• 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
  • Non-Resident Students
  • 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.


Katie riggs, explore events.

How to write an undergraduate university dissertation

Writing a dissertation is a daunting task, but these tips will help you prepare for all the common challenges students face before deadline day.

Grace McCabe's avatar

Grace McCabe

istock/woman writing

Writing a dissertation is one of the most challenging aspects of university. However, it is the chance for students to demonstrate what they have learned during their degree and to explore a topic in depth.

In this article, we look at 10 top tips for writing a successful dissertation and break down how to write each section of a dissertation in detail.

10 tips for writing an undergraduate dissertation

1. Select an engaging topic Choose a subject that aligns with your interests and allows you to showcase the skills and knowledge you have acquired through your degree.

2. Research your supervisor Undergraduate students will often be assigned a supervisor based on their research specialisms. Do some research on your supervisor and make sure that they align with your dissertation goals.

3. Understand the dissertation structure Familiarise yourself with the structure (introduction, review of existing research, methodology, findings, results and conclusion). This will vary based on your subject.

4. Write a schedule As soon as you have finalised your topic and looked over the deadline, create a rough plan of how much work you have to do and create mini-deadlines along the way to make sure don’t find yourself having to write your entire dissertation in the final few weeks.

5. Determine requirements Ensure that you know which format your dissertation should be presented in. Check the word count and the referencing style.

6. Organise references from the beginning Maintain an alphabetically arranged reference list or bibliography in the designated style as you do your reading. This will make it a lot easier to finalise your references at the end.

7. Create a detailed plan Once you have done your initial research and have an idea of the shape your dissertation will take, write a detailed essay plan outlining your research questions, SMART objectives and dissertation structure.

8. Keep a dissertation journal Track your progress, record your research and your reading, and document challenges. This will be helpful as you discuss your work with your supervisor and organise your notes.

9. Schedule regular check-ins with your supervisor Make sure you stay in touch with your supervisor throughout the process, scheduling regular meetings and keeping good notes so you can update them on your progress.

10. Employ effective proofreading techniques Ask friends and family to help you proofread your work or use different fonts to help make the text look different. This will help you check for missing sections, grammatical mistakes and typos.

What is a dissertation?

A dissertation is a long piece of academic writing or a research project that you have to write as part of your undergraduate university degree.

It’s usually a long essay in which you explore your chosen topic, present your ideas and show that you understand and can apply what you’ve learned during your studies. Informally, the terms “dissertation” and “thesis” are often used interchangeably.

How do I select a dissertation topic?

First, choose a topic that you find interesting. You will be working on your dissertation for several months, so finding a research topic that you are passionate about and that demonstrates your strength in your subject is best. You want your topic to show all the skills you have developed during your degree. It would be a bonus if you can link your work to your chosen career path, but it’s not necessary.

Second, begin by exploring relevant literature in your field, including academic journals, books and articles. This will help you identify gaps in existing knowledge and areas that may need further exploration. You may not be able to think of a truly original piece of research, but it’s always good to know what has already been written about your chosen topic.

Consider the practical aspects of your chosen topic, ensuring that it is possible within the time frame and available resources. Assess the availability of data, research materials and the overall practicality of conducting the research.

When picking a dissertation topic, you also want to try to choose something that adds new ideas or perspectives to what’s already known in your field. As you narrow your focus, remember that a more targeted approach usually leads to a dissertation that’s easier to manage and has a bigger impact. Be ready to change your plans based on feedback and new information you discover during your research.

How to work with your dissertation supervisor?

Your supervisor is there to provide guidance on your chosen topic, direct your research efforts, and offer assistance and suggestions when you have queries. It’s crucial to establish a comfortable and open line of communication with them throughout the process. Their knowledge can greatly benefit your work. Keep them informed about your progress, seek their advice, and don’t hesitate to ask questions.

1. Keep them updated Regularly tell your supervisor how your work is going and if you’re having any problems. You can do this through emails, meetings or progress reports.

2. Plan meetings Schedule regular meetings with your supervisor. These can be in person or online. These are your time to discuss your progress and ask for help.

3. Share your writing Give your supervisor parts of your writing or an outline. This helps them see what you’re thinking so they can advise you on how to develop it.

5. Ask specific questions When you need help, ask specific questions instead of general ones. This makes it easier for your supervisor to help you.

6. Listen to feedback Be open to what your supervisor says. If they suggest changes, try to make them. It makes your dissertation better and shows you can work together.

7. Talk about problems If something is hard or you’re worried, talk to your supervisor about it. They can give you advice or tell you where to find help.

8. Take charge Be responsible for your work. Let your supervisor know if your plans change, and don’t wait if you need help urgently.

Remember, talking openly with your supervisor helps you both understand each other better, improves your dissertation and ensures that you get the support you need.

How to write a successful research piece at university How to choose a topic for your dissertation Tips for writing a convincing thesis

How do I plan my dissertation?

It’s important to start with a detailed plan that will serve as your road map throughout the entire process of writing your dissertation. As Jumana Labib, a master’s student at the University of Manchester  studying digital media, culture and society, suggests: “Pace yourself – definitely don’t leave the entire thing for the last few days or weeks.”

Decide what your research question or questions will be for your chosen topic.

Break that down into smaller SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound) objectives.

Speak to your supervisor about any overlooked areas.

Create a breakdown of chapters using the structure listed below (for example, a methodology chapter).

Define objectives, key points and evidence for each chapter.

Define your research approach (qualitative, quantitative or mixed methods).

Outline your research methods and analysis techniques.

Develop a timeline with regular moments for review and feedback.

Allocate time for revision, editing and breaks.

Consider any ethical considerations related to your research.

Stay organised and add to your references and bibliography throughout the process.

Remain flexible to possible reviews or changes as you go along.

A well thought-out plan not only makes the writing process more manageable but also increases the likelihood of producing a high-quality piece of research.

How to structure a dissertation?

The structure can depend on your field of study, but this is a rough outline for science and social science dissertations:

Introduce your topic.

Complete a source or literature review.

Describe your research methodology (including the methods for gathering and filtering information, analysis techniques, materials, tools or resources used, limitations of your method, and any considerations of reliability).

Summarise your findings.

Discuss the results and what they mean.

Conclude your point and explain how your work contributes to your field.

On the other hand, humanities and arts dissertations often take the form of an extended essay. This involves constructing an argument or exploring a particular theory or analysis through the analysis of primary and secondary sources. Your essay will be structured through chapters arranged around themes or case studies.

All dissertations include a title page, an abstract and a reference list. Some may also need a table of contents at the beginning. Always check with your university department for its dissertation guidelines, and check with your supervisor as you begin to plan your structure to ensure that you have the right layout.

How long is an undergraduate dissertation?

The length of an undergraduate dissertation can vary depending on the specific guidelines provided by your university and your subject department. However, in many cases, undergraduate dissertations are typically about 8,000 to 12,000 words in length.

“Eat away at it; try to write for at least 30 minutes every day, even if it feels relatively unproductive to you in the moment,” Jumana advises.

How do I add references to my dissertation?

References are the section of your dissertation where you acknowledge the sources you have quoted or referred to in your writing. It’s a way of supporting your ideas, evidencing what research you have used and avoiding plagiarism (claiming someone else’s work as your own), and giving credit to the original authors.

Referencing typically includes in-text citations and a reference list or bibliography with full source details. Different referencing styles exist, such as Harvard, APA and MLA, each favoured in specific fields. Your university will tell you the preferred style.

Using tools and guides provided by universities can make the referencing process more manageable, but be sure they are approved by your university before using any.

How do I write a bibliography or list my references for my dissertation?

The requirement of a bibliography depends on the style of referencing you need to use. Styles such as OSCOLA or Chicago may not require a separate bibliography. In these styles, full source information is often incorporated into footnotes throughout the piece, doing away with the need for a separate bibliography section.

Typically, reference lists or bibliographies are organised alphabetically based on the author’s last name. They usually include essential details about each source, providing a quick overview for readers who want more information. Some styles ask that you include references that you didn’t use in your final piece as they were still a part of the overall research.

It is important to maintain this list as soon as you start your research. As you complete your research, you can add more sources to your bibliography to ensure that you have a comprehensive list throughout the dissertation process.

How to proofread an undergraduate dissertation?

Throughout your dissertation writing, attention to detail will be your greatest asset. The best way to avoid making mistakes is to continuously proofread and edit your work.

Proofreading is a great way to catch any missing sections, grammatical errors or typos. There are many tips to help you proofread:

Ask someone to read your piece and highlight any mistakes they find.

Change the font so you notice any mistakes.

Format your piece as you go, headings and sections will make it easier to spot any problems.

Separate editing and proofreading. Editing is your chance to rewrite sections, add more detail or change any points. Proofreading should be where you get into the final touches, really polish what you have and make sure it’s ready to be submitted.

Stick to your citation style and make sure every resource listed in your dissertation is cited in the reference list or bibliography.

How to write a conclusion for my dissertation?

Writing a dissertation conclusion is your chance to leave the reader impressed by your work.

Start by summarising your findings, highlighting your key points and the outcome of your research. Refer back to the original research question or hypotheses to provide context to your conclusion.

You can then delve into whether you achieved the goals you set at the beginning and reflect on whether your research addressed the topic as expected. Make sure you link your findings to existing literature or sources you have included throughout your work and how your own research could contribute to your field.

Be honest about any limitations or issues you faced during your research and consider any questions that went unanswered that you would consider in the future. Make sure that your conclusion is clear and concise, and sum up the overall impact and importance of your work.

Remember, keep the tone confident and authoritative, avoiding the introduction of new information. This should simply be a summary of everything you have already said throughout the dissertation.

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university dissertation length

How Long is a Dissertation

university dissertation length

How Long is a Dissertation? Concrete Answers

An undergraduate dissertation usually falls within the range of 8,000 to 15,000 words, while a master's dissertation typically spans from 12,000 to 50,000 words. In contrast, a PhD thesis is typically of book length, ranging from 70,000 to 100,000 words.

Let’s unravel the mystery of how long should a dissertation be. If you’ve ever wondered about this, look no further. Our comprehensive guide delves into the nitty-gritty of dissertation lengths across diverse academic realms. Whether you're a budding grad student, an academic advisor, or just curious, we've got you covered.

From Master's to PhD programs, we decode the variations in length requirements and shed light on disciplinary disparities. In general, dissertations are 150 to 300 words. But factors influence the length of these daunting scholarly requirements! But fear not as we break it down for you.

We’ll unveil the secrets behind dissertation writing, from how they reflect the depth and breadth of research to offering invaluable tips for planning and writing. So, if you're ready to demystify the daunting dissertation journey, hop on board! Let's navigate the labyrinth of academia together and empower you to conquer your scholarly aspirations.

Institutional guidelines on dissertation length 

You can think of institutional guidelines as purveyors of academic excellence. Ever wondered why schools impose specific requirements like "Chapter 1: The Introduction must be at least 35 pages long and no more than 50 pages"? 

It's not just about arbitrary rules! However, it's about striking the perfect balance between guidance and practicality. These guidelines serve as guardrails, steering students like you towards scholarly success without overwhelming faculty with endless pages to peruse. 

Moreover, credibility is key here! A mere 8-page literature review won't cut it in the realm of academia. But fear not, for most institutions provide dissertation templates, complete with essential headings to streamline the process. 

And for those seeking a helping hand, a dissertation writing service like ours stands ready to assist, ensuring your masterpiece meets the lofty standards of academic rigor. So, embrace the guidelines, weave your narrative, and let your dissertation shine with scholarly prowess.

Variations in dissertation length across academic disciplines

Dissertation length varies significantly across academic disciplines due to differences in research methods, data presentation, and writing conventions. Here's a general overview of how dissertation length can differ by discipline:

  • Humanities and Social Sciences: Dissertations in these fields tend to be longer because they often involve comprehensive literature reviews, detailed theoretical analyses, and extensive qualitative data. It's not uncommon for dissertations in history, literature, or sociology to exceed 200 pages.
  • Sciences and Engineering: Dissertations in the sciences and engineering might be shorter in terms of page count but are dense with technical details, data, charts, and appendices. They often range between 100 to 200 pages. However, the length can vary significantly depending on the complexity of the work and the requirements of the specific program.
  • Arts and Design: In creative disciplines, the dissertation might include a practical component (like a portfolio, exhibition, or performance) alongside a written thesis. The written component might be shorter, focusing on the conceptual and contextual analysis of the creative work, usually ranging from 40 to 80 pages.
  • Professional Fields (Business, Education, etc.): Dissertations in professional fields such as business or education often focus on case studies, practical applications, and policy analysis. These dissertations can vary widely in length but often fall in the range of 100 to 200 pages.

Dissertations vary in length due to many factors, which shows the diverse nature of academic research. Disciplinary differences are significant, as each field may have distinct expectations regarding the depth and scope of the study. 

The type of analysis conducted, whether qualitative, quantitative, or a combination of both, also impacts the length. 

For instance, qualitative studies may involve extensive textual analysis, resulting in longer manuscripts, while quantitative studies may require detailed statistical analyses. Additionally, the specific area of research within a discipline can also affect the length, as certain topics may necessitate more:

  • extensive literature reviews
  • data collection (e.g., fieldwork, surveys, interviews, lab work)
  • discussion sections

While the average length typically falls within the range of 150-300 pages, it's essential to recognize the nuanced factors contributing to variations in dissertation length. You must remain informed about the variables shaping your document's overall size and structure to deliver exemplary results.

Factors influencing the length of doctoral dissertations

Various factors determine the length of a dissertation, such as the specific guidelines set by universities, the type of research conducted, the extent of analysis required, and the presence of supplementary materials.

Several factors come into play when determining the ideal length of a dissertation. University guidelines set the tone, with institutions offering word count ranges typically between 8,000 to 15,000 words for undergraduates and masters and 75,000 to 100,000 words for PhD. 

Yet, beyond these guidelines, the nature of your research holds sway.

Disciplines vary, with humanities favoring extensive literature reviews and scientific fields emphasizing methodological intricacies. Depth of analysis matters, too; a thorough exploration demands more space. 

Balancing these elements ensures a well-rounded dissertation. So, as you embark on your scholarly journey, consider these factors carefully. By understanding them, you'll craft a dissertation that not only meets academic standards but also showcases your analytical prowess and depth of intelligence.

Length, components, and scholarly dedication

Many aspiring scholars think, "How long is a doctoral dissertation?" However, the answer isn't straightforward. Yes, length varies, but let's not forget to factor in a crucial element: time. And we know because many students have instructed us to “ write my dissertation !”

Remember, a dissertation isn't penned in one sitting. Rather, it often evolves from smaller academic chapters. This gradual process allows students to explore diverse topics before committing to a book-length project they're passionate about.

Beyond the central argument lie various components that contribute to the overall length. Take the literature review, for example—an essential segment that contextualizes the research by analyzing existing scholarship. Then there's the myriad of ancillary elements like the title page, acknowledgments, abstract, and appendix, each adding to the dissertation's page count.

It’s the accumulation of these parts that determines the length. So, while the answer may not be a precise number, it's crucial to acknowledge many elements that make up a doctoral dissertation. And for those embarking on this scholarly journey, we can help you conquer this challenge.

How Long is a Dissertation Chapter? Uncover the Mystery

When it comes to dissertation length, most grad students fret over how long each chapter should be. While there's no one-size-fits-all answer, there is a golden rule–chapters should be long enough to address the research question comprehensively. 

Think quality over quantity! Ask any dissertation adviser, and they’ll say aiming to fill a predetermined number of pages shouldn’t be the goal. Rather, you must thoroughly explore your topic, conduct extensive research, and present your findings effectively. 

Your writing style and the unique nature of your research also play pivotal roles. So, whether your chapter spans 50 pages or 150, ensure it's packed with substantive content that advances your study. Ultimately, it's not about hitting a page count but about delivering a high-quality scholarly contribution.

Writing an Excellent PhD Dissertation: Strategies and Tips

After you’re done pondering on how many pages should a dissertation be, you can move on with production. Wondering how to write a dissertation , here are some tips: 

  • Start with a significant research topic that inspires you and formulate a clear research question. 
  • Thoroughly review existing literature to contextualize your study. 
  • Develop a robust methodology and collect comprehensive data. 
  • Analyze findings meticulously and synthesize them effectively. 
  • Ensure logical flow throughout your writing, striving for clarity and coherence. 
  • Engage with other scholars, both peers and mentors, to refine your work.
  • Maintain consistency in formatting and adhere to academic standards. 

Remember, with meticulous planning and dedication, you'll produce a dissertation that makes you and your mentors proud. 

How long is a PhD dissertation?: The Conundrum

Do you belong to the list of students who feel bewildered about PhD dissertation length? Many wonder because of the length’s variability across disciplines and institutions. The general ballpark figure for a completed doctoral dissertation is typically between 150 to 300 pages. Yet, this can vary widely depending on factors such as: 

  • field of study
  • research methodology used
  • individual institutional requirements
  • guidelines of mentors

Although there's no one-size-fits-all answer, understanding these variables can help you navigate the ambiguity surrounding dissertation length. And with proper planning, you can create an impressive output. 

Frequently asked questions

How to properly plan and prepare for a long dissertation .

Thinking about how long is a dissertation for PhD stops students on their track. It can indeed be overwhelming when you think of the amount of work involved. But with proper planning, you can crush your goals. Here are some helpful tips: 

  • Break down your work into manageable steps. 
  • Define your research question clearly and set realistic milestones. 
  • Create an outline to help you write. `
  • Have a schedule for research, writing, and revisions. 
  • Stay organized with notes, citations, and references. 
  • Seek feedback from advisors and peers throughout the process. 

Remember, embrace the challenges you face as opportunities for growth!

Are supporting materials counted in the dissertation word count? 

Worried about how long is a dissertation paper and if yours will make the cut? Remember, appendices, tables, and figures, while essential, aren't factored into the word count. So, you can incorporate these supplementary elements without concerns about exceeding word limits.

If you’re pressed for time, you can buy dissertation online . Just ensure to give appropriate instructions so the final output adheres to your institution's formatting guidelines. With these supporting materials appropriately included, your dissertation will be comprehensive.

Are there different types of dissertations? 

When asking how long are dissertations, one of the first things to consider is the field of study. Various types of dissertations exist, often shaped by research methodology. It can be quantitative to qualitative studies or triangulation (a blend of both). 

Instead of worrying about the length, determine your research approach—whether it's primary or secondary, qualitative or quantitative. This decision significantly impacts the depth and breadth of your investigation, ultimately influencing the expected length of your dissertation. By aligning your research methods with your academic goals, you'll gain clarity on the scope of your writing project. 

Another aspect of the length of the entire document is the type of thesis - be it an undergraduate thesis, masters thesis, or thesis for an advanced degree, most dissertations for academic programs are lengthy. The more advanced the degree, the longer the thesis usually is.

Are dissertations just for PhDs? 

How many pages in a dissertation is something most students worry about. But is a dissertation just for doctoral candidates? In some countries, dissertations are exclusive to PhDs. However, for other countries, the term “dissertation” is interchangeable with "thesis." Why so?

Because both are research projects completed for undergraduate or postgraduate degrees. Keep in mind that whether you’re pursuing a bachelor's, an MA, or a doctorate, dissertation writing demonstrates your research skills and academic proficiency.

Your doctoral degree, just like your graduate degree from a graduate school, shows you can successfully navigate the research process, theoretical framework, and dissertation defense. Sure, the scope of research was less focused while you were a graduate student with a master's thesis. Nonetheless, it shows consistent work and dedication.

How many chapters in a dissertation? 

Still mulling over how long does a dissertation have to be and how many chapters you must write? Dissertations usually consist of five to seven chapters. These typically cover the following: 

  • introduction
  • literature review
  • methodology

However, the structure can vary depending on your field of study and specific institutional guidelines. Each chapter plays a vital role, leading readers through your research journey, from laying the groundwork to presenting findings and drawing conclusions.

How do I find a reputable dissertation writer to help me? 

Worried about how long are PhD dissertations? No need to worry. You can opt for professional help, and there’s no shame in that! Research for online platforms that specialize in academic writing services like our Studyfy team.

You can take a peek at our positive reviews and testimonials, showing our track record of delivering high-quality work. Choose a writer who possesses expertise in your field of study and can meet your specific requirements. Prioritize the following: 

  • clear communication 
  • appropriate instructions (from word count to deadlines)
  • transparency regarding pricing
  • upfront about revision policies. 

By vetting potential writers and choosing a reputable service, you can secure the assistance of a reliable professional to guide you through the dissertation writing process.

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To graduate with a master’s (thesis program) or doctoral (dissertation program) degree, students are required to submit an Electronic Thesis/Dissertation (ETD) and a Committee Approval Form to the Graduate School through the  UW ETD Administrator Site . ETDs are distributed by ProQuest/UMI Dissertation Publishing and made available on an open access basis through UW Libraries  ResearchWorks Service .

The Graduate School partners with the UW Libraries to provide comprehensive resources for students as they write, submit, and publish academic theses or dissertations. These pages outline information and policies related to preparing your thesis/dissertation, including formatting, deadlines, copyright and distribution decisions, and, ultimately, graduation. We also encourage you to review the  ETD Library Guide  for additional information.

For comprehensive information on preparing to graduate, please refer to our graduation requirements information page .

Writing Your Thesis or Dissertation

Etd resources.

As a starting point, students submitting an ETD are encouraged to review the below resources:

  • Hacking the Academy: UW Theses & Dissertations (Recording of July 29, 2020 event) This session helps students think through their options for how and when to share their work, including the copyright and publishing considerations they may need to take into account.
  • Electronic Theses & Dissertations with the UW Libraries The University Libraries welcomes you to this self-guided course on electronic theses and dissertations (ETDs) at the UW. In this five-part learning experience, you will learn a lot about the ETD process including how the submission process works, how to give and receive recognition for your work, how to find and interpret publisher policies and how to read and inspect publishing contracts.

Formatting Guidelines

After you submit your ETD, the Graduate School will review your document as part of the graduation process at the end of each quarter. We will review for information accuracy, consistency, and to ensure your ETD meets the formatting requirements described below. There are three required sections (pages) that must be included at the beginning of your manuscript: 1) Title Page, 2) Copyright Page, 3) Abstract. Templates for these sections are provided below.

Apart from these first three pages, the Graduate School does not adhere to any specific formatting or publishing requirements unless explicitly stated by the ProQuest Author Guide: Preparing Your Manuscript for Submission (provided below). You should refer to the citation, formatting, and style specifications of your discipline and the guidance of your supervisory committee.  Note: theses and dissertations must be submitted in PDF format.

For a complete overview of the graduation process, please review  Preparing to Graduate .

Required Sections:

  • Must include all items listed in the sample title page and placed in the same order
  • May be the first or second page of your document
  • Title of document
  • Author’s Full Name
  • Name of degree as it will appear on your diploma
  • Year of graduation
  • Names of chair/committee members (do not include signatures or professional titles, e.g. Dr. or PhD, before/after faculty names)
  • Program authorized to offer degree (school or department)
  • Name and year must match title pages
  • List the year of graduation
  • Place abstract after copyright and title page

Master’s Thesis Approval Form:

You are required to upload a completed and signed Master’s Thesis Approval Form into the UW ETD Administrator (ProQuest) site; the Approval Form is part of your ETD submission. This Approval Form is a separate PDF and should not be included as a page in the thesis or dissertation itself.

  • Master’s Thesis Approval Form

Electronic Doctoral Dissertation Approval:

Final Exams scheduled after March 3, 2020 include a link for Reading Committee Members to approve the dissertation online at MyGrad Committee View.

ETD Formatting Resources:

  • Thesis/Dissertation Formatting Checklist  – a quick reference guide of the formatting do’s and don’ts provided below.
  • ProQuest Dissertation Publishing — Author Guide: Preparing Your Manuscript for Submission
  • ProQuest Online Submission FAQs
  • Master’s Thesis Title Page – Fillable PDF Template 
  • Doctoral Dissertation Title Page – Fillable PDF Template
  • Word Templates  – Alex Mamishev, Professor in Electrical Engineering maintains a Word file that other students may find useful when formatting their document.

Common ETD Formatting Revisions Requested

To ensure timely graduating, take some time before you submit to review this information and ProQuest’s document formatting guidelines. These are all common errors and revisions the Graduate School will request when reviewing ETD formatting. You will be required to resubmit if revisions are needed. Be precise, and consistent as you format your document.  Many formatting errors result from following a fellow or former student’s example, so it’s important to review the most current templates and guidelines.

Title Page, Copyright Page, Abstract

Language requirement.

Your document must be written in English ( policy ). If you need to write your document in another language to accommodate the main audience, you must get prior approval to do so by  submitting a petition the dean via MyGrad . If the petition is approved, the required sections (title page, copyright page, abstract) must still be written in English.

Plagiarism is using words, ideas, diagrams, and other content from publicly available work without appropriately acknowledging the sources of these materials. This definition constitutes plagiarism whether it is intentional or unintentional and whether it is the work of another or your own, previously published work.

Plagiarism is a very serious offense that the University of Washington does not tolerate. Evidence of plagiarism may prevent granting of your degree.

Submitting and Publishing

Submitting for dissemination and access.

The Graduate School and the Libraries require that all UW theses and dissertations be submitted electronically for management efficiency, cost control, ease of dissemination, and long-term preservation reasons. In addition, your ETD must eventually be made available openly on the web. Your ETD will be hosted in both UW’s institutional repository,  ResearchWorks , and in  ProQuest’s ETD Database .  Consequently, you will need to indicate your choices in two sections about how your ETD is made available. Most students choose to make their work available immediately, but you can choose to limit access  temporarily  before making it available openly.

Students may restrict access to their theses and dissertations…

  • while seeking to publish journal articles or books based on them,
  • to protect intellectual property during the patent application process, or
  • to prevent the disclosure of sensitive or classified information.

During the submission process, you will select ProQuest and ResearchWorks (Institutional Repository, or IR) publication options. The options are summarized on a table below, followed by selected scenarios to assist you in making your decisions.

IMPORTANT: The metadata describing your ETD, including the citation and abstract, is openly available  immediately— regardless of the embargo or restriction status. This information is searchable by Google, Bing and other search engines, so take care that neither the descriptive information nor the text contain confidential or sensitive information.

Selecting Access Options

Selected etd access scenarios.

The UW Libraries and the Graduate School are committed to the goal of sharing graduate students’ research as soon and as widely as possible, while allowing students to temporarily limit access to their theses and dissertations for such reasons as to support formal publication in journal article or book form or to allow time for filing patents. Below are some examples of how students may wish to use these options to support their publishing or intellectual property-protection goals.

Discussion of Scenarios

  • Journal Article Publishing. In recent years graduate students – especially in scientific, medical and technical fields — have increasingly been publishing results of their research in journals.
  • The “Research Article” Dissertation. In some disciplines students may be expected to publish 2 or more journal articles during the course of their studies and submit them as the core of their thesis or dissertation — along with an introduction, literature review, and conclusions. Because this has become so common, most journals now permit authors to immediately republish their articles within their theses or dissertations as long as they provide the full article citation and a statement that an article is being “reprinted with permission” of the journal. However, some other journals allow the practice but require that an article not appear on an open access basis before a delay of 6 or 12 months. The Libraries strongly suggests that students become familiar with the policies in place at the journals in which they would like to publish their work, and choose appropriate access restrictions if needed when they submit their ETD’s.
  • Book Publishing. Some students in such humanities and social science disciplines as history and political science may hope to publish a revised version of their dissertation as their first book. As they consider that possibility they may be concerned they might undermine their prospects by making their dissertations widely available via ProQuest and/or on an open access basis.Before deciding whether or for how long to limit access to their work based on these concerns, The Libraries recommends students become familiar with the arguments and evidence put forward on these issues. For example, Cirasella and Thistlethwaite 3 and Courtney and Kilcer 4 provide excellent discussions of issues and review recent literature, while William Germano’s classic From Dissertation to Book 5 and Beth Luey’s Revising Your Dissertation 6 offer important insight into what might be involved during the dissertation revision process. While the Libraries recommends that most students hoping to publish their dissertations as books make them widely available while they work toward that goal, they should feel free to consider choosing otherwise, such as “Immediate Access” for ProQuest and limiting to UW for five years – at the end of which students may request additional time.
  • Patent Protection Strategies. Students whose theses or dissertations describe work for which patent protection might be appropriate should contact Jesse Kindra at CoMotion ( [email protected] or 206 616-9658) prior to submitting their work to ProQuest and choosing access restrictions. Depending on the circumstances, a student may choose to completely withhold access for one year, but should recognize that doing so will prevent anyone else at the UW from having access to it during the restricted access period. To exercise this option, students should delay releasing their work to ProQuest for 1 or 2 years, and then choose “No access for 1 year, then make Open Access” from the Institutional Repository (IR) Publishing Options menu for the UW copy. In unusual circumstances, requests for access to be withheld an additional year may be considered. To make such a request, students should describe the reason(s) for it in an email to [email protected] prior to expiration of the original embargo period.

1 Marisa L. Ramirez, Joan T. Dalton, Gail McMillan, Max Read and Nancy H. Seamans, “Do Open Access Electronic Theses and Dissertations Diminish Publishing Opportunities in the Social Sciences and Humanities,” College and Research Libraries 74 (July 2013): 368‐80, http://crl.acrl.org/content/74/4/368.full.pdf+html .

2 Marisa Ramirez, Gail McMillan, Joan T. Dalton, Ann Hanlon, Heather S. Smith and Chelsea Kern, “Do Open Access Electronic Theses and Dissertations Diminish Publishing Opportunities in the Sciences?” College and Research Libraries 75 (November 2014): 808-21, http://crl.acrl.org/content/75/6/808.full.pdf+html .

3 Jill Cirasella and Polly Thistlethwaite, “Open Access and the Graduate Author: A Dissertation Anxiety Manual,” pp. 203-224 in Open Access and the Future of Scholarly Communication: Implementation (Kevin L. Smith and Katherine A. Dickson, eds.: Rowman and Littlefield, 2017), http://academicworks.cuny.edu/gc_pubs/286/ .

4 Kyle K. Courtney and Emily Kilcer, “From Apprehension to Comprehension: Addressing Anxieties about Open Access to ETD’s,” pp. 225-244 in Open Access and the Future of Scholarly Communication: Implementation (Kevin L. Smith and Katherine A. Dickson, eds.: Rowman and Littlefield, 2017).

5 William Germano. 2013. From Dissertation to Book, 2d. ed. : University of Chicago Press.

6 Beth Luey (ed.). 2008. Revising Your Dissertation: Advice from Leading Editors. University of California Press.

Publishing Agreements

When you submit your ETD for review and publication, you will be required to read and accept two separate publishing agreements. You will also have to decide whether to publish your work right away or to delay its release. Additional pages within this section will outline all the considerations to keep in mind, when deciding how to make your work available to the scholarly community.

All students writing a thesis or dissertation should review the UW Libraries Copyright Research Guide . Understanding copyright law is another critical aspect as you write your thesis or dissertation.  As you compose your work, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Have you referenced others’ work? If so, you either need to get explicit permission from the rights holder or to determine that your use is Fair.
  • Have you previously published any part of the work? If you’ve signed your copyright over to your publisher, you will need permission to use your material in your thesis.

Ordering Paper Copies

There are no required fees , although you have the option to register your copyright via ProQuest for a fee. If you want to order bound (paper) copies of your document, you may do so through the UW Copy Centers or through ProQuest. Questions should be directed to the UW Copy Centers or to ProQuest at 1.800.521.0600 ext. 77020 — available 8 a.m.–5 p.m. EST, Monday through Friday (excluding U.S. holidays).

Frequently Asked Questions

I created an account in the etd administrator site, but i’m not ready to submit my etd. can i come back to my account later.

Yes. If you need to finish your submission later (for instance, if you need to update your PDF file before uploading it), you can save your information and come back to finish. No information will be lost.

I submitted my ETD but would like to make an edit to the document. How can I edit my submission?

Once your thesis/dissertation is submitted, no additional changes to the document are allowed with the exception of a major data error in the document. In this circumstance, a letter outlining the necessary changes is required from your supervisory committee chair.

What will the Graduate School be reviewing after I submit my ETD?

Submissions are reviewed by GEMS advisors for formatting requirements for the three required sections — title page, copyright page, abstract — before they are delivered to ProQuest for publication. We are checking for accuracy and consistency. Refer to the Formatting Guidelines section on this page for detailed information.

I submitted my ETD and haven't heard anything yet. When will it be reviewed?

We try to review all ETDs as they are received, but if you submit early in the quarter it may not be acted on immediately. If you need to confirm completion of your degree requirements to an external agency or employer, please access the request for letter of certification in the forms section of our Additional Resources page (once your degree has posted to your UW transcript, we can no longer issue this letter). In general, ETDs are reviewed in the last two to three weeks before the quarter ends and after the last day of the quarter. When your submission has been accepted by a GEMS advisor, you will receive email confirmation.

How can I tell if my ETD was submitted and received by the Graduate School?

When your ETD is successfully submitted and pending review, the status will read “submission in review.”

When will my ETD be made available for access?

This depends on the type of access restrictions you selected when creating your account. However, your submission will be delivered to ProQuest for publishing four to six weeks after graduation and you will receive email confirmation when this has occurred. It should be available in UW ResearchWorks around the same time.

When will the printed dissertation / thesis copies I ordered from ProQuest be ready?

After you receive the email confirmation that UW has “delivered” your submission (ETD) to ProQuest, you should please refer to the ProQuest customer service guidelines for the expected delivery date of your order.

What if I am missing a faculty signature for my thesis or dissertation, or I have encountered difficulties in uploading my ETD? Must I pay the graduate registration waiver fee and graduate in the following quarter?

If you encounter these types of situations, contact Graduate Enrollment Management Services (206.685.2630 or  [email protected] ) as early as possible and no later than the last day of the quarter in which you intend to graduate.

Additional Resources

  • Electronic Theses and Dissertations (ETDs) Guide  (start here!)
  • Copyright and Fair Use
  • Open Access
  • Scholarly Publishing
  • ProQuest/UMI Agreement — Traditional Publishing Agreement
  • University Agreement — UW Libraries Thesis and Dissertation Submission Agreement
  • UW Human Subjects Division (HSD)
  • UW CoMotion

Format Requirements for Your Dissertation or Thesis

Main navigation.

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.

Leeds Beckett University

Skills for Learning : Dissertations & Literature Reviews

Dissertations  are extended projects in which you choose, research and write about a specific topic. They provide an opportunity to explore an aspect of your subject in detail. You are responsible for managing your dissertation, though you will be assigned a supervisor. Dissertations are typically empirical (based on your own research) or theoretical (based on others’ research/arguments).

The  Dissertation IT Kit  contains information about formatting your dissertation document in Word.

Look at the  Library Subject Guides  for your area. These have information on finding high quality resources for your dissertation. 

We run interactive workshops to help you prepare for your dissertation. Find out more on the  Skills for Learning Workshops  page.

We have online academic skills modules within MyBeckett for all levels of university study. These modules will help your academic development and support your success at LBU. You can work through the modules at your own pace, revisiting them as required. Find out more from our FAQ  What academic skills modules are available?  

Dissertation proposals

What are dissertation proposals.

A dissertation proposal is an outline of your proposed research project. It is what you imagine your dissertation might look like before you start. Consider it a temporary document which might change during the negotiation process between you and your dissertation supervisor.  The proposal can help you clarify exactly what you want to cover in your dissertation. It can also outline how you are going to approach it. Your dissertation plan and structure might change throughout this process as you develop your ideas. Your proposal is the first step towards your goal: a completed dissertation.

Structuring your dissertation proposal

The structure, content, and length of your dissertation proposal will depend on your course requirements. Some courses may require that your aims and objectives are separate from the main body of the proposal. You might be expected to write a literature review, and/or provide a detailed methodology. You might also be asked to include an extensive context for your proposed study. Consult your module handbook or assignment brief for the specific requirements of your course. 

Give each section of your proposal a heading You can also experiment with giving your proposed dissertation a title. Both of these approaches may help you focus and stay on topic. Most dissertation proposals will have a fairly standard structure, under the following headings:

Sections of a dissertation proposal

  • Aims and objectives
  • Rationale for your study
  • Methodology
  • Brief literature review
  • Benefits of your research

Describe what you plan to investigate. You could write a statement of your topic, a research question(s), or a hypothesis.

  • Explain why you want to do this research.
  • Write a justification as to why the project is worth undertaking.
  • Reasons might include: a gap in existing research; questioning or extending the findings of earlier research; replicating a piece of research to test its reliability.
  • Describe and justify how you plan to do the research.
  • You might be reviewing the work of others, which mainly involves secondary, or desk-based, research. Or you might plan to collect data yourself, which is primary research. It is common for undergraduate dissertations to involve a mixture of these.
  • If you are doing secondary research, describe how you will select your sources. For primary research, describe how you will collect your data. This might include using questionnaires, interviews, archival research, or other methods. 
  • Others will have researched this topic before, or something similar.
  • The literature review allows you to outline what they have found and where your project fits in. For example, you could highlight disagreements or discrepancies in the existing research.

Outline who might potentially gain from your research and what you might find out or expand upon. For example, there could be implications for practice in a particular profession.

Dissertation style and language

A dissertation is a logical, structured, argument-based exploration of a topic. The style of your writing may vary slightly in each chapter. For example, your results chapter should display factual information, whereas your analysis chapter might be more argument-based. Make sure your language, tone and abbreviations are consistent within each section. Your language should be formal and contain terminology relevant to your subject area. Dissertations have a large word count. It is important to structure your work with headings and a contents page. Use signposting language to help your reader understand the flow of your writing. Charts, tables or images may help you communicate specific information. 

Top tip!  To signpost in your dissertation, use the ‘Signalling Transition’ section of the  Manchester Academic Phrasebank .

Download the Dissertation Project Checklist Worksheet to help with planning your dissertation work. 

  • Dissertation Project Checklist Worksheet

The  Dissertation IT Kit  also contains information about formatting your dissertation document in Microsoft Word.

Past dissertations

Exploring past dissertations within your academic field can give you an idea as to how to structure your dissertation and find similar research methodologies. You can access dissertations and theses completed by students at Leeds Beckett and other universities. To find external dissertations, look at our FAQ answer ' Are there other dissertations I can look at?' . To find dissertations completed by Leeds Beckett students, search in the Discover theses search box below or look at our FAQ answer ' Can I find copies of past dissertations in the Library?

Sections of a dissertation

Not all dissertations will follow the same structure.  Your style can change depending on your school. Check your module handbook, assignment brief or speak with your course tutor for further guidance.

To decide what to include:

  • Think about your project from an outsider’s perspective. What do they need to know and in what order? What is the most clear and logical way for you to present your research?  
  • Discuss your project with your supervisor. Be open about ideas or concerns you have around the structure and content. 

Each section of a dissertation has a different purpose. Think about whether you're doing an empirical or theoretical dissertation and use the headings below to find out what you should be including.

You can also use the Leeds Beckett Dissertation Template to help you understand what your dissertation should look like. 

  • Leeds Beckett Dissertation Template

Empirical (research-based)

  • 1. Abstract
  • 2. Contents Page
  • 3. Introduction
  • 4. Literature Review
  • 5. Methodology
  • 6. Findings / Results
  • 7. Discussion
  • 8. Conclusion
  • 9. Reference List / Bibliography
  • 10. Appendices

Abstract : provides a brief summary of your whole dissertation.

The abstract outlines the purpose of your research and your methodology (where necessary). You should summarise your main findings and conclusion.

Top tips! Give the reader a sense of why your project is interesting and valuable. Write in the past tense. Aim for about half a page.

Contents page : lists all the sections of your dissertation with the page numbers. Do this last by using the automatic function in Word.

Introduction: introduces the reader to your research project.

Provide context to the topic and define key terms. Ensure that the scope of your investigation is clear. Outline your aims and objectives, and provide a brief description of your research methods. Finally, give an indication of your conclusion/findings.

Top tips! Start broad (background information) and get more specific (your research aims and findings). Try writing the introduction after the literature review and methodology chapters. This way, you will have a better idea of your research aims.

Literature Review : positions your research in relation to what has come before it.

The literature review will summarise prior research on the topic, such as journal articles, books, government reports and data. You should introduce key themes, concepts, theories or methods that provide context for your own research. Analyse and evaluate the literature by drawing comparisons and highlighting strengths and weaknesses. Download the Critical Analysis Questions and Evidence Matrix Worksheets to help you with this process and for more information on literature searching see Finding Information .

  • Critical Analysis Questions Worksheet
  • Evidence Matrix Worksheet

The literature review should justify the need for your research and highlight areas for further investigation. Avoid introducing your own ideas at this point; instead, compare and comment on existing ideas.

Top tips! Your literature review is not a descriptive summary of various sources. You need to synthesise (bring together) and critically analyse prior research. Sophisticated use of reporting verbs is important for this process. Download our Reporting Verbs Worksheet to help you with this.

  • Reporting Verbs Worksheet

Find out more about literature reviews elsewhere on this topic page.

Find out more about critical thinking.

Methodology : provides a succinct and accurate record of the methodology used and justifies your choice of methods.

In this section, you describe the qualitative and/or quantitative methods* used to carry out your research/experiment. You must justify your chosen research methodology and explain how it helps you answer your research question. Where appropriate, explain the rationale behind choices such as procedures, equipment, participants and sample size. You may need to reference specific guidelines that you have used, especially in subjects such as healthcare. If your research involves people, you may also need to demonstrate how it fulfils ethical guidelines.

Top tips! Your account should be sufficiently detailed so that someone else could replicate your research. Write in the passive voice. Remember, at this point you are not reporting any findings.

*Qualitative research is based on opinions and ideas, while quantitative research is based on numerical data.

Find out more about the research process.

Findings/Results : presents the data collected from your research in a suitable format.

Provide a summary of the results of your research/experiment. Consider the most effective methods for presenting your data, such as charts, graphs or tables. Present all your findings honestly. Do not change any data, even if it is not what you expected to find.

Top tips! Whilst you might acknowledge trends or themes in the data, at this stage, you won’t be analysing it closely. If you are conducting qualitative research, this section may be combined with the discussion section. Important additional documents, such as transcriptions or questionnaires, can be added to your appendices.

Discussion : addresses your research aims by analysing your findings.

In this chapter, you interpret and discuss your results and draw conclusions. Identify trends, themes or issues that arise from the findings and discuss their significance in detail. These themes can also provide the basis for the structure of this section. You can draw upon information and concepts from your literature review to help interpret your findings. For example, you can show how your findings build upon or contradict earlier research.

Top tips! Ensure that the points you make are backed up with evidence from your findings. Refer back to relevant information from your literature review to discuss and interpret your findings.

Conclusion : summarises your main points.

Provide an overview of your main findings and demonstrate how you have met your research objectives. Set your research into a wider context by showing how it contributes to current academic debates. Discuss the implications of your research and put forward any recommendations.

Top tips! Do not introduce any new information in this section. Your conclusion should mirror the content of your introduction but offer more conclusive answers.

Reference List / Bibliography : a complete list of all sources used.

List all the sources that you have consulted in the process of your research. Your Reference List or Bibliography must follow specific guidelines for your discipline (e.g. Harvard or OSCOLA). Look through your module handbook or speak to your supervisor for more information.

Find out more about referencing and academic integrity .

Appendix (single) or Appendices (plural):  presents raw data and/or transcripts that aren’t in the main body of your dissertation.

You may have to be selective in the data you present in your findings section. If this is the case, you may choose to present the raw data/extended version in an appendix. If you conduct qualitative research, such as interviews, you will include the transcripts in your appendix. Appendices are not usually included in the word count.

Top tips! Discuss with your supervisor whether you will need an appendix and what to include.

Theoretical (argument based)

  • Contents page
  • Introduction
  • Literature Review
  • Main body (divided into chapters)
  • Reference list / Bibliography

Provides a brief summary of your whole dissertation.

The abstract outlines the purpose of your research and your methodology (where necessary). You should summarise your main findings and conclusion.

Top tip!  Give the reader a sense of why your project is interesting and valuable. Write in the past tense. Aim for about half a page.

Contents page : lists all the sections of your dissertation with the page numbers. Using the automatic table of contents feature in Microsoft Word can help you format this.

The  Dissertation IT kit provides guidance on how to use these tools. 

Introduces the reader to your research project.

Provide context to the topic and define key terms. Ensure that the scope of your investigation is clear. Outline your aims and objectives, and provide a brief description of your research methods. Introduce your argument and explain why your research topic is important. Finally, give an indication of your conclusion/findings.

Top tip!  Start broad (background information) and get more specific (your research aims and findings). Try writing the introduction after the literature review and methodology chapters. This way, you will have a better idea of your research aims.

Summarises prior research on the topic, such as journal articles, books, and other information sources. You should introduce key themes, concepts, theories or methods that provide context for your own research. You should also analyse and evaluate the literature by drawing comparisons and highlighting strengths and weaknesses. 

Many (although not all) theoretical dissertations will include a separate literature review. You may decide to include this as a separate chapter. Otherwise, you can integrate it into your introduction or first themed chapter.

Find out more about literature reviews on the  Literature Reviews  page.

Divide the main body of your research into chapters organised by chronology or themes. Each chapter should be like a mini-essay that helps you answer your research questions. Like an essay, each chapter should have an introduction, main body and conclusion. Develop your argument and demonstrate critical thinking by drawing on relevant sources. Compare and contrast ideas, and make suggestions or recommendations where relevant. Explain how each chapter helps answer your main research question.

Top tip! Divide each chapter into chunks and use subheadings where necessary to structure your work.

Find out more on the  Critical Thinking  pages. 

Top tip!  Do not introduce any new information in this section. Your conclusion should mirror the content of your introduction but offer more conclusive answers.

List all the sources that you have consulted in the process of your research. Your Reference List or Bibliography must follow specific guidelines for your discipline (Harvard, APA or OSCOLA). Look through your module handbook or speak to your supervisor for more information.

Find out more about  referencing and academic integrity .

Appendix (single) or Appendices (plural):  presents any data, such as images or tables, that aren’t in the main body of your dissertation.

You may have to be selective about the information you include in the main body of your dissertation. If this is the case, you may place data such as images or tables in the appendix. Appendices are not usually included in the word count.

Top tip!  Discuss with your supervisor whether you will need any appendices and what to include.

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Artificial intelligence tools

Before using any generative artificial intelligence or paraphrasing tools in your assessments, you should check if this is permitted on your course.

If their use is permitted on your course, you must  acknowledge any use of generative artificial intelligence tools  such as ChatGPT or paraphrasing tools (e.g., Grammarly, Quillbot, etc.), even if you have only used them to generate ideas for your assignment or for proofreading.

  • Academic Integrity Module in MyBeckett
  • Assignment Calculator
  • Building on Feedback
  • Disability Advice
  • Essay X-ray tool
  • International Students' Academic Introduction
  • Manchester Academic Phrasebank
  • Quote, Unquote
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Topic Links

  • Academic Integrity Module
  • Dissertation IT Kit
  • Dissertation Process and Planning Video
  • Writing your Literature Review Video
  • Dissertations Methodology Chapter Video
  • Dissertations Results and Analysis Chapter Video
  • Dissertations Editing Video

Resources & Worksheets

  • Annotated Bibliographies Worksheet
  • CRAAP Test Worksheet
  • Literature Review Planning Worksheet
  • Paraphrasing and Summarising Information
  • Synthesising Sources in Writing Worksheet

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Dissertation Essentials

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Dissertation rubrics, preparing for your cmp course, academic success center services, library dissertation toolbox series, other resources, dissertation essentials webinars.

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university dissertation length

The Dissertation Essentials area houses guides, manuals, and templates to assist you in your doctoral journey.  There is also a section specifically for rubrics for each of the chapters as well as the proposal and manuscript.  Along with these items, there are additional resources provided for the ASC, Library, technology, accessing published dissertations, and even some school specific resources.

  • DSE Manual (Previously Handbook) Use this guide throughout the dissertation process to support you in understanding the courses, deliverables, and expectations of students and the dissertation committee.
  • Dissertation Proposal/Manuscript Template You will use this templates to write all chapters of the dissertation.
  • DSE Dissertation Revision Timeline Use this template to create a timeline for deliverable revisions in the dissertation.
  • SOBE Best Practice Guide for Qualitative Research and Design Methods
  • SOBE Best Practice Guide in Quantitative Research and Design Methods

If you are working on your CMP course, your course will provide information on how to format your prospectus/portfolio.

  • DSE Chapter 1 Rubric Use this rubric to guide you when writing Chapter 1 of your dissertation.
  • DSE Chapter 2 Rubric Use this rubric to guide you when writing Chapter 2 of your dissertation.
  • DSE Chapter 3 Rubric Use this rubric to guide you when writing Chapter 3 of your dissertation.
  • DSE Dissertation Proposal Rubric Use this rubric to guide you when combining Chapters 1-3 into the Dissertation Proposal.
  • DSE Chapter 4 Rubric Use this rubric to guide you when writing Chapter 4 of your dissertation.
  • DSE Chapter 5 Rubric Use this rubric to guide you when writing Chapter 5 of your dissertation.
  • DSE Dissertation Manuscript Rubric Use this rubric to guide you when combing all five of your dissertation chapters to produce your Dissertation Manuscript.

Not yet at the Dissertation phase?  Getting ready for your CMP course?  Check out the CMP Course Frequently Asked Questions document below:

  • CMP Course Frequently Asked Questions

university dissertation length

Library Dissertation Toolbox Workshop Series

The  Library Dissertation Toolbox Workshop Series  consists of engaging, skill-building workshops designed specifically for doctoral students. Students will learn how to effectively locate, evaluate, and use information relating to their dissertation research topics. Each toolbox session features a new research focus- sign up for the entire series, or just those that most appeal to you:

  • Research Process Guide by NU Library Outlines important steps in the research process and covers topics such as evaluating information.
  • Managing and Writing the Doctoral Thesis or Dissertation Dr. Linda Bloomberg's newest edition Completing Your Qualitative Dissertation: A Road Map From Beginning to End is out now. This resource includes an interview between Methodspace and Dr. Bloomberg.

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Harvard University Theses, Dissertations, and Prize Papers

The Harvard University Archives ’ collection of theses, dissertations, and prize papers document the wide range of academic research undertaken by Harvard students over the course of the University’s history.

Beyond their value as pieces of original research, these collections document the history of American higher education, chronicling both the growth of Harvard as a major research institution as well as the development of numerous academic fields. They are also an important source of biographical information, offering insight into the academic careers of the authors.

Printed list of works awarded the Bowdoin prize in 1889-1890.

Spanning from the ‘theses and quaestiones’ of the 17th and 18th centuries to the current yearly output of student research, they include both the first Harvard Ph.D. dissertation (by William Byerly, Ph.D . 1873) and the dissertation of the first woman to earn a doctorate from Harvard ( Lorna Myrtle Hodgkinson , Ed.D. 1922).

Other highlights include:

  • The collection of Mathematical theses, 1782-1839
  • The 1895 Ph.D. dissertation of W.E.B. Du Bois, The suppression of the African slave trade in the United States, 1638-1871
  • Ph.D. dissertations of astronomer Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin (Ph.D. 1925) and physicist John Hasbrouck Van Vleck (Ph.D. 1922)
  • Undergraduate honors theses of novelist John Updike (A.B. 1954), filmmaker Terrence Malick (A.B. 1966),  and U.S. poet laureate Tracy Smith (A.B. 1994)
  • Undergraduate prize papers and dissertations of philosophers Ralph Waldo Emerson (A.B. 1821), George Santayana (Ph.D. 1889), and W.V. Quine (Ph.D. 1932)
  • Undergraduate honors theses of U.S. President John F. Kennedy (A.B. 1940) and Chief Justice John Roberts (A.B. 1976)

What does a prize-winning thesis look like?

If you're a Harvard undergraduate writing your own thesis, it can be helpful to review recent prize-winning theses. The Harvard University Archives has made available for digital lending all of the Thomas Hoopes Prize winners from the 2019-2021 academic years.

Accessing These Materials

How to access materials at the Harvard University Archives

How to find and request dissertations, in person or virtually

How to find and request undergraduate honors theses

How to find and request Thomas Temple Hoopes Prize papers

How to find and request Bowdoin Prize papers

  • email: Email
  • Phone number 617-495-2461

Related Collections

Harvard faculty personal and professional archives, harvard student life collections: arts, sports, politics and social life, access materials at the harvard university archives.

Exploring: How Long is an Undergraduate Thesis?

Have you ever wondered how long an undergraduate thesis is? In this article, we will unravel the mystery and shed light on the typical length of an undergraduate thesis. Let’s dive in!

An undergraduate thesis is typically between 10 and 20 double-spaced pages, excluding tables, figures, and references.

  • It follows the format of a scientific article , including sections such as abstract, introduction, methods, results, discussion, references, and tables/figures.
  • The thesis should fully develop ideas , present data , and discuss the implications of the work.
  • Master’s theses are longer, ranging from 60 to 100 pages, while doctoral dissertations can be at least 90 pages and upwards of 200 pages.
  • The length of the thesis or dissertation can depend on various factors, including the faculty’s instructions , the topic’s technicalities, and the extent of research conducted .
  • Adhering to the guidelines provided by the university and the professor supervising the project is crucial.

Understanding the Average Length of an Undergraduate Thesis

The average length of an undergraduate thesis can vary, but typically falls between 10 and 20 double-spaced pages, excluding tables, figures, and references. It is important to note that this range serves as a general guideline and may vary depending on the specific requirements of the university or department. However, adhering to this recommended length ensures that the thesis is comprehensive enough to fulfill its objectives while still maintaining a concise and focused approach.

An undergraduate thesis is a research paper that follows the format of a scientific article . It consists of various sections, including an abstract, introduction, methods, results, discussion, references, and tables/figures. Each section plays a vital role in presenting the research study in a structured and coherent manner.

To fully develop ideas and present data effectively, it is crucial to devote sufficient space within the thesis. The length should allow for a detailed exploration of the topic, a comprehensive analysis of the research methodology employed, and a thorough discussion of the findings. Additionally, the implications of the work should be discussed to demonstrate its significance and potential impact on the field of study.

While undergraduate theses are typically shorter in length than master’s theses and doctoral dissertations, it is important to note the distinctions between them. Master’s theses can range from 60 to 100 pages, providing more room for in-depth research and analysis. On the other hand, doctoral dissertations can span at least 90 pages, and in some cases, exceed 200 pages, as they require a more extensive exploration of the topic.

Factors Influencing Thesis Length

The length of an undergraduate thesis can be influenced by various factors. Firstly, the faculty’s instructions play a significant role in determining the expected page count. Therefore, it is essential to carefully review the guidelines provided and understand the specific requirements set by the university or department.

Secondly, the technicalities of the topic being researched can impact the length of the thesis. Some subjects may necessitate a more extensive discussion and analysis, resulting in a longer document. Conversely, less complex topics may require a more concise presentation.

Lastly, the extent of research conducted can also influence the length of the undergraduate thesis. In-depth studies that involve extensive data collection, experimentation, or fieldwork may require a more substantial presentation of findings, leading to a longer thesis.

In summary, the average length of an undergraduate thesis typically falls between 10 and 20 double-spaced pages, excluding tables, figures, and references. The thesis should follow the format of a scientific article and fully develop ideas , present data , and discuss the implications of the work. The length of the thesis can vary depending on the faculty’s instructions , the technicalities of the topic, and the extent of research conducted . Adhering to the guidelines provided by the university and the professor supervising the project is crucial to ensure the successful completion of the undergraduate thesis.

Following the Format of a Scientific Article

Much like a scientific article, an undergraduate thesis consists of various sections, such as an abstract, introduction, methods, results, discussion, references, and tables/figures. Each section serves a specific purpose in presenting the research and its findings. The following table provides an overview of the sections typically included in an undergraduate thesis:

These sections work together to provide a comprehensive and organized framework for the research. It is essential to adhere to the guidelines and formatting requirements provided by the university and the professor supervising the project . Following the format of a scientific article ensures that the thesis is well-structured and effectively communicates the research process and outcomes.

Fully Developing Ideas and Presenting Data

A crucial aspect of an undergraduate thesis is the ability to fully develop ideas and present data in a clear and concise manner. This requires thoughtful analysis, effective organization, and meticulous attention to detail. By fully developing ideas, students can showcase their understanding of the research topic and demonstrate critical thinking skills. This involves presenting a comprehensive and logical argument, supported by relevant evidence and examples.

One effective way to present data in an undergraduate thesis is through the use of tables and figures. Tables can help organize and summarize complex information, making it easier for readers to grasp the key findings or trends. Similarly, figures such as charts or graphs can visually represent data, enhancing its comprehension and impact. When using tables and figures, it is important to label and caption them appropriately, providing clear explanations of the presented data.

Furthermore, incorporating quotes from reputable sources can strengthen the credibility of an undergraduate thesis. Quoting experts in the field or citing relevant studies can add depth and support to the arguments being made. When including quotes, it is essential to attribute them correctly and provide proper citations following the specified referencing style.

Example Table:

By fully developing ideas and presenting data effectively, students can create a compelling undergraduate thesis that showcases their research skills and contributes to the academic discourse in their field.

An undergraduate thesis should not only present data but also discuss the implications of the research and its potential impact. This section is crucial as it allows the writer to delve deeper into the significance of their findings and provide relevant context to their work. By discussing the implications, the writer demonstrates a thorough understanding of the subject matter and how it relates to the broader academic community.

“The implications of this study suggest that further research is needed to explore the long-term effects of X on Y,” says Dr. Jane Smith, a renowned expert in the field. “These findings have the potential to revolutionize current practices and pave the way for innovative solutions.”

Furthermore, discussing the implications allows the writer to showcase their critical thinking skills, analytical abilities, and their ability to draw connections between their research and real-world applications. It also provides an opportunity to address any limitations or constraints that may have influenced the results, offering suggestions for future research.

Table: Implications of the Research

In conclusion, the implications and discussion section of an undergraduate thesis not only highlights the importance of the research findings but also provides an opportunity for the writer to showcase their intellectual rigor and contribute to their respective field of study.

The time required to complete an undergraduate thesis can vary depending on various factors such as the project’s complexity, the level of research involved, and individual circumstances. Unlike shorter assignments, an undergraduate thesis demands a more substantial commitment of time and effort. It is essential to allocate sufficient time to conduct thorough research, analyze data, and fully develop ideas. Rushing through the process may compromise the quality of the work.

On average, it can take anywhere from several months to a year to complete an undergraduate thesis. The duration is influenced by factors such as the scope of the research, the availability of resources, and the student’s familiarity with the topic. It is advisable to start the thesis early, allowing ample time for literature review, experimentation, and drafting the final document.

It is crucial to establish a realistic timeline and set achievable milestones to ensure timely progress. Regular communication and collaboration with the thesis advisor or professor can help in better managing the workload and staying on track. These mentors can provide guidance, offer feedback, and help navigate any challenges that may arise during the research process.

Ultimately, the amount of time required to complete an undergraduate thesis will depend on the individual’s dedication, organization, and ability to manage competing commitments. By carefully planning and executing each stage of the thesis, students can successfully navigate the research journey and produce a high-quality piece of work.

Factors Affecting the Time Required

  • The complexity of the research question or topic
  • The extent of data collection and analysis required
  • The availability of resources and access to relevant literature
  • The student’s prior knowledge and familiarity with the subject
  • External commitments, such as part-time jobs or extracurricular activities

By considering these factors and planning accordingly, students can better estimate the time needed to complete their undergraduate thesis and ensure a successful research experience.

Table: Comparison of the lengths of undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral theses.

In summary, completing an undergraduate thesis requires careful planning, dedication, and effective time management. The time required can vary based on factors such as the project’s complexity, scope of research, and individual circumstances. By allocating sufficient time, staying organized, and seeking guidance when needed, students can successfully complete their undergraduate thesis and contribute valuable research to their field.

Faculty Guidelines and Supervision

To ensure a successful undergraduate thesis, it is essential to adhere to the guidelines provided by the university and follow the instructions of the professor supervising the project. The faculty’s instructions serve as a roadmap, guiding you through the process and ensuring that you meet the necessary requirements.

Your professor, as the project supervisor, plays a crucial role in providing guidance, support, and feedback throughout the thesis journey. They will offer valuable insights, help shape your research questions, and provide direction on the methodology and analysis. Regular meetings with your professor will allow for discussions, revisions, and clarifications, ultimately refining your work to meet the academic standards.

Moreover, your professor can offer expertise in your specific field of study, helping you navigate through any challenges that may arise. Their knowledge and experience will contribute to the development of your thesis, ensuring that it aligns with current research and scholarly expectations.

Faculty Guidelines and Project Success

The adherence to faculty guidelines and the close supervision of your professor are key factors in the success of your undergraduate thesis. By following these guidelines and seeking regular input from your supervisor, you will be well-positioned to produce a high-quality thesis that meets the academic standards set by your university and faculty.


Comparing undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral theses.

While undergraduate theses typically range between 10 and 20 pages, master’s theses can be longer, usually ranging from 60 to 100 pages, while doctoral dissertations can span at least 90 pages and sometimes even exceed 200 pages. The length of these academic papers varies based on the level of the degree being pursued.

Master’s theses require a more extensive exploration of the chosen topic compared to undergraduate theses. This is why they tend to have a higher page count. With more research conducted and a deeper analysis of the subject matter, the length of a master’s thesis increases to accommodate the additional details and findings.

Doctoral dissertations, on the other hand, are the longest of the three. They involve in-depth research and original contributions to the field of study, necessitating a larger volume of content. Doctoral students are expected to delve into their subjects extensively, conducting extensive research, experiments, and overall comprehensive analyses. Consequently, their dissertations tend to have a substantial page count to encompass all the research conducted and the insights gained.

It is important to keep in mind that these page counts are general guidelines and can vary depending on the specific requirements of individual institutions and programs. However, understanding the typical length of undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral theses provides students with a sense of the level of detail and breadth expected at each stage of their academic journey.

The length of an undergraduate thesis can be influenced by various factors, including the technical complexities of the topic chosen and the extent of research conducted. When exploring a complex subject matter with intricate technicalities, it often requires a more comprehensive analysis and explanation, leading to a longer thesis. On the other hand, a less complex topic may allow for a more concise presentation.

The volume of research conducted is another key factor. Extensive research often leads to a greater amount of data and information that needs to be incorporated into the thesis, resulting in a longer document. In contrast, limited research may yield a shorter thesis.

It is important to note that while there may be some guidelines or expectations regarding thesis length, these factors can vary depending on the specific requirements of the faculty and university. Some institutions may have specific page count requirements, while others may prioritize the quality and depth of research over the length. It is crucial for students to familiarize themselves with the guidelines provided by their respective faculties and to consult with their professors for guidance and clarification.

Table 1: Comparison of Undergraduate, Master’s, and Doctoral Theses Length

The table above provides a general overview of the expected page lengths for undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral theses. While these are typical ranges, it is important to note that the actual length can still vary depending on other factors discussed earlier.

The image above serves as a visual representation of the complex technicalities that can influence the length of an undergraduate thesis, highlighting the need for thorough research and analysis.

In conclusion, the length of an undergraduate thesis typically ranges between 10 and 20 double-spaced pages, excluding tables, figures, and references, and should be sufficient to fully develop ideas, present data, and discuss the implications of the work.

An undergraduate thesis follows the format of a scientific article, including sections such as abstract, introduction, methods, results, discussion, references, and tables/figures. These sections provide a structured framework for presenting research findings and analyzing their significance.

While the length of an undergraduate thesis may seem shorter compared to master’s theses and doctoral dissertations, which can be at least 60 pages and upwards of 90 pages respectively, it is important to note that the focus of an undergraduate thesis is on presenting a comprehensive exploration of a specific topic within a limited scope.

When working on an undergraduate thesis, it is crucial to adhere to the guidelines provided by the university and the professor supervising the project. These guidelines may include specific instructions regarding page count, formatting, and content requirements. By following these guidelines and conducting thorough research, students can produce a well-structured and impactful undergraduate thesis.

How long is an undergraduate thesis?

What format does an undergraduate thesis follow.

An undergraduate thesis follows the format of a scientific article, including sections such as abstract, introduction, methods, results, discussion, references, and tables/figures.

What should an undergraduate thesis accomplish?

An undergraduate thesis should fully develop ideas, present data, and discuss the implications of the work.

How long does it take to complete an undergraduate thesis?

The time required to complete an undergraduate thesis can vary, but it typically depends on the topic’s technicalities and the extent of research conducted.

How important is it to adhere to faculty guidelines and supervision?

It is crucial to adhere to the guidelines provided by the university and the professor supervising the project to ensure the successful completion of an undergraduate thesis.

How does the length of an undergraduate thesis compare to master’s and doctoral theses?

Undergraduate theses are typically shorter, ranging from 10-20 pages, while master’s theses can be 60-100 pages and doctoral dissertations can exceed 200 pages.

What factors can influence the length of an undergraduate thesis?

The length of an undergraduate thesis can be influenced by various factors, including the technicalities of the topic and the extent of research conducted.

Source Links

  • https://blogs.studentlife.utoronto.ca/lifeatuoft/2020/12/10/my-experience-writing-an-undergraduate-thesis/
  • https://publichealth.berkeley.edu/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/Honors-Thesis-Guide-2019.pdf
  • https://gradebees.com/thesis-dissertation-length/

Baron Cooke has been writing and editing for 7 years. He grew up with an aptitude for geometry, statistics, and dimensions. He has a BA in construction management and also has studied civil infrastructure, engineering, and measurements. He is the head writer of measuringknowhow.com

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