Organization and Required Components

Front Matter

The Front Matter consists of all the pages that come before the main text of the manuscript. Some are optional, and some are not. In most cases, the format required for these first pages is very specific. Get the Graduate School staff to check the format for these pages before you hold your defense!

Example Materials: MS Word Thesis Front Matter (22 KB); MS Word Dissertation Front Matter (22 KB).

  1. Title page. This page is required, and the format must be followed exactly. The study title appears on the title page in all capital letters, placed two inches from the top. Your name as author must be your legal name. Make sure that you spell your degree and the name of the University correctly. The date on the title page must be the month and year of your graduation (not your defense), i.e., the date on your diploma (e.g., May 2023, August 2023, December 2023). Notice that there is no comma between the month and the year. The title must occur consistently in every respect on the title page, signature page, Abstract, and all approval forms.
  2. Signature page. This page is required, and the format must be followed exactly. The signature page must include the title of your dissertation or thesis exactly as it appears on the title page, and signature lines over the names of the committee chair, the committee members, the chairperson of the department, and the Dean of the Cratis Williams Graduate School. Make sure that you have spelled all names and titles correctly. Be sure to double check the format before your defense! 
  3. Copyright page. This page is required, and the format must be followed exactly. Dissertations and theses will be publicly available through Appalachian's online repository, and the copyright statement constitutes notice that the work is the property of the author and may not be reproduced without permission.
  4. Abstract. This is required, and the format must be followed exactly. An abstract of not more than two pages must be included with the finished manuscript. The abstract, which must adhere to the same style manual as the text, should include the following information: statement of the problem, methodology or procedures, and conclusions or major findings. Note that you will also need to provide an abstract of not more than 500 characters to include online.
  5. Acknowledgments (optional). If you received a GSGA Research Award, the Zigli or Domer Awards, or any form of external funding to support your research or creative activity, you should acknowledge those sources here along with persons who were instrumental to the completion of the research. This page should be entitled "Acknowledgments." See the template for specific formatting.
  6. Dedication (optional). If you wish to dedicate the work, you may do so with a brief statement on a separate page entitled "Dedication." See the template for specific formatting.
  7. Table of contents. This is required, and the format must be followed exactly. The Table of Contents should reference the Abstract page and all subsequent pages, and should list all page-number designations, in Roman or Arabic numerals, for each major chapter/section, and subsections if required by the style manual in use. Do not list the table of contents in the table of contents. (NOTE: it is strongly recommended that you use the Styles function of MS Word so that you can automatically update the Table of Contents to ensure its accuracy.)
  8. List of tables (optional but recommended). This page should be included if required by the style manual used or if the tables will not appear near where they are referenced in the text. For example, some styles require all tables to appear at the end of the document, in which case a list of tables is required. Table numbers and titles should be listed fully and exactly as they appear in the text. If you plan to place tables in the text where they are referenced, check with your committee chair regarding whether you need to include a list of tables. The Graduate School does not require it in this case.
  9. List of figures (optional but recommended). This page should be included if required by the style manual used or if the figures will not appear near where they are referenced in the text. For example, some styles require all figures to appear at the end of the document, in which case a list of figures is required. Figure numbers and titles should be listed fully and exactly as they appear in the text. If you plan to place figures in the text where they are referenced, check with your committee chair regarding whether you need to include a list of figures. The Graduate School does not require it in this case.
  10. Foreword (required only for alternate formats). In an effort to allow ease of submission for publication, students may seek permission from the committee chair and the Graduate School for the thesis to take the form of a set of articles for submission to journals. This page is required for any thesis that deviates from the traditional organization as described below. It should explain the reason for the deviation (e.g., conformance to a specific journal submission style for publication). Notes: No deviation in pages before the foreword will be allowed. 

Main Body

Following the front matter described above, the main body text should be presented and documented according to the conventions in the disciplinary style manual used, and should be written in grammatically and mechanically correct, formal English. The text should be arranged into clearly demarcated chapters or major sections. We strongly recommend that you receive training in use of  Styles and other formatting tools in MS Word, because this will make it easier for you to acheive the necessary formatting for your document. 

Traditional Organization

Traditionally-organized dissertations and theses will have the following large divisions labeled as Chapters, although the specific content and organization of each division may vary. Every chapter must be written and formatted in the same style. Each chapter should begin on a new page.

  1. Introduction. This chapter should present an overview of the research, providing some background information designed to put the research in context within the discipline.
  2. Review of the Literature. This chapter contains a more detailed discussion of the research or creative endeavors upon which the new work is based. In some disciplines the Introduction incorporates this review; in other disciplines the review is a separate and very substantial section. Both methods are acceptable, and you should follow the method most commonly accepted in your discipline.
  3. Description of the Research; Development of Creative Work. This part of the manuscript will typically comprise several chapters, including the methodology, research strategy, or development of the original work.
  4. Results; Conclusion; Summary of Findings; Limitations. The last part of the manuscript should contain a summary of the conclusions drawn from the work as well as an indication of possible future work in the subject. This conclusion may be an entire chapter or may be included at the end of the last chapter, but a clear indication of the findings should constitute the final text in the manuscript.
  5. Bibliography; Works Cited; References (required). The bibliographic citations must conform to the selected style manual. The Bibliography may be divided into two separate parts if desired: Works Cited and Works Consulted (or References Cited and References Consulted). In consultation with your committee chair, you should decide whether to have a single Bibliography or List of References or a Bibliography or List of References in two parts. Both are acceptable, although specific conventions vary from one discipline to the next. You may choose to double-space the entire reference list; OR, you can single space each reference, leaving a space between each reference.

Alternate Organization

The alternate form described here is to accommodate manuscripts in which the main body of the document is one or more articles formatted for submission to a specific journal. Major sections may be labeled as Chapters if desired. Each major sections should begin on a new page.

1. Introduction. This major section should provide an overview of the research and recap answers to the questions addressed in the prospectus, listed again below; include a reference section if any citations are used. If there is more than one article included in the thesis, this section should also describe how the research detailed in the articles is related.

    • What is your topic? Why have you selected this topic, i.e., what is its significance?
    • How does your topic fit within the larger scholarly conversation around the issue (e.g., what is the history of this topic, on what existing scholarship will your work be building?)
    • What methodology did you use, and why?
    • What is your specific role if the research is taking place in a team environment or in partnership with your advisor?

2. Article(s) Formatted for Submission. This section (or sections) should include the complete text for the article(s) formatted for submission to the appropriate journal, including a reference section. Notes:

    • Each article can be formatted differently if submitting to separate journals.
    • If you are not the sole author on an article, include information in the introduction indicating the nature of your contribution to the research.
    • The bibliography / reference section must conform to the style of the journal.

3. Summary of Findings; Limitations. Brief statement of findings and future research, which may be incorporated into the Introduction if more appropriate.

Back Matter

  1. Endnotes (optional). Endnotes that are listed separately from bibliographic entries must conform to the selected style manual.
  2. Appendices (optional). The appendices are presented in the order that they are mentioned in the manuscript. A separation page can be created to precede each appendix or the title of the Appendix may appear on the first page of the Appendix. If there is more than one appendix, use upper-case letters to identify appendices (i.e., Appendix A, B, C, etc.). Examples of appendix items: Computer codes, survey instruments, IRB approval, etc.
  3. Vita (required). This page is required and should be the last page of the document. A brief biographical sketch of the author must be included in each dissertation or thesis as the last page in the document and must be listed in the Table of Contents. The sketch may include information such as place of birth, names of parents, marital information, educational background, current professional status, professional experience, future professional plans. This is not a resume, but rather one or a few paragraphs describing the author. Remember that a copy will be available in the publicly accessible online repository Worldcat.org (and also often in Google scholar). The sketch should not include items that would be an invasion of your privacy, such as your birthday, home address, or highly personal details. Example Vita (DOC, 68 KB).

Incorporating Submitted or Published Articles

Articles that have already appeared in print may not be included in a thesis or dissertation. Articles that have already been submitted to scholarly journals may be included, but only if you are the primary author. 

Inclusion of Multimedia Elements

If your manuscript includes multimedia elements that do not reproduce well statically on the printed page, you may include links to online repositories of those materials. Examples include web pages, video files, audio files, and so on. Please note that the usual copyright rules apply when including other people's work.