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Format Requirements for Your Dissertation or Thesis

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The final dissertation or thesis manuscript must have a ready-for-publication appearance and standard features.

The Office of the University Registrar does not endorse or verify the accuracy of any dissertation or thesis formatting templates that may be available to you.

It is your student responsibility to make sure that the formatting meets these requirements. Introductory material, text, and appendices must all be clearly and consistently prepared and must meet all of the specifications outlined below.

Once you upload and submit your dissertation or thesis in Axess, and it has been approved by the university, the submission is considered final and no further changes are permitted.

The digital file of the dissertation or thesis, which is sent to Stanford Libraries for cataloging, must meet certain technical requirements to ensure that it can be easily accessed by readers now and into the future. 

Follow the specifications outlined below.


Page Size

Pages should be standard U.S. letter size (8.5 x 11 inches).



In order to ensure the future ability to render the document, standard fonts must be used. 

Font Size

For the main text body, type size should be 10, 11, or 12 point. Smaller font sizes may be used in tables, captions, etc. 

Font Color

The font color must be black. 

Font Families

Acceptable font styles include:

  • Times New Roman (preferred)
  • Courier, Courier Bold, Courier Oblique, Courier Bold-Oblique;
  • Helvetica, Helvetica Bold, Helvetica Oblique, Helvetica Bold-Oblique;
  • Times, Times Bold, Times Italic, Times Bold-Italic;
  • Symbol;
  • Computer Modern (or Computer Modern Roman).

Note: Do not use script or ornamental fonts. Do not use proprietary fonts.

If you use mathematical or other scientific notation in your dissertation or thesis using a font other than Symbol, you must embed the font into the PDF that is submitted to the university. 



Inner margins (left edge if single-sided; right edge for even-numbered pages, and left edge for odd-numbered pages if double-sided) must be 1.5 inches. All other margins must be one inch.

Pagination, headers, and/or footers may be placed within the margin, but no closer than one-half inch from the edge of the page.

For double-sided copies, 1.5 inches must be maintained as the inner margin. Margin requirements should apply to the entire document, including the title page.



The main body text of the manuscript should be one-and-a-half or double-spaced lines, except where conventional usage calls for single spacing, such as footnotes, indented quotations, tables, appendices, etc.


Word and Text Divisions

Words should be divided correctly at the end of a line and may not be divided from one page to the next. Use a standard dictionary to determine word division. 

Avoid short lines that end a paragraph at the top of a page, and any heading or subheading at the bottom of a page that is not followed by text.



The dissertation and thesis must be in English. 

Language Exceptions for Dissertations Only

Approval for writing the dissertation in another language is normally granted only in cases where the other language or literature in that language is also the subject of the discipline. 

Exceptions are granted by the school dean upon submission of a written request from the chair of your major department. Approval is routinely granted for dissertations in the Division of Literature, Cultures, and Languages within department specifications.

Prior to submitting in Axess, you must send a copy of the approval letter (or email message chain) from the department dean to   

Dissertations written in another language must include an extended summary in English (usually 15 to 20 pages in length). In this case, you should upload your English summary as a supplemental file, during Step 4 of the online submission process.


Style Guides

Select a standard style approved by your department or dissertation advisor and use it consistently. 

Some reliable style guides are:

  • K.A. Turabian’s A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, 
  • Theses and Dissertations (University of Chicago Press), and 
  • the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations (Modern Language Association).


Special Instructions for D.M.A. Students

If you are a student in the Doctor of Musical Arts program, you may submit musical scores formatted at 11 x 17 inches in size. 

If you are submitting a performance as your dissertation, submit the audio file in WAV format as a supplemental file. 

Note: The maximum file size accepted for submission is 100 MB. If a performance recording exceeds the maximum file size, break the file into multiple files and submit the parts individually as supplemental files.


Order and Content

Your dissertation or thesis must contain the following sections. All sections must be included in a single digital file for upload.

  1. Preliminary Pages
    1. Title Page — The format must be followed exactly. View these title page examples for Ph.D. Dissertation and this title page sample for an Engineer Thesis. Use uppercase letters. The title of the dissertation or thesis should be a meaningful description of the content of the manuscript. Use word substitutes for formulas, symbols, superscripts, subscripts, Greek letters, etc. The month and year must be the actual month and year in which you submit your dissertation or thesis electronically to the university. (Note: A student who submits in Autumn quarter is conferred his/her degree in the following calendar year.)
    2. Copyright Page — The dissertation or thesis PDF uploaded in Axess should not contain a copyright page. The copyright page will be created automatically by the online submission system and inserted into the file stored by Stanford Libraries.
    3. Signature Page — The dissertation or thesis PDF uploaded in Axess should also not contain a signature page. The submission process has moved away from ink-signatures, so a digital facsimile of the signature page will be created automatically by the online submission system and inserted into the dissertation or thesis in its final format stored by Stanford Libraries.
    4. Abstract — An abstract may be included in the preliminary section of the dissertation or thesis. The abstract in the body of the dissertation or thesis follows the style used for the rest of the manuscript and should be placed following the signature page. There is no maximum permissible length for the abstract in the dissertation or thesis.   

      Dissertation authors must enter an abstract using the online submission form for uploading the digital dissertation or thesis file to the library. This abstract, which will be indexed for online searching, must be formatted in plain text (no HTML or special formatting). It should be a pithy and succinct version of the abstract included in the dissertation or thesis itself.
    5. Preface, an Acknowledgment, or a Dedication
    6. Table of Contents – Include page references.
    7. List of Tables –  Include titles and page references. This list is optional.
    8. List of Illustrations – Include titles and page references. This list is optional
  2. Text
    1. Introduction 
    2. Main body – Include suitable, consistent headings for the larger divisions and more important sub-divisions.
  3. References
    1. Appendices.
    2. Bibliography or List of References.



Except for the title page, which counts as 'i' but is not physically numbered, each page of the manuscript, including all blank pages, pages between chapters, pages with text, photographs, tables, figures, maps, or computer code must be assigned a number. 

Consistent placement of pagination, at least one-half inch from the paper’s edge, should be used throughout the manuscript.

Follow these pagination instructions exactly:

  1. For the preliminary pages, use small Roman numerals (e.g., iv, v, vi).
  2. The title page is not physically numbered, but counts as page i.
  3. Physical pagination must begin immediately after the title page, on the Abstract page using the number “iv”. 
    • Keep in mind that a copyright page ii and augmented signature page iii (based off your student record) will automatically be inserted to your manuscript during submission.  This means you must ensure to remove pages ii and iii from your dissertation or thesis.
    • Failing to remove pages ii and iii is most common formatting mistake: you must remove your copyright page ii and signature page iii from the pdf file before you submit your dissertation or thesis, and begin pagination on your abstract with page number "iv". If the document is formatted for double-sided printing with each section starting on the right page, then pagination will begin on a blank page (page"iv") and the Abstract should be numbered as page "v", and so forth.
  4. For the remainder of the manuscript, starting with the Introduction or Chapter 1 of the Main Body, use continuous pagination (1, 2, 3, etc) for text, illustrations, images, appendices, and the bibliography. Remember to start with Arabic numbered page 1, as this is not a continuation of the Roman numeral numbering from the preliminary pages.
  5. The placement of page numbers should be consistent throughout the document.


Page Orientation

For text, illustrations, charts, graphs, etc., printed in landscape form, the orientation should be facing away from the bound edge of the paper.



Images (color, grayscale, and monochrome) included in the dissertation or thesis should be clearly discernible both on screen and when printed. The dimensions should not exceed the size of the standard letter-size page (8.5” x 11”).

Image resolution should be 150 dots per inch (dpi), though resolutions as low as 72 dpi (and no lower) are acceptable. 

The format of images embedded in the PDF should be JPEG or EPS (the format JPEG2000 is also acceptable when it is supported in future versions of the PDF format). GIF and PNG are not preferred image file formats.

Large images, including maps and charts or other graphics that require high resolution, should not be included in the main dissertation or thesis file. Instead, they can be submitted separately as supplemental files and formatted in other formats as appropriate. 



Multimedia, such as audio, video, animation, etc., must not be embedded in the body of the dissertation or thesis. These media types add size and complexity to the digital file, introducing obstacles to users of the dissertation or thesis who wish to download and read (and “play back”) the content, and making it more difficult to preserve over time.

If you wish to include multimedia with your submission, upload the media separately as a stand-alone file in an appropriate media format. See Supplementary Material section below.


It is acceptable to include “live” (i.e., clickable) web URLs that link to online resources within the dissertation or thesis file. Spell out each URL in its entirety (e.g., rather than embedding the link in text (e.g., Stanford homepage). By spelling out the URL, you improve a reader’s ability to understand and access the link reference.


Supplementary Material

Supplementary material may be submitted electronically with the dissertation or thesis. This material includes any supporting content that is useful for understanding the dissertation or thesis, but is not essential to the argument. It also covers core content in a form that can not be adequately represented or embedded in the PDF format, such as an audio recording of a musical performance.

Supplementary materials are submitted separately than the dissertation or thesis file, and are referred to as supplemental files.

A maximum of twenty supplemental files can be submitted. There are no restrictions on the file formats. The maximum file size is 1 GB.

You are encouraged to be judicious about the volume and quality of the supplemental files, and to employ file formats that are widely used by researchers generally, if not also by scholars of the discipline.

The following table outlines recommended file formats for different content types. By following these recommendations, the author is helping to ensure ongoing access to the material.

Content TypeRecommended Formats (preferred formats appear in italics)


plain ASCII text

Data Sets

Plain ASCII text with accompanying code books (as PDF or plain ASCII text)

Statistical software files: DTA, SAS, SAV, POR








Note-based digital music composition files: XMA, SMF, RMID


MPEG video

QuickTime, AVI, WMV

AnimationFlash, SVG

After uploading each supplemental file, it is important to enter a short description or label (maximum 120 characters for file name and the description). This label will be displayed to readers in a list of the contents for the entire submission.

If copyrighted material is part of the supplementary material, permission to reuse and distribute the content must be obtained from the owner of the copyright. Stanford Libraries requires copies of permission letters (in PDF format) to be uploaded electronically when submitting the files, and assumes no liability for copyright violations. View this sample permission letter.

System restrictions allow for a maximum of 10 individually uploaded permission files. If you have more than 10 permission files we recommend combining all permission letters into a single PDF file for upload.


Scholarly Reference

In choosing an annotation or reference system, you should be guided by the practice of your discipline and the recommendations of your departments. In addition to the general style guides listed in the Style section above, there are specific style guides for some fields. When a reference system has been selected, it should be used consistently throughout the dissertation or thesis. The placement of footnotes is at your discretion with reading committee approval.

An important aspect of modern scholarship is the proper attribution of authorship for joint or group research. If the manuscript includes joint or group research, you must clearly identify your contribution to the enterprise in an introduction.


Published Papers and Multiple Authorship

The inclusion of published papers in a dissertation or thesis is the prerogative of the major department. Where published papers or ready-for-publication papers are included, the following criteria must be met:

  1. There must be an introduction that integrates the general theme of the research and the relationship between the chapters. The introduction may also include a review of the literature relevant to the dissertation or thesis topic that does not appear in the chapters.
  2. Multiple authorship of a published paper should be addressed by clearly designating, in an introduction, the role that the dissertation or thesis author had in the research and production of the published paper. The student must have a major contribution to the research and writing of papers included in the dissertation or thesis.
  3. There must be adequate referencing of where individual papers have been published.
  4. Written permission must be obtained for all copyrighted materials. Letters of permission must be uploaded electronically in PDF form when submitting the dissertation or thesis. 
  5. The published material must be reformatted to meet the university's format requirements (e.g., appropriate margins and pagination) of the dissertation. The Office of the University Registrar will approve a dissertation or thesis if there are no deviations from the normal specifications that would prevent proper dissemination and utilization of the dissertation or thesis. If the published material does not correspond to these standards, it will be necessary for you to reformat that portion of the dissertation or thesis.
  6. Multiple authorship has implications with respect to copyright and public release of the material. Be sure to discuss copyright clearance and embargo options with your co-authors and your advisor well in advance of preparing your thesis for submission.


Use of Copyrighted Material

If copyrighted material belonging to others is used in your dissertation or thesis or is part of your supplementary materials, you must give full credit to the author and publisher of the work in all cases, and obtain permission from the copyright owner for reuse of the material unless you have determined that your use of the work is clearly fair use under US copyright law (17 USC §107). 

The statute sets out four factors that must be considered when assessing Fair Use:

  1. the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purpose;
  2. the nature of the copyrighted work;
  3. the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
  4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

The Association of American University Presses requires permission for any quotations that are reproduced as complete units (poems, letters, short stories, essays, journal articles, complete chapters or sections of books, maps, charts, graphs, tables, drawings, or other illustrative materials). You can find this guideline and other detailed information on Fair Use at

If you are in doubt, it is safest to obtain permission. Permission to use copyrighted material must be obtained from the owner of the copyright. Stanford Libraries requires copies of permission letters (in PDF format) to be uploaded electronically when submitting the dissertation or thesis, and assumes no liability for copyright violations. For reference, view this sample permission letter.


Copyrighting Your Dissertation

Copyright protection is automatically in effect from the time the work is in fixed form. A proper copyright statement consisting of the copyright symbol, the author’s name, year of degree conferral, and the phrase “All Rights Reserved” will be added automatically to the dissertation or thesis in its final form.

Registration of copyright is not required, but it establishes a public record of your copyright claim and enables copyright owners to litigate against infringement. You need not register your copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office at the outset, although registration must be made before the copyright may be enforced by litigation in case of infringement. 

Early registration does have certain advantages: it establishes a public record of your copyright claim, and if registration has been made prior to the infringement of your work, or within three months after its publication, qualifies you to be awarded statutory damages and attorney fees in addition to the actual damages and profits available to you as the copyright owner (should you ever have to sue because of infringement).

For more information about copyright, see the Stanford Libraries' resource on Copyright Considerations.

For further information on Registration of Copyright, see


File Security and File Name

Do not require a password to make changes to your submitted PDF file, or apply other encryption or security measures. Password-protected files will be rejected.

The file name and description will be printed on a page added to your dissertation or thesis, so choose a file name accordingly.

Important note: File names may only consist of alphanumeric characters, hyphen, underscore, at sign, space, ampersand, and comma – before the ending period and file extension.  Specifically,

  • A file name cannot start with a space, period (nor contain a period), underscore, or hyphen.
  • Files names must be 120 characters or less.

Here is an example of a filename that is allowed, including all of the possible characters:

  • A Study of Social Media with a Focus on @Twitter Accounts, Leland Student_30AUG2023.pdf


Stanford University Thesis & Dissertation Publication License

In submitting a thesis or dissertation to Stanford, the author grants The Trustees of Leland Stanford Junior University (Stanford) the non-exclusive, worldwide, perpetual, irrevocable right to reproduce, distribute, display and transmit author's thesis or dissertation, including any supplemental materials (the Work), in whole or in part in such print and electronic formats as may be in existence now or developed in the future, to sub-license others to do the same, and to preserve and protect the Work, subject to any third-party release or display restrictions specified by Author on submission of the Work to Stanford.

Author further represents and warrants that Author is the copyright holder of the Work, and has obtained all necessary rights to permit Stanford to reproduce and distribute third-party materials contained in any part of the Work, including use of third-party images, text, or music, as well as all necessary licenses relating to any non-public, third-party software necessary to access, display, and run or print the Work. Author is solely responsible and will indemnify Stanford for any third party claims related to the Work as submitted for publication.

Author warrants that the Work does not contain information protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), confidentiality agreements, or contain Stanford Prohibited, Restricted or Confidential data described on the University IT website, or other data of a private nature.

Stanford is under no obligation to use, display or host the work in any way and may elect not to use the work for any reason including copyright or other legal concerns, financial resources, or programmatic need.