Preparation of Theses

All students in a thesis degree program shall present and defend a thesis embodying the results of their research.  The decision to initiate preparation of the doctoral thesis shall be made by the student and his/her supervisor in consultation with the Supervisory Committee.  Members of the committee must indicate in writing that the thesis is of adequate substance to warrant that the student proceeds to the final examination.  Guidelines for MSc/PhD requirements can be found in the Cell Biology Graduate Program Manual.  For more information on preparing your thesis please refer to the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research (FGSR) website, “Preparing Your Thesis” link at  

For students in a master’s degree, the thesis, at a minimum, should reveal that the student is able to work in a scholarly manner and is acquainted with the principal works published on the subject of the thesis.  As far as possible, it should be an original contribution. 

A doctoral thesis, at a minimum, must embody the results of original investigations and analyses and be of such quality as to merit publication, meeting the standards of reputable scholarly publications.  It must constitute a substantial contribution to the knowledge in the student’s field of study. 

The student shall prepare the thesis according to the following guidelines:  

The Components of a Thesis

All theses at the University of Alberta must contain the following components, in the order presented here (with several generally applicable requirements listed at the end): 

1. Title Page 

A title page is a necessary component of a thesis.  It is the first page of the thesis, but the page number (“i”) is not displayed.  Please use the appropriate Title Page template attached below for your convenience.  (Do NOT use any other format.)

[Title Page MSc]

[Title Page PhD] 

2. Abstract 

The abstract is a concise and accurate summary of the thesis.  It states the problem that was researched, the methods of investigation, and the general conclusion.  An abstract must not contain non-text content, such as tables, graphs, complex equations, or illustrations. 

Even for theses containing journal articles, there is one single abstract for the entire work, included within the front pages of the thesis.  For any thesis that is permitted to be written in a language other than English, two abstracts must be included: the first in English and the second in the language of the thesis. 

The font used for the abstract must be at least a 10 point font, with the text double-spaced, to ensure readability.  A strict maximum word count of 700 words applies, regardless of whether the abstract is for a master’s or a doctoral degree (many abstracts are 500 words).  The abstract is marked page “ii”. 

3. Preface

A preface is a mandatory component of a thesis, regardless of thesis format, when a thesis contains journal articles authored or co-authored by the student (including an accepted paper that is forthcoming at the time of thesis submission).  A preface is also a mandatory component when the research conducted for the thesis required ethics approval.  A preface remains optional if there is no inclusion of journal articles and/or no need for ethics approval. 

When required because a thesis contains journal articles, the preface serves as a place for the student to include a statement indicating his or her contribution to the journal articles, such as the identification and design of the research program, the performance of the various parts of the research (including the collection of data, construction of any necessary apparatus, and the performance of experiments), and the analysis of the research data.  If any of the work presented in the thesis has led to any publications (accepted or published), these publications must be listed clearly in the preface with their bibliographical details and an indication where in the thesis this work is located (e.g. state in which chapter or chapters).  For jointly authored publications, indication must also be given as to the relative contributions of the collaborators and co-authors, and a statement as to the proportion of research and writing conducted by the student.  Note that permission may be needed if the co-authors hold the copyright in these publications.  [Theses Canada makes a similar warning, found here:  The University of Alberta’s Copyright Office has a primer on copyright law here:]  

If ethics approval was required for the research, a statement to this effect must be included in the preface with the details of the approval that was granted. 

A student’s supervisor must review and verify the preface before it becomes part of the final version of the thesis.  Note that the inclusion of a preface does not excuse a student from failing to acknowledge the contribution of others in the body of the thesis, as per the University’s Research and Scholarship Integrity Policy ( and the Code of Student Behaviour (  One would still expect to see footnotes, endnotes or in-text references within the thesis acknowledging the works.  Acknowledgements, such as thanks to the supervisor and supervisory committee members, to colleagues, lab mates and friends, and to family, do not appear in the preface.  [Click for SAMPLE PREFACES].

4. Dedication (optional)

5. Acknowledgements (optional, but advisable)

An Acknowledgements pages (no more than two pages in length) is a recommended, but not mandatory component of a thesis, serving as a place within a thesis where students may wish to acknowledge the provision of funding from third parties, such as external scholarship bodies, research granting agencies, and foreign governments.  It is also appropriate to recognize the assistance provided by the supervisor and members of the supervisory committee. 

6. Table of Contents

A detailed table of contents is a required component of a thesis.  All the components of the thesis must appear in the table of contents in the same order as in the body of the thesis.  There are usually at least two, and often three (or four) levels of headings.

7. List of Tables (required if document has tables)

Tables must be numbered consecutively, either 1, 2, 3, or with the chapter number included, 3.1, 3.2, 3.3 etc..  The FGSR does not impose rules on matters of style, but consistency is required.  Students must choose one numbering system and stick with it.  If a thesis has tables, figures and/or plates, the same numbering system must be used.  Tables, figures and illustrations must be presented in a size and format that can be read.  Colour can be used. 

8. List of Figures or Illustrations (required if document has figures or illustrations)

Figures or Illustrations must be numbered consecutively, either 1, 2, 3, or with the chapter number included, 3.1, 3.2, 3.3 etc..  The FGSR does not impose rules on matters of style, but consistency is required.  Students must choose one numbering system and stick with it.  If a thesis has tables, figures and/or plates, the same numbering system must be used.  Table, figures and illustrations must be presented in a size and format that can be read.  Colour can be used. 

9. List of Plates (required if document has plates)

10. List of Symbols or List of Abbreviations (advisable if applicable)

11. Glossary of Terms (optional)

12. Body of the Document

The minimum academic requirements for the text of a thesis are an introduction, followed by the presentation of the research and a conclusion.  The introduction must outline the thesis, problem, hypothesis, questions or goals of the research.  It must provide a clear statement of the research question(s).  The first page of the introduction is marked as page “1”.  The conclusion must highlight the student’s contribution to knowledge, providing conclusions with respect to the problem, hypothesis or goals of the research.   

    12 a)  Methodology 

All methods used to carry out the work must be described in the thesis.  The description of methods should be detailed enough to allow replication of the work.  Experimental procedures can be grouped together in a single chapter at the beginning of the thesis or be included in individual sections in the chapter where they are first used. 

    12 b)  Research Results 

  • If the material presented in a chapter has been submitted for publication or is already published, the student should give the complete reference for the paper.  For multi-author manuscripts, the specific contributions of each author must be described.
  • Introductions have to be comprehensive and in line with the remainder of the thesis.  They should be updated to reflect significant advances published since submission of the manuscript.
  • Results described as data not shown in a submitted/published manuscript must be presented in full in the thesis. 

    12 c)  Discussion 

In addition to the discussion included at the end of each experimental chapter, the student must provide a general discussion that integrates the results presented in the thesis and suggests avenues for future studies.

13. Bibliography/Works Cited/Sources Used

A thesis must have a bibliography indicating all sources used by the student, with the bibliography placed at the end of the thesis.  The bibliography is not a chapter, and does not have a chapter number.  It can be headed Bibliography, Works Cited, or References. 

The student may also wish to consult the booklet produced by the FGSR at:  It is the responsibility of the student to ensure that the thesis conforms to the current regulations contained in this guide. 

14. Appendices (optional)

Appendices are used for supporting material that is referred to in the main body of the document, but are subsidiary to the main argument of the work.  Appendices are used sparingly.  Appendices are not chapters of the thesis and do not have chapter numbers. 

In addition to the above comments, the following requirements must also be met:

15. Page Numbers

All theses, including “paper-based” or journal-article based theses, must have page numbers that are consecutive and strictly sequential throughout the thesis.  Each and every page of a thesis must have a number visible on the page (with the exception of the title page).  Lower case Roman numerals are used for the preliminary pages (front pages) of a thesis.  Arabic numerals are used for the body of the thesis, including appendices.  Page numbers must be strictly sequential, e.g. i, ii, iii, iv, v, etc. (with no page number showing on the title page), and 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc..  The position of the number must be consistent throughout the thesis, either at the top center, top right, bottom center or bottom right position, and visible when the thesis is converted to a PDF format.  ProQuest recommends that the page number be no less than ¾” from the edge of the page. 

16. Font and Page Size

A readable conventional font must be used consistently throughout the thesis, with ProQuest recommending a minimum font size equivalent to Arial 10 point or Times New Roman 12 point.  Since many readers are likely to view the thesis onscreen, it is recommended that you use a font with easy screen readability, such as Georgia 11 point, Times New Roman 12 point, Trebuchet MS 10 point, or Verdana 10 point. 

The page size used must be the standard North American letter size of 8.5” x 11”/21.5 cm x 28 cm..  The page margins must be no less than 1.5” (3.8 cm) left, 1.5” (3.8 cm) right, 1” (2.54 cm) top, 1” (2.54 cm) bottom (applicable throughout, with the exception of the page numbers which can be placed ¾” from the edge of the page) in order to accommodate the binding required in the hard paper copy of the thesis. 

17. Line Spacing

Line spacing must be at least one-and-a-half spaces, except for the thesis abstract, which must be double-spaced.  Single spacing may be used for long quoted passages and footnotes. 

18. Footnotes, Endnotes and In-Text References

Whichever style is used for footnotes, endnote or in-text references, students must use a consistent style throughout the thesis.   The usual locations are within the body of the work, at the bottom of the page, or at the end of each chapter. 

Guidance on the use of the RefWorks citation management program can be obtained from the University of Alberta Libraries (  Students remain responsible for checking the consistency of their references even if a citation management program is used.

19. Personal Information

Theses Canada prohibits the inclusion of personal information, such as signatures, student numbers, home addresses and telephone numbers, in a thesis.  Do not include a copy of the signed thesis approval form within the thesis.

20. Electronic Submission

ProQuest has made North American theses available in a PDF format since 1996, and Theses Canada has made PDF versions of Canadian theses available since 1998.  As of April 3, 2014, the University of Alberta will require all theses to be submitted in PDF format.  The FGSR will no longer accept “hard copy” paper submissions of theses.  The file name should be:  lastname_firstname_middleinitial(s)_graduationyearmonth_degree_thesistitle.pdf  (e.g. Brown_Mark_J_201306_PhD_thesistitle.pdf). 

When preparing a thesis, a student should use margins that ensure that the text and the pagination are visible in the PDF format.  A thesis must have a consistent and readable appearance.  The electronic submission process does permit the uploading of supplementary files for those fields that require film, sound and other medias.  

For further information on electronic thesis submission, visit 4: Submit Thesis to FGSR.  

Please do NOT use old theses (available in the Reading Room) for formatting or style inspiration.  As of 2014 students have to use the above posted information, in this exact order.  No deviations will be accepted. 

21. Theses Submission Deadlines

Please see the following for deadlines for theses submissions:

Should you have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact Dr. Thomas Simmen, Graduate Student Coordinator or Silvia McCormack, Student Advisor.