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Graduate Thesis, Capstone Project, and Dissertation Style Guide

The style guide for Master's Theses and Doctoral Dissertations at Dominican University of California

Introduction to Formatting

IMPORTANT! The Guidelines take precedence over other style guides or department handbooks and example theses provided to you by your instructor. If there seems to be a serious conflict, check with the Library and have your manuscript advisors do the same.

Manuscript front matter, margin, pagination, and document structure requirements are specified throughout this guide, and must be observed as stated, no matter what other guidelines dictate. Remaining format issues are governed by standard publication manuals and/or standards of publication in your discipline.

Master’s Theses, Capstone Projects, and Culminating Projects

Because a manuscript or project is usually an objective, unbiased investigation based upon the author's scholarly work, it should be written in a formal scholarly manner appropriate to academic publications.  It is important to be consistent in matters of style, usage, and punctuation.  Consistency with the style, punctuation, headings, the use of capitalization, and the placement of figures and tables and their corresponding captions should be observed. The presentation of data should be clear and clutter-free, utilizing a legible font and size.

Creative Works

Some manuscripts from the MFA in Creative Writing are creative works and may require minor deviation from the Guidelines in order for creative expression. You are still responsible for creating a document that meets accessibility standards.

Observe the Guidelines as closely as possible and use the formatting tools in your word processing applications for creative styling.  Meet with the Scholarly Communications Librarian if you need help with creative formatting.

Word Processing Applications

All students and faculty have access to Microsoft Word (along with the complete Office suite) through Office 365 in the Okta dashboard. Download and install Office onto your computer, you will need to use the desktop version.

Microsoft Word

Word is a robust application that, like Google Docs, allows for shared documents and shared editing.  With the desktop version of Word you can do all the formatting required for your manuscript.

If you need help the Library has created an ever growing suite of tutorials that specifically address formatting requirements.

Google Docs

Available to all students via their University Gmail account, Google Docs is an excellent word processing tool, especially if working on group projects. As good as Google Docs is, it is a simpler word processing application that cannot handle the formatting requirements for your thesis.

If you opt to use Google Docs to write the bulk of your manuscript, you will at some point need to download it as a MS Word document and finish the formatting in Word. It’s recommended that you wait until you are finished with writing your manuscript.

Apple Pages

Also an excellent word processing application, but the Library does not support Pages and cannot advise you regarding the formatting of your manuscript using Pages.

Need Help with Formatting?

If you have any questions about Word or Google Docs contact us at

Required Order of Manuscript Pages

Required order of pages in your manuscript
Page Page Number Page Notes
Title Page i Required. Page number is not visible
Copyright Statement ii Required.
Abstract iii Required. 250 - 300 words. One page.
Acknowledgements iv Optional.
Table of Contents v Required.
List of Tables vi Required if any table appear in your paper
List of Figures vii Required if an images appear in your paper
List of Abbreviations viii Optional
The Body 1 Required. The main content of your manuscript
Bibliography numbers continue Well formatted citations
Appendices numbers continue Appendix titles appear in your Table of Contents


Formatting Specific to the Introductory Pages

Title Page

The title page has 3 sections: (1) The title, byline, and author name, (2) Fulfillment statement, (3) Location and graduation date.

  • Double-spaced
  • 12 point font
  • Title is bold-faced
  • Title and byline and author  name appear at the top of the page and has 3 lines (1st line) Title (2nd line) by (3rd line) author name(s)
  • Fulfillment statement is centered vertically and horizontally on the page
  • Location and Graduation Date has 3 lines (1st line) Dominican University of California (2nd line) San Rafael, CA (3rd line) Your graduation year.

Use the following as your fulfillment statement. Replace the brackets with the appropriate wording:

A culminating [thesis or capstone project] submitted to the faculty of Dominican University of California in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of [degree name] in [major]


Step-by-step: Creating Your Thesis Cover Page

Copyright Statement

You automatically own the copyright to your work and no one may legally copy any part of it without your permission.   You also may choose to use a Creative Commons copyright to give readers more flexibility with what they can do with your manuscript or sections of your manuscript.  If you have questions about copyright options please contact The Scholarly Communications Librarian

  • The copyright page appears as the second page of your manuscript and uses a lower-case Roman numeral three: "ii"
  • The copyright statement appears centered and at the top of the page

Use the following as your copyright statement. Replace the brackets with the appropriate wording:

Copyright © [author's name] [year of publication]. All rights reserved

If you would like to use a Creative Commons copyright for your manuscript please talk with the Scholarly Communications Librarian


An abstract, no more than one page in length, must accompany each manuscript.  The abstract states the purpose, design, and results of the research or a description of your project; it is written concisely, usually no more than 300 words, and will not exceed 1 page.

Creative projects will still have an abstract page but rather describing the purpose and design of a project you will have a description of your project.

Important! Biological Sciences Abstracts.
If you are a Biological Sciences student your Principle Investigator must review and approve your abstract for public display to ensure that it is free of unreleased or proprietary data that should not be visible to the public.


An acknowledgments page includes a short paragraph acknowledging those people who helped and supported you through the manuscript process.

Table of Contents

  • Your manuscript must include a Table of Contents listing all major headings that appear including the Abstract, Acknowledgements, List of Tables, and List of Figures.
  • Page numbers listed in the table of contents correspond with the material presented in your manuscript. If you are asked to make revisions within your manuscript, make sure to check that the page numbers listed in the Table of Contents, List of Tables, and List of Figures are still correct.  Any headings, subheadings, or captions listed in the front matter must match exactly with those that appear within the manuscript.

Step-by-Step: Use Headings Styles

Step-by-Step: Creating a Table of Contents using Heading Styles

List of Tables

  • If you have any tables in your manuscript you must include a List of Tables on it's own page after the Table of Contents
  • The List of Tables includes each table (even if there is only one) listed sequentially as they appear in your paper
  • Each item in the List includes the table number and a short description (usually the whole or a portion of the table caption) and the page number on which the table appears.

List of Figures

  • If you have any images, charts, graphs, etc. in your manuscript you must include a List of Figures on it's own page after the Table of Contents.
  • The List of Figures includes each figure (even if there is only one) listed sequentially as they appear in your paper.
  • Each item in the List of Figures includes the figure number and a short description (usually the whole or a portion of the table caption) and the page number on which it appears.

Step-by-Step: Creating Captions for Figures and Tables

Step-by-Step: Create a List of Figures or a List of Tables using Captions


  • If your paper includes constantly appearing abbreviations you may include a list of abbreviations. Abbreviations usually appear, but are not limited to, scientific papers.
  • If you would like to include a full Glossary of Terms, place it in an appendix

General Formatting Requirements

Page Size

  • The entire document is letter sized (8.5" x 11")
  • Pages may be in landscape position for figures and tables that do not fit in portrait position


  • 1-inch margin on all sides (top, bottom, right, and left)
  • If you plan to print out and professionally bind your manuscript, you'll need to add a gutter of 0.5" to the left side of your paper. The gutter is in addition to the margins and is used to account for the space need for the binding. Word has a simple way to add a gutter in the Paragraph settings.

Type Style

  • Choose a font that is clear and business-like; avoid unusual or difficult to read fonts.  We recommend using standard fonts like Times New Roman, Calibri, or Arial. 
  • Use 12 point font size. 

Line Indentations

  • Indent the first line of each paragraph 0.5”

Line Spacing

  • Use double-spacing throughout your manuscript.


  • Page numbers  appear at the top right corner of each page
  • Introductory page are numbered with lowercase Roman numerals (e.g., i, ii, iii, iv…)
  • The body of your manuscript and supplementary pages are numbered with Arabic numerals (e.g. 1, 2, 3, 4) and begin with page 1

Running Heads

  • Do not use running heads in the final version of your manuscript


Major Headings

  •  Sections starting with a Major heading should begin on a new page. Do not start place a major heading in the middle of the page


  • Subheadings within a chapter do not begin on a new page unless the preceding page is filled. 
  • Subheadings at the bottom of a page require at least two lines of text following the heading and at least two lines of text on the next page, otherwise the heading should be pushed to the next page.


  • When dividing paragraphs across pages, at least two lines of text should appear at the bottom of the page and at least two lines of text on the next page.
  • For quotations longer than 40 words in length (block quotes)
    • inset 0.5” from the left and right margins
    • single-spaced
    • The In-text citation follows the last punctuation mark of the paragraph

Tables and Figures

  • No figures may appear on the title page or other introductory pages
  • Diagrams, drawings, graphs, charts, maps, photographs, or any other type of illustrations should be referred to in the manuscript as a figure.
  • Tables and figures must be referenced in your text.
  • Tables and figures should follow their first reference in the text within a page or two at the most.
  • If more clarity is provided by placing tables and figures in an appendix, this style is also acceptable. In this case, they should appear after the References.
  • Figures should use word wrapping that is inline with the text and include Alt Text. 
  • All tables and figures must conform to the margin requirements. Images can be resized to meet the margin requirements.
  • All tables and figures, even if there is only one, must be listed in a List of Tables or a List of Figures immediately after the Table of Contents.
  • Do not use images of tables in your work. If you have an image of a table from another source, recreate the table in your word processor.

Captions and Numbering

  • All tables and figures in your paper must include a proper caption located either above or below the table or figure; use the Caption Tool in MS Word. Be consistent in placement
  • Tables and figures should be numbered and ordered sequentially as they appear in your paper
  • Table and figures in appendices should be captioned and continue the numbering sequence used in the text
  • All tables and figures should be listed in a List of Tables and a List of Figures located after the Table of Contents
  • The Lists of Tables and Figures should include a Table/Figure number along with descriptive text (usually a portion of the caption)

Large Tables and Figures

  • Large tables or figures can be placed on the page in landscape orientation
  • Landscape oriented tables and figures should face the right margin

References or Bibliographies

  • The References, Works Cited, or Bibliography heading is a major heading and the formatting should be the same as other major headings in the manuscript
  • Use most appropriate citation style for your discipline. Include hanging indents if that is indicated for your style
  • If you are using a citation tool, such as RefWorks, it is the author's responsibility to make sure that citations are correct including fixing typos and capitalization when needed.


  • The title of an appendix title is a major heading and should be formatted the same as other major headings in the manuscript
  • An appendix should be introduced with a cover page bearing only the title of the appendix centered and 1" from the top of the page. 
  • The content of the appendix begins on the second page with the standard margins.
  • Page numbers used in the appendix must continue from the main document text.
  • Table and figures in appendices should be captioned and continue the numbering sequence used in the text