The Perfect Guide to Layout and Formatting for Dissertations in 2024

Sitting in your penultimate semester and worried about writing your dissertation/thesis for the next one.

Well, your dissertation is probably the longest piece of writing you would do, and it can turn out to be the most intimidating one when you don’t know the starting point. To solve all your queries, here’s a quick guide on Dissertation Formatting and Layout which you can use to structure your write-up. This article is curated to help you work out exactly what you should include in your dissertation. Let’s get started.

What is Dissertation?

A dissertation or thesis is a long piece of academic writing based on original research, usually submitted as part of a PhD or master’s, and sometimes as part of a bachelor’s degree. There is a standard structure for dissertation which is being used by all the students, which includes-

  1. Title page
  2. Acknowledgements
  3. Abstract
  4. Table of contents
  5. List of figures and tables
  6. List of abbreviations
  7. Glossary
  8. Introduction
  9. Literature review
  10. Methodology
  11. Results
  12. Discussion
  13. Conclusion
  14. Reference list

In addition to the structure, a standard Layout and Formatting is used to make your dissertation presentable and clear for your readers. Generally, the layout requirements for a dissertation are determined by Institutions or Supervisors. However, there are certain guidelines common to almost every program.

Layout and Formatting guidelines used in Dissertation-

  1. Use Standard Font, font size, and line spacing– To make your document readable and clear, you have to use a professional font. Some examples include Verdana, Times New Roman, and Calibri (Calibri font is already set on default in Word). Use a Font size of 10 or 11 with line spacing of 1.15 or 1.5.
  2. Numbering Tables and figures– It is important to give your tables and figures a clear title and designated number. Using numbers with your tables/graphic makes it easier for you to refer to a specific graphic or table within the text, while the title allows the reader to see what the graphic/table is about at quick glance.

Note: When you are working with tables, always place the number and title above it; with figures and all other illustrations, the number and title should be placed below.

  1. Use different Styles– To help your reader in differentiating between chapters and sections you must use different heading styles. Example, you may choose to bold all chapter headings, underline your headings and italicize sub-headings. This creates a clear differentiation between your texts and understanding for your readers.

Note: Be consistent throughout your dissertation once you finalize on one style pattern to avoid any confusion for your readers. Use the “Styles” feature of Microsoft Word for working with different styles.

  1. Use Paragraph marks – Click on the paragraph symbol in your home tool bar (as shown in the below illustration). You will find a black paragraph symbol after every paragraph and it will also show hidden formatting symbols. These marks will allow you to see how the layout is constructed. Paragraph symbol is helpful when you are trying to determine the cause of mysterious jumps and other problems.
  • Include Headers and footers- Headers and footers make it clear to your readers what document is before them and also gives your dissertation a very professional look. You can find the header or footer option in Insert tab. Following are the common choices which could be included when opting for headers and footers:
  • The title of your dissertation (Header/footer)
  • The name/logo of your educational institution ( Header)
  • Page numbers ( footer)
  • Date ( footer)

Note: Always include page numbers in your dissertation. It gives a professional look and also helps your readers to locate the contents accordingly.

  • Include Title page- A clear and well-presented title page is a nice finishing touch for your dissertation. The title page will include following information- Dissertation title, Your name, The type of document (eg dissertation), Your department and institution name, Your degree program (eg Master of Arts) and the date of submission.
  • Include References– Citing your sources are must when you wish to stand tall in your dissertation. Including references takes away your plagiarism badge and gives your readers an overview of the indepth research you’ve done for your project. 

Note: For References, The APA standard format is most commonly used-

Author’s surname, initial(s). Date Published. Title of source. Location of Publisher. Publisher. Retrieved from URL


In conclusion, crafting a dissertation requires careful attention to both structure and formatting. The standard elements, including the title page, acknowledgments, abstract, and reference list, form the backbone of a well-organized dissertation.

Additionally, adherence to formatting guidelines is crucial for readability and professionalism. Utilizing a standard font, appropriate line spacing, and numbering tables and figures ensures clarity. Differentiating sections with varied heading styles aids reader comprehension, and the use of paragraph marks helps maintain a consistent layout. Incorporating headers, footers, and a well-designed title page adds a professional touch.

For further assistance in achieving impeccable layout and formatting, consider enlisting the expertise of reputable dissertation writing services such as TrueEditor, PaperTrue, and WriteSmartly. They have professional dissertation editors who can ensure the precision and coherence of your document. If you seek meticulous attention to detail and a polished final product, relying on the skills of these professional dissertation editors is a prudent choice. These services can enhance the presentation of your dissertation, ensuring a polished and impactful academic document. Good luck with your dissertation journey!

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