Senior Thesis Formatting Guidelines

Contents and Form

Length: The required length is between 10,000 and 20,000 words, not counting notes, bibliography, and appendices. The precise length of the main body text must be indicated on the word count page immediately following the title page. If a student expects the thesis to exceed 20,000 words, the student’s tutor should consult the Director of Studies. Please note that students’ requests to exceed 20,000 words must go through their tutors and that these requests must be made by February. Any extension of the thesis beyond the maximum must be justified by the nature of the topic, or sustained excellence in the treatment of the subject, or both. Theses that receive permission to exceed 20,000 words can still be penalized if readers do not think that the excess length is warranted.

Copies: Prepare and submit two, single-sided, complete copies. Both copies should be on acid-free, acid-neutral (pH 7.0 – 8.5), or “buffered” paper (Xerox XXV, Howard Permalife, Hammermill Bond or Crane's thesis paper are suggested by Archives, but any kind of acid-free or acid-neutral paper will do; watermarked paper is fine). Clear Xerox copies on acid-free paper are acceptable. Both copies should be presented in a black spring-back binder. Students should allow ample time for possible problems with computers. Theses whose grades average Magna or higher will be placed in the University Archives; at least one copy will be returned to the author. Students in joint concentrations should submit two copies to History & Literature and one copy to the other concentration, all on or before History & Literature due date. You should also give a copy to your tutor.

Acknowledgments: Please do not include acknowledgments in your final copy of the thesis. If you wish, you can add acknowledgments after your thesis has been read. Outside readers prefer not to know who directed your thesis, lest they be somehow swayed by that knowledge.

Text and Illustrations: Both copies must, of course, be carefully proofread. Illustrations may be inserted in the text or on separate sheets at the back. High-quality digital images are preferable to photocopies. For mounting illustrations, do not use rubber cement, cellophane, or gummed tapes. Use a good quality, acid neutral paste (Uhu or Pritt glue stick). Make sure that you properly cite the sources of illustrations.

Format: Pages should be 8 1/2" x 11". Margins should be generous (we suggest 1 1/2" on the left, 1" on the right), and pages should be numbered. Do not right-justify. The lines of type must be double-spaced, except for quotations of five lines or more, which should be indented and single-spaced.

Style: The following notes cover only the most basic considerations. For further information, consult the University of Chicago's A Manual of Style or the Modern Language Association's Style Manual. Kate L. Turabian's A Manual for Writers is a good, inexpensive, brief guide to Chicago style. Worth owning is H.W. and F.G. Fowler, Modern English Usage (2nd edition, Oxford, 1965). The Expository Writing Program guide, Writing with Sources, is very useful.

Contents: Every thesis requires a Table of Contents to guide the reader.

Quotations: Quotations of four lines or fewer, surrounded by quotation marks, may be incorporated into the body of the text. Longer extracts should be indented and single-spaced; they should not be included in quotation marks. Each full quotation should be accompanied by a reference. In general, it is advisable that the direct quotations in the text be in the language in which they were originally written, but translations of all such materials should be provided in foot- or end-notes, either from a published translation, or by the author of the thesis. Follow the general practice in the best periodicals in your field, and be consistent. Foreign words which are not quotations should be underlined or italicized.

Documents: Key historical and literary sources should be quoted verbatim if they are unpublished or for some other reason inaccessible (short ones in footnotes, longer ones in appendices).

Appendices: An appendix is essentially an expanded footnote. One possible purpose is to supply further but incidental support for an argument developed in the text.

Notes: You may use either footnotes (at bottom of page), endnotes (at end of the thesis) or the MLA style parenthetical notes. However, for a History and Literature thesis, Chicago style is generally better. Footnote or endnotes are properly used:

  • To state precisely the source or other authority for a statement in the text, or to acknowledge indebtedness for insights or arguments taken from other writers. Quotations should be given when necessary.
  • To make minor qualifications, to prevent misunderstanding, or otherwise to clarify the text when such statements, if put in the text, would interrupt the flow.
  • To carry further some topic discussed in the text, when such discussion is needed but does not fit into the text.

Bibliography: A bibliography, or list of works consulted, must be appended to the thesis. It should be regarded as a convenience to the reader and may be descriptive, wholly or in part. Primary sources and secondary authorities should be listed under separate headings.

Citations: For footnote form, as for other matters of style, A Manual of Style, published by the University of Chicago Press, offers a convenient guide, as does the Turabian edition mentioned above. Some students may prefer to use the Modern Language Association's Style Manual, but, as noted above, Chicago style is generally better for History and Literature theses.

Printing Problems: Recently, a number of students have encountered last minute printing problems that have seriously jeopardized their ability to meet the thesis deadline. Do not wait until the afternoon your thesis is due to print the text. When you are about to format the thesis for final printing, be sure to make an extra copy on two separate disks or external hard drives. If your hard drive crashes, you might also inadvertently ruin a disk. In addition, check to see that all of the pages are included in both copies of your thesis. (Please note: Students using a laser printer should be sure to determine that the paper they choose will accept laser printing. Some students in the past have reported difficulties using matte acid-free paper with laser printers.)

Computer Viruses: Protect yourself. Viruses, like printer problems, are not a legitimate excuse for a late thesis.

A number of theses from previous years are available in the office. Archived History and Literature theses are indexed on HOLLIS and available on request from the Harvard Archives