Format Guidelines

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ETD Guide

The Guide to Preparation of Theses, Project Reports, and Dissertations ("ETD Guide" for short) gives a comprehensive overview of the procedures associated with the thesis, project report, and submission process. Candidates are strongly encouraged to read the guide in its entirety.

Candidates are strongly encouraged to make use of the following when assembling and formatting their theses, projects reports, and dissertations:

Overview of Format Guidelines

Cal State LA has its own formatting requirements that override those laid out in the candidate's assigned style manual. Additional information may be found in Chapter 3 of the Thesis Guide.

Title Page

  • The candidate's first and last names listed on the Title page, Copyright page, Approval page, and Abstract should be identical to what is listed on their official Cal State LA records; the candidate may decide whether or not to include their middle name or initial. Candidates who have changed their name during their time at Cal State LA but have not registered this change with the campus should pay special attention to their name on record.
  • The candidate will list their department and degree on the title page according to the list of Colleges, Departments, and Degree Programs at Cal State LA.
  • The month and year listed on the Title page and Approval page will correspond to the last month and year of the semester in which the thesis, project report, or dissertation is filed with the University (e.g., in Spring 2018, the date would be "May 2018").

​Margins, Font, and Spacing  ​

  • The top and bottom margins are set to 1 inch. The left and right margins are set to 1.25 inches.
  • Page numbers fall within the margins and must be at least 0.5 inch from the edge of the page. 
  • The font should be a 12-point size professional typeface, such as Times New Roman, Arial, or Courier. Only one size and one style of type may be used in the main sections of the manuscript; the size may vary in captions or footnotes but should nonetheless remain consistent throughout the document.
  • Typing of the document is double spaced. 

Preliminary Pages and End Matter  

Preliminary pages precede the main text and are arranged in the following order: 

  • Title page 
  • Copyright page
  • Approval page
  • Abstract (no word limit, but students are encouraged to keep it to 250 words or fewer)
  • Acknowledgments (optional, unless you received financial support or permissions for your project)
  • Dedication (optional)
  • Table of Contents
  • List of Tables (if any)
  • List of Figures (if any)
  • List of Definitions/Glossary/List of Abbreviations (if any)

The end matter follows the main text and is arranged in the following order:

  • Endnotes (if any)
  • List of references
  • Appendices (if any)

Each preliminary page, each chapter page, the endnotes, the references, and each appendix must begin on a new page.


  • All theses, project reports, and dissertations in all disciplines must included an abstract. 
  • There is no word limit on the abstract. We nonetheless suggest that candidates keep their abstracts to no more than 250 words for the sake of brevity. 
  • If possible, avoid using special characters, symbols, or “smart” quotation marks in the abstract. Consult the ProQuest FAQ for more information. 
  • Candidates may include keywords on the Abstract page of the manuscript if they wish, but it is not required.

Page Numbers

  • Preliminary pages are numbered using lower case Roman numerals (ii, iii, iv, etc).
  • Pages of the main text are numbered using standard Arabic numerals.
  • All pages, including appendices are counted and numbered. 

Headings and Subheadings  

  • Chapters must be constructed and presented in a logical and consistent manner. Follow your style manual's requirements for the styling of headings and subheadings. 
  • If the candidate's assigned style manual does not indicate how to format headings and subheadings, candidates are encouraged to follow APA Style as show in the Sections, Headings, and Subheadings Quick Guide (PDF)

​​Citations and References

  • Citation format must follow the style manual or guidelines specified by the candidate's department and must be consistent within the document.
  • Candidates may opt to use a citation manager to organize and format their references. Some common citation managers include RefWorks, Endnote, Mendeley, and Zotero, among others. Candidates might consider using RefWorks to format their references, the use of which is free for Cal State LA students, staff, and faculty.
  • Candidates are encouraged to schedule a meeting with a Librarian Subject Specialist or stop by the first floor of Library North for a drop-in library consultation for help with references, citations, and issues related to plagiarism.

Tables and Figures

  • Tables are comprised of data or statistical information, which are presented in column and row format. Illustrative materials such as graphs, charts, diagrams, maps, and photographs, are referred to as figures.
  • Tables and figures are numbered consecutively, and in separate sequences, and conform to department or style manual guidelines.
  • Tables and figures may be placed within the text, close to its first reference; together in their own section following the last chapter; or in appropriate appendices at the end of the document.
  • Only figures may be rendered in color, not tables.

Style Manuals

The candidate's department or program usually recommends that the thesis, project report, or dissertation follow the guidelines laid out in a specific style manual. Some common style manuals include:

  • AAA (American Anthropological Association)
  • ACS (American Chemical Society)
  • APA (American Psychological Association)
  • ASA (American Sociological Association)
  • Chicago Manual of Style/Turabian
  • CSE (Council of Science Editors)
  • IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers)
  • MLA (Modern Language Association)

Students can access these style manuals through the University Library. The Library also provides additional writing and citing resources, such as quick citation guides and citation managers to support graduate student writing.


Most candidates will use Microsoft Word to compose and format their thesis, project report, or dissertation. Some departments require other software, such as LaTeX, Final Draft, or Celtx, due to different needs of the content. With the exception of this latter group of candidates, we prefer that students stick with Microsoft Word for basic word processing, which often comes bundled with new computers and laptops and is now available free to Cal State LA students. Candidates are welcome to use other programs such as Apple Pages, OpenOffice, and Google Docs at the composition stage, but will nonetheless be expected to submit a Microsoft Word document for review.

​Exceptions and Variations

Candidates are encouraged to notify their Reviewer of any tweaks to format or style that their committee has requested. With the exception of a few elements of the manuscript, we are flexible within reason. The most important aspect of the review process is that the format and style maintains consistency throughout the document.