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Formatting Your Thesis or Dissertation

The document that you submit for format approval must be a complete, defense-ready document. This means you should choose your style guide in consultation with your chair, write an abstract that meets the Graduate College guidelines, and thoroughly check your document for consistency, grammar, punctuation, etc. Keep in mind that a significant portion of the formatting (i.e., margins, spacing and pagination) will be done by the ASU Format Wizard. Review the ASU Graduate College Format Manual (Format Manual) before creating your document.

Preparing for the format process

Choose a style guide

All students are required to follow a standard style guide or accepted journal in their field. A style guide should be used in addition to the Format Manual. Although format advisors do not review your document for strict adherence to style guide requirements, you must use a style guide, in conjunction with the Format Manual, to format your document. You and your chairperson are responsible for ensuring your document follows your style guide.

Be aware that the Graduate College requirements outlined in this document supersede those of your style guide or journal.

Using your style guide

Any aspect of your document that is not addressed in the Format Manual is subject to the guidelines of your chosen style guide. You will use your style guide to format the following elements (if applicable) of your thesis/dissertation:

  1. Heading structure and style (e.g., centered or flush left, etc.) for each level

  2. Table format (e.g., gridlines) and style of table titles (e.g., italics, above the table)

  3. Style of figure captions (e.g., flush left, below the figure)

  4. Citation method (e.g., numbers or author names) and format (e.g., parentheses or brackets)

  5. Reference list (or notes/bibliography) format (e.g., author-date, publication type, alphabetical, etc.)

  6. Quotation format (e.g., spacing/indenting of block quotes)

Consult with your chair and department as there are often specific recommendations regarding which style guide you should use. Make sure you use the most current version of the selected style guide to be confident that you are following the publication standards in your field of study.

The format advising office created the following quick reference PDF guides to assist you in using the most common style guides:

  1. APA

  2. Chicago

  3. Turabian

  4. MLA

Write your abstract

Your abstract should present a succinct summary of the research and results of the work you completed for your thesis/dissertation. Many researchers read abstracts to determine the relevance, reliability and quality of a source; therefore, if you create a clear and concise abstract, others are more likely to read your entire document.

You may find it helpful to review other abstracts from your field or visit the ETD/Proquest website. Writing assistance is also available from ASU Writing Centers.

Your abstract may be utilized as a resource by other researchers, thus the Graduate College has developed the following guidelines to assist you in writing an abstract that is both informative and concise:

  1. Structure your paragraph(s) to include:
    - An introduction to the study or project which helps place the research in context
    - A clear description of your methods of analysis or experiment process
    - A summary of your results and conclusions

  2. Proofread carefully for spelling, grammatical, or punctuation errors

  3. Maintain a professional tone and avoid colloquialisms

  4. Do not include bibliographic citations in the abstract

  5. Do not write in the future tense; past or present tense is preferred

  6. You may use special characters and foreign alphabets if necessary

  7. Never use “we,” "us" or "our" since your document is not co-authored

  8. Wherever an acronym first occurs in the text, write it out in full, followed by the acronym in parenthesis (e.g., “Graduate Program Services (GPS)”)

Please keep in mind that while you want to be as specific as possible, you must not exceed the maximum word-length guidelines. All students must limit their abstracts to 350 words or less. Your chair/advisor can assist you in selecting the most appropriate information to include in your abstract.

Revise your document

Before your document is submitted to the Graduate College, you and your committee should thoroughly review your document and check for technical as well as grammatical errors. Additionally, you should have at least two other readers proofread your document to make corrections and catch typographical errors. If you need further assistance, you may also visit ASU’s Writing Centers.

You must work diligently to ensure that your document is free of sentence fragments, fused sentences, comma splices, agreement errors, punctuation errors, etc. Remember that although the format advisor may catch some of these errors, it is ultimately the responsibility of you and your chair to ensure your document is error-free for publication.

Email a format advisor

Unsure how to interpret the Format Manual? Have a situation that seems unique? Email a format advisor. Typically, an ASU Graduate Format Advisor will be able to address e-mail inquiries within three (3) business days. However, as the semester deadlines approach, students should expect to wait up to ten (10) business days for a response.

Please Note: Format advisors do not provide advice regarding the use of software, and cannot instruct students on how to use software.


Formatting your document

To assist students with formatting their thesis or dissertation, the Graduate College provides a formatting tool, called the Format Wizard, in Microsoft Word and LaTeX. This tool will help with formatting the preliminary pages of your document, fixing the margins, and setting pagination. Please keep in mind that, regardless of whether you use the Formatting Wizard or not, you must still review your document to ensure compliance with the Graduate College standards. The ASU Graduate College Format Manual is the rubric with which your document is reviewed and will supersede your style guide and the Format Wizard.

ASU Format Wizard

The ASU Format Wizard is a resource used to provide assistance as you write your thesis or dissertation under the supervision of your committee chair. The Format Wizard is designed to help students with basic format requirements such as margins and spacing, and may greatly streamline the format process for you. This tool will also format preliminary matter and page numbers for you; however, it will not format your citations or create your headings.

You will need to carefully review the final document generated through the Format Wizard to ensure it adheres with your selected style guide requirements. Your document must satisfy professional standards of published research. Both your committee and the Graduate College expect to see evidence of careful attention to style and format in the document that you present to fulfill the requirements for your graduate degree.

You must not assume that the Format Wizard will do all of the formatting for you. You will have to go through your document to make any changes necessary to meet Graduate College standards. Please use the software option that you are comfortable editing, as the Graduate College will not provide assistance in using your software.

Please use the Format Wizard in conjunction with the format guide, keeping in mind that some updates may need to be done manually.

Microsoft Word users

Current issues we are resolving include the alignment of page numbers for entries in the table of contents and the alignment of the page numbers throughout the document.

LaTeX users

Please refer to the LaTeX template on the website

Submitting your document

  1. Students must submit documents through their iPOS by clicking on the Format tab and uploading a Word or PDF document as an attachment. If you are attaching multiple files, the documents must be submitted as a compressed zip file.

  2. The document should be uploaded to your iPOS 10 calendar days prior to the defense.

  3. Documents should only be submitted after consultation with the student's committee/chair and must be a complete, defense-ready document (i.e. meets standards set by the ASU Graduate College Format Manual, complete content).

  4. The Graduate Format team will not review incomplete documents or those that have not been formatted according to the format manual. If students submit a partial or incomplete document, the document will be returned without evaluation and revisions will be requested before further review.

  5. Students must be enrolled in at least (1) credit hour during the semester they plan to defend their thesis/dissertation and while working on format revisions.

Non-thesis culminating events (Applied Projects, Capstone Courses, Comprehensive Exams or Portfolios) do not need format approval from the Graduate College. For questions regarding documents that require special format, please email

Revision process

A format advisor checks your work against the Format Manual requirements. They also spot-check for misspellings, inconsistencies, typographical errors, and grammatical problems, but a thorough review of the entire document for these errors is the responsibility of you and your chair.

Graduate College may return the document to you for additional revisions. Turnaround time for review fluctuates depending upon the volume of documents, and increases as the semester deadlines approach, but you should expect a response within 3 – 5 business days. Your document will be reviewed as quickly as possible, and you will be contacted electronically upon completion of the review (correspondence is done via your ASU email, so check frequently).

After you have made the required corrections outlined in the email and reviewed the entire document, you will need to upload your revised document in your iPOS. This process will continue until your document is ready for electronic submission through ETD/ProQuest.

To avoid jeopardizing your graduation, be sure to submit your final revisions by the posted semester deadline (graduation deadlines). If the deadline is not met, you will be required to register (and pay) for one (1) graduate-level credit hour the following semester to be able to graduate.


Final document submission to ProQuest


You will receive an email from the Graduate College format advisor notifying you that your document is ready for electronic submission through ETD/ProQuest. Read the email carefully as you may receive instructions before final submission to ETD/ProQuest. You must have received format approval from the Graduate College and submitted your Pass/Fail form to the Graduate College.



When can I expect to get my format review revisions?

Turnaround time depends on the time during the semester when you submit your document for initial review. As a general rule, the closer document submission is to the semester deadlines, the longer it will take for your review to be completed due to the increased volume of documents received. Regardless, your document will be reviewed as quickly as possible and you will be notified of the results by email.

How long do people typically have to make revisions?

Format revisions can be made after the defense, along with any changes recommended by the committee.

I am from out of town, and I'm concerned about how to go through the format review process long-distance. Can you offer any advice?

Documents should be uploaded in the students iPOS and then once approved, uploaded to ProQuest. Please note that the students' defense must be scheduled prior to format submission and that the document must be submitted at least ten calendar days prior to the scheduled defense (10-Working Day Calendar). The Final Pass/Fail form is processed electronically and sent to the Graduate College via DocuSign. Students can see the status of their document and their defense through their MyASU account.

Would it be possible for me to meet with a format advisor to have my document checked for any changes that need to be made before I submit for format review?

We cannot conduct a review before you submit your document and schedule your defense. We encourage all students to use the ASU Format Wizard to build the shell, page margins, and preliminary matter of their document. For specific information please consult the ASU Graduate College Format Manual or the standard formatting requirements.

If I am still in the process of revising the text, am I able to submit my work for a format review? In other words, does the document need to be completely finished before I give it to you?

Your document must be completed before you submit it for format review. However, it is likely that your committee will suggest revisions that may require the inclusion of additional material. As such, you may make changes to your document after initial format review, as suggested by your committee.

Title page

Could you clarify which dates belong on the Title Page?

The center of your Title Page should list the month and year of your defense. The bottom of your Title Page should have the month and year of your graduation (December, May, or August), and should be located just above the 1-inch margin.


My abstract is 482 words. The Format Manual says 350 words maximum. Is this mandatory?

Yes! If an abstract is longer than 350 words, potential readers may only be able to read up to that point. For more information on writing your abstract, see the ASU Graduate College Format Manual.

Main text

My document includes photographs for which I have obtained permission to use. Where in the document do I include this statement of permission?

Documents that make use of copyrighted material or research involving human or animal subjects must include a statement indicating that the publisher or appropriate university body has approved the use of material or research. You should include any approval documents in an appendix and follow the formatting as expressed in the ASU Graduate College Format Manual.

References, footers and endnotes

What do I do about direct quotes from an online journal? Since there are no page numbers, how do I indicate where the quote came from?

For citing online sources, refer to the style guide you chose to write your document. If your style guide does not have specific instructions, you may also refer to the Columbia Guide to Online Style.

Are there any size requirements for the endnotes?

Endnotes should be the same size as the text. For footnotes, however, the size may be smaller.


How do I insert approval documents or other original printed materials in the appendix? Is this done by scanning, or is there another process?

You may scan or photocopy as long as you maintain the 1.25-inch side margins and the 1-inch top and bottom margins. Images may be reduced as necessary to retain the proper margins but must stay legible.

How are tables within appendices numbered-consecutively or numbered within the appendix (e.g., Tables 1-5 in Appendix A, Tables 1-5 in Appendix B)?

Refer to your style guide concerning tables in appendices, or if your style guide does not address this issue, defer to your chair/advisor's recommendation.

Beyond format review: finishing up

What steps need to be completed after my defense?

Once all corrections have been made and approved by your committee, the Final Pass/Fail form is processed electronically and sent to the Graduate College via DocuSign. Additionally, you must complete all format revisions. Once the signed Pass/Fail form and all format revisions have been completed, the student will receive an email approval to proceed to ETD/ProQuest. Make sure to check your email regularly for any additional revision requests after submitting to ProQuest. Be sure to check both your ASU email as well as the email used to register with ProQuest. Please see MyASU for further information, and always check the graduation deadlines and procedures tab.


How do I order bound copies of my thesis/dissertation?

You may order bound copies of your document through ETD/ProQuest. Alternatively, you may also go to any third party bindery to obtain bound copies if desired. Locating a third party vendor is the responsibility of the student;  ASU Graduate College does not endorse outside vendors.

I ordered a copy of my thesis/dissertation through ProQuest. Why haven’t I received it yet?

Unfortunately ASU cannot answer questions regarding the purchase of bound documents. Purchasing questions and comments should be directed to ProQuest’s Support section at