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Instructions For Preparation Of The Thesis/Dissertation

updated 05.24.12

[Basic Requirements]  [Arrangement]  [Paper]  [Margins]  [Text] [Typing]  [Page Numbering] [Tables and Illustrations] [References] [Abstract]  [Common Errors] [Electronic Publication]

Specific guidelines for preparation of your thesis/dissertation are given on the following pages. The four most basic requirements are:

  1. Your thesis/dissertation should be clearly written, grammatically correct and free of typographical errors. At the very least, you should make use of computer programs that check for spelling and grammatical errors. This is especially important if your native language is not English. You should not rely on your advisor to put your thesis/dissertation into proper English.

  2. The left hand side of the paper must have a minimum 1.25 inch margin for binding purposes [see section on "Margins"]. I suggest setting your word processing program to 1.3 inches on the left margin.

  3. Your thesis/dissertation must be printed on good quality white paper -- copier paper is fine [see section on "Paper"].

The thesis/dissertation must be an original document written by the student.  Present GSBS policy is that students may not simply put together previous publications in lieu of the thesis/dissertation although material from previous publications of the student or others may be included if it meets the appropriate guidelines, below.  Students are encouraged to contact the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs well in advance of submitting the thesis/ dissertation if they have questions.

Inclusion of the published work of others in the thesis/dissertation

Textual material taken from publications not authored by the student may be included if it is indented 1/2 inch from the left margin, single spaced, and properly referenced at the end of the text and in the bibliography.  Any reproduced text should generally be limited and have a clear purpose other than substituting for text that would normally be expected to be written by the author of an original thesis/dissertation.  Figures from the work of others may also be included if clearly indicated and referenced in the figure legend.  The student is responsible for obtaining any necessary permission to use figures and text from the copyright owner and submitting it along with the thesis/dissertation. 

Inclusion of material previously published by the student in the thesis/dissertation

Textual material taken from publications authored or co-authored by a student may be included in the text if indented 1/2 inch from the left margin, single spaced and properly referenced at the end of the text.  Figures from the student’s previously published work may also be used in the thesis/dissertation if clearly indicated and properly referenced in the figure legend.  

A student may choose to have a publication form the basis for a chapter of the dissertation/thesis.  In this case,

  • The Introduction (first) and the Discussion (last) chapter of the dissertation/thesis should be the student's own work and not taken verbatim from any publication.
  • Any chapter of the dissertation that is based on the student's publication can include the methods and results section (including figures and figure legends) taken verbatim from the publication. Permission to use text and figures from the publication must be obtained from the copyright holder (often, the journal holds the copyright).  Text of 100 words or more, or at least 8 lines, taken verbatim from the publication must use the block quotation format. That is, the text is indented 1/2 inch from the left margin, single spaced, quotation marks are not used, and the source of the text is cited at the end of the block quotation.
  • Any chapter of the dissertation/thesis that is based on the student's publication can include introduction and discussion sections that are based on the text found in the publication, but the text must be modified to the same style as the rest of the dissertation/thesis.  That is, there should be good continuity ("flow") between all chapters of the dissertation and between each section of a chapter.
  • A check-off box on the Results of the Defense form is used by the Advisor to attest that the student contributed substantially to the text of any previously published work incorporated into the dissertation/thesis.
  • A check-off box on the Results of the Defense form is used by the Advisor to attest that any figure taken from the student's publications and used in the dissertation/thesis is the result of work done by the student, him/herself. 
  • Any chapter of a dissertation that is based on the student's publication must be re-formatted to conform to the formatting requirements defined by GSBS (see below).  

The student is responsible for submitting to the Office of Academic Affairs the relevant policy(ies) from the publisher and obtaining any necessary permission(s) that is required.

Each thesis/dissertation should be arranged as follows:

  1.  Approval Sheet page i, but unnumbered)
  2.  Title Page (page ii, but unnumbered)
  3. Copyright*
  4. Dedication*
  5. Acknowledgments*
  6. Abstract
  7. Table of Contents (should include titles of where to find sections and page numbers where contents may be found)
  8. List of Illustrations (separate page; should include Figure #, titles of figures, and page numbers where figures may be found)
  9. List of Tables (separate page; should include Table #, titles of tables, and page numbers where tables may be found)
  10. Abbreviations*
  11. Text (begins with page 1 in arabic numerals)
  12. Appendix*
  13. Bibliography
  14. Vita

*Not all theses contain these items (optional)

The original thesis/dissertation (the one submitted to GSBS) should be printed on any good quality (16 to 20 weight) white stock, such as copier paper. The standard sheet size is 8-1/2 x 11 inches. Expensive bond paper is not necessary.

The left margin must be at least 1.25 inches, and the top, bottom and right margins at least 0.8 inch. These margins should be consistent throughout. The left margin is most critical since that is the side of the document where binding takes place. If a figure does not fit unless the right margin is less than 0.8 inches, that is OK.

The text should be typed either double spaced or one-and-one-half spaced. Once spacing is chosen (1.5 or 2 spaces between lines), all of the dissertation, including abstract and references, should be done with the same spacing. The first line of each paragraph should be indented 6 to 8 spaces. A prose quotation over 3 lines in length should be treated as a block quotation; that is, typed single space, indented in its entirety 4 spaces from the left margin, with no quotation marks at the beginning or end.

Keep your thesis/dissertation title concise: long titles are difficult to fit onto the spine of the bound thesis/dissertation. We recommend a maximum of 100 characters/spaces.

The font size should be 11 or 12. The print should be dark black characters that are consistently clear. The font should be Times Roman, Courier or Arial. Once a font style is chosen, all text in the dissertation/thesis should be of the same style and size.

No page number should appear on the approval sheet or the title page, although both should be included in the count. Be sure to count every sheet that is part of the thesis/dissertation even if it has only one word on it. After the title page, all pages should be numbered as follows:

Tables and figures are to fit within the limits of the page margins described above. Some students have their figures printed on 8-1/2 x 11 paper so that mounting is unnecessary. However, if necessary, illustrations should be mounted on white bond with a permanent-type paper cement, a mounting cement, or dry mounting tissue. Do not use rubber cement or mucilage. When a number of photographs are used through-out the thesis/dissertation, it is a good idea to mount part of them at the top of the page and part at the bottom so as to distribute the bulk.

Figures and photographs should be publication-quality. In lieu of original photographs, high resolution scans (in color where appropriate) can be substituted. Photocopies of photographs are not acceptable.

Each figure and table should appear in the thesis/dissertation at the point at which it is discussed for the first time. If a figure or table is small, it may be placed on a page along with text. However, figures should not be reduced just to fit within a text page, and all details of the figure must be legible. The figure legend font should be the same as the text font. Do not put all figures together at the end (or the beginning) as is done, for example, in the preparation of manuscripts for journal publication.

Figure legends may be placed 1) on the page preceding the illustration, 2) on the same page below the illustration, 3) opposite the illustration (since thesis/dissertation pages must be printed on one side only, this will make the page preceding the figure to appear to be blank, i.e., the legend is printed on the "back"; note that, in this arrangement, the 1.25 inch binding margin must be on the right side of the legend page!), or 4) on the page behind the figure.

All references should include the names of all authors, the title of the paper, and the volume, pages, and year of the journal. References for all chapters must be placed in a single group at the end of the thesis/dissertation. References should be spaced like the rest of the thesis/dissertation. If the text is double spaced, the references are double spaced. References may be listed in one of two ways:

  1. The text reference gives, in parentheses, the surname of the author with year of the publication, or year alone if the author's name occurs in the sentence. The list of references at the end of the paper is arranged alphabetically by authors' surnames
  2. A number is placed after the cited information in the text, enclosing the number either in parentheses or in square brackets. The items in the list of references are then numbered in sequence according to the first mention of each in the text. Subsequent references to a work use the same number.

Reference author names should contain at a minimum the last name and first initial of each author. Numerous manuals of style are available, such as A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations by Kate Turabian and The Manual of Style by The University of Chicago Press.

If using EndNote to format references, choose the format of the Biophysical Journal. This should ensure that all authors' names will be listed -- "et al." will not be allowed.

The abstract should be a concise statement of the nature and content of your thesis/dissertation, describing its significance as a piece of research. It should be a continuous summary, not disconnected notes or an outline, and it may not exceed 350 words in length. If a Ph.D. dissertation abstract, care must be taken in the preparation of the abstract since it will be published in Dissertation Abstracts without further editing or revision. The title must be the same as that of your finished thesis/dissertation.

Dissertation abstracts only: You must submit one extra copy of the abstract with your dissertation (be sure to use your full, legal name). Abstracts must be on the same kind of paper as that used for the dissertation and should be typed double space or space-and-one-half. The title must be the same as that of your finished dissertation.

The most common errors committed in the preparation of the Thesis or Dissertation, and recommendations on how to correct them, are as follows:

  1. Incorrect margins— ALL pages must have a ≥1.25 inch left margin
  2. No space is put on approval page for the Dean to sign. Please see the template page on this website. The Dean must have a place to approve the Thesis / Dissertation on the approval page.
  3. Students should include their previous degrees after their name on the approval and title pages
  4. Students do not, but should, list their advisor as “supervisory professor” or “advisor”, under the line where their mentor signs the Thesis or Dissertation.
  5. The first two pages: the approval page and title page COUNT in page numbering as (p)i and (p)ii, but the page numbers should not show on those pages
  6. Whatever page follows the title page is (p)iii.
  7. Once you choose where the page numbers are to go (upper right corner, lower right corner, middle bottom page), the page numbering stays in that location for the remainder of the thesis / dissertation
  8. The table of contents, although it may be spare or long and complicated, should provide readers with easy access to sections, subsections, figures, tables, etc. Therefore, whenever possible, I suggest giving detail, e.g. the title of a figure and the page number where it may be found.
  9. The first page of the text, whether a blank page that says Introduction, or the first page of text, should be page 1 (Arabic number).
  10. Figure legends and the vitae are the only parts of the thesis or dissertation that may be single spaced.
  11. If you do not have page numbers on figures, you should pencil the page number on the back of the figure
  12. Figure legends and tables should have typed page numbers
  13. The references should be spaced like the remainder of the text. If the text is double spaced, for example, the references should be double spaced within and between the references.
  14. The figures should be placed in the text where the text describes them, not all at the end.
  15. Many students have asked whether they can simply insert their published papers. While this is allowed at a small number of schools around the world, we do not yet allow this. At the present time, this would be considered plagiarism since you are not the only author of the paper and yet put it into your dissertation as if you were the only author. You may use figures from your published papers, but to prevent copyright violation, you should obtain written permission from the journals and place a line, usually in the figure legend, that permission has been granted by the journal.
  16. The entire thesis or dissertation should be turned in in a folder or clipped together, not with holes punched in the left margin.

The final version of the dissertation/thesis (approved by the Supervisory Committee) will be published in electronic format on the Digital Commons of the Houston Academy of Medicine/Texas Medical Center (HAM/TMC) Library ( This service is provided by the HAM/TMC Library free of charge to GSBS students, and provides free public access and download ability.  Full instructions on the upload of the dissertation/thesis to the Digital Commons will be provided with the exit paperwork.

At the student's request, delay (embargo) of Digital Commons publication for a period of up to one year can be permitted in order to protect patent or other rights.

Because electronic publication does constitute publication, writers of dissertations/theses will be held fully responsible for the use of any copyrighted material in their manuscripts. Accordingly, all candidates for degrees are hereby cautioned that they must obtain written permission for the use of any copyrighted material in their dissertations.