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This page addresses the broad basics of formatting requirements. Find the details for formatting in Your Clemson Thesis or Dissertation: Guidelines, Tips & Tools, Step 1.

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 summarizes all of its requirements on the final ETD checklist (ETD = Electronic Thesis and Dissertation), which can be found on the Forms, Links, and Tools page and in Appendix B of Your Clemson University Thesis or Dissertation: Guidelines, Tips & Tools. The checklist can help you keep your formatting for each section of your paper consistent and on track

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. Your graduate program handbook may contain basic information about thesis or dissertation requirements. 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, or may catch a typo in a prominent text element, 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 the default setting for Word’s spellcheck tools 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?

In the print publishing realm, yes. However, the Graduate School does not supply guidelines for manuscripts intended for print. 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 from a vendor besides ProQuest, 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 to publish your manuscript eventually as a bound book following academic book design norms.

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’ll need to:

  • Save the template to your hard drive and from there, open it in Word;
  • If you're using a PC with Windows, under the “Review” tab, click “Restrict Editing” and uncheck the boxes under “1. Formatting restrictions” and “2. Editing restrictions”
  • If you're using a Mac, click “Review” > “Unprotect Document.”

The file protection is on initially to enable you to use drop-down menus on the title page.

In addition to the formatting template, the Manuscript Review office provides PDF examples of each standard element of an academic paper, and a sample manuscript. You will find all of these documents listed and linked on the Forms, Links, and Tools page.

General Formatting Requirements—Your Manuscript as a Whole

All thesis and dissertation manuscripts should be formatted 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. 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 or that is in non-PDF file formats; you may include such material as supplemental files when you upload your manuscript for review and publishing.

  • All page margins must be 1.25 inches. Page numbers may (and should) sit below the bottom text margin, in the page footer.
  • 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 (all the introductory material) 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 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.
Order of Matter

The elements of your paper should appear in this order:

  1. title page (must be page i)
  2. Abstract (must start on page ii)
  3. Dedication (optional)
  4. Acknowledgments (optional)
  5. Table of contents (required)
  6. Lists of figures, tables, abbreviations, equations, etc. (required if you have multiples of these items)
  7. Preface or introduction (may be part of the roman-numbered front matter, OR may begin arabic-numbered main text with page 1)
  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 advisor prefers appendices before references, that's OK)
  • Body text must 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.
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—or journal styles—slight differences in formatting from article to article are acceptable.

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