Master’s thesis formatting

In order to be accepted, your master’s thesis must comply with certain formatting guidelines. Be sure to read through this list of requirements thoroughly before you submit.



  • Font size should be either 11 or 12 point for the entire document, with the only exception being the title on the title page, footnotes, tables/charts, and picture/table descriptions. Font up to size 16 point may be used for the document’s title on the title page only. Font as small as 10 points may be used for footnotes, the content of tables/charts, and picture/table/chart descriptions.
  • Black font is used throughout the thesis, with the only exception being areas where a different font color serves a purpose in explaining or highlighting some aspect of the research/thesis in a way black font could not. 

Be consistent in font style throughout your thesis. The following font styles are recommended for the ease with which they convert to a PDF. All theses have to be converted to a PDF in the electronic submission process.

      •  Arial
      •  Bookman Old Style
      •  Calibri
      •  Cambria
      •  Lucida Bright
      •  Times New Roman 

Page numbers and headers

  • Page numbers must be clear, consecutive, and printed on every page, including appendixes, tables, figures, maps, charts, photographs, etc., except for the title page and vita page.
  • Lowercase Roman numbers (e.g., i, ii, iii) are used for the front matter (the pages preceding the main body of work).
  • Arabic numerals (e.g., 1, 2, 3) are used in the body of the work, the bibliography and the appendices.
  • The title page counts as page i but does not bear a number.
  • Begin the actual numbering with the acceptance page as page ii, and continue with lowercase Roman numerals until the start of the actual body of the thesis. That page, whether part of your full introduction or of your first chapter, should be numbered using the Arabic numeral 1, and every page thereafter should be numbered consecutively until you reach the vita page.
  • Ordinarily, page numbers should be centered at the top or bottom of the page, entered midway between the edge of the paper and the text to prevent their loss during the binding process.
  • Running heads are not used in thesis submissions. Please limit the content of your header and footer space to the page number only.


  • Top, Right, and Bottom margins must be one inch. If the thesis will only be electronically accessed, a one-inch left margin is acceptable. The left margin should be one inch if the thesis will be bound in paper form by ProQuest. If using a bindery other than ProQuest, please consult with the bindery about the size of the left margin needed for their binding process.
  • Proper margin space is critical for proper binding. Inadequate margins can result in part of your material being lost after the combination of copying and binding. Even if all the material remains, insufficient margins can affect the readability and appearance of your work.
  • These margin requirements apply to all materials in the thesis, including figures, tables, maps, plates, etc., and any preliminary material you choose to include.


  • The material should be double-spaced. Long quotations within the text should be typed single-spaced with wider margins.


  • Theses should be written in English, unless you and your department/committee have decided otherwise.

Style manuals

  • The Chicago Manual of Style
  • Turabian, Kate L., A Manual for Writers
  • Modern Language Association (MLA) style sheet
  • American Psychological Association (APA) style sheet (especially for works in the social sciences)

Check with your research committee if you are unsure which style manual you should use. IU Libraries also offer research support, including links to online versions of some style manuals. 


  • Check with your department on this requirement. This format depends largely on your particular field or topic.
  • For example, you may opt to have footnotes appear on the page where the annotation occurs, at the end of each chapter, or solely in the traditional reference/bibliography section(s). Be sure to follow the conventions of your department or discipline.
  • Each document must have at least one reference section.

Photographs and images

  • If photographs or detailed graphics are part of the work, make sure they are crisp and clear when printed.
  • The IU Seal or Branding should not be used on any portion of the thesis. These items may be used only with the written permission of the university.