Formatting Your Thesis: Overall Layout and Specifications
Table of Contents
The most commonly used citation/referencing styles are APA, Chicago/Turabian, and MLA. If you are unsure which writing style to use or to the degree to which you must follow its conventions, contact your supervisor/instructor or department graduate assistant. In some cases (such as headings, line spacing, paragraph alignment, font) deviation from your publication style is permitted. The Library's thesis template formatting is acceptable for thesis submission regardless of publication style.
Should you wish to change fonts and/or paragraph formatting, modify them globally using styles (rather than selecting text and changing fonts and line-spacing). Changing the formatting manually may adversely affect the output in the PDF.
A thesis can be written in a foreign language. In these cases, the Library requires a second complete title page in English and the required documentation in English. The accuracy of content is the responsibility of the author and senior supervisor regardless of the language in which it was written.
All content must be inside the margins to allow theses to be bound. The Library's thesis template conforms to margin specifications. If you are not using the template, use the margins indicated below.
- 1.25" left/right and 1" top/bottom (page numbers can be at .7")
- Though margins cannot be smaller, they can be larger -- however this is not recommended.
Please ensure that tables, figures, and/or images do not stretch beyond these margins; that is that nothing goes past where the text falls naturally on other pages.
- All pages with the exception of the Title Page must have page numbers.
- Roman numerals must appear on preliminary pages (ii. iii, iv,...) and Arabic numbers must be used for the body of text, beginning with the introduction through to the end of the document (1, 2, 3,...).
- Page numbers must be greater than .5" from the edge of the page.
- It is preferred that page numbers appear at the bottom/center of each page (the template default). Page numbers may also be located bottom or top right. Do not include page numbers on the bottom left of the page as they will be hidden when the thesis is bound.
- Title Page (no page#). Please check the details/elements on your Title Page, see the Title Page webpage.
- Approval Page (page ii). Please also check the details/elements on your Approval Page webpage.
- Abstract (page iii; new template Nov 14, 2011 onward, page iv). See the Abstract and Keyword restrictions.
- Chapter 1 or Introduction (page 1)
- References/Bibliography appear before the Appendices
Arial 11 point (pt) is the preferred font/size and is the default in the templates acknowledging that theses are commonly read online. Other cross-platform sans serif fonts for text are also acceptable (e.g., Tahoma, Verdana, Calibri); the size chosen should be the same physical size as Arial 11pt. To change the font, modify the Normal style rather than selecting your text and making the change (see the template instructions on how to do this).
Tables, figures and other illustrations
Exception: See Formatting Your Thesis: Tables, Figures, and Illustrations for font and other formatting specifications.
Footnotes and Endnotes
Font is Arial 10pt. See also Formatting Your Thesis: Footnotes and Endnotes.
The body of your document requires 1.5 line-spacing with the exception of blockquotes, bullets, a series of numbered paragraphs, references, and appendices which are single spaced. The Library's template styles will do this for you.
Exception: See Formatting Your Thesis: Tables, Figures, and Illustrations for line spacing specifications.
Footnotes must be single-spaced with space between paragraphs (Footnote Text style) and the footnote reference number uses the Footnote Reference style. See Formatting Your Thesis: Footnotes and Endnotes.
Endnotes must be single-spaced with space between paragraphs (Endnote Text style) and the endnote reference number uses the Endnote Reference style. See Formatting Your Thesis: Footnotes and Endnotes.
References must be single-spaced with space between paragraphs (5_References_Normal style).
Single space the appendix / appendices with spacing between paragraphs. See Formatting Your Thesis: Appendices.
Avoid including signatures, email addresses, and phone numbers on any pages of your thesis. Exceptions:
general or position-specific email addresses are permitted - personal email addresses are not.
(e.g., firstname.lastname@example.org is an email address for a library service and would be acceptable to include, but JohnSmith@sfu.ca is not)
- organization phone numbers are permitted - personal phone numbers and cell numbers are not.
- signatures appear only on the Approval page and Partial Copyright License of one of the hardcopy theses you hand into the Library (the Archive copy). These signatures must be originals.
See the workshop or workshop handout for help blocking out signatures.
All pages with headings must correspond with the headings and page numbers listed in the Table of Contents (ToC). If you have used the Library's template, this will be done automatically.
Compare the major headings and their page numbers with the ToC (e.g., Approval page, Abstract, Dedication, Acknowledgments, ToC, List of Tables, List of Figures, etc., Introduction, Chapters, Conclusion, and References/Bibliography and Appendices/Appendix[es]. Spot-check sub-headings as well.
If you have not used Heading styles and the ToC auto-generate function for such lists (including tables, figures, etc.), you must match all entries in the ToC with all headings and page numbers in the document to be sure they are correct. Do the same for the captions as well (Figures, Tables, etc.).
Print Preview through your Word document and then, after converting to PDF, view all the PDF pages before printing.
Flip through the PDF on-screen page-by-page to ensure there are no blank pages in your document.