A Student Guide To 
Preparing Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Table of Contents > Preparation of the Manuscript

Preparation of the Manuscript of an ETD


All manuscripts should be written in English, but a foreign language may be used where it is appropriate to your major and approved by your committee. All abstracts, however, must be in English.

Style Guides

Your manuscript’s general style and the form of its footnotes, citations, and bibliography should conform to a standard style manual appropriate to your major field of study. The latest edition must be used. Only one style guide should be used for the whole of the document; do not "mix and match" different style guides for different sections. In some cases, the style used in major research publications is appropriate for theses and dissertations; written approval for the alternate style must be obtained from your committee prior to preparation of the manuscript. It is the committee's responsibility to ensure that the style chosen is appropriate to the field of study and properly addresses all of the principle elements listed in the table below under the section Style Guide Matters.

The following style guides are the recommended “A list” to be used:

  • Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association.
  • MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, Theses and Dissertations.
  • Kate L. Turabian, A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations.
  • The Chicago Manual of Style.

You must conform to the instructions in the approved style manual, unless they conflict with this manual, in which case the Graduate School guidelines take precedence.

Alternative Style Guides
In some cases, the style used in major research publications is more appropriate and using such material is permitted, however the student’s committee and department head must give formal approval before starting work on the manuscript. If the alternate style used does not properly address all of the principal elements listed in the table below under Style Guide Matters then that style is NOT appropriate and cannot be used.

Using Other Dissertations
Under no circumstances should students use other theses and dissertations as guides for style and format. The existence of a particular style or usage in a previously approved thesis or dissertation does not establish a precedent; there may be a variety of reasons why a format was allowed under special appeal and which were relevant only to that particular submission.

Style Guide Matters
The approved relevant style guide determines such matters as acceptable reference sources and citation, acceptable abbreviations and their use, use of italics and boldface type, and use of font attributes in figure captions and table titles. The Graduate School’s guide determines such matters as page margins, line spacing and indention, page numbering, and the required portions of the document. The following table gives a partial list of items determined by the style guide.

Item in text Question for style guide
  • Can abbreviations for elements, chemicals, or procedures be used without spelling out the term first?
  • Is there a list of standard abbreviations that are not spelled out?
  • Are abbreviations, upper- or lowercase, allowed at the beginning of a sentence?
  • How are the title and caption capitalized and indented?
  • Is italic or boldface type used?
  • How are figures referred to in the text?
  • If “Fig.#” is used in parentheses, is “Figure” spelled out in the text? What about at the beginning of a sentence?
Font faces
  • Are any particular elements, such as gene names, Latin words, or letters used as variables, always represented in italic, underlined, or boldface type?
  • Are common prefixes such as pre-, post-, anti-, multi-, and non- hyphenated when they precede a word? When they precede a numeral? What about doubled vowels, as in reentry or re-entry?
  • Are combined numeral-and-measurement modifiers hyphenated when they precede a noun (e.g. a l-h incubation, a five-minute rest period)?
Mathematical and statistical text
  • How are equations numbered?
  • If an equation falls at the end of a sentence, is it followed by a period or other end punctuation?
  • Are commas used after equations when grammatically appropriate?
  • How are equations referred to in the text (e.g., Eq. 2, Equation 2, equation2, Eq.(2))?
  • Are spaces used around operation symbols (e.g., x=y or x = y)? Around other symbol-and-numeral combinations?
  • Is italic or boldface type used for certain elements, such as Latin letters used as variables? What about capitalization?
Numbers and numerals
  • When is it correct to spell out numbers and when should numerals be used?
  • Are particular elements (e.g., measurements of time) always expressed in numerals?
  • Can a numeral be used to begin a sentence?
  • Is a comma used with four-placeholder numerals (e.g., 4000 or 4,000)?
Bibliography or References
  • Is the list ordered by numbers, alphabet, or both?
  • Are unpublished references allowed?
  • In multiple citations, how are the individual entries ordered in the text? In the reference list?
  • What is included in each entry? What order does it come in? How is it punctuated?
  • Is it appropriate to use “et al.” in the text? In the reference list?
  • Are journal titles abbreviated in the list?
  • How is the title capitalized? Is italic or boldface type used?
  • How are notes formatted?
  • How are tables referred to in the text?
  • Are decimal points aligned in the columns?

Article Style Dissertations
In 2002 the Graduate Council passed a resolution allowing the option of article-style dissertations for doctoral students whose final, completed dissertation will consist of a number of journal-style manuscripts or articles. This is not to be confused with the use of a published journal style for formatting and preparing a manuscript.

This option is only granted to students in certain fields, a complete list of these fields is available from the Graduate School. It is only available for dissertations, not for theses.

Where this option is used, all parts of the dissertation must still conform to the provisions set forth above and in “A Student Guide To Preparing Theses And Dissertations”. The dissertation must contain introductory material to describe the studies, show how they are related, and explain their significance. There will be connecting language to bridge each study to the next, as well as a summary making clear the importance of the studies, integrating the major findings, and discussing the implications for the overall topic. The manuscript will contain one each of the set of tables, figures, and reference lists for the document as a whole.

These components do not have to be separate sections or chapters.  They may be parts of the manuscripts or may be accomplished in an abstract.

See more information on Article Style Dissertation.


All theses and dissertations should adhere to the following formatting guidelines. These are Graduate School specific and override the requirements in your chosen style guide.

  1. Use standard double spacing for the body of the manuscript, with the following exceptions:
    • Long tables and quotations, footnotes, multi-line captions, and bibliographical entries must be single spaced.
    • Bibliography or Reference Lists - follow your style guide regarding composition and content of each reference. Single-space in between lines within each reference, double-space in between references (see sample in Templates).
    • All chapter, section, and table headings and subheadings of more than one line must be single spaced.
    • M.F.A. candidates writing a thesis in poetry may single space if they obtain prior approval from the chair of the English department.
  2. Use not less than a 12-point serif font. Script fonts are unacceptable, as is the use of multiple typefaces.
  3. Use a one inch margin on all sides of all pages.
  4. Leave a two-inch margin on the top of the first page of every major subdivision (such as a new chapter or the bibliography) and on the first page of each section of the preliminary pages. Begin the first line of all other pages one inch from the top.
  5. Except for first lines of new paragraphs, all lines in the manuscript narrative must be left-justified. Please do not use center or left and right justification; the former creates misaligned lines throughout and the latter results in the software "kerning" whereby spaces in between words are stretched to make the words fit the lines, this is not acceptable.
  6. Start a new chapter or major section on a fresh page. Chapters or sections should be delineated clearly, following the template available by clicking Template in the ETD website’s Table of Contents.
  7. Number every page of the manuscript except the copyright page. Lower-case Roman numerals are used to number preliminary pages; Arabic numerals are used to number the pages throughout the dissertation, including the pages containing the reference and appendices.
  8. Place all page numbers centered on the bottom of the page.
  9. Do not divide words at the bottom of a page and carry them over to the next page.
  10. A sentence ending a paragraph must not end as a partial line at the top of the page.
  11. Titles of tables should not be repeated on continuous pages.
  12. All landscape pages are simply included in the pdf version as they are created.
  13. Do not use running heads.
  14. When descriptions of figures are too long to fit on page with figure, reduction is recommended so that the figure and description can appear on the same page. Where this does not work, figure description can be included on a separate page.
  15. All bibliographies and reference lists must follow the chosen style guide.

Submission Deadlines

Deadlines for the submission of manuscripts are published for each semester in the Graduate School office and are included in the Graduate School Calendar. These dates are determined in order to ensure that sufficient time is available for review and correction and it is imperative that they are observed.

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