Theses and Dissertations

The following provides guidelines for the preparation of master's theses and doctoral dissertations. The guidelines are designed to produce documents that are uniform in style, but they also allow for the particular requirements of the various disciplines. Exceptions are to be approved by both your director and the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences.

The accepted thesis/dissertation is the property of the University. The original and the copy are deposited in Gelman Library for circulation.

The University is to be given credit for material used in the publication of any portion of a thesis or dissertation, whether as a direct quotation or as an adaptation. Library copies of theses or dissertations may not be sent to printers for use as "copy" for publication.

General Information

Each student must be registered during the semester or summer session in which the degree will be awarded. An application for graduation must be filed with the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences prior to the deadline for that semester and the required binding fee (thesis only) must be paid at the time of billing. 


All dissertations are to be submitted electronically. Paper copies will not longer be accepted. Information on steps in submission, deadlines, format, best practices, etc. can be found at the ETD website. This website will also lead you to the ProQuest/UMI submission site.

Please note that your core dissertation research committee is made up of your director (and co-director, if applicable) and two readers. When you are asked to indicate the members of your committee, these are the people who should be listed – not your entire examining committee. Please use academic titles only – you can find this information in the University Bulletin. Do not use titles such as Dr., PhD, or MD.

Dissertations will first be sent to the Gelman Library for approval. Once approved by Gelman, the dissertation will be forwarded to the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences for a final check. Students may receive instructions from either Gelman or the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences to make changes and upload a revised edition of their work. The student will be notified by email once the dissertation has been forwarded to ProQuest/UMI.

Doctoral students will pay ProQuest/UMI directly online. The amount charged will depend on the publishing option chosen by the student. GW recommends students choose the open access option in the interest of making their scholarship as accessible as possible.

In addition to the dissertation, students must submit to the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences a completed ETD Approval form. The student’s department/program must submit a graduation clearance form directly to the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences.

Survey of Earned Doctorates: This form will be given to the student at the time of defense. The completed booklet should be submitted to the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences along with the completed ETD approval form. Students can also access and print the form themselves Survey of Earned Doctorates. Completed hard copy must be submitted to the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences.

The Final PhD Examination

The dissertation director, in consultation with the Department Graduate Advisor and with the Advisor's approval, determines the membership of the Final Oral Examination Committee. The committee must consist of at least four members (not including the director and co-director), one of whom is outside the department and who has not worked with the student on the dissertation or research project. An expert from outside the University may be suggested. Such an expert is offered an honorarium of fifty dollars. The expert should be located in the metropolitan D.C. area. A student's current or prospective immediate supervisor of employment is not permitted to be an examiner. Care should be taken to ensure that the committee proposed represents the necessary fields of expertise.

**These guidelines are to be used for Master's theses only:


To graduate in Spring, you must submit your approved, final thesis to the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences and all degree requirements must be reported completed by your department no later than May 15th.

To graduate in Fall, you must submit your approved, final thesis to the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences and all degree requirements must be reported completed by your department no later than January 15th.

To graduate in Summer, you must submit your approved, final thesis to the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences and all degree requirements must be reported completed by your department no later than August 15th.

Paper and Quality

The original copy of the thesis or dissertation should be prepared on high quality, durable, white paper, 8-1/2-by-11 inches in size and twenty-pound in weight. One copy must be submitted in addition to the original. The copy must be on good-quality, twenty-pound white paper. The original and copy may be produced using high-quality, photocopying or computer-assisted reproduction methods as long as the standards for paper quality and image quality are met. Similarly, printing and photo-offset processes may be used for text, illustrations, and tables provided that all copies are legible and capable of being microfilmed. Loose-leaf copies with punched holes are not acceptable.

The pages should be free of obvious blemishes and corrections. Strikeovers, crossed-out words, and inserted words are not acceptable. When special characters and symbols are required and not available on computer, they should be inserted carefully in the manuscript by hand using permanent black ink.


General questions concerning appearance, form, and arrangement are answered in this guide. Your director or department may have certain additional style requirements or preferences. You should follow that style consistently throughout your work. For more detailed instructions on formatting than provided here, you may wish to obtain a style manual. 

Type Size and Quality

Any eligible font except script, italic, or ornamental fonts equivalent in scale to 10pt. Arial or 12 pt. Times New Roman are accepted. Italicized font may be used for non-English words and quotations. This applies to all text including captions, footnotes/endnotes, citations, etc. A sample printed page may be brought to the Student Services Center for approval if you are unsure of acceptance.

Single-side printing is required for all material. All textual material should be double-spaced, but long quotations, footnotes/endnotes, bibliographic entries, and lists in appendices may be single-spaced.


Margin requirements will be enforced without exception. The margins for the text of the thesis should be one and one-half inches on the left (to allow for binding), one inch on the right, one inch on the top (unless it is a title or other heading), and one inch on the bottom. Chapter headings should be two inches below the top margin (or three inches from the top of the page).

All information including titles, footnotes, and illustrative material must conform to the margins specified. After binding along the left-hand edge, the bindery trims the other three sides of the thesis. Accordingly, insufficient margins will affect the readability and appearance of the document.


When illustrations (photographs, maps, graphs, etc.) are used, they may be scanned and printed in high resolution printers. Photocopies must be on permanent, durable paper. If mounted, photographs and other illustrative material must be dry mounted on good quality, 20-lb. white paper. Rubber cement, other glues, or double-sided tape are not acceptable methods of attachment. Large illustrations must each be preceded by a regular sheet of thesis paper on which is indicated the title or identification and, if necessary, the source or sources. The title or legend page may be oriented in the usual manner or may be oriented so as to face the illustration. Smaller illustrations may have the title or legend placed on the same page. All illustration and legend pages must be numbered.

Illustrative material must fall within the stated margins. If the material is oversized, it may be (a) photographically reduced, (b) enclosed in an envelope or pocket, or (c) prepared (folded) for binding. If reduced in size, the illustrative material must be easily readable. If folded, the material must be arranged on the page to allow the one and one-half inch margin on the binding edge. The illustration should be folded carefully so that there are as few folds as possible and so that the page can be easily unfolded after the thesis is bound. The folded outer edges of the illustration should be one-half inch smaller than the text pages at the top, bottom, and right-hand edges (oversize sheets must be folded to come within the text area so the folds will not be trimmed off or bound in during the binding procedure). The overall dimensions of the folded illustration will then be approximately eight-by-ten inches. Please note, however, that oversized pages complicate microfilming and should be avoided whenever possible.

Number Placement and Sequence

Preliminary pages (title page, table of contents, list of illustrations, etc.) are numbered in lowercase Roman numerals (e.g., ii, iii, iv etc.) at the center of the text at the bottom of the page, resting on the bottom margin. The title page is counted as the first page, but does not carry a number. The copyright page, if used, is also not numbered. The first page of front matter carrying a number is "ii." All text pages following the preliminary pages are numbered with Arabic numerals beginning with "1" on the first page of text and continuing to the end of the thesis. All text pages, illustrations, and legends must be numbered. The text page numbers are to be placed either at the top of the page, one inch from the right side so that the bottom of the number rests on the top margin, or at the bottom center of the page, one inch from the bottom so that the number rests on the bottom margin.

Page numbers stand alone; do not use periods, hyphens, or other decorative marks with page numbers.

Arrangement of Pages

Pages in the thesis should be organized as follows:

Title page (a sample title page is available in .pdf format). In completing the date degree conferred on the title page of your manuscript, use August 31 for summer graduation, January 31 for fall graduation, and the date of the May graduation ceremony. (consult the GW Academic Calendar - for spring graduation.)

  • Copyright page (if used)
  • Dedication page (optional)
  • Acknowledgment page (optional)
  • Abstract (optional)
  • Table of contents
  • List of tables
  • List of figures or illustrations
  • Preface or foreword (optional)
  • Text
  • Appendices
  • Endnotes (if used)
  • Bibliography

Graduate Student Services will examine the thesis to see that the requirements of style and form laid out in this guide have been met. Theses that are judged unacceptable will be returned to the student for correction and re-approval by the faculty concerned.