Dissertation Font Style

Formatting requirements

The Library's Theses Office assists with formatting theses, projects and extended essays for submission to the Library. You are encouraged to use the Library's thesis template to help format your thesis. The requirements stated on this page are default settings for the thesis template

Parts of a thesis

Section

Page

Required/Optional; notes

1: Title page

Title page - no page number

Required

2: Preliminary pages

(Roman page numbers)

Approval page – always page ii

Required

Ethics Statement

Required if the research was subject to ethics approval

Abstract

Required

Dedication

Optional

Acknowledgements

Optional

Table of Contents

Required

List of Tables

Required if the document contains tables

List of Figures

Required if the document contains figures

Other lists

Optional

List of Acronyms

Optional

Glossary

Optional

Preface/Executive Summary/Image

Optional

3: Main body

(Arabic page numbers)

Chapters—always beginning with page 1

Chapters and subsections may be numbered or unnumbered

References

You may use a single reference section at the end of the document or include references at the end of each chapter

Appendix(es)

Optional

File format, file size, and page size

The final copy of the thesis must be converted to .pdf for submission to the Library (maximum 256mb).

Theses must be formatted for US Letter (8.5X11) pages. Landscape 8.5X11 and 11X17 pages are permitted. Legal, A4, or other paper sizes are not permitted.

Font

Arial 11 point

Word template default

Times New Roman 12 point

Recommended serif font for Word

Computer Modern

LaTeX template default

Arial is the preferred font for SFU thesis submissions. You may use other fonts with the approval of your committee. See the Thesis Template Instructions for directions to change the default template font.

Line spacing

​The default template line spacing is 1.5 for text, with single-spaced block quotations.

Margins

Margins should be set to:

  • 1.25" left/right
  • 1" top/bottom

All pages must be numbered, with the exception of the title page. Page numbers should appear at the bottom centre of each page, at a minimum of 0.5” from the edge of the page.

Preliminary pages of the thesis must be numbered with Roman numerals. On the first page of the main body, page numbers must restart with 1. The thesis template is preset with this numbering style.

Citation style

SFU Library does not require a specific citation style. Consult your supervisor, your department’s graduate handbook, or a liaison librarian for help determining which style is appropriate for your research.

The default formatting in the library’s thesis template may differ from some requirements of your citation style, but it is acceptable for SFU library submission.

Cumulative theses

Cumulative, or paper-based, theses must use the same general format as other submissions. Consult your supervisor or your department's graduate handbook for more information. If including published papers in a thesis, please consult the Copyright and your thesis FAQ.

Language

For theses written in a language other than English, the Library requires a second complete English title page. Supporting documentation must be in English.

Personal information

Individual personal information must be removed from the thesis before publication, including signatures, email addresses, and phone numbers. For example, if you are including a survey instrument or consent form, your own contact information must be removed.

Blank pages

Blank pages in the thesis must be removed before publication.

Optional pages in the thesis template may be removed if not used.

This post is by DrJanene Carey, a freelance writer and editor based in Armidale NSW. She occasionally teaches academic writing at the University of New England and often edits academic theses, articles and reports. Her website is http://www.janenecarey.com

Arguably, this question is a classic time waster and the student who poses it should be told to just get on with writing up their research. But as someone who edits theses for a living, I think a bit of time spent on fonts is part of the process of buffing and polishing what is, after all, one of the most important documents you will ever produce. Just bear in mind that there is no need to immerse yourself so deeply in the topic that you start quibbling about whether it’s a font or a typeface that you are choosing.

Times New Roman is the standard choice for academic documents, and the thesis preparation guidelines of some universities stipulate its use. For many years, it was the default body text for Microsoft Word. With the release of Office 2007, the default became a sans serif typeface called Calibri. Lacking the little projecting bits (serifs) at the end of characters makes Calibri and its many friends, such as Arial, Helvetica and Verdana, look smoother and clearer on a screen, but generally makes them less readable than a serif typeface when used for printed text. The other problem with choosing a sans serif for your body text is that if you want passages in italics (for example, lengthy participant quotes) often this will be displayed as slanted letters, rather than as a true italic font.

You would like your examiners to feel as comfortable as possible while their eyes are traversing the many, many pages of your thesis, so maximising legibility and readability is a good idea. Times New Roman is ubiquitous and familiar, which means it is probably the safest option, but it does have a couple of drawbacks. Originally designed for The Times in London, its characters are slightly narrowed, so that more of them can be squished into a newspaper column. Secondly, some people intensely dislike TNR because they think it has been overused, and regard it as the font you choose when you are not choosing a font.

If you do have the luxury of choice (your university doesn’t insist you use Times New Roman, and you have defined document styles that are easy to modify, and there’s enough time left before the submission deadline) then I think it is worth considering what other typefaces might work well with your thesis. I’m not a typographical expert, but I have the following suggestions.

  1. Don’t use Calibri, or any other sans serif font, for your body text, though it is fine for headings. Most people agree that dense chunks of printed text are easier to read if the font is serif, and examiners are likely to expect a typeface that doesn’t stray too far from the standard. To my eye, Calibri looks a little too casual for the body of a thesis.
  2. Typefaces like Garamond, Palatino, Century Schoolbook, Georgia, Minion Pro, Cambria and Constantia are all perfectly acceptable, and they come with Microsoft Word. However, some of them (Georgia and Constantia, for example) feature non-lining numerals, which means that instead of all sitting neatly on the base line, some will stand higher or lower than others, just like letters do. This looks nice when they are integrated with the text, but it is probably not what you want for a tabular display.
  3. Consider using a different typeface for your headings. It will make them more prominent, which enhances overall readability because the eye scanning the pages can quickly take in the hierarchy of ideas. The easiest way to get a good contrast with your serif body text is to have sans serif headings. Popular combinations are Garamond/Helvetica; Minion Pro/Myriad Pro; Times New Roman/Arial Narrow. But don’t create a dog’s breakfast by having more than two typefaces in your thesis – use point sizes, bold and italics for variety.

Of late, I’ve become quite fond of Constantia. It’s an attractive serif typeface that came out with Office 2007 at the same time as Calibri, and was specifically designed to look good in print and on screen. Increasingly, theses will be read in PDF rather than book format, so screen readability is an important consideration.  Asked to review Microsoft’s six new ClearType fonts prior to their release, typographer Raph Levien said Constantia was likely to be everyone’s favourite, because ‘Even though it’s a highly readable Roman font departing only slightly from the classical model, it still manages to be fresh and new.’

By default, Constantia has non-lining numerals, but from Word 2010 onwards you can set them to be lining via the advanced font/number forms option, either throughout your document or in specific sections, such as within tables.

Here is an excerpt from a thesis, shown twice with different typefaces. The first excerpt features Calibri headings with Constantia body text, and the second has that old favourite, Times New Roman. As these examples have been rendered as screenshots, you will get a better idea of how the fonts actually look if you try them on your own computer and printer.

Calibri Constantia

Times New Roman

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