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General Formatting Notes
When writing a paper, it is important to follow any rules or guidelines set by your professor. Make sure to check your assignment for specific instructions regarding format. Different fields have different standards, and it will be important for you to know the standard for your future field.
The following formatting guides are the most widely accepted for the format and submission of theses and dissertations, but there may be differences from the requirements of your UVF department. Always check with your professor if you have questions regarding format for your paper, especially if your assignment is a thesis or dissertation.
Most papers have three divisions: front matter, the text of the paper itself, and the back matter. For a regular class paper, the front matter is usually just a title page and the back matter is the bibliography or reference list. Theses and disserations will have more subsections depending on the paper.
Nearly all papers are published on 8 1/2 by 11 inch paper, regardless of physical or electronic submission. Leave a margin of at least 1 inch on all four sides of your page. For a thesis or dissertation meant to be bound, leave a slightly bigger margin on the left side of the page, usually 1 1/2 inches.
Be sure that all materials found in the footnotes and endnotes falls within the margins.
Choose a single, readable, and widely available font such as Times New Roman or Arial. Avoid ornamental fonts as they can distract your readers or make your work appear less serious. In general, use the equivalent of at least 10-point Arial or 12-point Times New Roman for the body of texts.
Check your professor's guidelines for font and size for footnotes and endnotes.
Spacing and Indentation
Double space all text in papers, except for the following, which should be single spaced:
- block quotations
- table titles and figure captions
- lists in appendixes
The following should be single spaced internally, but a blank line should be between items:
- certain elements in the front matter (table of contents, lists of figures, tables, or abbreviations)
- footnotes and endnotes
- bibliographies and reference lists
Put only one space, not two, following sentences. Use tabs or indents for paragraph indentation and to adjust other content requiring consistent alignment. Block quotations have their own guidelines for indentation, depending on whether they are prose or poetry.
If your only front matter is a title page, do not number that page.
Number the pages in the body of the paper and the back matter with arabic numerals, starting on the first page of text (page 2 if you count the title page.
If you are writing a thesis or dissertation, number front matter separately from the rest of the text.
Front matter includes the title page and various other elements. Number these pages consecutively with lower case roman numerals (i, ii, iii, iv, etc.) Ask your professor about specific guidelines for numbering front matter.
Back matter is numbered consecutively using arabic numerals.
Page numbers are found in four possible locations
Remain consistent in the placement of your page numbers
The front matter of a thesis or dissertation may have some or all of the following elements:
- Submission page - This is usually the first page of the document. If it is in this position, it does not get a page number and is not counted in the pagination of the front matter. The submission page states that the paper has been submitted in partial fulfillment of a Master's or PhD degree, and includes space for the signatures of the examining committee. Consult your professor for the wording and format of this page.
- Title page - Class papers should begin with a title page (but your professor may want this on the first page of the text). Place the title of the paper a third of the way down the page, centered. If the title has a subtitle, put the main title on a single line, followed by a colon, and begin the subtitle on a new line with an intervening line space. Several lines below that, place your name, any information requested by your professor (course title, department), and the date.
- Copyright page - In a thesis or dissertation, insert a copyright page after the title page. Count this as page ii, but do not put that number on the page. Include the copyright notice near the top of this page, usually flush left, in this form:
Copyright © 20XX by Your Name
All rights reserved
You do not need to apply for formal copyright.
- Abstract - The abstract summarizes the contents of the thesis or dissertation. Count the first page of the abstract as page iii, and number all pages. Your department may have specific guidelines regarding the abstract for your paper.
- Dedication - Your department may allow for a dedication. Number the dedication page with a roman numeral. Place the dedication a third of the way down the page, centered, in regular type. Simply say "To xx" with no terminal punctuation.
- Epigraph - This can be used in place of a dedication if allowed by your department. Number the page with a roman numeral. Place it a third of the way down the page, centered or as a block quotation. Do not enclose it in quotation marks, and give the source its own line, set flush right, preceded by a dash
- Table of Contents - All papers divided into chapters require a table of contents. Number this page with roman numerals. Leave two blank lines between the title and the first item listed. Single space items listed, but leave a blank space between items. Leave two blank spaces between lists of front matter, the body of the work, and the back matter. The table of contents does not list pages that precedes it (Title page, etc.). Give page numbers only for the first page of the section.
- List of Figures, Tables, or Illustrations - You may choose to list all figures in your paper. This list should use roman numerals to list the pages for these items. The names of these items should match what they are titled in your paper.
- Preface - You may include a preface to explain the motivations of your study, its background, the scope of the research, or the purpose of the paper.
- Acknowledgements - Here you can thank mentors and colleagues or name the institutions and individuals that supported your research or provided assistance. You should also acknowledge the owners of copyrighted materials who have given you permission to reproduce their work.
- List of Abbreviations - If there are an unusual number of abbreviations in your thesis or dissertation, you may choose to list them in the front matter. Examples would be abbreviations for sources cited frequently or organizations that are not widely known. Items should be arranged alphabetically by the abbreviation, not the spelled out term.
- Glossary - If your thesis or dissertation includes many words from other language or technical terms and phrases that may be unfamiliar to your reader, include a glossary. Some departments may want this in the back matter, so check with your professor.
- Editorial or Research Method - Include this if your thesis or dissertation requires extensive preliminary discussion of your editorial method (such as choices between variant texts) or an explanation of research method.
The text of the paper is everything between the front matter and the back matter. It begins with an introduction and ends with your conclusion. In a thesis or dissertation, the text is usually separated into chapters and sometimes into parts, sections, and subsections. Since most of the text consists of paragraphs laying out your findings, there are few format requirements.
Begin arabic numbering with the first page of the text (normally page 1 or 2).
- Introduction - The introduction previews the contents of the paper and is distinct enough to be separate from the rest of the paper. If the substance of the introductory material is not distinct from the following chapters, incorporate it into the first chapter.
- Parts - If you divide your text into two or more parts containing at least two chapters each, begin each part with a part-title page. Be sure to use consistent formatting for every part of your paper. If one part has something, include that in every part.
- Chapters - Each chapter should begin on a new page. Label this page with "Chapter" followed by the chapter number at the top of the page. Include the name of the chapter two lines down, following a blank line. Leave two lines blank before the text following the title.
- Sections and Subsections - Long chapters in a thesis or dissertation may be divided into smaller subsections. You may signal a change between sections informally by centering three asterisks (* * *) on their own line. For more formal sections, you may give each section its own title (subheading). You may have multiple levels of subheadings, designated as first-level, second-level, and so on. Be consistent with the style of subheading you are using.
- Notes or Parenthetical Citation - See the section on citation for instructions on footnotes, endnotes, and other citations.
- Conclusion - The conclusion should sum up your findings or argument. You may want to make your conclusion the final chapter of your paper.
The back matter may consist of all, some, or none of the following elements.
- Illustrations - You may choose to have all of your tables, figures, and illustrations at the end of the paper, instead of incorporating them into the text. Label the first page of the section "Illustrations."
- Appendixes - This section will include essential supporting material that cannot easily be worked into the text of your paper. This may include tables or figures that are marginally relevant to your topic or too large to include in the text; schedules and forms used in collecting materials; copies of documents not easily available to the reader; and case studies too long to be included in the text. Different types of materials should be separated into different appendixes, each with a number or letter and a descriptive title.
- Glossary - If you needed to include a glossary, and did not put it in the front matter, include it here.
- Endnotes - If you are using notes-style citations, you may include notes in the back matter. If you are using author-date citations, you will not have endnotes.
- Bibliography or Reference List - If you are using notes-style citations, you will include a bibliography. If you are using author-date style, you will include a reference list. See the citation sections for guidelines. Indent the second and following lines of a citation with a hanging indent. Arrange references alphabetically by author.
Depending on the complexity of your paper, there will be many elements which should each have a title.
Use the same font, type size, and formatting style (bold, italic, etc.) for the titles of like elements. Generally, titles should appear in bold.
On the title page, center each element and use headline-style capitalization for all, including the title of your paper.
Titles for front and back matter are generally centered, as are chapter number designations and chapter titles.