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Thesis & Dissertation Guidelines

Below are the Graduate School guidelines for formatting your thesis or dissertation. You may use the example document/templates for reference.

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This page assists graduate students in successfully creating and depositing their dissertation or thesis. All guidelines are approved by the Graduate Council and can be modified at any time; however, the Graduate School will ensure the changes are clearly communicated to faculty and students.

Choosing a Style

The student must choose a style for his/her thesis or dissertation based on common practice within the discipline of his/her program. Common styles include:

  • APA (American Psychological Association)
  • CMS (Chicago Manual Style)
  • MLA (Modern Language Association) 

The student is required to consult with his/her adviser to select a style. It is also important that the student consistently utilize the conventions of the style throughout his/her thesis/dissertation.

Font Type and Size

The font size

  • of the text should be 12 point using a traditional font type (Courier, Times New Roman) and used throughout the document.
  • of headings, subheadings, etc. may vary according to style.
  • of symbols and mathematical formula may also vary from 12 point, where necessary.

Line Spacing, Justification, Indentation, and Margins

Lines should be double spaced throughout the document. Exceptions may include:

  • inset quotations
  • footnotes
  • tabular forms
  • bibliography/references page
  • as dictated by the specific style guidelines.

Text should be left-justified and paragraphs should be tab indented. Page margins should be: 

  • Left: 1.5 inches (for binding)
  • Top: 1.0 inch
  • Right: 1.0 inch
  • Bottom: 1.0 inch

Page Size and Pagination

Standard page size of 8 1/2 x 11 inches should be used throughout the document.

All page numerals should be placed in the top right-hand corner of the page. Page numerals should appear within the 1-inch margins.

The front matter consists of all sections before the narrative and should be numbered using lower case roman numerals. The first page considered for numbering, though NOT numbered, is the title page. The acceptance page is the second page of the document but the first page to be numbered (ii).

Arabic numerals, beginning with one (1) are used at the beginning of the narrative and continued to the end of the document.

Landscape pages may be used. However, the binding requirements of the document must be respected. Thus, the 'top' of a landscaped page (i.e. the top edge of the page oriented (11 inches) with the landscaped material) is the edge where binding will occur and, thus, must have a 1.5 inch margin. The other margins must be formatted accordingly.

The page number for landscape pages should be in the same location and orientation as all other page numbers in the document.

Order of Appearance

Structure of dissertations and theses should contain the following sections in the stated order. Those indicated as optional do not need be included, but, if included, must adhere to the formatting guidelines described in the following sections.

  1. Title Page (required; considered in numbering but NOT numbered)
  2. Acceptance Page (required; page number 'ii')
  3. Dedication (optional; numbered (Roman))
  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS (optional but recommended, numbered (Roman))
  5. CONTENTS (required, numbered (Roman))
  6. ABBREVIATIONS (optional, numbered (Roman))
  7. LIST OF FIGURES (optional, numbered (Roman))
  8. LIST OF TABLES (optional, numbered (Roman))
  9. LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS (optional, numbered (Roman))
  10. ABSTRACT (required, numbered (Roman))
  11. Narrative Section (required, numbered throughout, begin with “1” (Arabic))
  12. APPENDIX (optional, numbered throughout (Arabic))
  13. BIBLIOGRAPHY (required, numbered throughout (Arabic))
  14. CURRICULUM VITAE (optional, numbered throughout (Arabic))
  15. INDEX (optional, numbered throughout (Arabic))
  16. GLOSSARY (optional, numbered throughout (Arabic))

Format: Title Page (required)

  • The title must be identical to the title on the ABSTRACT page.
  • The title must be in all CAPITAL LETTERS with no bold font
  • The title page must be unnumbered and does not appear in the CONTENTS

After the title and author’s name is a section with details about the degree of the program. Please utilize the template below and fill in the specific information of your program.

A (thesis/dissertation*) submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the

(Degree Type**)

Major in (Program)

Specialization in (Specialization)***

South Dakota State University


*Choose thesis if you are a master’s student or dissertation if you’re a doctoral student

**Choose from the following list of degree types to add to your cover page:

  • Master of Arts
  • Master of Education
  • Master of Science
  • Doctor of Philosophy

***Only add a specialization, if formally approved by the University and will appear on the official transcript.

****Add year your degree requirements will be completed

Format: Acceptance Page (required)

The acceptance page:

  • is the first page to be numbered and is numbered 'ii'.
  • does not appear in the CONTENTS.
  • should be completed via DocuSign for either a thesis or dissertation

The second page in the submitted thesis or dissertation may be left blank. The Graduate School will upload the electronically signed acceptance page into the final document on ProQuest.

Format: Dedication Page (optional)

The dedication:

  • is an honorific statement from the author to someone or some group supporting the student and/or completion of the work.
  • page does not include a title.
  • text should be brief and center justified.
  • is the only section of the document which may be written in a non-English language.
  • is numbered but does not appear in the CONTENTS.

Format: ACKNOWLEDGMENTS (optional, but recommended)


  • is optional but strongly recommended.
  • should thank or recognize individuals and institutions that have provided assistance either directly or indirectly to the success of the candidate.
  • is considered in the numbering but not listed in the CONTENTS.
  • title should be centered, all capital letters, and on the first line of the page; the text should follow.

Format: CONTENTS (required)


  • is a table which contains page assignments of the sections listed below.
  • should not contain the title page, acceptance page, dedication or ACKNOWLEDGMENTS.
  • may also be titled TABLE OF CONTENTS.
  • title should be centered, all capital letters, on the first line of the page with the table following.

Format: ABBREVIATIONS (optional)

  • ALL abbreviations must be listed in alphabetical order using the format shown in the examples linked above.
  • the title should be centered, all caps, on the first line of the page; the table should follow.

Format: LIST OF FIGURES (optional)

  • All figures appearing in the document are required to be listed.
  • Figure legends appearing in the LIST OF FIGURES must appear:
    1. EXACTLY as in the figure or
    2. in a truncated form in which only the initial portion of the figure legend appears.
  • The title should be centered, all caps, on the first line of the page; the table should follow.

Format: LIST OF TABLES (optional)

  • All tables appearing in the document must be present.
  • Table titles appearing in the LIST OF TABLES must appear:
    1. EXACTLY as for the table or
    2. in a truncated form in which only the initial portion of the table title appears.
  • The title should be centered, all caps, on the first line of the page; the table should follow.

Format: LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS (optional)

  • Serves as an alternative to a LIST OF FIGURES and/or a LIST OF TABLES, thus will only appear if a LIST OF TABLES and LIST OF FIGURES do not appear.
  • includes both figures and tables.
  • title should be centered, all caps, on the first line of the page; the table should follow.

Format: ABSTRACT (required)

  • ABSTRACT appears centered on the first line, followed by the title in all capital letters.
  • The title must appear identical to the title on the title page.
  • The author's name is typed in all capital letters and must be identical to that which appears on the title page.
  • Similarly, the date is the year the degree will be conferred, identical to the title page.
  • Example:





The abstract narrative should not be greater than 350 words.

If chapters are used, then:

  • Each chapter may contain an abstract, but this chapter abstract will only encompass material in that chapter.
  • The abstracts appearing in the chapters are separate and distinct from the abstract in the front matter.
  • Abstracts appearing in the chapters need not follow the format of the abstract appearing in the front matter.
  • Abstracts in the chapters may follow the format of the journal targeted for publication.

Format: Narrative Section (required)

The narrative of the document should follow the guidelines set forth above, however, this leaves much flexibility for style.

Sources of commonly used styles include (but not limited to):

  • APA (American Psychological Association)
  • CMS (Chicago Manual Style)
  • MLA (Modern Language Association) 

The Graduate School will not necessarily review the document for usage of correct style; however, the Graduate School will review for CONSISTENCY of style.

Format: APPENDIX (optional)

The APPENDIX contains supporting information presented in the narrative or other types of information the author believes would assist the reader in understanding the document content.

  • This section may include text, figures or tables.
  • The title should be centered, all caps, on the first line of the page; the text should follow.
  • The style of the APPENDIX should be consistent with the narrative section.

Format: Bibliography (required)

The bibliography section will contain a list of all the referenced material in the document.

  • The section does not necessarily need to be titled BIBLIOGRAPHY, but should be titled based on the chosen style, such as LITERATURE CITED or REFERENCES.
  • The format of the entries of this section and the format of citations appearing in the narrative should be consistent with the chosen style.

Format: CURRICULUM VITAE (optional)

Curriculum Vitae (CV) may be added to the documents, if desired.

  • The CV is a summary of the author's educational experiences, research and professional experiences, awards, accomplishments and publications/presentations.
  • The title should be centered, all caps, on the first line of the page.

Format: INDEX (optional)

An INDEX is an alphabetized list of important terms used in the narrative which includes the page(s) where the term is found.

  • The pages on which the chosen terms appear must be exhaustive. For example, if the term 'discipline' appears in the index, all of the pages on which the term 'discipline' appears must be listed.
  • The title should be centered, all caps, on the first line of the page; the table should follow.

Format: GLOSSARY (optional)

A GLOSSARY is an alphabetized list of important or specialized terms used in the narrative which includes their definition.

  • The author may define terms in ways specific to the project and/or use standard definitions.
  • The author need not indicate the source, if any, of definitions.
  • The GLOSSARY is sometimes also referred to as the NOMENCLATURE.
  • The title should be centered, all caps, on the first line of the page; the table should follow.
  • If using a list of acronyms please include it in the glossary section.

Guidelines: Narrative as Chapters

Use of chapters in dissertations and theses is common but not necessarily required. If the work is presented in two or more distinct projects, breaking the narrative into separate chapters is justified.

If the author is having difficulty determining where to break the material into chapters, the following choices may help clarify.

  • Consult the graduate mentor.
  • Do not use chapters.
  • Employ peer-review publication standards as the metric to determine the scope of each chapter.

If chapters are used, the author has some flexibility as to how to compose the chapters. It is generally expected the chapters will be constructed identically. For example: Introduction, Material and Methods, Results, Conclusions, and References may be the subheading in all chapters.

However, if different chapters are targeted for publication in different journals, each chapter may adopt the structure of that journal. For example, Chapter One might contain those subheading mentioned above, but Chapter Two might use: Introduction, Methods and Materials, Results, Discussion and Literature Cited. Similarly, two chapters may use two distinct citation and bibliography formats if the targeted journals use different formats.

Caveats worth consideration:

  • While each chapter may contain an abstract as a subsection, the ABSTRACT is still required for the thesis/ dissertation.
  • Often published manuscripts are the result of multiple authors (e.g. a student and mentor), hence it is inappropriate to appear in a thesis or dissertation under a single author. The student is encouraged to discuss this aspect of their thesis or dissertation with their graduate mentor and/or committee.

Guidelines: Spelling & Grammar

It is the responsibility of the student to ensure the document is free of spelling and proper grammatical errors.

Guidelines: Headers & Footers

Running headers and/or footers are not allowed. However, footnotes and endnotes are allowed if desired. Please consult the chosen style manual for specifics.

Guidelines: Non-English Languages

All dissertations and theses must be written in English.

Two special conditions are:

  • The dedication page may include non-English text
  • The content of a project may encompass use of a non-English language (e.g. analysis of Portuguese irregular verbs). In the latter case, non-English text may appear as subject material or data but only English should appear as narrative.

Guidelines: Statements of Compliance

Confirmation of compliance with all international, federal, state, local and other applicable public and private regulations must appear in the document. Typically, the necessary information is stated in the materials and methods or the results sections of the narrative.

The author may include extensive documentation of compliance in the APPENDIX. The supervising bodies providing compliance supervision may include (but are not limited to):

  • SDSU-IACUC, Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (animal use)
  • SDSU-Institutional Review Board (humans as research subjects)
  • SDSU-Recombinant DNA (biological hazards)
  • Export Controls (sensitive information leaving the United States)
  • Private or public agencies (permission to access collections, acquire samples, make observations etc).

Please consult the Division of Research and Economic Development for additional information.

Guidelines: Intellectual Property

The author should review the document for any intellectual property which may have potential value. The author is urged to review this topic with their graduate mentor and/or the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs. The author should also ensure Human Resources has a current Agreement to Assign Intellectual Property Rights.

Any student requiring delayed publication of his/her thesis or dissertation in order to facilitate the protection of valuable intellectual property rights and provide opportunities for self-publication while facilitating academic freedom and access to scholarly works should review Policy 2:18 - Publication Delays for Theses and Dissertations.

Guidelines: Supporting Documents and Files

Supporting documentation may be uploaded to ProQuest under the supporting documents tab. Supplementary documents will only be viewable online through ProQuest and will not be printed in the physical bound copy of the document or housed on the Open PRAIRIE online repository.