The Dissertation Manuscript - Format and Style
The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA) 7th edition is your main source of information on format and style. However, the manual was not developed specifically for dissertations and, therefore, may not address specific dissertation elements (e.g., title page, table of contents). This page provides formatting and style for those elements.
- Title Page
- Table of Contents
- List of Tables
- List of Figures
- Dissertation Chapters
- Tables and Figures
- Permission to Use Copywrited Material
All elements addressed in this handbook are to be handled according to the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (7th ed., 2020).
The preferred typeface for APA publications is Times New Roman with 12-point font. Bold typeface is limited to headings.
Use one-inch margins on all four sides. Text is left-aligned with an uneven right margin.
Spacing Between Lines
The text of a dissertation is double spaced. Block quotes should be double spaced; do not single-space block quotes.
Single space exceptions are as follows:
- titles and headings longer than one line
- titles in tables and figures
- appendix items
Reference list items may be double or single spaced. If single spaced, double spacing should be used between the individual references.
Examples of single-spaced and double-spaced tables appear in the APA manual and its companion volume* Presenting Your Findings: A Practical Guide for Creating Tables (Nicol & Pexman, 2010).
*This companion volume is still the version being sold by APA. Please make sure all formatting for tables follows the 7th Edition requirements.
Spacing and Punctuation
The guidelines of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (7th ed.) for spacing dictates that one space be used for punctuation within a sentence (e.g., after a comma or colon), but two spaces be used after the final punctuation in a sentence (e.g., after a period or a question mark).
Spacing between Sections
Major section titles (TABLE OF CONTENTS, CHAPTER I, etc.) are centered at the top of the page. Double space between the chapter number and the chapter title.
If an orphan (a heading or first paragraph line that appears alone at the bottom of a page) is created, move the heading or the paragraph to the start of the next page. If a widow (a last paragraph line that appears alone at the top of the next page), is created, reword the paragraph to eliminate the spillover or move the last two lines of the paragraph to the next page.
(Note: Microsoft Word can be set to control the occurrence of orphans and widows; go to Page Layout/Paragraph/Line and Page Breaks.)
Place all page numbers at the upper right of the page. Pages that come before the abstract (title page, copyright, acknowledgements, dedication, table of contents, list of tables and list of figures) are numbered consecutively using lower case Roman numerals (i, ii, iii, iv, v, etc.). Although numbered, the page number i is not printed on the title page.
Beginning with the first page of the abstract, all remaining pages of the dissertation, including references, divider pages, and appendices, are numbered consecutively using Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc.).
(Note: In Microsoft Word, a new page is created by typing ctrl-enter, that is, the control and enter keys are typed simultaneously. Avoid “entering-down” to start a new page which may not have the desired pagination effect.)
The following sequence reflects the order of the dissertation elements. Appendices B-L provide samples for each of the elements. Some dissertations may have additional or fewer chapters, and chapter titles may differ from those listed. Consult with your mentor for advice on chapters and chapter titles.
- Title Page
- Notice of Copyright
- Acknowledgments (optional)
- Dedication (optional)
- Table of Contents
- List of Tables (if tables are used in your dissertation)
- List of Figures (if figures are used in your dissertation)
- Chapter I: The Problem
- Chapter II: Review of Related Literature
- Chapter III: Methodology
- Chapter IV: Findings (or Results)
- Chapter V: Summary, Conclusions, and Recommendations
- Appendices (IRB Notification Letter, even if waived, must be included as an appendix)
- Appendix A: Appendix A Title
- Appendix B: Appendix B Title (continue as needed)
The following provides further detail for each of the manuscript elements.
The title of a dissertation should summarize concisely the topic addressed by your research. A reader should be able to discern – with reasonable accuracy – the essence of your study. Care should be taken to include appropriate key words in the title to assist in locating your study through digital searches. APA suggests a 12-word limit in titles of articles.
The title page is the first page of the dissertation and, as such, is numbered Roman numeral i. However, the page number is not printed on the page. Table 1 describes, in order, the elements and formatting of the title page. In addition, a sample title page is provided in Appendix A of the Doctoral Handbook.
|Title page elements||Formatting requirements|
|Dissertation title||2 inches (3 double spaces) from top of page;
inverted pyramid, centered, double-spaced, upper case;
12 words maximum across 2-3 lines;
text should not reach the side margins.
|Candidate’s full legal name||2 double spaces below title; centered, mixed case;
full name, no initials; must be identical here and in the abstract;
(Do not use Ph.D. or Ed.D. after your name, unless you currently hold the degree.)
|Candidate’s prior degrees||1 double space below name; centered, mixed case;
listing of multiple degrees should be single spaced;
degrees listed in chronological order;
degree, followed by granting institution and year;
no diplomas or certificates.
|Mentor’s name||5 single spaces below degrees; centered, mixed case;
title Mentor in plain text;
mentor's name and degree directly underneath.
|Readers’ names||3 single spaces below mentor; centered, mixed case;
title Readers in plain text;
alphabetical listing of readers' names and their degrees directly underneath.
|Submission statement||4 double spaces below readers; centered, upper case;
title DISSERTATION in plain text;
submission statement 1 double space below;
(See Appendix A for text of submission statement.)
|Location and year||NEW YORK 2 single spaces below submission statement;
year doctorate conferred directly underneath.
If you plan to file for copyright registration for your dissertation, a notice of copyright must be included following the title page. The notice of copyright is centered (top-to-bottom and left-to-right). It includes the copyright symbol ©, the full legal name of the author, the year in which the material was copyrighted, and the statement, “All Rights Reserved.” See the Doctoral Handbook for an example of a copyright page.
It is sometimes appropriate to acknowledge contributions to your study by a person(s) or institution(s) outside of the Graduate School of Education. For example, you may want to acknowledge the assistance you received in the form of workspace, clerical support, or equipment from the agency or school where you conducted your study. Acknowledgments should be brief, simple, and professionally stated. You may acknowledge more than one person or institution, but all acknowledgments should not exceed a single, double-spaced page. The section title Acknowledgments is centered and in bold upper case. The text is centered (top-to-bottom). See the example in the Doctoral Handbook. Do not include information that would disclose the individual identities of participants in the research or that would otherwise violate confidentiality agreements or ethical standards for treatment of human participants in research.
You may dedicate your dissertation to one or more persons. The text should be brief, simple, and tasteful. Dedications are generally not longer than a few sentences. The dedication follows the acknowledgments on a separate page. The section title Dedication is centered and in bold upper case. The text is centered (top-to-bottom). The Doctoral Handbook provides an example.
The Table of Contents enumerates all the sections in the dissertation. The title, Table of Contents, is centered, in bold caps, and at the top of the page. The word Page is flush with the right margin, two lines (one double space) below the title. Page numbers are right-aligned in the Page column, following the heading title. Chapter-level headings are upper-case and bold. APA level 1, 2, and 3 headings are mixed case and indented, in 1/2 inch increments, according to the APA level of the heading. Do not show more than three APA levels of headings in the Table of Contents (i.e., APA levels 1, 2, 3). (The Headings section of this document explains how corresponding heading levels are formatted in the text.) Headings longer than one line are single spaced and aligned with the first line of the title. Page numbers are at the end of the last line of the title. In instances in which divider pages are used, the entries in the Table of Contents are those of the divider page. See Doctoral Handbook for an example of a table of contents page.
A list of tables enumerates each of the tables in the dissertation (including tables in the appendices), and provides the table’s number, exact name, and page number. For titles that are longer than one line, additional lines are single spaced and aligned with the first line of the title. Page numbers are at the end of the last line of the title. The List of Tables follows the Table of Contents on its own page or pages. See Doctoral Handbook for an example of a list of tables.
As with the List of Tables, which it immediately follows, the List of Figures provides each figure’s number, exact name, and page number. The formatting is the same as that for the list of tables. Figures include graphic materials such as "a chart, graph, photograph, drawing, or any other illustration or nontextual depiction" (APA, 2020, p. 195). Please consult the sections in the APA Publication Manual (7th ed.) for details concerning the appropriate content for, and preparation of, figures. See Doctoral Handbook for an example of a list of figures.
The table below provides formatting details for both the List of Tables and the List of Figures.
|List elements||Formatting requirements|
|Title||top of page, centered, bold, all caps;
“LIST OF TABLES” or “LIST OF FIGURES”
|Headings||2 spaces (1 double space) below the title;
the text “Table” or “Figure” flush left;
the text “Page” flush right.
|List of items||2 spaces (1 double space) below the headings;
item number followed by a period; tab 1/2 inch for the title;
individual items are separated by 2 spaces (1 double space);
page number is flush right.
|Titles longer than 1 line||additional lines are left-aligned along title name;
page number appears at end of last line.
(Use Microsoft Word’s feature for setting left, center, and right tabs in the table of contents, list of tables, and list of figures. Tabbing or spacing over to the right margin may not have the desired effect. The feature should also be used when setting table columns, if tables are used in the dissertation.)
The abstract must be a clear, brief summary of your dissertation. Your abstract should tell what your study is about, what you did in your investigation, what you observed, and what you concluded as a result. In other words, as a summary, it should include the statement of the problem, the procedures and methods used, the results, and your conclusions. Do not include statistical formulas, figures, or other graphics in the abstract. Do not cite references in the abstract.
Your abstract will be published, without additional editing, in Dissertation Abstracts International. Its length may not exceed 250 words.
The Abstract is the first page in which Arabic numerals, beginning with 1, are used for page numbering. Table 3 provides formatting requirements for each element of the Abstract. See Doctoral Handbook for an example of an abstract.
|Abstract elements||Formatting requirements|
|Page number||first page in which Arabic numerals are used;
upper-right corner: 1
|Headings||top of page, centered, mixed case.
first line reads Abstract in plain text.
|Dissertation title||2 spaces (1 double space) below Abstract
inverted pyramid, all caps;
text must be identical to that on the Title Page.
|Candidate’s full legal name||2 spaces (1 double space) below title;
full name, no initials; mixed case;
name must be identical to that on Title Page.
(unlike the Title Page, Ph.D. or Ed.D. may be used)
|University, Location, Year||2 spaces (1 double space) below candidate’s name;
“Fordham University, New York, <year>” with the year in which the degree is conferred in the brackets.
|Mentor’s name||2 spaces (1 double space) below University, Location, Year.
title Mentor in plain text;
mentor's name and degree directly (single space) underneath.
|Text||2 spaces (1 double space) below Mentor
double-spaced, left-aligned, no indentation.
Each dissertation chapter begins at the top of a new page. The titles of your chapters should be discussed with your mentor. Page numbering continues from the Abstract, but the chapter headings are labeled with upper case Roman numerals. Table 4 outlines formatting for each of the chapter elements. See Doctoral Handbook for an example of dissertation chapters.
|Chapter elements||Formatting requirements|
|Chapter heading||bold, all caps
Chapter followed by chapter number in Roman numeral
|Title||bold, all caps
one double space below Chapter
|Chapter||double space throughout
page numbering continues from the Abstract
Individual chapters serve as sections of the dissertation. In addition, chapters will (in all likelihood) contain sections, and sections will contain sub-sections. Section levels are indicated by using APA-style headings (Levels 1-5) at the start of each section. Most often, dissertations require only three or four of the APA levels. Regardless of level, double spacing is maintained throughout the chapter.
Be sure to refer to the Table of Contents section of this document to see how the corresponding levels are displayed in the table of contents.
Tables and figures are valuable means for presenting large amounts of data or complex information to your readers. Consult pp. 195-250 of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (7th ed., 2020) for instructions on the construction and format of tables and figures.
In the dissertation tables and figures are usually inserted on a new page, following the page on which the table or figure is discussed. However, a small table or figure may be included on the same page following the text in which it is discussed. Tables and figures may be oriented vertically (portrait) or horizontally (landscape) on the page depending on its size and shape. If oriented horizontally, its title and the top of the table or figure will be on the left binding side of a hard copy document. As with all pages of the dissertation manuscript, the page number is in the upper-right. APA 7th edition (p. 44) states: "All papers should contain the page number, flush right, in the header of every page. Use the automatic page-numbering function of your word-processing program to insert page numbers in the top right corner; do not type page numbers manually".
Tables and figures are numbered consecutively within the dissertation. Each is captioned with the word “Table” or “Figure” followed by its number. Titles are left-aligned, italicized, and in mixed case. Tables and figures that serve as appendices (and are not placed within the chapters) are listed in the list of tables or list of figures and designated with a letter (not a number) corresponding to its appendix number. They are listed following the numbered items in the lists of tables or list of figures.
See Doctoral Handbook for an example of a tables and figures.
The use of the words or ideas of others must be properly noted and the work attributed to its originator. This applies to the verbatim or direct quotation as well as to a paraphrase or indirect quotation of the material. In each instance, the source must be identified in the text and a full reference to the work must be included in the references list. Chapter 8 (Works Credited in the Text) in the APA 7th ed. (pp. 253-278) includes detailed information about providing sources for the information in your text.
Listings are either single or double-spaced. If single-spaced, a blank space must separate the individual listings.
Chapter 9 (Reference List; pp. 281-309) and Chapter 10 (Reference Examples; pp. 313-352) of the APA 7th ed. (2020) provide detailed information about creating the reference list at the end of a paper. These chapters should be consulted for examples of reference-list style.
The use of copyrighted material is governed by the Copyright Act of 1976 and by policies established by publishers and journals. If you need to reprint a significant portion (50 words or more) of a work, or if the inclusion of a portion of a work might in any way infringe upon the letter or spirit of the fair use protections of the Copyright Act, you must request, and receive, permission in writing to use the material before including the material in your dissertation. Requests for permission are generally honored, but they cannot be taken for granted. If you plan to use a published test, questionnaire, or other copyrighted material, seek permission before you gather your data, in the event of a delay or denial of your request.
To minimize delay, call the publisher of the copyrighted material and request the phone number and address of the person in charge of permissions to reprint. Explain your need and ask for specific instructions on the wording of your letter of request. Generally, such letters must include: full identification of the material you wish permission to use (the exact pages, items, forms, etc.), the purpose of your project (dissertation), the estimated number of copies that will be made, and the expected long-term distribution of the material. Sending your request directly to the permissions editor may save considerable amounts of time. See the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (7th ed.) for additional information about permissions.
Letters of permission for copyrighted material are mentioned in the body of the text and are inserted as an Appendix. Note that an actual letter of permission is needed in your appendix; verbal permission is not sufficient.
Additionally, dissertations that are aided by or require the availability of reference or support materials (for example, a copy of a questionnaire used in the study), should contain an Appendix for each of those items.
The “Honesty in the Authorship of this Dissertation” form (available from the GSE Doctoral Procedures website) describes expectations regarding honesty and plagiarism. You will be required to sign and submit the form when you submit your dissertation for format review.
Appendices are inserted at the end of the dissertation document. If more than one is used, each is preceded by a leader page designated Appendix A, Appendix B, and so on. Directly underneath (double spaced) is a brief, informative title. If only one appendix is included, a leader page is still used but it does not have a letter designation. All of the appendices in this document serve as examples as to how appendices and leader pages are to be formatted.
The pages of appendices, including the divider pages, are consecutively numbered and continue the pagination following the references list. It is the titles and page numbers of the divider pages (not the appendix items themselves) that are listed in the Table of Contents.
The IRB Notification Letter, even if waived, must be included as an appendix in the GSE dissertation.
American Psychological Association. (2020). Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. (7th ed.). Washington, DC.
Nicol, Adelheid A. M., & Pexman, P. M. (2010). Presenting Your Findings: A Practical Guide for Creating Tables (6th Ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.