SLC Thesis Format FAQ

Bound Thesis on table top

Thesis laying open on table



Why do I have to write a thesis?

  • Writing a thesis—besides being a scholarly, academic project—is an introduction to the world of publishing. Preparing a thesis teaches you to follow the sort of guidelines that publishers will have. It introduces you to both documentation systems and layout conventions of publishing.
  • Writing a thesis teaches you how to prepare a manuscript to be submitted for publication. Purdue's thesis requirements are a cross between manuscript guidelines and publication guidelines. Having gone through the thesis process will help when you have to prepare a manuscript for publication.
  • Writing a thesis teaches an appreciation for the cardinal rule of publishing: consistency. There must be consistency even in any inconsistency. Consistency may be for some "the hobgoblin of little minds," but for publishers it is a guiding principle. Readers will, consciously or unconsciously, notice an inconsistency. If you have capitalized Republican everywhere, when it is not capitalized, it should mean something else. Your reader will wonder why you suddenly stopped capitalizing it, and you don’t want your reader ruminating on that subconsciously instead of following your argument.
  • Writing a thesis also teaches you to write for an audience. You must constantly keep in mind who your audience is, and plan your thesis, both content and format, accordingly.
  • Writing a thesis teaches you to manage a large research project, whether it involves library research, on-site surveys of linguistic practices, analysis of questionnaires, or other types of research. You will have to do the research, organize your thoughts, and write up your conclusions.
  • Writing a thesis will teach you to format text using software. It will be easier if you already know how to format text in Word or LaTeX. You should experiment with the program you plan to use for your thesis before you begin to compose and lay it out.
  • Writing a thesis gives you experience in working with a group, whether colleagues, advisors, or experts in your field. When you publish, you will work with an editor and your writings will be critiqued by experts. View your committee and your format advisor in this light. You will be required to write and rewrite, format and reformat, until you have satisfied yourself and everyone on your committee and met the format requirements.
  • Mentoring is important to the scholarly process. Establish good communication early with your major professor and your committee. Show them your first efforts and consider their advice carefully. Format the paper according to the guidelines and accept the suggestions of the format advisor on how to improve the format. Beginning in the Fall 2014, your major professor is required to run iThenticate software on your thesis/dissertation to detect unintentional plagiarism, or spots where you too closely reproduced the wording of the source you are citing. Talk to your major professor about having this done and see the Thesis Office Website for further information. Faculty members may contact Graduate School Associate Dean Dr. James Mohler at jlmohler@purdue.edu to request access to iThenticate. Your professor will go over the report with you and help you to find your own voice.

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When should I bring in my thesis for a format check?

  • Someone once said that writing is a process of rewriting, and by analogy, to a certain extent, formatting is a process of reformatting. To polish the text, you will need to produce draft after draft for your major professor and committee members. Getting the format right may require some reformatting in the beginning, but once you have the format done correctly, it should be easier to apply it to subsequent chapters.
  • I won’t be reading your text; I will “only” be checking the format. However, there are quite a few little pitfalls in the formatting that you will need to discover in order to pass safely through the final deposit appointment. The School format check can help point them out to you.
  • You do not have to wait until after your defense to bring me your thesis for checking. You can bring it in when you have all the parts assembled according to the requirements.
  • You do not need an appointment unless you wish to meet with me before you send me your thesis/dissertation. I prefer that you drop it off or send it electronically. I can check it and send you a report on the problems I have found. Then, if you have questions, we can get together and go over them.
  • You should allow time to make changes before you deposit.
  • You should have your thesis approved by me at least two or three weeks before the last two weeks prior to the deposit deadline. This is about week 8 in the semester.
  • After your thesis is approved here, you should prepare for your deposit appointment at the Thesis Office in YONG. However, you should have arranged your appointment early in the semester in which you expect to deposit.

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When should I secure my deposit appointment?

  • You should arrange both your deposit appointment and your defense date early in the semester in which you plan to graduate. You can't make your deposit appointment until you know when your defense will be because you can't deposit until after your defense. However, if you wait too long to ask for an appointment, you may not be able to get one when you need it because the appointment times fill up quickly, especially those in the last week before the deadline. So, you should start early to set everything up.
  • Don't plan either the defense or the deposit too close to the deadline. You have to allow time to revise after the defense, after the format check, and if required, after the first attempt at depositing.
  • Whatever you do, don't wait until after your defense to contact the University Thesis office about your deposit appointment. If you do, you probably will have to wait until next semester to deposit.
  • To request an appointment, go to the University Thesis Office site and choose "Request a Deposit Appointment."

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Where do I find information on the required format?

  • You will find the instructions about the required Purdue Format at the workshops sponsored each semester by the University Thesis Office. The format will be explained, and you will receive a copy of the handout. The deposit process and the required forms will also be explained. Take your thesis with you so you can check it as the format is explained. This workshop is of utmost importance since there is no longer a manual available explaining the formatting. Be sure to register for a session and attend. Keep the handout for reference and take notes!
  • The packet you receive at the workshop will include sample pages that illustrate the required format.
  • Don’t rely on an approved thesis for all your formatting decisions. A copy of an approved thesis will help, but sometimes a variation in format will be approved that won’t pass later. Sometimes an error will be missed. Requirements change. The University Thesis Office has the final say.
  • Please also read the instructions in the SLC Thesis Format Approval Process sheet.
  • A thesis template is available for download on the University Thesis site. There are templates for MAC and PC, APA and MLA. Please be sure to download the latest version from the University Thesis Office website!
  • Both the University Thesis Office and I have prepared some documents telling how to accomplish some of the formatting required for a thesis. See these websites for links to the help documents: the Graduate School Thesis and Dissertation Office site; and Helps on my SLC site.
  • Outside my door at SC 154, in the literature rack, are a few handouts telling about various style manuals and some other issues that people have asked about. The style manual documents are available on the Web at sites belonging to others. The handouts that I have prepared are available on this site on the Helps page. Handouts prepared by the University Thesis Office are available on that site.

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What are the SLC requirements?

  • Each department or school at Purdue is free to set up its own requirements. These requirements will be enforced by the respective entities. University requirements take precedence. The University Thesis Office has the final say.
  • Some departments may have extensive requirements of their own. Our School requirements are contained in the SLC Thesis Format Approval Process sheet. (1) We follow Purdue Format and (2) you cannot use both italics and underlining in the same thesis. If you choose to use italics in your thesis, then wherever the Purdue Format requires underlining, you should substitute italics.
  • Why the italics vs. underlining policy? Published books rarely use underlining. Underlining cuts through the descenders in the typeface. The effect is generally unattractive and makes the type harder to read. Underlining was used by typists in the days when italics could not be represented on a manual typewriter. With the advent of the computer, italics became accessible with a flick of the mouse. Now you can use italics, but you must then abandon underlining.
  • The documentation style you are required to follow is sometimes specified by the department. In SLC, this is determined by consultation with your major professor.

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What if I will be away from campus while finishing up my thesis?

  • If you live some distance from campus, in Chicago or overseas, or if you accept a job several states away before you finish your thesis or dissertation, remember that you may need to return to deposit.
  • With the advent of Electronic Thesis Deposit (ETD), deposit in absentia is easier, but not painless.
  • I require a paper or electronic copy to do the final check. 
  • While I can answer questions via email and do an on-screen check, I do not print out files received as email attachments. This is because if I were to print them out, my office would have to bear the cost of printing, and because I would then have to struggle with any problems with the files. Another reason why I will not print out a thesis has to do with printers. See "How do I print my thesis?" below.
  • I am available for campus visits for consultation during office hours: M-F, 9-5. Please make an appointment.

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How do I print my thesis?

  • When you are getting your format finished up, you should stick to one printer and preferably one computer set-up. Switching computers and/or printers can make the pages break differently. Remember that the margins must be correct when they are measured on the printed page or the PDF. It doesn’t matter if you set them correctly in the software or not. They must be correct in the final PDF.
  • Be sure to set the paper size to US LETTER. The handouts specify US Letter (8 1/2 x 11"). If you set it to A4, the margins will measure correctly on screen, but they will not be correct when printed because standard paper in the US is 8 1/2 x 11 inches, not A4. A4 paper measures 8.26 x 11.69 inches, not quite as wide and slightly longer than US Letter. Word measures the margins from where it thinks the edge of the paper is. If it thinks the paper is 8 1/2 inches wide, but it is actually 8.26 inches wide, the margins will be wrong.
  • You can print your thesis from your career account in the labs. However, note that there are limits on the number of free copies that can be printed from an account. You are allotted a certain number of free copies; after that number is exceeded, you will be charged.
  • Boiler CopyMaker is recommended for printing any paper copies you may need. Remember there is an extra charge for jobs done at the last minute.
  • For preparation of PDFs, to keep pagination from changing, be sure you have checked the page layout on the same computer/printer set-up on which you will prepare the PDF. It is recommended that you set your zoom to 100 percent before you process the PDF. When finished, you must check every page to be sure nothing shifted. For ETD, you must use a computer with Acrobat Pro installed in order to prepare the ETD forms correctly.

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What are the deadlines?

  • Deadlines for each semester are listed on the Graduate School Thesis and Dissertation Office site. Instructions are provided for all deposit issues.
  • When you fill out my information form, I will ask when you plan to deposit your thesis. This is for information purposes only, so I'll know what deadlines you are working with. Check with the Grad Secretary (Joni Hipsher) to be sure you are meeting any University regulations required to graduate.
  • It is your responsibility to meet the deposit deadline and formatting requirements. The Graduate Secretary (Joni Hipsher) can explain the deadlines and forms to you. Allow time to make changes at each step.
  • Expect to drop your thesis off for me to check. I will do my best to check the thesis and send you a report promptly, usually within 24 hours
  • If you are finishing up your thesis in the last week before the deadline, you risk running into problems that may make it impossible to deposit on time. Then you will have options, but you may not like them. Graduate Secretary Joni Hipsher can discuss these options with you. This will usually involve sticking around for another semester, along with the expense and inconvenience that will bring. The University charges a fee when candidates take too many semesters to deposit.
  • The University Thesis Office is very busy the last two weeks before each semester's deposit deadline. Secure your appointment as early as possible in the semester in which you expect to deposit. Be aware that if your defense is very late in the semester, it may be difficult to deposit that semester. To schedule your appointment, go to the Graduate School Thesis and Dissertation Office site.
  • You should plan to set your personal deadline at least two weeks prior to the deposit deadline to allow for the unexpected. Even though I have checked your thesis, I cannot guarantee that the Thesis Office will pass it on the first try. You may have fewer problems if I have checked it, but they may catch something I missed, or they may interpret a requirement differently from the way I do. They do not always keep me advised of their current policies, and they do change their interpretation from time to time.
  • Remember that those registered for exam only have an earlier deadline.

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How does ETD work and what does it cost?

  • Make deposit appointment with University Thesis Office.
  • Pass your defense and have me approve the format, not necessarily in that order; get all signatures on the appropriate forms.
  • Read the instructions for ETD (download from the Graduate School Thesis and Dissertation Office site) and ask questions.
  • Gather PDF, abstract file (minus the introductory, single-spaced paragraph), permissions letters (if applicable), personal info, and credit card info (if you want to order copies or register the copyright).
  • Establish a personal account and make the ETD deposit. The UMI-ProQuest agreement will pop up on the screen for you to complete as part of the process. If you have permissions letters, you can add them now. Note that SLC is listed as Languages and Cultures (alphabetically with the Ls), not as School of Languages and Cultures.
  • Wait for email about approval or required revisions at the email address you used to register with ProQuest. This should probably be a permanent address that you can use after you graduate and your Purdue email address goes away. Keep an eye on your Purdue email account at this time as well.
  • If you are registered for long-distance deposit, some of these steps will be slightly different. Follow the flowchart on the University Thesis website.
  • The following fee rates apply:
    • Master's Thesis Fee, $90.00
    • PhD Dissertation Fee, $125.00
    • The fee will be uploaded into your student account within three business days after you have successfully deposited your thesis or dissertation. Candidates may view their deposit fee charge after it is uploaded and must pay it prior to Commencement or face a penalty. Note that you have to be registered for that semester or the charge won't appear.

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What forms are required at deposit?

  • The University Thesis site has flow charts for both on-campus and long-distance deposit that also list the required forms.
  • Because the content and number of forms changes so frequently, you must check the University Thesis site for information on what forms to use. Be sure to download the forms in the semester in which you need them from the University Thesis site, immediately before deposit if at all possible.

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Last Updated: April 27, 2017

For questions about the content of these pages, contact the SLC Thesis Advisor at jdetzner@purdue.edu

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