Basic Formatting Rules for the PhD Thesis or Dissertation

Some schools require a doctoral thesis, while some schools require only a dissertation. Either way, what makes doctoral projects unique is that they are all bound and held in the library stacks. They are kept in the library’s records and in physical form not only to provide evidence of your fulfillment of the doctoral requirements but also for future students to review and consult.

Reviewing other students’ dissertations, especially ones close in topic to your chosen focus, will give you a working sample of what you should shoot for in your own.

Because dissertations and thesis are bound at the left margin—picture the way pages of a book must be sealed at the left side –the formatting rules for these differ from other scholarly projects you have written.

The Challenges of the Chapter Outline

Go ahead an knock out at least a template for your thesis or dissertation outline before you sit down to write your first page. Typically, these are somewhat frustrating. Many dissertation/thesis formats insist on the little dots that run from the chapter to the page number it appears on –and getting the dots just right is difficult.

For example, my dissertation directors insisted on this style of outlining:

Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18.

So, look at your thesis requirement and go ahead and get the introductory matter to your book done now—title page, outline, foreword, etc. You will be getting things done that you will not feel like doing once you’ve put your final period on the page chapter six, say!

Left Margin for Binding

All doctoral thesis are bound at the left side, meaning you will need a 2 to 3 inch margin at the left. This, of course, gives you much more length than you might have considered. Some students forget about the huge left margin and format their dissertation after writing it, only to discover they have way too many pages instead of too few.

So keep the large left margin in mind as you write. You may even want to write it this way, with margin in tow throughout the creation, and watch the pages tick by for inspiration.

Find out Where the Page Numbers Go and Set That Up Formatting-Wise NOW

Nothing is more frustrating than finally finishing your dissertation or thesis and then trying to make the page numbers adjust to the format specified by the dissertation formatting guidelines.

For example, some format requirements insist on roman numerals at the bottom of the front matter: your introduction, foreword, and table of contents, etc., and then ask you to switch to regular numbering throughout the chapter matter.

Find out now and compose with these elements in mind as in order to format different sections with different numbering, you may have to separate sections into new documents.