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Clemson University Graduate School

The Basics of Thesis and Dissertation Formatting

Your thesis or dissertation manuscript should be formatted according to the guidelines in the following sections, except for content that has been previously published, or unless your department has requested and received an exemption based on discipline-specific practices. For more in-depth information about formatting, see Step 1: Format Your Manuscript (PDF).

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General Formatting Requirements

Common Errors

The most common error in submitted manuscripts is an incorrect date on the title page. That should be the month and year of your graduation: either May, August or December followed by the year.

Document Page Size

For electronic publication, your document page size should be 8.5 x 11 inches— standard U.S. letter size. International A4 page size is acceptable but not preferred. If your research includes material that will not fit onto standard letter-sized or A4-sized pages (or that is in file formats other than PDF) you can include additional files when you upload your manuscript for review and publishing.

You can also rotate pages to landscape orientation to accommodate wide tables and figures. Please do not mix page sizes within your document (for example, adding 11 x 17-inch pages to an appendix is not acceptable).


  • All page margins must be between 1 inch and 1.25 inches. 1 inch is Microsoft Word's default margin setting; 1.25 inches was originally required for printed, bound books. Whatever your choice, be consistent throughout your manuscript.
  • Page numbers should sit below the bottom text margin, in the page footer.
  • Text content should fit within the margins. It is acceptable to allow wide figures and tables to extend slightly into the margins rather than reducing them so that content is unreadable.

Pagination and Page Numbering

  • All pages should have a visible page number. You may omit the visible page number on the title page if you prefer.
  • Because your electronically published manuscript, unlike a printed book, will not have left and right facing pages, we prefer that you position your page numbering at the bottom center of each page for symmetry, below the 1–1.25-inch margin but at least 3/8 of an inch from the bottom edge of pages.
  • You may begin your page numbering with Arabic numeral 1 (on the title page) or Arabic numeral 2 (on the first page of the abstract) if you prefer a “blind-folioed” title page. Prior to the 2021–22 academic year, the Graduate School required that the numbering for your front matter pages be lowercase Roman numerals (i, ii, iii, iv, etc.), while all body text and back matter page numbers should be Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3, etc.), beginning with numeral 1 on the opening page of your body text and each chapter continued from the previous section of your paper. This is a tradition held over from print publishing and you may number pages this way if you wish.
  • Please do not start each new chapter with page 1. If your appendices include reproduced content that already has its own page numbering, make sure that content includes your added sequential page numbering.
  • The Graduate School does not require running heads, but you may use them if your program’s style guide or your advisor recommends them

Order of Matter

The elements of your paper should appear in this order:

  1. Title page (must be page i or 1; with or without visible page number).
  2. Abstract (must start on page ii or 2; may be first visible page number).
  3. Dedication (optional).
  4. Acknowledgments (optional).
  5. Table of contents (required).
  6. Lists of figures, tables, abbreviations, equations, etc. (required if your ETD includes these items).
  7. Preface or introduction (If you are following print traditions, this may be part of the Roman-numbered front matter, or may begin Arabic-numbered main text with page 1. Otherwise, continue numbering sequentially from previous section).
  8. Body text, chapter by chapter.
  9. References/bibliography/works cited (if you choose to group all references together; it’s also OK to place them at the end of each chapter).
  10. Appendix/appendices (If your style guide or you and your advisor prefer appendices before references, that’s OK).


  • Body text must be double-spaced. This requirement is for the main or “normal” text, not for title page, table of contents or lists of tables, figures, etc. Spacing around and within subheadings, block quotes, captions 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. Don’t use script or informal typefaces (unless they are needed in display elements or illustrations), or use display fonts for basic text elements.

Indentation and Headings

  • The first line of each paragraph should have a left indent, or you should insert 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 those headings contain acronyms, scientific names or chemical formulas that require both upper- and lower-case letters for clarity.

Note: If your manuscript consists of multiple journal articles, differences in formatting from article to article are acceptable, but you must maintain the 1–1.25-inch page margins you used for all other pages, and a single text column. Please do not insert an existing PDF formatted for a journal directly into your ETD.

Frequently asked questions about formatting your manuscript

The Next Step:

Defend Your Thesis  

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

Defending Your Thesis or Dissertation