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 in early 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.

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. Readers prefer not to know who directed your thesis, lest they be somehow swayed by that knowledge.

Illustrations: Illustrations, also called figures, might include anything from a photograph to a printed advertisement to a map to a chart. Illustrations may be inserted in the body of your thesis or included in an appendix at the end. Writers often choose to reference an illustration in the body of text, signaling to readers to refer to a particular figure that’s being discussed by turning to a nearby page or to an appendix (e.g., “See Figure 1.”) The inclusion of illustrations in a senior thesis, which has a fairly circumscribed audience, falls under fair use, so you do not need permissions to reproduce illustrations in your thesis. However, all images should be accompanied by a caption that identifies the image and may include brief explanatory text. You may also use the caption to attribute the source where you found the illustration (e.g., a url or the name of the archive where you photographed the item), or you can cite the illustration in a footnote or endnote. You do not need to cite your images in your bibliography. For more detailed guidelines on including illustrations in your thesis, see The Chicago Manual of Style or the MLA Style Manual.

Format: Pages should be 8 1/2" x 11". Margins should be 1 inch, 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: If you have questions beyond those covered on this page, 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. The Expository Writing Program guide, Writing with Sources, is very useful.

Table of 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. Follow the general practice in the best periodicals in your field, and be consistent. Foreign words that are not quotations should be underlined or italicized.

Appendices: An appendix provides additional material that helps support your argument and is too lengthy to be included as a footnote or endnote. Appendices might include images, passages from primary texts in a non-English language or in your translation, or archival material that is difficult to access. It is rare but perfectly acceptable for theses to include appendices, so make sure to discuss with your tutor whether an appendix makes sense for your project.

Notes: You may use either footnotes (at bottom of page), endnotes (at end of the thesis) or MLA style parenthetical notes. However, for a History & 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: You must append a list of works cited to your thesis. It's a good idea to compile your bibliography as you write, rather than try to put it together all at once at the end (there are very powerful bibliography programs available, such as Zotero and Endnote, that generate bibliographies automatically). The purpose of the bibliography is to be a convenience to your reader. In the works cited list, primary and secondary sources should be listed under separate headings.