The Doctoral Dissertation Layout: A Step-By-Step Tutorial

When it comes to preparing and writing your dissertation, there will obviously be a number of factors to attend to with the keenest of eyes.

Your head may presently be fixated on the topic or content, but make sure you don’t overlook how important it is to get the layout right.

  • This tutorial gives you the basics of what needs to be included, but each university will publish its own specific guidelines and requirements (and for particular fields), so make sure you have a copy and follow it accordingly.
  • The usual length of a dissertation is between 100 and 300 pages. It should be divided into sections, with divisions and subdivisions where necessary.
  • It’s vital to follow the rules when it comes to numbering your pages. Preliminary pages should be numbered with small Roman numerals (at either the top or bottom).
  • Use Arabic numbering for the main thesis. Begin the first page with number 1. (Numbering can be placed at the top, bottom or upper right corner, and must be consistent throughout.)
  • Page numbers should always be at least half an inch away from the edge.
  • Now, let’s look at the sections and pages you need to include. First comes the Title Page (be sure to find a sample to know the exact layout) followed by the Copyright Notice.
  • The Abstract is next. Generally, this should consist of no more than 350 words. It should state the problem, the methods and procedures that have been employed, and the conclusions that have been met. (Again- find a sample to use as a basis.)
  • A Table of Contents will follow.
  • When it comes to the main Body of Text, make sure that all fonts and formatting are uniform (headers, page numbers, footnotes and so on).
  • When it comes to annotating references, different disciplines will have different rules, so check out the guidelines for your own field of study.
  • Footnotes should be the placed at the bottom of the page, and continue on to the next if necessary.
  • You should check whether a Bibliography is required for your discipline. If it is, then also find out what the required format is for your field.
  • Table and Figures should be placed as near to the relevant text as possible.
  • You may wish to add Visual Material to your thesis. Illustrations, graphs, photographs etc. are usually acceptable.

It is imperative that you check the more specific requirements, but hopefully the above has helped clarify the basics of what should be included and you can use it as a handy list to tick off. Good luck!

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