Mla Dissertation Margins

Dissertation Formatting Guidelines

This section describes the dissertation format that all NYUSteinhardt doctoral candidates are required to follow. Dissertations must adhere to these requirements in order to be accepted by the Office of Doctoral Studies for the scheduling of the final oral examination. Please read this section carefully and contact the Office of Doctoral Studies if you have any questions.

Choice of Style Manual

Faculty policy leaves the choice of a style manual to the doctoral candidate with the advice and consent of his or her committee. Generally, candidates are urged to learn and use the manual most often required for scholarly writing by journals within their disciplines. Typically, the following style manuals are used by NYUSteinhardt students:

  • American Psychological Association, Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association
  • Gibaldi, J., & Achtert, W. S., MLA handbook for writers of research papers
  • Turabian, K., A manual for writers of research papers, theses and dissertations
  • The University of Chicago Press, The Chicago manual of style

The most recent editions of the chosen style manuals should be used.

Print and Copy Quality

Your printer must produce consistently black letters and consistent margins. Sufficient darkness is also necessary for any supporting materials, such as tables, figures, drawings, pictures, etc., -- either as originals or as copies -- that you may need to append or insert in your manuscript. Your dissertation will be published by ProQuest UMI which requires clear, high-contrast characters and images. As a guide to the quality that will be obtained, you can photocopy a sample page at 75% reduction to evaluate the readability and clarity of the print.


The School and ProQuest UMI allow students to use typefaces that are between 10 and 12 points; however, because 10 point can appear too small in most typefaces, 12 point is generally preferred. A smaller or condensed typeface can be used for tables that otherwise might not fit across a page within the correct margins, however, mixing typefaces is otherwise not recommended.

Underlining or italics may be used for statistical symbols, book titles, or definitions (but use either one or the other consistently throughout your manuscript, including tables). Headings should be underlined when appropriate and not italicized. Bold type should not be used in the manuscript.

Do not justify the right margin of your text; keep it left aligned like the text shown here.


To assure proper binding and for ease of reading, the following margins are required:

  • Left margin: one and one-half inches for all pages.
  • Right margin: one and one-half inches for all pages, with no intrusion of letters or anything else into the right margin.
  • Top margin: one-and-one-quarter inches for all pages except the first page of the Acknowledgments, Table of Contents, List of Tables, List of Figures, each chapter, Bibliography, and Appendices which should begin two inches from the top edge of the page.
  • Bottom margin: one-and-one-quarter inches for all pages.
  • Page numbers for all pages preceding page 1 of Chapter I (lower case roman numerals for Acknowledgments, Table of Contents, etc.) should be placed three-quarters of an inch from the bottom of the page, centered between the left and right margins.
  • Page numbers from page 1 of Chapter I through the last page of the last appendix should be placed three-quarters of an inch from the top or bottom, centered between the left and right margins.

See the next section for sample dissertation pages.

White Space

Avoid leaving more than two inches of white space without type. This applies to tables and figures as well as to text. A table or figure should be inserted in the text as soon after it is first referred to where it will fit in its entirety on one page. Leave three blank lines between a table and text or text and a table; the same for figures. Continue your text if you can fit at least four lines after it. You may have more than one table on a page and you may have a table, discussion, and a table. The same procedure applies to all illustrative material.

Line Spacing

Double space the entire manuscript with these exceptions (which should be single-spaced):

  • chapter titles, appendix titles, headings, and subheadings of more than one line;
  • block quotations;
  • column headings and lines that run on in tables;
  • bibliography or references entries -- double space between entries;
  • footnotes;
  • figure captions;
  • explanatory material for figures, tables, and illustrations; and
  • appendices -- the spacing will vary depending on the source and content.

APA style requires writers to double space all typed material, including the exceptions noted above. If you are using APA, the above rules supersede APA rules in most cases. You have the option, however, of double spacing your references and block quotations; MLA style users also have this option.


The title page is counted as page one and the copyright page as page two, but numbers do not appear on them. Lower case roman numerals (iii, iv, v, vi, etc.) are used for all subsequent pages up to the first page of the text (page 1 of Chapter I) and should be placed three quarters of an inch from the bottom edge of the paper, centered between the margins.

Beginning with page 1 of Chapter I, Arabic numbers are used and are continuous through the last page including all appendices. Page numbers for all pages in the chapter, including the first page of each chapter or major section, should be placed three quarters of an inch from the top or bottom edge of the paper centered between the margins.

Order of Sections

The material of your manuscript should be ordered as follows:

  1. title page;
  2. copyright page;
  3. acknowledgments;
  4. table of contents;
  5. list(s) of tables, figures, charts, graphs, musical examples, illustrations, etc., if used;
  6. preface or forward, if used;
  7. the text;
  8. bibliography;
  9. and appendices (if any).

Title Page of Dissertation

Please see the sample title page below. You are required to follow that format exactly.

Copyright Page

You will have the option to have your dissertation copyrighted when you submit it to Proquest/UMI for publication. You should include a copyright page with your name and copyright date in the middle of the page, centered left to right (between the margins) and top to bottom. Please note that the copyright date is the year of your degree conferral. Follow this format:


The copyright page is page ii of the pages preceding the text (the title page is understood to be page i), but no number should appear on either the title page or the copyright page.

Table of Contents and Lists of Tables and Figures

Because a dissertation does not have an index, your Table of Contents should be as comprehensive as possible. Include all headings and subheadings, exactly as they appear in the text, up to and including Level 2. Including lower level headings is optional. (See sample Table of Contents in the next section.) Note that the indentation of a heading used in the Table of Contents corresponds to the level of the heading. The following illustrates this:

You should supply the reader with lists of tables, figures, and any other illustrative material used in your dissertation. See the sample lists in the next section. Lists of musical examples or reproductions of art, or information about films, follow the same form as that used for lists of tables and figures.

Chapter Titles and Headings

Chapter headings and titles appear as follows, beginning two inches from the top of the page:


Headings within the chapter should indicate the weight you assign to particular ideas by the form of headings suggested in the style manual you have selected or the form suggested below.

Leave three blank lines (i.e., begin typing after two double spaces) before each heading and after each major section and chapter title. If one heading immediately follows another, leave only one blank line (a double space) between the two. Leave one blank line (a double space) after each heading. Capitalize the first letter of each word of headings except for articles, conjunctions, and prepositions.

The following is one way in which to order headings and to type them. Students following APA style may use the format in the APA Style Guide, however, the format below is preferred for NYU Steinhardt dissertations.


See the sample page 1 in the next section for an example of heading placement.

Be sure that no heading appears at the bottom of a page without at least two lines of text beneath it. The Table of Contents will contain all Level 1 and Level 2 headings exactly as they appear in the text. It is not necessary to include Level 3 or lower-level headings in the Table of Contents, but you may if it provides the reader with more useful information.

Numbering Conventions

Chapter numbers are upper case roman numerals (with no period), e.g., CHAPTER IV, to differentiate them from any other numbers in the text. All other items requiring numbers should have Arabic numbers. Appendices, should be designated by capital letters, e.g., APPENDIX A, APPENDIX B, etc.

Use numbers or letters for other items only when necessary. Use 1) in the text and 1. in a set-off list; a) in the text and a. in a set-off list -- not (1) or 1). or a.), etc. If items in a numbered list run onto two or more lines, you may let the additional lines begin at the margin or indent the entire paragraph to the right of the numbers.

Numbers beginning a sentence, as well as numbers below 10 (or, if you prefer, 12) should be spelled out when they appear within the text.

Reduction of Tables and Other Materials

If a table, appendix, illustration, or graph is too wide or long, or both, to fit within the specified margins, have it reduced, or if textual material, type it using a smaller font. Whenever possible, avoid inserting tables which must be read by turning the book sideways. If such a table is necessary, be sure to insert it with the heading to the spine or binding. You may also use a condensed typeface.

Bibliographic Entries

For style guides other than APA, if you have more than one work by the same author, do not repeat his or her name over and over. Use ten underscore characters, ending with a period if the author is exactly the same as the previous one, or with a comma if the author is the first of a series of new authors, as shown below. Single space the entry; double space between entries. Indent the second and subsequent lines one-half inch.


Note that authors with two initials have a space after the period between each initial, e.g., Smith, A. B., & Jones, M. J. Do not allow initials to break between lines; keep them together on one line or the other.

Regardless of the style guide you use, avoid having one or two lines of an entry on one page and the rest of the citation on the next page. The entry should be cited in its entirety on one page or the other.

Citations in Text

The way you cite an author in your manuscript is based on the context. If you are attributing an idea that you paraphrased to someone, use the name and date (according to APA style) such as (Jones, 2002), or as shown in the first sentence below. If you are

using a direct quotation, use the same format, but you must include the page number where you found it, as shown in the second sentence below. Also, specific information or ideas need a page number even if paraphrased. For example, the following brief passage refers to the same publication by a hypothetical author:


Review the whole manuscript to be sure that every work referred to in the manuscript is cited in the text (or footnotes) and included in the bibliography.

Block (Indented) Quotations

Four or more lines of a quotation should be set off from the main text with a double space, typed single spaced with no quotation marks, and the entire block indented one-half inch. Quotations within these block (or indented) quotations may use double quotations. The first line of the quotation is not indented; however, the first lines of new paragraphs within the quotation should begin with an additional indent of one-half inch. Students using APA or MLA style may double space block quotations.


Each appendix should have the proper designation at the top of the first page. A title page does not need to be inserted before each one. Use the following format, centered between the left and right margins, beginning two inches from the top of the page:



If you have material that, because of its format, needs to have a title page (because the title doesn't fit on the same page as the material), you need to consistently use title pages for all appendices. Avoid it if you can. Again, all material in an appendix must fit within the overall page margins.

Letters of Permission

It is necessary to obtain letters of permission for the reproduction of any copyrighted material which exceeds the Federal law pertaining to "Fair Use." Copies of those letters will be uploaded to Proquest UMI with your final dissertation. Copies of the letters do not need to be included in the dissertation.

The Abstract

The abstract is a brief summary of the contents of the dissertation. Begin typing the abstract two inches from the top of a blank page with no heading. The abstract should be typed double-spaced with the same typeface and margins as the dissertation. The length of the abstract should be limited to 350 words.

The abstract title page is identical to the dissertation title page with one exception: the abstract title page has the words An Abstract of directly above the title (see Sample Title Page in the next section). Each abstract is stapled in the upper left corner and kept separate from the dissertation. The chairperson of the dissertation committee should sign one copy of the abstract title page.

Sample Pages

The following section includes sample dissertation pages which should be followed carefully. Refer to the preceding section for more detailed information on format requirements. Students should follow the instructions on these sample pages rather than using a dissertation from the library (or elsewhere) as a guide. Format requirements differ from year to year and from school to school.

If your instructor has specific requirements for the format of your research paper, check them before preparing your final draft. When you submit your paper, be sure to keep a secure copy.

The most common formatting is presented in the sections below:


Except for the running head (see below), leave margins of one inch at the top and bottom and on both sides of the text. If you plan to submit a printout on paper larger than 8½ by 11 inches, do not print the text in an area greater than 6½ by 9 inches.

Text Formatting

Always choose an easily readable typeface (e.g., Times New Roman) in which the regular type style contrasts clearly with the italic, and set it to a standard size (e.g., 12 points). Do not justify the lines of text at the right margin; turn off any automatic hyphenation feature in your writing program. Double-space the entire research paper, including quotations, notes, and the list of works cited. Indent the first line of a paragraph half an inch from the left margin. Indent set-off quotations half an inch as well (for examples, see 76–80 in the MLA Handbook). Leave one space after a period or other concluding punctuation mark, unless your instructor prefers two spaces.

Heading and Title

Beginning one inch from the top of the first page and flush with the left margin, type your name, your instructor’s name, the course number, and the date on separate lines, double-spacing the lines. On a new, double-spaced line, center the title (fig. 1). Do not italicize or underline your title, put it in quotation marks or boldface, or type it in all capital letters. Follow the rules for capitalization in the MLA Handbook (67–68), and italicize only the words that you would italicize in the text.

Do not use a period after your title or after any heading in the paper (e.g., Works Cited). Begin your text on a new, double-spaced line after the title, indenting the first line of the paragraph half an inch from the left margin.

A research paper does not normally need a title page, but if the paper is a group project, create a title page and list all the authors on it instead of in the header on page 1 of your essay. If your teacher requires a title page in lieu of or in addition to the header, format it according to the instructions you are given.

Running Head with Page Numbers

Number all pages consecutively throughout the research paper in the upper right-hand corner, half an inch from the top and flush with the right margin. Type your last name, followed by a space, before the page number (fig. 2). Do not use the abbreviation p. before the page number or add a period, a hyphen, or any other mark or symbol. Your writing program will probably allow you to create a running head of this kind that appears automatically on every page. Some teachers prefer that no running head appear on the first page. Follow your teacher’s preference.

Placement of the List of Works Cited

The list of works cited appears at the end of the paper, after any endnotes. Begin the list on a new page. The list contains the same running head as the main text. The page numbering in the running head continues uninterrupted throughout. For example, if the text of your research paper (including any endnotes) ends on page 10, the works-cited list begins on page 11. Center the title, Works Cited, an inch from the top of the page (fig. 3). (If the list contains only one entry, make the heading Work Cited.) Double-space between the title and the first entry. Begin each entry flush with the left margin; if an entry runs more than one line, indent the subsequent line or lines half an inch from the left margin. This format is sometimes called hanging indention, and you can set your writing program to create it automatically for a group of paragraphs. Hanging indention makes alphabetical lists easier to use. Double-space the entire list. Continue it on as many pages as necessary.

Tables and Illustrations

Place tables and illustrations as close as possible to the parts of the text to which they relate. A table is usually labeled Table, given an arabic numeral, and titled. Type both label and title flush left on separate lines above the table, and capitalize them as titles (do not use all capital letters). Give the source of the table and any notes immediately below the table in a caption. To avoid confusion between notes to the text and notes to the table, designate notes to the table with lowercase letters rather than with numerals. Double-space throughout; use dividing lines as needed (fig. 4).

Any other type of illustrative visual material—for example, a photograph, map, line drawing, graph, or chart—should be labeled Figure (usually abbreviated Fig.), assigned an arabic numeral, and given a caption: “Fig. 1. Mary Cassatt, Mother and Child, Wichita Art Museum.” A label and caption ordinarily appear directly below the illustration and have the same one-inch margins as the text of the paper (fig. 5). If the caption of a table or illustration provides complete information about the source and the source is not cited in the text, no entry for the source in the works-cited list is necessary.

Musical illustrations are labeled Example (usually abbreviated Ex.), assigned an arabic numeral, and given a caption: “Ex. 1. Pyotr Ilich Tchaikovsky, Symphony no. 6 in B, opus 74 (Pathétique), finale.” A label and caption ordinarily appear directly below the example and have the same one-inch margins as the text of the paper (fig. 6).

Paper and Printing

If you print your paper, use only white, 8½-by-11-inch paper of good quality. If you lack 8½-by-11-inch paper, choose the closest size available. Use a high-quality printer. Some instructors prefer papers printed on a single side because they’re easier to read, but others allow printing on both sides as a means of conserving paper; follow your instructor’s preference.

Corrections and Insertions on Printouts

Proofread and correct your research paper carefully before submitting it. If you are checking a printout and find a mistake, reopen the document, make the appropriate revisions, and reprint the corrected page or pages. Be sure to save the changed file. Spelling checkers and usage checkers are helpful when used with caution. They do not find all errors and sometimes label correct material as erroneous. If your instructor permits corrections on the printout, write them neatly and legibly in ink directly above the lines involved, using carets (⁁) to indicate where they go. Do not use the margins or write a change below the line it affects. If corrections on any page are numerous or substantial, revise your document and reprint the page.

Binding a Printed Paper

Pages of a printed research paper may get misplaced or lost if they are left unattached or merely folded down at a corner. Although a plastic folder or some other kind of binder may seem an attractive finishing touch, most instructors find such devices a nuisance in reading and commenting on students’ work. Many prefer that a paper be secured with a simple paper or binder clip, which can be easily removed and restored. Others prefer the use of staples.

Electronic Submission

There are at present no commonly accepted standards for the electronic submission of research papers. If you are asked to submit your paper electronically, obtain from your teacher guidelines for formatting, mode of submission (e.g., by e-mail, on a Web site), and so forth and follow them closely.

Designed to be printed out and used in the classroom. From the MLA Handbook, 8th ed., published by the Modern Language Association.

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