Computational Topology.

To ensure the senior seminar is an enriching experience, the math department keeps class sizes relatively small and even. To help the department place students into senior seminars, each junior math major who would like to take a senior seminar completes a request form by NOON on the last day of Winter Semester classes of the junior year, that is, by 12:00pm (noon) on Friday, April 12, 2024 . Some details:

  • The request form seeks background information on the student, the student’s preferences regarding senior seminar, and the student’s reasoning behind their preferences.
  • It is a good idea for juniors to discuss the choice between senior seminar and senior thesis with faculty members before completing the request form.
  • The department meets to consider all senior seminar and thesis proposals. The department chair typically notifies students of the results of the meeting during Short Term.
  • The course descriptions for the Winter 2025 senior seminars are below.

MATH 495B Generalized Stokes Theorem

The famous theorems of Gauss, Green, and Stokes in multivariable calculus have many important applications in the study of electromagnetic fields, heat diffusion, fluid dynamics, and complex analysis. Moreover, they are all generalizations of the (one dimensional) Fundamental Theorem of Calculus. These results assert that a certain (k dimensional) integral over a region is the (k-1 dimensional) integral over the boundary of the region, culminating in the so-called Generalized Stokes Theorem. This seminar aims to explore this general form of the classical Stokes Theorem and related topics, including the concept of differential forms.

MATH 495? Introduction to Computational Topology

In this seminar students will explore various types of data using topological data analysis. Topological data analysis allows us to quantify certain features of data that are preserved under deformation such as stretching and folding. The course will have a heavy computational component, where students will work collaboratively to build codes that analyze their data using freely available software packages. Students will present their work to the class and write technical reports aimed at a general scientific audience. We will spend time at the beginning of the semester familiarizing ourselves with foundational topics in algebraic topology such as cubical and simplicial homology, which will provide us with the necessary background information to use the computational topology software with thoughtful understanding of the inputs and outputs. The purpose of this seminar is to familiarize students with a rapidly developing and expanding field of applied mathematics. Coding experience is recommended but not required.

Future Students

Majors and minors, course schedules, request info, application requirements, faculty directory, student profile.


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  1. What Is a Dissertation?

    A dissertation is a long-form piece of academic writing based on original research conducted by you. It is usually submitted as the final step in order to finish a PhD program. Your dissertation is probably the longest piece of writing you've ever completed. It requires solid research, writing, and analysis skills, and it can be intimidating ...

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    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 1: by.

  3. PDF Guidelines for The PhD Dissertation

    This document provides information on how to submit your dissertation, requirements for dissertation formatting, and your dissertation publishing and distribution options. Please follow the submission and formatting guidelines provided here; do not use previously published dissertations as examples.

  4. Format Requirements for Your Dissertation or Thesis

    If you are a student in the Doctor of Musical Arts program, you may submit musical scores formatted at 11 x 17 inches in size. If you are submitting a performance as your dissertation, submit the audio file in WAV format as a supplemental file. Note: The maximum file size accepted for submission is 100 MB.

  5. Formatting Your Dissertation

    Any deviation from these requirements may lead to rejection of the dissertation and delay in the conferral of the degree. Language of the Dissertation. The language of the dissertation is ordinarily English, although some departments whose subject matter involves foreign languages may accept a dissertation written in a language other than English.

  6. Guide to Writing Your Thesis/Dissertation : Graduate School

    The papers-option dissertation or thesis must meet all format and submission requirements, and a singular referencing convention must be used throughout. ProQuest Electronic Submissions The dissertation and thesis become permanent records of your original research, and in the case of doctoral research, the Graduate School requires publication ...


    thesis/dissertation refers to how knowledge, research, and/or creative works are organized. For example, the structure of a thesis based on poetry will have a different structure compared to a thesis based on an empirical study. The format, on the other hand, concerns how the thesis/dissertation looks and includes all items in the formatting

  8. Dissertation

    The dissertation is the final requirement for the PhD degree. The research required for the dissertation must be of publishable quality and a significant contribution in a scholarly field. The dissertation is evidence of the candidate's proficiency and future potential in research. Students work closely with faculty throughout the program ...

  9. PDF The Dissertation Handbook will make that journey smoother. Rackham

    The dissertation is a document in which a student presents his or her research and findings to meet the requirements of the doctorate. It is a substantial scholarly product that represents the student's own work. The content and form of the dissertation are guided by the dissertation committee and the standards of the student's discipline.

  10. Dissertation Formatting Requirements: The Graduate School

    The Graduate School sets the minimum formatting standards for the PhD dissertation to ensure uniformity, legibility, and to comply with ProQuest and University Library requirements for publishing/archiving. These guidelines do not address all facets of formatting and style. Students should consult with their adviser, committee, and academic ...


    Writing. 9. Each thesis or dissertation is unique but all share several common elements. The following is not an exact guide but rather a general outline. Chapter 1: Purpose and Significance of the Study. In the first chapter, clearly state what the purpose of the study is and explain the study's significance.

  12. How to Structure a Dissertation

    The dissertation will be structured such that it starts with an introduction, develops on the main idea in its main body paragraphs and is then summarised in conclusion. However, if you are basing your dissertation on primary or empirical research, you will be required to include each of the below components.

  13. PDF APA Style Dissertation Guidelines: Formatting Your Dissertation

    Dissertation Content When the content of the dissertation starts, the page numbering should restart at page one using Arabic numbering (i.e., 1, 2, 3, etc.) and continue throughout the dissertation until the end. The Arabic page number should be aligned to the upper right margin of the page with a running head aligned to the upper left margin.

  14. Formatting: Doctoral Dissertation Guide: Thesis & Dissertation

    If the dissertation will only be electronically accessed, a one-inch left margin is acceptable. The left margin should be one inch if the dissertation will be bound in paper form by ProQuest. If using a bindery other than ProQuest, please consult with the bindery about the size of the left margin needed for their binding process.

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  16. Formatting Requirements : Graduate School

    1. Language. The dissertation or thesis must be written in English. 2. Page Size and Specifications. Page size must be 8.5 x 11 inches (or 216 x 279 millimeters), also known as "letter" size in U.S. standards. (ISO standard paper sizes, such as A4, are not allowed.) The inclusion of oversized pages or sheets of paper larger than 8.5 x 11 ...

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    The Dissertation Guidebook is one of the essential navigation tools Walden provides to its doctoral candidates. A vital portion of the document details the 15 required steps that take a dissertation from start to finish. Read along with Walden students to learn more about that process: Premise. The dissertation premise is a short document that ...

  18. Thesis/Dissertation Submisson and Formatting Requirements

    It is the student's responsibility to understand and correctly apply these formatting requirements to their thesis/dissertation. This document outlines processes and requirements for the successful submission of a thesis or dissertation to the Graduate School and completion of an advanced degree at Washington State University.

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    Overview. The most important requirement for the PhD degree is the dissertation. The dissertation must be accepted by the student's reading committee. The Graduate Degree Progress office in the Registrar's Office distributes a comprehensive list of directions concerning the preparation and submission of the final draft. Students have the option ...

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  21. Thesis & Dissertation: Academic Requirements: Graduate School

    A thesis or dissertation can take months or even years to complete, and it is one of the final steps in achieving a graduate degree. At IU, master's degree candidates complete theses, while doctoral candidates complete dissertations. Each work comes with its own set of requirements, including formatting and deadlines.

  22. Dissertation Requirements

    Dissertation Requirements. Doctoral dissertations are original contributions to scholarship. As a condition for receipt of the doctorate, all students are required to execute a publication agreement with ProQuest UMI Dissertation Publishing granting ProQuest non-exclusive rights to reproduce, distribute, and sell their dissertations. If a ...

  23. 2024 New Thesis/Dissertation Format Requirements

    Requirements. Iowa State University thesis/dissertation reviewers will check all theses and dissertations submitted to ProQuest after the student passes their Final Oral Exam. Where the submitted mansucript fails to meet one or more requirements, the reviewer will issue a request for revisions. Students must implement these revisions and ...

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  25. Senior Seminar Information (Class of 2025)

    It is a good idea for juniors to discuss the choice between senior seminar and senior thesis with faculty members before completing the request form. The department meets to consider all senior seminar and thesis proposals. The department chair typically notifies students of the results of the meeting during Short Term.