Formatting Your Dissertation

When preparing the dissertation for submission, students must follow strict formatting requirements. Any deviation from these requirements may lead to rejection of the dissertation and delay in conferral of the degree.

Language of the Dissertation

The language of the dissertation is ordinarily English, although some departments whose subject matter involves foreign languages may accept a dissertation written in a language other than English.

Length

Most dissertations are 100 to 300 pages in length. All dissertations should be divided into appropriate sections, and long dissertations may need chapters, main divisions, and subdivisions.

Page and Text Requirements

PAGE SIZE

8½ x 11 inches, unless a musical score is included.

MARGINS

  • At least 1 inch for all margins.

SPACING

  • Body of text: double spacing

  • Block quotations, footnotes, and bibliographies: single spacing within each entry but double spacing between each entry

  • Table of contents, list of tables, list of figures or illustrations, and lengthy tables: single spacing may be used

FONTS AND POINT SIZE

Use 10-12 point size. Fonts must be embedded in the PDF file to ensure all characters display correctly. 

Recommended Fonts

If you are unsure whether your chosen font will display correctly, use one of the following fonts: 

Font

Point size

Arial

10 pt

Century

11 pt

Courier New

10 pt

Garamond

12 pt

Georgia

11 pt

Lucida Bright

10 pt

Microsoft Sans Serif

10 pt

Tahoma

10 pt

Times New Roman

12 pt

Trebuchet MS

10 pt

Verdana

10 pt

If fonts are not embedded, non-English characters may not appear as intended. Fonts embedded improperly will be printed as-is. It is the student’s responsibility to make sure that fonts are embedded properly prior to submission. 

Instructions for Embedding Fonts

To embed your fonts in recent versions of Word, follow these instructions from Microsoft:

  1. Click the File tab and then click Options.

  2. In the left column, select the Save tab.

  3. At the bottom, under Preserve fidelity when sharing this document, select the Embed fonts in the file check box.

    1. Clear the Do not embed common system fonts check box.

  4. Click OK.

For reference, below are some instructions from ProQuest UMI for embedding fonts in older file formats:

To embed your fonts in Microsoft Word 2010:

  1. In the File pull-down menu click on Options.

  2. Choose Save on the left sidebar.

  3. Check the box next to Embed fonts in the file.

  4. Click the OK button.

  5. Save the document.

Note that when saving as a PDF, make sure to go to “more options” and save as “PDF/A compliant”


To embed your fonts in Microsoft Word 2007:

  1. Click the circular Office button in the upper left corner of Microsoft Word.
  2. A new window will display. In the bottom right corner select Word Options
  3. Choose Save from the left sidebar.
  4. Check the box next to Embed fonts in the file.
  5. Click the OK button.
  6. Save the document.

Using Microsoft Word on a Mac:

Microsoft Word 2008 on a Mac OS X computer will automatically embed your fonts while converting your document to a PDF file.

If you are converting to PDF using Acrobat Professional (instructions courtesy of the Graduate Thesis Office at Iowa State University):  

  1. Open your document in Microsoft Word. 
  2. Click on the Adobe PDF tab at the top. Select "Change Conversion Settings." 
  3. Click on Advanced Settings. 
  4. Click on the Fonts folder on the left side of the new window. In the lower box on the right, delete any fonts that appear in the "Never Embed" box. Then click "OK." 
  5. If prompted to save these new settings, save them as "Embed all fonts." 
  6. Now the Change Conversion Settings window should show "embed all fonts" in the Conversion Settings drop down list and it should be selected. Click "OK" again. 
  7. Click on the Adobe PDF link at the top again. This time select Convert to Adobe PDF. Depending on the size of your document and the speed of your computer, this process can take 1-15 minutes. 
  8. After your document is converted, select the "File" tab at the top of the page. Then select "Document Properties." 
  9. Click on the "Fonts" tab. Carefully check all of your fonts. They should all show "(Embedded Subset)" after the font name. 
  10.  If you see "(Embedded Subset)" after all fonts, you have succeeded.

 

Body of Text, Tables, Figures, and Captions

The font used in the body of the text must also be used in headers, page numbers, and footnotes. Exceptions are made only for tables and figures created with different software and inserted into the document.

Tables and figures must be placed as close as possible to their first mention in the text. They may be placed on a page with no text above or below, or they may be placed directly into the text. If a table or a figure is alone on a page (with no narrative), it should be centered within the margins on the page. Tables may take up more than one page as long as they obey all rules about margins. Tables and figures referred to in the text may not be placed at the end of the chapter or at the end of the dissertation.

  • Given the standards of the discipline, dissertations in the Department of History of Art and Architecture and the Department of Architecture, Landscape Architecture, and Urban Planning often place illustrations at the end of the dissertation.

Figure and table numbering must be continuous throughout the dissertation or by chapter (e.g., 1.1, 1.2, 2.1, 2.2, etc.). Two figures or tables cannot be designated with the same number. If you have repeating images that you need to cite more than once, label them with their number and A, B, etc. 

Headings should be placed at the top of tables. While no specific rules for the format of table headings and figure captions is required, a consistent format must be used throughout the dissertation (contact your department for style manuals appropriate to the field).

Captions should appear at the bottom of any figures. If the figure takes up the entire page, the caption should be placed alone on the preceding page, centered vertically and horizontally within the margins.

Each page receives a separate page number. When a figure or table title is on a preceding page, the second and subsequent pages of the figure or table should say, for example, “Figure 5 (Continued).” In such an instance, the list of figures or tables will list the page number containing the title. The word “figure” should be written in full (not abbreviated), and the “F” should be capitalized (e.g., Figure 5). In instances where the caption continues on a second page, the “(Continued)” notation should appear on the second and any subsequent page. The figure/table and the caption are viewed as one entity and the numbering should show correlation between all pages. Each page must include a header.

Landscape orientation figures and tables must be positioned correctly and bound at the top, so that the top of the figure or table will be at the left margin. Figure and table headings/captions are placed with the same orientation as the figure or table when on the same page. When on a separate page, headings/captions are always placed in portrait orientation, regardless of the orientation of the figure or table. Page numbers are always placed as if the figure were vertical on the page.

If a graphic artist does the figures, GSAS will accept lettering done by the artist only within the figure. Figures done with software are acceptable if the figures are clear and legible. Legends and titles done by the same process as the figures will be accepted if they too are clear, legible, and run at least 10 or 12 characters per inch. Otherwise, legends and captions should be printed with the same font used in the text.

Original illustrations, photographs, and fine arts prints may be scanned and included, centered between the margins on a page with no text above or below. For questions about the use of images in your dissertation, please see the help page in ETDs @ Harvard.

Use of Third-Party Content

In addition to the student's own writing, dissertations often contain third-party content, or in-copyright content owned by parties other than you, the student who authored the dissertation. The Office for Scholarly Communication recommends consulting the information below about fair use, which allows individuals to use in-copyright content, on a limited basis and for specific purposes, without seeking permission from copyright holders.

Because your dissertation will be made available for online distribution through DASH, Harvard's open-access repository, it is important that any third-party content in it may be made available in this way.

Fair Use and Copyright 

What is fair use?

Fair use is a provision in copyright law that allows the use of a certain amount of copyrighted material without seeking permission. Fair use is format- and media-agnostic. This means fair use may apply to images (including photographs, illustrations, and paintings), quoting at length from literature, videos, and music regardless of the format. 

How do I determine whether my use of an image, or other third-party content, in my dissertation is fair use? 

There are four factors you will need to consider when making a fair use claim.

1) For what purpose is your work going be used?

  • Nonprofit, educational, scholarly, or research use favors fair use. Commercial, non-educational uses, often do not favor fair use.

  • A transformative use (repurposing or recontextualizing the in-copyright material) favors fair use. Examining, analyzing, and explicating the material in a meaningful way, so as to enhance a reader's understanding, strengthens your fair use argument. In other words, can you make the point in the thesis without using, for instance, an in-copyright image? Is that image necessary to your dissertation? If not, perhaps, for copyright reasons, you should not include the image. 

2) What is the nature of the work to be used?

  • Published, fact-based content favors fair use and includes scholarly analysis in published academic venues. 

  • Creative works, including artistic images, are afforded more protection under copyright, and depending on your use in light of the other factors, may be less likely to favor fair use; however, this does not preclude considerations of fair use for creative content altogether.

3) How much of the work is going to be used? 

  • Small, or less significant, amounts favor fair use. A good rule of thumb is to use only as much of the in-copyright content as necessary to serve your purpose. Can you use a thumbnail rather than a full-resolution image? Can you use a black-and-white photo instead of color? Can you quote select passages instead of including several pages of the content? These simple changes bolster your fair use of the material.

4) What potential effect on the market for that work may your use have?

  • If there is a market for licensing this exact use or type of educational material, then this weighs against fair use. If, however, there would likely be no effect on the potential commercial market, or if it is not possible to obtain permission to use the work, then this favors fair use. 

For further assistance with fair use, consult the Office for Scholarly Communication's guide, Fair Use: Made for the Harvard Community and the Office of the General Counsel's Copyright and Fair Use: A Guide for the Harvard Community.

What are my options if I don’t have a strong fair use claim? 

Consider the following options if you find you cannot reasonably make a fair use claim for the content you wish to incorporate:

  • Seek permission from the copyright holder. 

  • Use openly licensed content as an alternative to the original third-party content you intended to use. Openly-licensed content grants permission up-front for reuse of in-copyright content, provided your use meets the terms of the open license.

  • Use content in the public domain, as this content is not in-copyright and is therefore free of all copyright restrictions. Whereas third-party content is owned by parties other than you, no one owns content in the public domain; everyone therefore has the right to use it.

For use of images in your dissertation, please consult this guide to Finding Public Domain & Creative Commons Media, which is a great resource for finding images without copyright restrictions. 

Who can help me with questions about copyright and fair use?

Contact your Copyright First Responder. Please note, Copyright First Responders assist with questions concerning copyright and fair use, but do not assist with the process of obtaining permission from copyright holders.

 

Pagination

Pages should be assigned a number except for the Dissertation Acceptance Certificate. Preliminary pages (abstract, table of contents, list of tables, graphs, illustrations, and preface) should use small Roman numerals (i, ii, iii, iv, v, etc.). All pages must contain text or images. 

Count the title page as page i and the copyright page as page ii, but do not print page numbers on either page.

For the body of text, use Arabic numbers (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc.) starting with page 1 on the first page of text. Page numbers must be centered throughout the manuscript at top or bottom. Every numbered page must be consecutively ordered, including tables, graphs, illustrations, and bibliography/index (if included); letter suffixes (such as 10a, 10b, etc.) are not allowed. It is customary not to have a page number on the page containing a chapter heading.

  • Check pagination carefully. Account for all pages.

Dissertation Acceptance Certificate

A scanned copy of the Dissertation Acceptance Certificate (DAC) should appear as the first page, followed by a blank page. These pages should not be counted or numbered. The DAC will appear in the bound and online versions of the published dissertation.

Title Page

The dissertation begins with the title page; the title should be as concise as possible and should provide an accurate description of the dissertation.

  • Do not print a page number on the title page: It is understood to be page for counting purposes only.

Copyright Statement

A copyright notice should appear on a separate page immediately following the title page and include the copyright symbol ©, the year of first publication of the work, and the name of the author:

© [year] [Author’s Name] All rights reserved.

Alternatively, students may choose to license their work openly under a Creative Commons license. The author remains the copyright holder while at the same time granting up-front permission to others to read, share, and (depending on the license) adapt the work, so long as proper attribution is given. (By default, under copyright law, the author reserves all rights; under a Creative Commons license, the author reserves some rights.)

  • Do not print a page number on the copyright page. It is understood to be page ii for counting purposes only.

Abstract

An abstract, numbered as page iii, should immediately follow the copyright page and should state the problem, describe the methods and procedures used, and give the main results or conclusions of the research. The abstract will appear in the online and bound versions of the dissertation and will be published by ProQuest.

  • The abstract text should be:
    • double-spaced
    • left justified
    • indented on the first line of each paragraph
  • The top of the abstract page should include:
    • The author’s name, right justified
    • The words “Dissertation Advisor:” followed by the advisor’s name, left-justified (a maximum of two advisors is allowed)
    • Title of the dissertation, centered, several lines below author and advisor

Table of Contents

Dissertations divided into sections must contain a table of contents that lists, at minimum, the major headings in the following order:

  1. Title page
  2. Copyright
  3. Abstract
  4. Table of Contents
  5. Front Matter
  6. Body of Text
  7. Back Matter

Front and Back Matter

Front matter includes (if applicable):

  • acknowledgments of help or encouragement from individuals or institutions

  • a dedication

  • a list of illustrations or tables

  • a glossary of terms

  • one or more epigraphs.

Back matter includes (if applicable)::

  • Appendices

  • Bibliography

  • supplemental materials, including figures and tables

  • an index (in rare instances)

Supplemental Material

Supplemental figures and tables must be placed at the end of the dissertation in an appendix, not within or at the end of a chapter. If additional digital information (including audio, video, image, or datasets) will accompany the main body of the dissertation, it should be uploaded as a supplemental file through ETDs @ Harvard. Supplemental material will be available in DASH and ProQuest and preserved digitally in the Harvard University Archives.

Dissertations Comprising Previously Published Works

As a matter of copyright, dissertations comprising the student's previously published works must be authorized for distribution from DASH. The guidelines in this section pertain to any previously published material that requires permission from publishers or other rightsholders before it may be distributed from DASH. 

  • Authors whose publishing agreements grant the publisher exclusive rights to display, distribute, and create derivative works will need to seek the publisher's permission for nonexclusive use of the underlying works before the dissertation may be distributed from DASH.

  • Authors whose publishing agreements indicate the authors have retained the relevant nonexclusive rights to the original materials for display, distribution, and the creation of derivative works may distribute the dissertation as a whole from DASH without need for further permissions.

It is recommended that authors consult their publishing agreements directly to determine whether and to what extent they may have transferred exclusive rights under copyright. The Office for Scholarly Communication (OSC) and Copyright First Responders are available to help the author determine whether she has retained the necessary rights or requires permission. Please note, however, OSC and the Copyright First Responders are not able to assist with the permissions process itself.

Top Ten Formatting Errors

  1. Missing Dissertation Acceptance Certificate. The first page of the PDF dissertation file should be a scanned copy of the Dissertation Acceptance Certificate (DAC), followed by a blank page. These pages should not be counted or numbered as a part of the dissertation pagination.

  2. Conflicts Between the DAC and the Title Page. The DAC and the dissertation title page must match exactly, meaning that the author name and the title on the title page must match that on the DAC. The author name on both should appear as it does on the official GSAS record.

  3. Abstract Formatting Errors. The advisor name should be left-justified, and the author name should be right-justified. Up to two advisor names are allowed. The Abstract should be double spaced and include the page title “Abstract,” as well as the page number “iii.”

  4. Pagination 

    1.  The front matter should be numbered using Roman numerals (iii, iv, v, …). The title page and the copyright page should be counted but not numbered. The first printed page number should appear on the Abstract page (iii). 

    2. The body of the dissertation should be numbered using Arabic numbers (1, 2, 3, …). The first page of the body of the text should begin with page 1. Pagination may not continue from the front matter. 

    3. All page numbers should be centered either at the top or the bottom of the page

  5. Figures and tables Figures and tables must be placed within the text, as close to their first mention as possible. Figures and tables that span more than one page must be labeled on each page. Any second and subsequent page of the figure/table must include the “(Continued)” notation. This applies to figure captions as well as images. Each page of a figure/table must be accounted for and appropriately labeled. All figures/tables must have a unique number. They may not repeat within the dissertation.

  6. Horizontal Figures and Tables 

    1. Any figures/tables placed in a horizontal orientation must be placed with the top of the figure/ table on the left hand side. The top of the figure/table should be aligned with the spine of the dissertation when it is bound. 

    2. Page numbers must be placed in the same location on all pages of the dissertation, centered, at the bottom or top of the page. Page numbers may not appear under the table/ figure

  7. Supplemental Figures and Tables. Supplemental figures and tables must be placed at the back of the dissertation in an appendix. They should not be placed at the back of the chapter. 

  8. Permission Letters Copyright. permission letters must be uploaded as a supplemental file, titled ‘do_not_publish_permission_letters,” within the dissertation submission tool.

  9. Original DAC. The original Dissertation Acceptance Certificate must be submitted to the Registrar’s Office by the dissertation deadline. Dissertation submission is not complete until all documents have been received and accepted.

  10. Overall Formatting. The entire document should be checked after all revisions, and before submitting online, to spot any inconsistencies or PDF conversion glitches

Further Questions

  1. You can view a sample dissertation on the Registrar’s Office website to see an example of a dissertation that follows the rules

  2. You can view dissertations successfully published from your department in DASH. This is a great place to check for specific formatting and area-specific conventions

  3. Contact the Office of Student Affairs