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Graduate College Thesis Requirements

Organizing your thesis

The sections of your thesis should follow this order:

Required Order Sample Pages Page Numbering
1. Copyright Page (optional) Sample No page number
2. Title Page

Sample (Master's)

Sample (Doctoral)

Template (Master's)

Template (Doctoral)

3. Abstract Sample

Lower case Roman numerals beginning with "ii"


4. Acknowledgements and/or Dedication Page (optional) Sample

5. Table of Contents


Sample Basic (recommended)

Sample Extended

6. Main Text

Sample (Straight Numbering)

Sample (Decimal Numbering)

Arabic numerals beginning with "1"
7. Bibliography or References Sample

8. Appendix or Appendices (optional)

  • For Appendices, keep the same numbering style you chose for the Main Text.
  • As a best practice, include your IRB approval letter (if applicable) in an appendix.

Sample (Straight Numbering)

Sample (Decimal Numbering)


Below, you will find format requirements for each of the required sections, information about optional sections, and links to examples.

Title page templates and requirements

See Stage 2 for information about the process for filing your title page with the Graduate College Thesis Office prior to submitting your thesis for review.

Templates (in MS Word) are available to help you format your master's or doctoral title page. You can also refer to the master's or doctoral title page example as you read through the following sections on the format requirements.

Master's Title Page Template

Master's Title Page Example

Doctoral Title Page Template

Doctoral Title Page Example

Page Set-up

  • Set margins to one inch on all sides of the page.
  • Set line spacing for the entire page to single space.
  • Do not display a page number anywhere on the page.
  • Center all text except the adviser or committee information horizontally between the left and right margins.
  • Do not use boldface type on the title page.
  • Use italics only for scientific or specialized terminology.

Title (2 inches from the top edge of the page)

  • Set the title in all capital letters.

BY and Name (3.5 inches from the top edge of the page)

  • Set BY in all capital letters.
  • Set your name in all capital letters.
  • One blank line must separate BY and your name.

The Label "THESIS" or "DISSERTATION" (5.5 inches from the top edge of the page)

  • Title pages for master’s theses should display the label THESIS.
  • Title pages for doctoral dissertations should display the label DISSERTATION.
  • Set THESIS or DISSERTATION in all capital letters.

Text Block with Degree, Major, and Year of Conferral

  • One blank line should separate the label THESIS or DISSERTATION and the text block.
  • The text block will be either 4, 5, or 6 lines long and must be divided into the following lines exactly as shown:
  1. Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements
  2. for the degree of <add earned degree> in <add major>
  3. with a concentration in <add concentration>
  4. with a minor in <add minor>
  5. in the Graduate College of the
  6. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, <add year of degree conferral>
  • Line 2 of the text block must contain: (a) the degree for which the thesis is being submitted and (b) the student’s major (not the name of the student’s department).
  • The major must fit entirely onto line 2 of the text block. (It may be necessary to reduce the font size of the entire text block in order to allow for the major to fit entirely onto the second line.)
  • Most students will not include lines 3 or 4. There are very few campus-approved graduate concentrations and graduate minors. (The list of campus-approved graduate minors can be found here.) If a concentration or minor cannot be verified by the University’s records, it will not be allowed on the title page.
  • The year in line 6 of the text block must be the year of the degree conferral period for which the student will deposit (e.g., if a student deposits in December 2015 for the May 2016 graduation period, the year in the text block should be 2016).

Location (7.5 inches from the top edge of the page)

  • The location is Urbana, Illinois (do not abbreviate Illinois).

Adviser or Committee Information (8 inches from the top edge of the page)

  • Master’s students will use the heading “Adviser:” or “Master’s Committee:”, depending on which is applicable or preferred. Some master’s students have more than one adviser, in which case the heading “Advisers:” may be used.
  • Doctoral students will use the heading “Doctoral Committee:”
  • The heading “Adviser:” or “Doctoral Committee:” or equivalent must begin at the left margin.
  • One blank line should separate the heading “Adviser:” or “Doctoral Committee:” or equivalent and the names of the committee members or adviser.
  • List each committee member on a separate line.
  • Adviser and committee member names should be indented approximately half an inch from the left margin.
  • For committees, the committee chair should be listed first, and the director of research (adviser) should be listed second; all other committee members may be listed in the order preferred by the student or the student’s adviser.
  • The committee chair should be indicated by adding a comma and the word “Chair” after the chair’s name.
  • The director of research (if different from chair) should be indicated by adding a comma and the phrase “Director of Research” after the director’s name.
  • “Co-Chair” and “Co-Director of Research” designations may be used when applicable.
  • Faculty members should be listed with their professorial title (i.e., Professor, Associate Professor, Assistant Professor, etc.).
  • The professorial title should be spelled in full (do not abbreviate) and listed before the faculty member’s name.
  • Affiliations should be listed only for committee members who are not University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign faculty (i.e., departmental affiliations should not be listed).


Abstract requirements

Refer to the Sample Abstract as you read through this section.

  • An abstract is required for all theses and dissertations.
  • The abstract must be placed immediately after the title page.
  • The page number Roman numeral two (ii) must appear on the first page of the abstract.
  • The abstract must be written in English.
  • There is no word limit for the abstract.


Table of contents requirements

Refer to the Basic Table of Contents Sample as you read through the following section.

  • A Table of Contents is required for all theses and dissertations.
  • All chapter titles and titles of chapter equivalents (e.g., List of Symbols, Bibliography, Appendix A, etc.) must be listed in the Table of Contents.
  • Do not include the Abstract or any other sections that are placed before the Table of Contents in the list of entries in the Table of Contents.
  • Headings from within chapters are not required to be listed in the Table of Contents by the Graduate College. (The Thesis Office strongly encourages students to keep the Table of Contents as simple as possible. The purpose of the Table of Contents is to be a quick, useful reference for the reader, not to outline the argument of the thesis in detail. If you choose to include additional headings in your Table of Contents, please refer to the Extended Table of Contents Sample.)
  • Chapter and Appendix titles (and any headings, if included) listed in the Table of Contents must exactly match the wording found in the text (abbreviations or references that appear in the text as parenthetical additions may be omitted from the Table of Contents).
  • If headings are numbered, heading numbers listed in the Table of Contents must exactly match the heading numbers found in the text.
  • Page numbers listed for headings must be correct.
  • List only the page number of the first page of the chapter or section. (Do not list a range of page numbers.)
  • Page numbers must be aligned at or near the right margin of the page.
  • Leader dots must be displayed between the final word of each title and the page number.


Minimum requirements for main text

Refer to either the Sample (Straight Numbering) or Sample (Decimal Numbering) pages as you read through the following section.


  • For every page in the thesis, margins must be a minimum of (but may be greater than) 1 inch on all sides.
  • Theses with any material (other than page numbers) extending into the 1-inch margin on one or more sides will not be accepted for deposit.


  • Font size for body text may be from 10- to 12-point and should remain consistent throughout the front matter and main text and must be easily legible.
  • Font size and type may differ for footnotes, figure captions, table data, references, and material in an appendix and may be as small as 7-point.
  • Script and ornamental fonts will not be accepted.

Line Spacing

  • Spacing of the body text may be from 1.5 lines to Double and must remain consistent throughout the main text.
  • Single-spacing within the main text is allowed for titles, headings, footnotes, endnotes, references, lengthy quotations, bulleted or numbered lists, figure or table captions, or material in an appendix.


  • All pages (other than title page and optional copyright page) must display page numbers.
  • Pages prior to the main text should be numbered with Roman numerals (beginning with the abstract as page ii).
  • Pages in the rest of the thesis should be numbered with Arabic numerals (beginning with 1 and continuing through the end of the document).
  • Page numbers must be placed at least half an inch from the edge of the page.
  • Each chapter or chapter equivalent must begin on a new page.
  • There should be no completely blank pages in the text.

Figures, tables and other illustrative material

Refer to the Sample (Straight Numbering) or Sample (Decimal Numbering) pages as you read through this section.

A thesis may include tables, figures, photographs, musical examples, charts, graphs, line drawings, maps, and other illustrative materials. In addition, a thesis may include statements such as definitions, corollaries, lemmas, theorems, propositions, and schemes. For the following discussion about numbering and placement, these items will be called figures.

  • All figures must fit within the minimum 1-inch margins. Theses with any material extending beyond these margins will not be accepted for deposit.
  • Figures must be numbered consecutively throughout the entire thesis. Students may choose from one of two options:
  1. A straight sequence (1, 2, 3, etc.). (Using this method, continue figure numbering from the previous chapter. Do not re-start the numbering at 1.)
  2. The decimal system (1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 2.1, 2.2, etc.), in which the first digit corresponds to the chapter number and the digit after the decimal point is the figure number within the chapter. (Do not number figures by section (e.g., 1.2.1, 1.3.2, or the like. Using this method, figures in Appendix A, B, C, and so forth would be numbered A.1, A.2, B.1, B.2, C.1 and so on.)
  • Each type of content (figures, tables, etc.) should be numbered independently.
  • Figure captions may be single-spaced and are not required to be set in the same font style or size as that of the main text.
  • Figure captions should appear on the same page as the figure to which they refer.

Figure Placement

  • Figures should not be placed out of the order in which they are numbered.
  • If figures are grouped at the end of a chapter or the main text, each figure may be placed on a separate page.
  • Multiple figures may be placed on the same page as long as doing so does not compromise their legibility.
  • Figures grouped at the end of a chapter are considered a section, the first page of which should display the appropriate section heading (i.e., “Figures”, “Tables”, “Figures and Tables”, etc.).
  • Figures grouped at the end of the main text are considered a chapter, the first page of which should display the appropriate chapter title (i.e., “Figures”, “Tables”, “Figures and Tables”, etc.).
  • Do not add figure callouts (i.e., <place Figure 2.1 about here>) anywhere in the thesis.

Multiple-Page Figures

  • Every page containing part of a multiple-page figure must include at least an abbreviated figure label such as “Figure 2.5 (cont.)”.
  • The figure caption is only required to appear once; an abbreviated label may be used on subsequent pages.

Rotated Figures

  • Figures that are rotated should be rotated counterclockwise so that the top of the figure faces toward the left (inside) edge of the page.
  • Page numbers, headings, captions, and titles may be rotated with the figure.

Color Figures

Use of color in the thesis is acceptable. However, because theses may be converted to black-and-white if they are archived on microfilm or partially reproduced on a black-and-white printer, labels, symbols and other data within figures should be identified through other means than the use of color.


Inclusion of work that has been previously published by the degree candidate is a common practice in research institutions across the country, and it is permitted at the University of Illinois. In such cases, the Graduate College requires that the student state at the beginning of the chapter that the work includes previously published material.

This is accomplished by including a footnote at the bottom of the first page of the chapter in which the previously published material appears that acknowledges the previous publication, cites basic bibliographic information, and states that the copyright owner has provided permission to reprint. In scientific disciplines, it is also common for students to include material derived from a published paper with multiple authors. In such cases, the footnote must acknowledge the contribution of the other authors, including any figures, tables, or data that were not created by the author.

Students with further questions regarding copyright and the use of previously published material should refer to copyright information and resources.


Bibliography or references

Refer to the Sample Bibliography or References pages as you read through this section.

There is no reference style required by the Graduate College Thesis Office. However, departments may require the use of a reference style that is appropriate to the student’s program of study.

  • All theses are required to have either a bibliography or a list of references.
  • When placed at or near the end of a thesis, the references section is considered a chapter equivalent; therefore, the title of the section should be formatted like a chapter title.
  • In some scientific and engineering disciplines, the references may be placed at the end of each chapter instead of at the end of the thesis.


Optional sections

(Optional) Copyright Page

Inclusion of a copyright page is optional. Refer to the Sample Copyright page.

  • If included, the copyright page is an unnumbered page at the beginning of the thesis, and the copyright notice should be centered horizontally and vertically on the page in the following format:

Copyright (year of degree conferral) (name of student as it appears on title page)

Example: Copyright 2015 Jane Doe

(Optional) Acknowledgements and/or Dedication page

Inclusion of an acknowledgements page or dedication page (or both) is optional. If included, these pages are placed after the abstract and before the Table of Contents. They will have Roman numeral page numbers and will not be listed in the Table of Contents. Refer to the Sample Acknowledgements/Dedication pages.

(Optional) List of Tables, List of Figures

The Graduate College Thesis Office discourages the inclusion of a List of Tables or List of Figures.

  • If included, the List is considered a chapter equivalent. It should be placed after the Table of Contents and should be listed in the Table of Contents.
  • If included, the List should be formatted exactly like the Table of Contents, except that captions may be shortened in the List (refer to Table of Contents Requirements).

(Optional) Appendix(es)

Refer to either the Sample (Straight Numbering) or Sample (Decimal Numbering) pages as you read through this section. Note: For the Appendices, you should use the same numbering style you chose for the Main Text.

The appendix is a section that is placed at the end of the thesis and may contain material such as tables, figures, maps, photographs, raw data, computer programs, musical examples, interview questions, sample questionnaires, CDs, and many other types of material.

  • An appendix is considered a chapter equivalent and the appendix title should be formatted like a chapter title.
  • Multiple appendices should be numbered A, B, C, and so on. Each appendix should be treated as a separate chapter equivalent and will therefore start on a new page.
  • Page numbers used in the appendix must continue from the main text.
  • As a best practice, include your IRB approval letter (if applicable) in an appendix.

As part of the thesis, any appendix materials must be reviewed and approved by the director of research and committee.

The thesis or dissertation itself should be understandable without the supplemental appendix materials.

As part of the ETD submission, students may upload supplemental electronic files as part of their thesis or dissertation. These files are considered appendix items, and an appendix page must be included as part of the thesis and should be numbered accordingly. This page should include an appendix title, such as “Appendix A: Interview Transcriptions,” and a brief description of the material along with the name of the file in which the material is contained.

(Not Accepted) Curriculum Vitae or Author’s Biography

Do not include a curriculum vitae or author's biography in your thesis; the Graduate College no longer accepts these sections.


Looking for a good example?

The following theses and dissertations passed the Graduate College review with very few, if any, corrections requested by the Thesis Office:

Note the absence of List of Tables and List of Figures sections from the examples above. These sections are generally not necessary, and the Thesis Office advises students who are interested in a quick review with few or no corrections requested to leave these sections out of the thesis or dissertation. Also note that the Table of Contents is most useful for the reader when entries are limited to chapter-level titles only or to chapter-level titles and first-level (main) section headings, as has been done in the examples above.

A note on departmental requirements

This list describes only Graduate College requirements for student theses. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign confers graduate degrees in over 100 units, and many of these departments have additional, discipline-specific format requirements. Students should consult with their program regarding departmental format requirements and departmental thesis review procedures.

Note: The Graduate College Thesis Office will not begin the thesis format review without notification of departmental approval.