Revised August 2018, Clarifications made 2023

Format Information & Guidance

This document provides the campus-wide specifications for theses and dissertations presented for graduate degrees at the Graduate School of the University of Colorado at Boulder.  Student services staff in the Graduate School are available to answer format questions, and the Graduate School strongly recommends that students e-mail a copy of the document for pre-check of the format to before submitting it electronically.  We recommend that students consult a style guide or standard handbook for more detailed specifications.  A student's department will provide information on requirements in a specific field of study.

    Research Integrity

    Every thesis or dissertation must comply with all requirements regarding research integrity.  Plagiarism, fabrication, falsification, and other forms of research misconduct will be investigated by the Standing Committee on Research Misconduct.  For further information, please see information posted by the Office of Research Integrity. Students should also review the University policy on Misconduct in Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activities.

    Research with Human Subjects or Animals

    Per federal law and University policy, student research that involves human subjects or animals requires some level of review and approval by the Institutional Review Board and/or the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee prior to the research being initiated. Failure to abide by this policy can result in a delay of graduation and/or fulfillment of degree requirements. More information on human and animal research. If you have performed research involving human subjects, your IRB protocol number must appear on the Thesis Approval Form (TAF).  If you have used live animals, animal tissue, or observational animal work, your IACUC protocol number must appear on the TAF if you were required to obtain one.

    Involvement of Students in Restricted Research

    Students must be free to pursue knowledge in an open environment.  Any petition for student involvement in research projects that imposes either explicit or potential restrictions that could affect students’ academic research and publications must be vetted by the Standing Committee on Restricted, Proprietary, and Classified Research and approved by Chancellor or Chancellor’s designee.  Concurrence by the department chair or graduate advisor must also be provided to the student(s).  Students may not engage in classified research as part of their formal academic work.


    The Graduate School accepts theses electronically, uploaded as a pdf document, through the ProQuest website.This site contains information on converting word documents to pdf documents, and has a helpful section of frequently asked questions. The uploaded thesis is expected to be the final version, approved by the faculty advisor and committee. Students must also submit a thesis approval form (TAF) to ensure that the final copy has been accepted by the thesis committee. The TAF must be uploaded as part of the electronic thesis submission process through UMI/Proquest, as a supplementary file.  Further information can be found in the TAF section of this document. 


    To graduate in a given semester, the thesis with Thesis Approval Form must be submitted by a specific deadline. To determine the deadline for the semester in which you plan to graduate, please see the graduate school calendar, or a list of deadlines by clicking on the appropriate degree, and selecting “deadlines.” For more information, contact your academic department or the Graduate School.

    Publishing Options & Fee Information

    At the time of submission, you will need to make publishing selections both for ProQuest and for the University of Colorado Boulder Libraries. 

    ProQuest Publishing Options

    Upon submitting the thesis, you will be required to select “traditional” or “open access” publishing.  Review the ProQuest publishing guide for additional information on the options below.

    • Traditional publishing is the default option and has no associated fee. With this option, your thesis will be available only to ProQuest subscribers or to an individual who pays a fee to download your thesis.
    • Open Access publishing is available for a fee, and with this option your thesis will be freely available to anyone through ProQuest.

    If you would like your thesis to be made open access without paying a fee to ProQuest, you may alternatively select Traditional publishing and then select the option to make your work publicly available via our institutional repository CU Scholar (see below for more information about CU Scholar).

    CU Institutional Repository Publishing Options (CU Scholar)


    All theses are made available to university community members through access to the ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database provided by the University of Colorado Boulder Libraries (a ProQuest subscriber). The University of Colorado Boulder Libraries also host an Institutional Repository, CU Scholar.  When submitting your thesis, you will have the option to include your work in this open access repository.  If you agree to inclusion, your thesis will be publicly available via the CU Scholar website as soon as possible or at the end of the specified embargo period (if applicable).  Please contact with any questions. 

    Copyright Registration

    Upon submission to ProQuest, you can opt for ProQuest to file for copyright registration on your behalf with the U.S. Copyright office. This service is optional, and you can also choose to register your own copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office outside of the ProQuest process. Registering your copyright may be appropriate in some circumstances, but in many cases is not necessary as every author already holds copyright at the moment of creation of an original work.

    ProQuest Publishing Fees

    The following fees are paid at the time the thesis is submitted as a pdf document.  They are paid online directly to ProQuest. Fees are subject to change.

    You will be asked to select one of the following options through ProQuest:

    Additional publication options:

    • Open access publishing with CU Scholar-----free                                                                                             
    • Copyright registration through ProQuest (optional)-----$75.00                                                                            

    Delaying Release (Embargo)

    At the time of submission, you may request that an embargo be placed on the publishing of your thesis of up to two years. In some cases this may be necessary due to publication concerns, patents pending, etc..This embargo will apply to publishing through ProQuest/UMI and CU Scholar.

    Search Engine Discovery

    When submitting your thesis, review the section related to search engine discovery.  Your work on ProQuest will be discoverable and accessible through Google Scholar and other major search engines. If you have selected an embargo period, the thesis won’t be available during that time (the abstract and metadata may still be discoverable).  Expand the section on search engine discovery to review  the information provided by ProQuest; you can choose to opt out and make your work not discoverable if this is appropriate.

    Thesis Organization

    The final copy of the thesis submitted to the Graduate School is organized in the following order.  The starred items (*) are required in every thesis; lists of tables, figures or maps are required if they appear in the thesis; the other items are optional.  Examples of formatting for these items are provided in the sample pages.  Each division listed (1-11) and each chapter begins on a new page.

    1. Title Page* 
    2. Abstract*
    3. Dedication
    4. Acknowledgments
    5. Contents*
    6. List of Tables
    7. List of Figures (or List of Maps)                      ↑lower case Roman Numerals used for the content page numbers above
    8. Text*                                                                ↓Arabic Numerals for the content page numbers below
    9. Bibliography, Selected Bibliography, References*
    10. Appendix

    Thesis Data and Supplemental Files

    If you have data or other supplemental files (video, audio, CSVs, code, etc.) you would like to make available along with your thesis or dissertation you have two options. 

    • Upload your files directly to CU Scholar. CU Scholar is an open access institutional repository maintained by the University Libraries that preserves and provides perpetual public access to the research activities of members of the CU Boulder community. Data librarians will help guide you through the process of making your data available and accessible and will create a DOI (Digital Object Identifier) that will link to your data. Once your thesis or dissertation is published in CU Scholar it will be associated with your dataset.  
    • Upload your files as supplemental files along with your thesis when submitting to ProQuest. You are limited to ten supplemental files (including the single page TAF) and each supplemental file can be up to 4GB. You can find more details on ProQuest’s FAQ: How can I include related files (sound clips, data sets, etc.) that are a critical part of my dissertation or thesis? If you select to have your work included in the institutional repository (CU Scholar) during the thesis submission process, any supplemental files will be associated with your thesis in CU Scholar after publication. 


    Thesis Formatting


    Each page is assigned a number, but showing numbers on the title page and dedication page is optional.  Items 1-7 in list are numbered with lower case Roman numerals.  Items 8-10 use Arabic numbers beginning with 1.  Numbers should then continue straight through to end of thesis, including appendix if applicable. Page numbering can be done in two ways. [1] Page numbers appear on all pages.  [2] The page number can be left off the first page of a major division or a chapter with more than one page.  Pages generally are numbered in the upper right hand corner; usual placement is at least 3/4 inch from the top and 1 inch from the right edge.  Centered numbers at the top or bottom of the page are also acceptable.


    Type size for the thesis should be between 10pt and 12pt and should be consistent throughout the thesis--in text, figure captions, and table titles.  Any unusual type style should be approved in advance by the Graduate School; script type may not be used.  Equations, formulas and words within figures must also be typed.


    Thesis margins should be 1 inch from all edges. The right edge of the text may be either justified (all lines the same length) or ragged (lines varying in length).

    Spacing & Indents

    The body of the text of the thesis is double spaced with about six single spaces per vertical inch.  With 1 inch top and bottom margins; page lengths usually vary from 24 to 27 lines.

    Table titles, figure captions, and chapter headings are single-spaced. Footnotes and entries in the Contents and Bibliography are also single-spaced, with double spaces between entries. Quotations of four or more lines may be single spaced or double spaced depending upon the formatting or style guide used.

    The first line of paragraphs or footnotes is indented uniformly in the thesis.  The number of spaces for this indent depends on the style.  A standard indent is eight spaces (1/2 in); a five space indent is also frequently used.  Single-spaced quotations are indented in their entirety four spaces from the left margin (1/4 in).


    A student should choose a hierarchy of headings and subheadings for a thesis and use it consistently.  The spacing above and below headings should be uniform throughout.  Examples of headings are provided on the sample pages.  The student may choose another style.


    The student may consult the thesis advisor in his/her department about a style guide, which will describe formatting details above and beyond those of the Graduate School.  The style guide may be from a specialized field/association or may be a thesis manual.  Examples include the Modern Language Association Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, and Turabian, A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses and Dissertations.

    Title Page

    The title page contains the thesis title; candidate's name; candidate's degrees, granting institutions, and dates received; statement shown on sample page ("A thesis submitted to ..."); name of department or school granting degree; and year the thesis is submitted.   It also includes the names of all committee members (see sample title page).


    The abstract provides a succinct, descriptive account of the thesis, and include specific details for indexing.  The abstract must include your name, the initials of your degree, your department, thesis title, and faculty advisor - as shown in the sample abstract page.

    Please note that you will need to provide an abstract on the “about your submission” profile page. On that page, the abstract is limited to 150 words for master’s students and 350 words for doctoral students.  The abstract within the pdf thesis document may be longer, but you will need to prepare a shortened version to place on the profile page.  UMI/ProQuest publishes print indexes that include citations and abstracts of all dissertations and theses published. This version of your abstract is available publicly and indexed by search engines along with other metadata (even if an embargo is placed on publication of your thesis), and should contain information appropriate for public view.

    Acknowledgments, Preface, Introduction & Glossary

    The acknowledgment mentions persons or groups that contributed to the thesis or provided funding.

    Prefaces are seldom used in theses.  A style manual provides guidelines on content.

    Chapter 1 of a thesis is usually the introduction.  However, if a separate introduction precedes Chapter 1, it is still regarded as part of the thesis rather than as preliminary material and its pages are numbered in Arabic numerals rather than Roman numerals.

    A glossary of terms may be included as a separate page as the final page in the introductory material (with the appropriate lower case Roman numeral) or as an appendix (with the appropriate Arabic number).


    Tables are placed immediately after their first mention in the text, either on a text page or on a separate sheet.  They may be numbered consecutively within each chapter or throughout the thesis.  Tables that will not fit within the required margins may be typed in smaller type or may be reduced; they also may be printed broadside with the top toward the left margin. 

    Titles & Footnotes

    Table titles and footnotes may appear above or below the table, but should be consistent throughout the document.  Table footnotes have no relation to text footnotes.


    Figures are placed immediately after their first mention.  They may appear on the text page or on a separate page.  They should fit within the standard thesis margins.

    Captions & Footnotes

    Figure captions may appear above or below the figure, but should be consistent throughout the document.  Captions should fit within the standard margins and are not reduced if the figures are reduced.  Figures may be printed broadside, with the top toward the left margin; the caption then appears beneath the figure and is typed from bottom to top of the page within the standard margins.  Footnotes to a figure are typed immediately below the figure, above the caption.  

    References Within Thesis

    References in a thesis may be cited by footnotes, author-year citations, or numbered bibliography.


    Footnotes are indicated by superscript numbers in the text.  They may be placed at the foot of each page or at the end of each chapter.  Footnotes at the bottom of the page may be numbered either beginning with 1 on each page or consecutively throughout a chapter.  When footnotes are used, the bibliography includes all references cited in the notes (and additional sources) and is arranged alphabetically.  Footnotes may be typed in a smaller size than the text or in the same size; they are usually single-spaced with a double space between notes.

    Author-year Citations

    References within the text may be cited by using the author's (or authors') last name(s) and the year of publication (and a page number for direct quotations).  These references refer to works cited in an alphabetically arranged bibliography.


    The bibliography lists books, articles or other works consulted in preparing the thesis.  It is included even if end notes or footnotes are used.  The arrangement of the bibliography and the information in each entry are determined by the chosen style.  Usually the entries in the bibliography are single-spaced with a double space between entries.

    Appendix: Tables, figures, equations, photographs, or any other supplemental material placed in an appendix must have appropriate page numbering and fit within stated margins.

    Thesis Approval Form 

    Students must submit a thesis approval form (TAF) to ensure that the final copy has been accepted by the thesis committee. Students will initiate the TAF process, identifying the chair and one other member of the committee.  The form will be distributed to both members, and upon completion the student will save the completed TAF and upload it as a supplementary file as part of the electronic thesis submission process.  To have the degree awarded in any given semester, the thesis and TAF must both be submitted by the thesis/dissertation deadline.  Step by step instructions are provided.

    Copyright Guidelines

    • Copyright is a form of protection provided to authors of “original works in authorship,” including literary, musical, artistic and other intellectual works.
    • Copyright is secured automatically upon creation--even for works not bearing a copyright notice.
    • Copyright registration (which is not required but which establishes a public record of the copyright claim and is necessary prior to filing an infringement suit) must be handled through the Copyright Office at the Library of Congress.
    • Standard forms of copyright notice: (You do not need to include this page. It will be inserted for you before it is bound)

          Copyright 2010 Jane Doe                  

          © 2010 Jane Doe

          Copyright © 2010 Jane Doe

    • CU faculty and students may copyright their personal, original work.

    Copyright Information Sources

    To gain permission to use copyrighted material, ask the copyright holder in writing.  Be sure to quote exactly what you plan to use and in what context.  You may be able to search for a copyright holder through the Library of Congress

    Survey of Earned Doctorates (Doctoral Students Only)

    The SED must be filled out by the dissertaiton submission deadline, online. The survey collects information from all research doctorate graduates, and this compiled data allows the Graduate School and other policymakers to make data-driven decisions about doctoral education.


    Download a sample of a formatted thesis/dissertation.

    Thesis/Dissertation Checklist for Submission to Graduate School


    • Title page (see example)
    • Abstract (see example and abstract section above)
    • Specified order and arrangement of sections
    • Required type size and style; required margins
    • Specified page numbering
    • Correct spacing of text, bibliography, quotes
    • Consistent headings style
    • Consistent reference style

    Submission Via Website

    • One copy of thesis or dissertation submitted electronically by deadline
    • Thesis Approval Form, submitted along with the thesis as a supplementary file by deadline 

    Doctoral Students Only

    • Survey of Earned Doctorates, filled out online, by the dissertation submission deadline