Thesis & Dissertation Preparation & Submission

Old Dominion University requires a dissertation from all doctoral candidates and a thesis from all thesis option master's candidates. The thesis/dissertation should be presented in a scholarly, well-integrated, properly documented manner, which reports the original work done by the student under the supervision of the advisory committee.

This Guide for Preparation of Theses and Dissertations has been authorized by the Graduate Administrators Council of Old Dominion University to assist graduate students and their committee members in the preparation of theses and dissertations. The primary purpose of this manual is to provide uniform standards regarding style and format while allowing enough flexibility to satisfy the acceptable practices of each academic discipline. The word "thesis" will be used in reference to general instructions equally applicable to all theses and dissertations. "Journal model" will be used in reference to general style instructions.

The finished work must reflect a comprehensive understanding of the pertinent literature and express in clear and legible English the method, significance, and results of the student's research. Full documentation and appropriate tabular and/or graphic presentation are especially important. The completed manuscript should be no longer than is necessary to present all pertinent information. The length will vary widely according to research topic, academic discipline, and the degree sought.

The thesis should be presented as a single unit; continuity from chapter to chapter is important. Several studies or experiments may be presented in separate chapters or major sections. Continuity in the thesis is provided by common Abstract, Introduction, Conclusion, and Reference sections. Each study or experiment may have subdivisions such as Introduction, Materials and Methods, Discussion, and Summary. The thesis may have only one Abstract and one Reference section; a study or experiment cannot have a separate Abstract or Reference section.

Each graduate program maintains an approved list of journal styles and/or accepted style manuals. The style specifications for the thesis should be approved during the preparation of the research proposal, and the appropriate instructions should be cited in the graduate student's permanent file.

The journal will be followed for:

  • placement of table titles
  • placement of figure titles
  • reference format

Whenever there are differences in format and layout between the specifications of this Guide for Preparation of Theses and Dissertations and the journal model, this guide overrules the journal. Consistency of style and form should be the rule throughout the manuscript. The thesis is not expected to duplicate a published journal in typographic arrangement and display. The more sophisticated publication and layout practices of some journals (such as the use of double columns on a text page, etc.) are not to be followed. A journal's "Instructions to Contributors" are not to be followed exactly when writing a thesis. These instructions are for the convenience of the editors and printers of a journal and do not necessarily apply to the format of a thesis.

Check with the graduate program director in your department for further style instructions.

Graduate students may publish material that subsequently will be used as part of the thesis provided that the student's graduate committee is notified at the time the student submits the paper for publication. In addition, students should be aware of the agreement that is signed when a journal accepts an article for publication. At that time, the student assigns rights to the journal as publisher and the student may no longer possess rights. See Copyright section for more information.

Copyright protection extends for a statutory period on creative, original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium. Since a thesis is legally classified as a literary work, care must be taken not to violate copyright laws. If the manuscript contains any material (figures, tables, text, etc.) taken from other sources, the student has the responsibility to determine if a license or a letter of permission from the copyright holder is needed. This is true even if the student is an author of the other source - - a letter of permission from the publisher may still be needed should the publisher own the copyright. Note: A work need not bear the copyright symbol in order to be protected under copyright law. If a letter is needed, it must be included in a separate appendix. In addition, an extra copy of the letter must be provided to the Office of the University Registrar.

Your thesis, being an original, written work, is automatically protected by copyright law even without a copyright notice or registration with the U.S. Copyright Office. Your document, once written, is automatically protected. Including the copyright notice and/or registering with the U.S. Copyright Office does add additional protections, however. Students who desire an additional layer of protection may register their work through ProQuest. If you wish ProQuest to act as your agent in securing additional copyright protection, you must indicate this when completing the ETD process and pay the copyright registration fee directly to ProQuest. Registration offers certain advantages to the copyright holder in the event of an infringement.

The copyright notice, if included, must be placed on a separate page immediately after the Abstract page. Refer to the sample pages in this manual for specific directions. A copyright notice should also appear on all other material included in the thesis (e.g., audio, video/film, other digital content). A thorough explanation of how copyright law applies to theses and dissertations is available in "Copyright and Your Dissertation or Thesis: Ownership, Fair Use, and Your Rights and Responsibilities," available from ProQuest here.

Procedures - Submission of Theses or Dissertations

The below content is organized in order for the standard process of submitting theses or dissertations. Please consult with the appropriate GPD for more specific procedures.

The student and committee ensure quality of content and correctness of form of the thesis. The student may be given ongoing evaluations by the committee, but final approval may be given only on the completed document. The student must apply for graduation prior to the semester of graduation and be enrolled in the University.

The finalized document must be submitted to the thesis or dissertation director a minimum of two weeks prior to the oral defense. If the director, committee, and graduate program director agree that the document is in acceptable form for presentation at an oral defense, announcements will be published and distributed.

Theses/dissertations must be defended in front of designated examining committees. The decision as to whether a student has passed or failed the examination rests with the committee, but it shall take into account the opinions of other participating faculty members. A majority of the committee, including a majority of those from the student's major department, must approve the thesis or dissertation. A unanimous decision is not necessary.

Immediately following the examination, the chair of the committee shall communicate the results to the student. In some cases, further revision of the document may be required. The Thesis/Dissertation Acceptance form and the thesis or dissertation should be transmitted to the graduate program director for review and approval.

The student is advised to begin the ProQuest ETD (Electronic Thesis & Dissertation) process but should not upload the pdf version of the thesis/dissertation. The student may create the ProQuest account and familiarize her/himself with ProQuest publishing options and complete contact information and graduate work details sections.

The Dean's Office shall review the thesis/dissertation for compliance with this guide and return it for correction if necessary. The manuscript must be corrected and resubmitted as a new document, and the Dean's Office review process begins anew. All original submission deadlines must be met during the re-submission process in order to graduate that semester. The student should not submit the thesis/dissertation to ProQuest until it has been approved by the Dean's Office. Note: Graduation will be postponed if corrections are not made on time.

The student must submit a final, error-free pdf version of the document to Proquest. Do not submit the pdf until all previous steps have been completed.

The student's department must email the Thesis/Dissertation Acceptance and Processing form (M3 or D5) and the Result of the Master's/Doctoral Examination (M2 or D3) form to the ETD Manager ( Forms emailed by students will not be accepted. Once forms have been submitted, the ETD Manager will approve and send the submitted thesis to ProQuest Dissertation Publishing, and the student will receive an email confirmation.


Please Note for Capstone and Paper Submissions: Do not submit your work to ProQuest unless it is an official thesis or dissertation. Capstone projects and paper submissions should be sent to Karen Vaughan for inclusion in the ODU Digital Commons. Contact your GPD with any questions.

Human Subjects Research and Research Involving Animals, Hazardous Chemicals, Biohazard Materials, Radioactive Materials.

Man working on laptop giving thumbs up

Any proposal for research involving human subjects must be reviewed and approved according to the ODU Procedures for Review of Human Subjects Research. The process and approval must be cited in the text of the thesis.

All research involving human subjects, and certain human cultured cell lines, must conform to federal, state, and university policies providing for the protection of human subjects. While some forms of research may be classified by federal and state regulations as being exempt (i.e., survey research involving standard educational testing materials), all student research must first be reviewed and approved.

The student's thesis/dissertation director, acting as lead investigator, determines whether or not the project should qualify as exempt from Institutional Review Board (IRB) review. If the investigator believes it to be exempt and the study does not have a federal funding source, it can be submitted to the College Human Subjects Review Committee (HSRC) for review. If the College committee approves the project, the process stops there. If the College committee believes the project to be non-exempt, the project is forwarded to the IRB for review. The exception to this process is that federally funded exempt research needs to be reviewed by the IRB. These projects bypass college committees.

The student will receive an approval number that must be cited in the thesis or dissertation.

Any proposal for thesis or dissertation research involving vertebrate animal subjects, hazardous chemicals, biohazardous materials, or radioactive materials and/or radiation producing machines must be reviewed and approved according to the guidelines established by the appropriate committee. The process and approval must be cited in the text of the thesis or dissertation.

Human Rights Institutional Review Board
Animal Research Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee
Hazardous Chemicals Environmental Health and Safety Office
Biohazardous Materials Institutional Biosafety Committee
Radioactive Materials Radiation Safety Committee


Additional questions regarding the review and approval processes outlined here should be directed to the University Research Compliance Officer. More information and appropriate forms can be found here.

ETD (Electronic Thesis & Dissertation) Submission to ProQuest - General Specifications

All theses and dissertations must be submitted electronically to ProQuest. Fees for registering with the U.S. Copyright Office and ordering bound copies of the thesis or dissertation are payable directly to ProQuest. Click here to read through our ProQuest guide for submitting electronically.

Digitized Reproductions

Digitized reproductions of photographs or other materials are acceptable if there is enough resolution and contrast for viewing. The recommended minimum resolution for digitized images and/or photographs is 300dpi.

Tables & Figures

All figures and tables should be sharp black and white, clearly legible, and of professional quality. Hand-drawn material must be of publishable quality. If color is used for tables and figures, a consistent color scheme should be used. For example, tables should not differ drastically from one another in form, color, or general appearance.

Each table and figure in the text must have a unique title. If a figure or table is reduced in size, the title must remain normal size (10-12 point or 12-14 point). Ensure consistent formatting of table/figure titles - capitalization, placement, use of a period at the end.

Each table and figure in the text must have a unique number. Figures and tables are numbered consecutively throughout the text, and each table or figure must be mentioned by number in the text. When possible, first mention of each table or figure must be either within 1.5 pages before the table/figure or on the page immediately following the table/figure. Exceptions must be approved, in advance, by the Dean of the College.

The minimum font size within a table or figure is 10 point.

Tables and figures may be included on a page with text, or they may appear on separate pages. If a table or figure is placed on a page with other material, the table or figure should be separated from the text (or other materials) by a minimum of 2 double spaces (4 single spaces) at the top and bottom.

Placement of titles on tables and figures (above or below) is determined by the style format chosen as a model. If the table or figure is placed lengthwise (landscape position), the top of the table or figure must be at the left-hand, binding side of the page. The caption is placed in the same direction as the figure or table. The page number stays in regular (portrait) position.

Tables or figures longer than one page in length must have the complete title and number of the table/figure on the first page only. Subsequent pages have the table or figure number and the word "Continued" and necessary column headings for ease of reading. The end line of a table appears only on the last page of the table.

Captions or titles on a facing page are to be used only when absolutely necessary. Facing page captions may be used for figures only, never tables. This format applies only when the caption cannot be placed directly onto the page on which the figure appears. If a facing page caption is necessary, the facing page must face in the normal manner. The caption page comes first with only the page number on the front side of the page; (facing page is blank) the caption is placed on the back side of the page in the same direction as the figure. The facing page with the caption and the page with the figure are both numbered consecutively, with the page numbers in the standard position. The number of the page on which the figure itself appears is the only one recorded in the List of Figures.

Manuscript Details

The following tabs provide guidelines for proper manuscript details.

The entire thesis must be of uniform font or typeface. Do not attempt to replicate a journal's use of varying sizes and styles of typeface or font. Any standard bookface font may be used. The graduate program director will make the final decision regarding the legibility and acceptability of fonts. Acceptable printers will produce solid, unbroken lines of type. Consult with your graduate program director if there is doubt about the acceptability of a printed document.

Italics or boldface print (in the same point size as the text) may be used for major headings, subheadings and for emphasis. Underlining is an acceptable alternative to italics, but do not use underlining and bold together. Exceptions: tables, figures, and material in appendices may be in different fonts.

The thesis must be of uniform font size (10 point minimum - 12 point maximum).


  • Tables, figures, and appendix material can vary in point size.
  • Major headings may be up to two point sizes larger than the text (maximum suggested size is 14 point). If this option is chosen, it must be used for all headings throughout the entire manuscript.
  • Point size reduction may be made in narrative text footnotes, tables, figures and appendix material only. The minimum size for numbers and upper-case letters is 1.5 millimeters; symbols must be large enough to remain legible. The font of the preliminary pages, narrative text, endnotes, reference section, and vita may not be reduced.

Margins are 1.0" on all sides -- left side, right side, top, and bottom. All typing except page numbers must be within the area defined by the margins. Justified right-hand margins may be used in theses only with the approval of the Graduate Program Director.

Every page in the thesis except the Title/Approval Page and the Abstract must be numbered. Preliminary pages are numbered with lower-case Roman numerals beginning with the Title/Approval Page, understood to be i (no page number appears on this page), and the Abstract, understood to be ii (no page number appears on this page). The text and supplementary pages are numbered with Arabic numerals beginning with the first page of text (numbered 1). Every page following will have a page number. The Vita is the last numbered page.

Page numbers are placed in the upper right-hand corner of the page, one-half inch below the top edge of the paper and one inch from the right-hand edge.

All headings must be consistent regarding point size and the use of bold type. All major headings must be centered at the top of a new page in all capital letters. Point size may be the same size as the body text or up to 2 points larger: 12 point if text is 10 point or 14 point if text is 12 point.

The manuscript may be double-spaced or one and one-half spaced. Mixing of spacing in the text is unacceptable. Single spacing is used only for long, blocked, and inset quotations; footnotes; endnotes; and itemized or tabular material. For spacing of specialized pages (Table of Contents, List of Figures, etc.) see the sample pages included at the end of this guide.

Content Order

The first tab provides the list of contents in the proper order of presentation. The following tabs provide guidelines for each section.

Preliminary Pages (with Roman numeral page numbers)

All sections in italics are optional

  • Title/Approval Page (no page number - understood to be i)
  • Abstract (no page number - understood to be ii)
  • Copyright Notice
  • Dedication
  • Acknowledgments
  • Nomenclature
  • Table of Contents
  • List of Tables (if two or more tables appear in the text)
  • List of Figures (if two or more figures appear in the text)
  • List of Graphs (if two or more graphs appear in the text)
  • List of Plates (if two or more plates appear in the text)

Text (with Arabic numeral page numbers)

  • Introduction (as first chapter or section)
  • Main body of text divided into various chapters or sections
  • Summary or Conclusion (as last chapter or section)

References and Supplemental Sections

  • Reference section
  • Appendix material (i.e. copyrights)


The following general rules must be followed in the body of the document:

  1. Divide the body into chapters.
  2. Use Roman or Arabic numerals in chapter titles and any reference to chapters.
  3. Each text page needs at least 4.5 inches of text on it unless the page contains a table or a figure or the next text begins a new chapter or major section.
  4. Numbering of equations must be consecutive. No two equations may be numbered the same unless identical term for term.
  5. Do not use double columns in text.

The requirements for major headings and subheadings are as follows:

  1. Major headings in the text are bold if other major headings are bold. Boldface or italics may be used for subheadings.
  2. Each new chapter begins on a new page.
  3. The chapter designation (CHAPTER I) is upper-case and centered at the top of the page. The chapter title is also upper-case and centered at least one double-space (no more than two double-spaces) below chapter designation.
  4. Titles and subheadings more than one line in length must be double-spaced.
  5. There is no punctuation after a heading or subheading that is on a line by itself.
  6. Only major headings may be centered and in all capital letters. First level subheadings may be typed in all capital letters provided they are placed flush left.
  7. Spacing before/after headings and subheadings must be consistent throughout.
  8. The style used for subheadings must clearly show their various levels and must be consistent from chapter to chapter.
  9. Subheadings do not begin on a new page. Text continues within a chapter or section.
  10. A subheading at the bottom of a page must be followed by at least one line of text.

All theses and dissertations must include a references section. The requirements for the section are as follows:

  1. The title is the same heading used in the journal model (REFERENCES, WORKS CITED, BIBLIOGRAPHY). The heading is in all capital letters and bold if major headings are bold.
  2. The reference list must be consistent, accurate and complete.
  3. A journal article or accepted style guide approved by the graduate program director is used as a model for the reference list. Capitalization, punctuation and ordering (alphabetized, or alphabetized and numbered, or non alphabetized and numbered) of information must follow this model.
  4. The use of italics (or quotation marks) for book titles, journal names and article titles and the use of bold type must match the journal model.
  5. In an alphabetized list, the system of ordering multiple entries must be consistent.
  6. Citations should contain: volume number and page range for journal articles; publisher and city for books; city for universities, laboratories or corporations. Refer to the appropriate style manual for rules governing internet citations.
  7. Unpublished material must contain sufficient information for retrieval.
  8. Designation of state names (abbreviated or not) should be consistent.
  9. Single space within citations and between citations or use the spacing of text throughout the entire section.
  10. All references must be cited in the text and all textual citations must be referenced. All textual citations must be from sources the student has actually used.
  11. General references consulted and used as background study may be listed under a separate subdivision of the reference section. A subheading such as "Supplemental Sources Consulted" should be added at the end of the sources cited section. Follow the same style used in the reference section.

Appendices are used for supplementary material. The requirements for appendices are as follows: 

  1. Heading(s) is/are bold if major headings are in bold. 
  2. Appendix headings may either be on a separate cover sheet before appendix material or at the top of the first page of each appendix. Be consistent from appendix to appendix. 
  3. Appendix headings are centered. Appendix titles are centered, in all capital letters and appear at least one double space below heading. 
  4. Page numbering is continued from the last page of references. 
  5. All material must be within margins. 
  6. Tables and figures in appendices may be numbered consecutively following the text, or they may be numbered with an appendix designation. If numbered consecutively from the text, they must be included in the List of Tables or List of Figures 
  7. Material may be reduced but must conform to minimum size and legibility requirements. 
  8. Material may have mixed fonts and point sizes and may be single-spaced.

The requirements for the vita section are as follows:

  1. The heading (VITA) is in bold if major headings are in bold.
  2. Wording of the student's name must agree with the name on the first three thesis pages.
  3. The vita should contain the address for department of study and a brief biographical sketch listing educational background (including background for all previous degrees: degree, major subject, university and date of graduation).
  4. Other information is optional but encouraged: professional experience, publications, business or academic information.
  5. Name of the word processor may be stated at the bottom of the page. (Example: The word processor for this thesis was Mary Jones.)
  6. The vita is limited to one page.
  7. Use either paragraph style with same spacing as text or resume style.

Dean's Office Checklist

Theses and dissertations submitted to the Dean's Office will be reviewed for acceptable execution of the following requirements:

  1. General neatness and legibility.

  2. Consistency in style and format.

  3. Correspondence between titles and page numbers in the text and in the Table of Contents, List of Tables, and List of Figures.

  4. Each major heading is centered, in all capital letters, and at the top of a new page.

  5. Formatting and legibility of figures and tables should follow requirements in this guide.

  6. Use only page numbers outside the margins.

  7. Inclusion of a major introductory chapter or section and a major concluding chapter or section.

  1. Quality of digitization or reproduction.

  2. Title/Approval Page and Abstract must match the format of samples in this guide.

  3. Journal model or style guide formatting for tables, figures and references.

  4. Major headings and first level subheadings appear in the Table of Contents.

  5. Consecutive numbering of tables and figures throughout the body of the thesis.

  6. Documents should begin with the Title/Approval Page and end with the Vita.

  7. Consistent subheading formatting throughout.