The Graduate School

Thesis and Dissertation Guide


Introduction | Style | Person | Responsibilities | Format Evaluation | Final Electronic Copy



The thesis or dissertation culminates an important stage of your graduate career. In preparing and defending this document, you prove that you have acquired essential skills of research or scholarship as well as the ability to effectively communicate the results of your inquiry to the academic community.

To assist you and your advisory committee in this process, the Graduate School has prepared an ETD Format Manual, one that deals with basic formatting and illustration preparation. Our goal is to help you produce a thesis that looks professional and makes the findings accessible to readers. We also hope that the thesis format recommended in this guide will facilitate publication of the work in a professional journal appropriate to the discipline.


The requirements described in the Manual are derived from standard practice among American universities, libraries, and publishers. We encourage you to become familiar with the Manual upon beginning your first draft. Following this Manual from the beginning will help you anticipate and avoid problems, locate answers to your questions, and spend less time making corrections.

The Graduate School requires that students follow this guide in producing their thesis, unless they are students in the Departments of English, History or Creative Writing. Students in the Department of English follow the format of Publications of the Modern Language Association of America, and the Department of History the format of American Historical Review. In the Department of Creative Writing, where novels, short story and poetry collections rely on the publication format norms of their respective genres, the choice is up to you and your committee.


The thesis represents the culmination of an individual's research program. Although thesis advisors and committee members play an important role in the development, guidance and final evaluation of the overall project, an individual and not a group of persons author the thesis. While the Graduate School recognizes the important input that advisors or committee members often make in a person's thesis, they are not co-authors. Consequently, the thesis should not be written in the first person plural (we). We is a plural pronoun that refers to more than one individual. Theses should be written either in the first person singular (I) or in the third person. The third person is probably the best way to write a thesis in some areas but may not be appropriate for all areas. Individuals who provide assistance in the research project should be mentioned in the acknowledgments. Obviously, if the work is published, co-authorship is often necessary and appropriate.


When you submit your thesis for formal evaluation, the Graduate School will see that it meets the requirements described in this Manual or follows the style guide you have chosen if you are from one of the departments mentioned above. You and your committee are responsible for the content and quality of your thesis. When you have questions concerning the substance of your work (e.g., the arrangement of tables or whether material belongs in an appendix), turn first to your committee chair, or to other members of your committee. They will be most familiar with your work and will know the standards in your field. A format advisor in the Graduate School can assist you in interpreting this Manual or your style guide, but your committee is the best resource for advice about writing and organizing your work. Except for those few aspects of your paper that the format advisor will evaluate, committee members are the final judges of your paper. Do not use another thesis as a model for your work as a particular style or example in a previous work may be incorrect or out-of-date.


When your committee agrees that you have produced a complete, nearly final copy of your manuscript, you must email the draft to ( You must fill out and submit the Format Approval DocuSign to the Graduate School and it must be signed by the chair of your committee. The Graduate School will not review your work without the signed format approval sheet.

The Format of your manuscript will be reviewed by a format advisor in the Graduate School and also by an outside reader. The advisor checks your work against Graduate School requirements and the requirements of your style guide if appropriate. The outsider reader, along with the format advisor, spot-checks for misspellings and grammatical problems. This evaluation usually requires two to four working days; however, when deadlines are approaching, format evaluation may take a bit longer. Most students must make a few corrections or changes. The student should leave a telephone number or an e-mail address where he/she can be reached. If corrections need to be made, the Graduate School will ask to see a revised copy before granting approval to schedule the thesis defense.


A note before submitting your final copy.

The ease of access to ETD's may create issues with prior publication for journals or publishing houses, and for the prosecution of patents. Check with your advisor before you submit your thesis or dissertation so you can choose the most appropriate release option for your work. There are access restrictions that may be placed on a thesis or dissertation when it is submitted to the Graduate School. To address these publication issues check the Electronic Thesis and Dissertation (ETD) Submission Form or with the Graduate School for more information, before submitting your final copy. The following are options on the Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Submission Form:

  • Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.
  • Release the entire work for UNCW access only for: one year, three years, or indefinitely.
  • Release the entire work for UNCW access only, while at the same time releasing only the following parts of the work (e.g., because other parts relate to publications) for worldwide access (separate files must be submitted to use this option) for: one year, three years, or indefinitely.
  • Delay the release for a period of no more than one year for purposes of patent protection.

After the selected time has passed the ETD will be released worldwide.

Assuming the oral defense is successful, the student should make any changes or corrections requested by the committee and prepare a final copy for submission to the Graduate School. The Graduate School requires that each student submit his/her thesis electronically to the Graduate School as an e-mail attachment. This copy of the thesis must be in searchable PDF format. One hardcopy title page, on plain paper, is required and should contain the signatures of all members of the thesis committee. The title page of the electronic thesis DOES NOT need to be signed but should have the names of the committee typed in the appropriate underlined spaces and a blank underlined space should be left for the Dean's electronic signature. An Electronic Thesis and Dissertation (ETD) Submission Form must be filled out and submitted to the Graduate School along with your Thesis or Dissertation. The electronic copy is forwarded to the Archivist, Randall Library, where it is catalogued and archived. Check with your department or program, as they may require a printed thesis or dissertation.

Your program may require an electronic or hard copy of your thesis or dissertation. Check with your graduate coordinator for more information. If your department requires a hard copy thesis or dissertation follow the Guideline for Department Required Hardcopy for formatting of the program copy. Check with your program coordinator for binding information. The University will cover the cost of binding this copy. Binding of personal copies (for the committee and others) is your responsibility. Additional information about personal copies can be found here.

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