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Back to Theses and Dissertations Overview

Introduction and Formatting FAQs

What specifications does the Graduate School have regarding formatting theses and dissertations, and where can I find them?
The Graduate School lists all of its requirements on the Final ETD Checklist form (ETD = Electronic Thesis and Dissertation), which can be found on the Forms, Links, and Tools page.

Does everyone have to use the same writer's style guide?
No—the Graduate School does NOT require that you use one particular style handbook for your thesis or dissertation. Your department may recommend any recognized style manual for writers of academic papers, such as the MLA or APA style manuals. If you are unsure about what style is generally accepted in your field, and your department does not specify a style guide, consult your advisor and, together, choose a style that is suitable for your discipline.

Where do I find content-related requirements?
You and your committee are responsible for your document’s quality and content. When you have questions concerning the content of your work, you should ask your committee chair or another committee member who is familiar with your work and the practices of your field. The staff of the Manuscript Review Office can help you interpret our formatting requirements, but your committee is the best source of advice for writing and organizing your work. While the Manuscript Review staff may point out noticeable inconsistencies in grammar, spelling, or usage for you to revise, we do not check your manuscript word-for-word.

Does the Manuscript Review staff proofread my paper?
No; as noted above, the reviewer may call your attention to typographical, spelling, or grammar errors in highly visible portions of your manuscript—note, for instance, that Word's spellcheck default setting overlooks words in all caps, which can sometimes lead to typos in headings, and we'll point those out if we see them—but we don't read word-for-word or critique either the mechanics or content of your writing.

Are there different requirements for electronic vs. printed manuscripts?
Yes; however, the Graduate School does not supply guidelines for printed manuscripts. The guidelines listed here are intended for electronic documents, and if you submit a thesis or dissertation formatted according to these guidelines, your end product will be a fully functional, quality electronic manuscript. If you plan to purchase bound copies for yourself or your department if required (see List of Departments Requiring Copies), and you use only these minimal e-publishing guidelines, your manuscript may not meet traditional print publishing standards. For example, the first page of each main section will not start on a right-hand page, and the binding margin will not be any wider than the outside margin—potentially causing text and/or images to be very close to, or hidden in, the binding. You may take the liberty to adhere to more conventional formatting guidelines for printed manuscripts if you so choose, but the Manuscript Review staff will be unable to assist in such endeavors. You should consult your advisors for additional guidance if you plan eventually to publish your manuscript as a bound book.

What tools are available to help me format my manuscript?
If you are using Microsoft Word, a Formatting Template is available for your convenience. To edit and use it, you will need to save the template to your hard drive, open it in Word, and under the “Review” tab, click “Restrict Editing” and uncheck the boxes under “1. Formatting restrictions” and “2. Editing restrictions” (in Word 2010 for PC) or click “Tools” > “Unprotect Document.” (in older versions of Word for PC or all versions for Mac). The protection is on initially to enable you to use drop-down menus on the title page. In addition, PDF examples of each standard element of an academic paper, and a Sample Manuscript, are also available. You will find all of these documents on the Forms, Links, and Tools page.

General Formatting Requirements—Your Manuscript as a Whole

All thesis and dissertation manuscripts should be formatted exactly according to the instructions in the following sections, except for content that has been previously published (for instance, in a journal, if you wish to reproduce it in your manuscript just as it appeared in that publication), or unless your department has requested and received an exemption based on discipline-specific practices (see Additional Formatting Information below). Content not covered by these specific guidelines may be formatted in any accepted discipline-appropriate style, with the following restrictions:

Document Page Size

For electronic publication, your document trim size must be 8.5″ x 11″—standard U.S. Letter size. If your research includes material that will not fit onto standard letter-sized pages; you may include such material as supplemental files; see section below, Supplemental Files (Spreadsheets, Databases, Movies, Sound Files, etc.).

  • All page margins must be 1.25 inches.
  • All content (including text, figures, tables, etc.) must fit within the margins, although pages may be rotated to landscape orientation to accommodate wide figures, tables, etc.
Pagination and Page Numbering
  • All pages except the title page should have a visible page number. Because your electronically published manuscript, unlike a printed book, will not have left and right facing pages, position your page numbering at the bottom center of each page for symmetry, below the 1.25″ margin but at least 3/8″ from bottom edge of page.
  • Front matter (defined in Detailed Formatting Guidelines below) page numbers should be lowercase Roman numerals (“i,” “ii,” “iii,” etc.).
  • Your title page is Roman-numbered page i, but should not have a visible page number on it. The first page of your abstract—with the first visible page number—is Roman-numbered page ii. The first page of the body of your paper—introduction or first chapter/section—should be Arabic-numbered page 1.
  • All body text and back matter (defined below) page numbers should be Arabic numerals (“1,” “2,” etc.) continued from the previous section of your paper. Please do not start each new chapter with page 1.
  • Body text should be double-spaced (unless otherwise noted in this document). Spacing around subheadings, block quotes and other text elements may vary, but should be sufficient to make these elements readily identifiable and different than body text.
  • Basic text should be between 10-12 point size in a commonly used text font such as Arial, Calibri, Helvetica, Times New Roman, Garamond, Verdana, etc. DO NOT use script or informal typefaces, or use display fonts for basic text elements.
Headings and Indentation
  • The first line of each paragraph should have a left indent, or an extra line space (double space) between paragraphs.
  • First-level headings (title, abstract, table of contents, chapter titles, etc) must be formatted to stand out more than any other level of headings. We suggest you use ALL CAPS for your first-level headings, unless these headings contain acronyms or chemical formulas that require both upper- and lower-case letters for clarity.

NOTE: If your manuscript consists of multiple journal articles—or journal styles—slight differences in formatting from article to article are acceptable.

Detailed Formatting Guidelines—Your Manuscript Section by Section

Templates and examples of standard manuscript elements are available on the Forms, Links, and Tools page.

Front Matter

The front matter of your manuscript includes all major sections from the title page to the first body-text chapter. A PDF sample file for front matter is available here.

Title Page (Required)

The title page is the first official page of your manuscript (page “i”). If you use the template provided above, you may ignore the title page information below. If you choose not to use the Times New Roman font family for your manuscript, be sure to change the font of the title page template to the font you use in your manuscript. The title page should be formatted as follows:

  • Page margins must be set to 1.25 inches.
  • A page number should not be visible on this page.
  • Text should be centered horizontally between the margins.
  • Each section of text should be single-spaced with a double space between sections.
  • Horizontal divider rules of equal width and line weight should separate each block of text, and the spacing above and below each divider line should be consistent.
  • Your paper’s title should be in ALL CAPS. Italicize any genus and/or species names or work titles that appear in your title, and follow standard scientific nomenclature rules regarding capitalization where all-caps is confusing or inappropriate.
  • If your title consists of more than one line of text, break the lines in a logical and attractive way, so that the lines are approximately the same length.
  • The layout and wording style of your title page must match the Sample Title Page, including line breaks within text sections.

A title page Word template is available here.

Abstract (Required)

The abstract is a succinct statement of the significant contents of your manuscript and the value and relevance of your research. Generally, brevity is good—an abstract should be no longer than 350 words; however, it may be longer if absolutely necessary. Your abstract page should be Roman-numbered page ii.

Dedication (Optional)

If you include one, your dedication pays special tribute to people who have given you extraordinary support or encouragement in your academic career. Extravagant praise, insincere thanks, and references to animals or inanimate objects are considered unprofessional; please avoid these. The text should be brief.

Acknowledgments (Optional)

If you choose to include acknowledgments, these remarks thank those who have helped you obtain your graduate degree, including those who have given grants and special funding for research. Acknowledgments may also include permission you’ve obtained to quote copyrighted material. Extravagant praise, insincere thanks, and references to animals or inanimate objects are unacceptable.

Table of Contents (Required)

The table of contents aids the reader in navigating the manuscript and should be arranged according to the structure, or order of matter, of the document. In an electronic manuscript, each content entry may be linked to its opening page in your text. The table of contents must meet the following formatting requirements:

  • Headings must be identical in wording to those in the body of the document.
  • Every entry must have a corresponding page number.
  • Major sections (first-level headings like chapter and unit titles) must be included. Lower-level subheadings may be included, but they are not required.
  • Single-spacing of table of contents entries with an extra line space between chapters or sections is acceptable, and desirable if your table of contents runs long.
  • Alignment, indentation, and spacing of entries must be consistent.
  • The page number for each entry must be right-justified at the right margin.
  • Ellipses (rows of leader dots) must be inserted between each entry and its corresponding page number. The ellipses MAY NOT be created with individually-typed periods.
    NOTE: Many writers find the table of contents to be the most complex portion of a manuscript to format correctly. Please check out the Ellipses Instructions for tips on formatting your table of contents—this instructional PDF includes more than just how to create evenly spaced lines of leader dots.

QUICK TIP: If you are creating your manuscript in Microsoft Word or a similar word-processing application, and you make edits—additions, deletions, or size changes—to text and graphic elements in the body of your paper after you've prepared the table of contents, such editing may cause pages to reflow; that is, elements may move from one page to another, leaving the page numbering of your contents entries inaccurate. It’s always a good idea to re-check your table of contents page numbers against the actual page each entry appears on for accuracy, and to update as needed, as a last step once all of your editing and revision is complete.

Lists of Tables, Figures, Maps, etc. (Use as applicable)

You should include a list of tables, figures, maps, abbreviations, or other similar items when there are three or more tables, figures, or similar items in your manuscript. Each type of list should begin on a separate page unless all of the lists will fit on one page. Tbales and figures included in the appendices should also be included in the content lists. All lists must meet the following formatting requirements:

  • Titles and entries must be identical in wording to their counterparts in the body of the document.
  • Every entry must have a corresponding page number.
  • Ellipses (rows of leader dots) must be inserted between each entry and its corresponding page number.
  • Each list should be formatted consistently with the main table of contents—to whatever degree is practical.

QUICK TIP: If you number the tables or figures in your body text by chapter (e.g., 1.1, 1.2, 2.1, 3.1, etc.), then to distinguish appendix figures/tables from those in the body of your paper, use a naming scheme such as “A.1, A.2,” etc.


The body of your manuscript includes all of your chapters or sections. The body may be formatted in any accepted, discipline-specific style or according to an approved style guide, but with the following restrictions:

  • Text of the body must begin on page 1 (Arabic page numbering, beginning with 1, 2, 3, etc.).
  • First-level headings (chapter and/or section titles) must be consistent in style—font, weight, size, case, placement relative to text—with the first-level headings in the front matter.
  • Each individual level or heading should have a separate and distinct—but consistent—format that demonstrates relative importance (for example, first-level headings should appear more prominent than second-level headings, and so on).
  • Spacing around headings, tables, figures and other elements should be consistent throughout the manuscript.
    NOTE: if chapters or sections of your ETD have been previously published as journal articles, and those journals require or prefer that you maintain their formatting, then variations in style between chapters is acceptable.

A PDF sample file for body text is available here.

Back Matter

The back matter of your manuscript includes the appendix or appendices, endnotes (if needed), and reference section(s); notes alternatively may be combined with references, or set as footnotes or end-of-chapter notes, depending upon which annotation style is appropriate for your field of research. A sample back matter PDF file is available here.


An appendix presents information that is too detailed for the body text or is supplemental or indirectly related to the text, such as tables, figures, research authorization forms, and computer programs/code. If there are several categories of supplementary material, more than one appendix will be necessary and will be grouped together as the appendices. Each appendix in the appendices section should have a descriptive title.

When your manuscript contains more than one appendix, you should name each, begin each on a new page, and separate them from the body of your manuscript with a divider page. The divider page goes only between the body and the first appendix, not between appendices. It should contain only the word “Appendices” centered horizontally and vertically on the page, in the same style (typeface and size) as your first-level headings, and the page number, in the same position as other page numbering. The first appendix will start on the next page.

Bibliography, Literature/Works Cited, References

The formatting style guide you have chosen will dictate whether you use a bibliography, a literature or works cited section, or a references section. The format you use should be the same as is required in the major journals in your discipline. Your chosen style guide will help you determine whether references should be numbered, alphabetized, set with space between entries, or with a “hanging” indent for continuing lines of long entries. A good style guide will also help you be consistent in using such elements as full names or initials, abbreviations, dates and page numbers, punctuation, and italics or quotation marks for titles and publications. If you are not sure about which format to use, consult your advisor. You must adhere to the following standard requirements when formatting your bibliography, literature/works cited, or references section:

  • URLs (web and email addresses) should not be blue or underlined.
  • Individual entries should not be split across pages. If an entire entry does not fit at the bottom of one page, move the entire entry to the top of the next page.
  • Your reference section(s) may be included either at the end of the manuscript (following the appendix) or at the end of each chapter, but you must be consistent.

Items to Remember

Plagiarism Statement

Before submitting your manuscript, please read this reminder about plagiarism. Plagiarism includes the accidental or unintentional representation of another’s words or ideas as your own, as well as intentional misrepresentation of the origin of work, so take this important last step to ensure that you have avoided identifying another person’s work as your own.

Final Checklist

Before you submit your manuscript, please refer to the Final ETD Checklist to ensure that your formatting adheres as closely as possible to the requirements. Following the Checklist will help you avoid many of the formatting pitfalls that necessitate revisions. See the FAQs page for more information.

Templates Available

If you are using Microsoft Word, a Formatting Template is available for your convenience. To edit the template, you will need to save it to your hard drive, open it in Word, then click “Tools” > “Unprotect Document.” File protection is initially on to enable you to use drop-down menus on the title page. To see all the Graduate School’s available templates, click here.

Examples Available

In addition to templates, a Sample Manuscript with helpful notes is also available as a PDF for your reference. To access links to all the sample files, click here.

Additional Formatting Information

Please take note of the following details regarding special formatting requirements, your responsibilities as a student, and copyright law. Additional information about formatting assistance is also provided below.

The GS7 Form (GS7 PDF) Replaces the Approval Page

Following Clemson University’s transition from print to electronic thesis and dissertation submission, a formal approval (or signature) page is no longer required as part of your manuscript. Your completed and signed GS7M or GS7D form will serve this purpose. You can download and print the GS7M or GS7D form from the Forms page, or pick up a hard copy from Enrolled Student Services in 104-D Sikes Hall. Be sure to select the correct form for your degree level: GS7M for master’s candidates, or GS7D for doctoral candidates. After completing this form and obtaining the necessary signatures, return the form to Enrolled Student Services. This form should NOT be included in your manuscript. Check the Current Student Deadlines for deadlines related to this and other forms.

Alternatives for LaTeX, Architecture, Creative Writing, Visual Arts

You may use LaTeX for the body of your paper, but all pages leading up to the first page of the body must be formatted as described in these instructions. This LaTeX Template File contains both the style sheet and a complete example of what your manuscript should look like. Most College of Architecture manuscripts will have their own format for all pages; if you are an architecture student, contact your advisor for information on the program’s specific format requirements. Creative writing and visual arts manuscripts should adhere to the basic rules outlined above regarding margins, fonts, title page, contents, etc., and to the rest of the formatting requirements as much as the subject matter/nature of your thesis allows. Electronic publicshing enables you to submit as Supplemental Files many types of material that simply don't fit within the confines of an 8.5″x11″ PDF text page, as the following section details.

Supplemental Files (Spreadsheets, Databases, Movies, Sound Files, etc.)

If you choose to include computer code, a database, a PowerPoint presentation, an audio or video file, an oversized graphic element, or other digital information that cannot be converted into PDF, or that will not fit into the standard manuscript page size (8.5″ x 11″), you may upload these files as Supplemental Files during your manuscript upload process. These files may be in any format, just as they would be if you were including a computer disk in a bound copy of a manuscript. When readers access your thesis/dissertation online, they will see links to these files. If someone orders a printed/bound copy of your paper, the files will be burned onto a CD or DVD and included with the printed copy. Clemson University's electronic publisher, ProQuest, answers questions related to supplemental files, including file size limits, at their FAQ page; scroll down to "How can I include related files (sound clips, data sets, etc.) that are a critical part of my dissertation or thesis?"


We cannot anticipate every possible format option a student may consider, so there may be a format or method you would like to use that is not discussed here. If you’re in doubt, contact the Manuscript Review Office at before investing a great deal of time in a particular format that you’re not sure will be accepted. The Graduate School is the final authority on all formatting and publication issues.

Copyright Held by Others

Obtain a letter of consent or permission from the copyright owner before you use materials taken from an original publication, and include the letter (scanned) in the appendices of your manuscript. This may include getting permission to reproduce your own content (writing or research) that has been previously published. Materials that may require a letter of consent include figures (illustrations, diagrams, photographs), maps, tables, and the text of poems, songs, etc.

If any you have questions that are not addressed within this guide, please email the Manuscript Review Office
at (preferred) or call (864) 656-5338.

The Next Step

After you've written and formatted your thesis or dissertation manuscript, you'll proceed to DEFEND your work before your graduate committee.

Back to Theses and Dissertations Overview