Watson Institute at Brown University
Development Studies

Thesis Writing Guide


Title Page (required)

  • Include the year submitted, NOT the year of graduation.
  • “by” should be in lowercase.
  • Degree title sought

Abstract Page (required)

  • The abstract should be 500 words long and should include the contribution of the thesis to an existing scholarly work.
  • You must include index words which are related to the topic and which can be used to  find the document when searching the library’s databases. The maximum word count  does not include index words. See thesis sample pages for an example.
  • The abstract and index words must fit on one page. You can single space if necessary.
  • The abstract page is not counted in page numbering.
  • Abstract paragraphs should be indented.

Signature Page (required)

  • Author’s name should be in all caps.

Dedication Page (optional)

  • This page and all front matter pages hereafter are numbered with lowercase Roman  numerals.
  • The Dedication Page is NOT listed in the Table of Contents.
  • Indent Dedications paragraphs.

Acknowledgements Page (optional)

  • List the Acknowledgements page in the Table of Contents.
  • Indent Acknowledgements paragraphs. 

Table of Contents (required)

  • All pages before the actual thesis itself should be labeled using lowercase Roman  numerals (i.e. i, ii, v, etc.), while pages within the thesis should be labeled using  Arabic page numbers (i.e. 1, 2, 3 …)
  • Don’t include the dedication in the Table of Contents.
  • Keep Table of Contents consistent. Each major heading should be in all caps and to  the left side. Sub-headings should be in upper and lower cases and indented.
  • All entries in the Table of Contents must match their entries in the main text of your  thesis, including wording, capitalization and page numbers.
  • Change page numbers throughout the work to be consistent, especially after formatting changes are made. Make sure such changes are also reflected in the Table  of Contents.
  • If your thesis has tables and/or figures, they must be listed within the Table of Contents.

List of Tables (optional)

  • If present, it must be listed in the Table of Contents.
  • Entries must match the caption in the text and include page numbers.

List of Figures (optional)

  • If present, it must be listed in the Table of Contents.
  • Entries must match the caption in the text and include page numbers.


  • Begin each major section on a new page.
  • Headings must be consistent with the Table of Contents.
  • The last line of a paragraph should never begin a new page. There must be at least  two full lines of text in a new paragraph in order to avoid moving the text to the next  page. Move the whole paragraph to the next page. Many word processing programs  can be set to prevent parts of sentences or paragraphs from becoming isolated on the  next page (these are called “widows” or “orphans”). 
  • The body of the thesis must be double-spaced throughout, but single spacing is  permitted but optional in the following text:
     - Footnotes
     - Block quotations
     - Table and figures and their captions
     - Bibliography entries (if single spaced, double space between entries)

Table and Figures

  • Figure descriptions should be written directly below the corresponding drawing.
  • Table captions are always written above the table.
  • As noted on the Graduate School website, figures and tables must be uniquely  numbered in either of the following manners:
     - Consecutive numbering throughout the thesis
     - Combination chapter and figure/table number designation (i.e. Figure 1.1, 1.2,  1.3, 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, etc.)
  • A figure or table may be:
     - Embedded in the text
     - Placed on a separate page following the text in which it is cited
     - At the end of its respective chapter


  • Be sure to include a bibliography. It needs a heading, just like other major sections in the thesis.
  • Be sure to include a line space between each entry in the bibliography.
  • Style: decide with your thesis advisor the bibliographic style they would prefer you to work with.

Fonts and paragraph

  • 12 px, double-spaced, Times New Roman
  • Footer: 10 px


  • The left and right margins must be 1 inch for all pages.
  • The first page of the front matter sections and main body sections (with the exception of the copyright page) must have a top margin of 1.75 inches. The top margin of all   subsequent pages of each section must have a top margin of 1 inch. For example, the  top margin of the first Table of Contents page is 1.75 inches, and the second Table of  Contents page is 1 inch; the top margin of the first page of Chapter 1 is 1.75 inches,  and the second page of Chapter 1 is 1 inch.
  • To achieve a 1.75 inch top margin on a single page, set all margins at 1 inch for the  whole document. Then start typing four lines down from the top of the page. (In a  double-spaced document, you would hit the Enter key twice.)
  • Centering is always done relative to the text area, i.e., within the margins, not the page  edge.

No page prior to the Dedication Page should be numbered.

  • Placement of page numbers should be consistent throughout the thesis.
  • Make page numbering and formatting easier! Create three separate Word  documents for your thesis. One should contain pages on which numbers do not appear  (Abstract, Title Page, Signature Page, Copyright Page), one should contain pages on  which Roman numerals appear, and the third should contain pages on which Arabic  numerals appear. Convert these three documents to PDF and then combine them into  one PDF file.


  • Theses can be bound independently, hard-cover is optional, but the  author name and year should be visible on the binding when it is placed on the bookshelf.