A Student Guide To 
Preparing Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Table of Contents > General Guidelines

General Guidelines

Developing a Thesis or Dissertation

A scholarly thesis or dissertation is an extended, written treatment of a subject, prepared as the culmination of the master’s or doctoral program. It should give evidence of your technical and intellectual mastery of the field of study, as well as your capability to perform original, independent research.

Both thesis and dissertations are subject to close scrutiny by scholars and laymen alike. They provide permanent, tangible evidence of the scholarly achievements and standards of the author, the advisor, and The University of Alabama. To a large degree, the reputation and quality of the University’s graduate program are measured by the quality of the theses and dissertations developed at this institution.

Use of Copyrighted Material

When writing a thesis or dissertation, you must be careful in using copyrighted materials. Generally speaking, you may make limited use of short passages from copyrighted material if proper credit is given to the owner of the copyright. Extensive use of the copyright, however, requires permission of the copyright owner. Permission to use copyrighted material in scholarly works is usually granted without payment or compensation to the copyright owner, but not always.

If the copyright owner grants permission to use the material, a letter of release must be obtained and included in the appendix of your manuscript. Likewise, the copyright owner should be given credit in the acknowledgments of your manuscript.

Copyright Information

Under the copyright Law of 1976 (Title 17 of the United States Code), copyright for a work is automatically granted at the time of its creation; neither registration nor publication is required to secure a copyright. Registration, however, is often desirable as it provides a public record of a copyright claim and is usually required before a suit for copyright infringement can be initiated. Consult with your major professor to decide whether or not to register a copyright for your thesis or dissertation. More information on including registering your copyright can be found in the publishing agreements which can be obtained from the Graduate School office and from the Proquest web site.

Protection of Human Subjects

Scientific research using human subjects has produced ample benefits, but it also produced some troublesome ethical questions. The University of Alabama’s Institutional Review Board’s mission is to ensure that research with humans is conducted lawfully and ethically manner. In order to comply with University and federal policies, submit all proposals for research with humans to the appropriate college’s human research review committee for review and approval before beginning your research. Any IRB certification should be included in the final appendix of your manuscript.

Academic Misconduct

All acts of dishonesty in any work constitute academic misconduct, including cheating, plagiarism, fabrication of information, and the like. Any form of academic misconduct will not be tolerated. As a researcher, you will be held to the highest professional standards.

For more information on the official policy on academic misconduct, including established disciplinary measures, refer to The University of Alabama Student Affairs Handbook, which is available in the Office of Student Life in the Ferguson Center and on the university’s website.

ETD vs. Paper Formatting


Generally, the same formatting and content requirements continue to apply. However, for ETD submissions the following important changes should be noted:

1.  No signed abstract for dissertations: For paper submissions, the Graduate School requires a signed abstract that does not form part of the document but is retained in the student’s file in Graduate School office. This is no longer required for ETD submission – for security reasons we do not want original signatures to appear online from where they may be easily reproduced. The student will copy the abstract into the appropriate section of the online submission.

2.  No signed acceptance page ii: As above, for security reasons the acceptance page (now called Committee Acceptance Form) will not be part of the ETD submission and is omitted from both theses and dissertations. Students are now required to download and complete a separate form that must be delivered to the Graduate School separately and will be the place for official, original signatures of the committee members. Please see the new “Committee Acceptance Form for Electronic Thesis or Dissertation.”


3.  Regular abstract now required for both theses and dissertations: This will be moved to the first page of the document following the copyright page and will become page ii in ETD submissions.

4.  All page margins will be 1 inch: Unlike paper theses and dissertations, the left margin for ETDs does not need to be wider to meet binding requirements; thus, all margins—including left—need to be 1-inch wide in ETDs.


5.  First page of each preliminary section and first page of every chapter or major section of the document must have a 2-inch margin. This can be achieved by simply tabbing down the page two inches before starting to type these pages.

6.  Page numbers all bottom-center of page: For ETDs, all page numbers are located bottom-center of page, BUT see next point.


7.  Page ordering for both theses and dissertations submitted electronically: Roman numerals for the preliminary pages and Arabic numerals for the main manuscript, with the first page of chapter 1 being page number 1.  ETD page order is as follows:

1)  Title page: No number.


2)  Copyright page: No number, but is in fact number i.


3)  Abstract: Required, new location, no signatures, now becomes page ii. Page number is at bottom-center.


4)  Dedication: Optional.  If included, is page iii.


5)  List of Abbreviations or Symbols: Required when non-standard abbreviations or symbols used, page iv (or next in sequence).


6)  Acknowledgments: Required, page v (or next in sequence).


7)  Table of Contents: Required. Must list all previous pages (except title and copyright) and subsequent pages with respective page numbers. Page vi (or next in sequence). DO NOT INCLUDE TABLE OF CONTENTS IN ITSELF!


8)  List of Tables: Required, page vii (or next in sequence).


9)  List of Figures: Required, page viii (or next in sequence).


10) List of Illustrations: Required only if illustrations are used, page ix (or next in sequence).


11) Chapter 1: Page number 1 in document.

8.  Broadside Tables, etc: For paper submissions, the table had to be turned and then the relevant page number was inserted as if page were portrait oriented. For ETDs, the page simply can be oriented landscape, and the page number can be inserted at the bottom of the page in that orientation.


9.  Revised Sample Preliminary Pages: See the new ETD version of preliminary pages sample on the ETD website.


10. New Word Document Template: There is a new ETD Word document template on the web site.  The template can be downloaded and saved to your own PC.  It is formatted for you for margins, page numbering, etc.

Otherwise, the manuscript will continue to conform to the general formatting and style requirements of an acceptable style guide.

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