Dissertation Layout Formatting – A Quick Guide

28.04.23 Dissertation tips Time to read: 6min

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Dissertations usually have specific layouts, which are often determined by the supervisor or department. Nonetheless, there are specific guidelines that most, if not all, programs follow.

This blog post will discuss the basic guidelines for dissertation layout formatting.

Dissertation Layout Formatting – In a Nutshell

  • Dissertation layout formatting refers to certain guidelines that supervisors and institutional departments have regarding the layout of a dissertation.1
  • While the requirements may differ, there are specific guidelines that most programs and supervisors require.2
  • The citation style you use for your dissertation will also influence the dissertation layout formatting guidelines you follow.1

Definition: Dissertation layout formatting

Dissertation layout formatting is a significant part of completing this academic research paper. There are specific dissertation layout formatting guidelines that most institutions, supervisors, and departments require.3

Note that the dissertation layout formatting guidelines also differ depending on your citation style. For instance, you must use MLA dissertation formatting guidelines when using MLA citation style.4

Tips for the final format revision of your thesis

Adjusting the format according to your university’s requirements is typically the final step. After several times of proofreading, many become blinkered to their own work and miss formatting mistakes. A 3D Look inside function representing the real-life version that can be edited virtually creates a fresh eye for formatting mistakes and helps you to detect them again.

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Dissertation layout formatting: Font and text format

The dissertation layout formatting guide for fonts and texts is quite clear.

  • You only need to use a clear and professional font style, like Times New Roman and Calibri.
  • The font size should be 10 or 11.1
  • If your dissertation is scientific, use a line spacing of 1.15 or 1.5 for a readable document. This line spacing also allows your supervisor to leave comments between the text lines.3

Dissertation layout formatting: Tables and figures

Another dissertation layout formatting guideline is about tables and figures. All tables, illustrations, and figures in your dissertation should be numbered. These numbers allow you to refer to the specific figures within your text. They should also have a precise title. The titles allow readers to get a glance at what the graphic is about.1

The numbers and titles should be positioned above the tables. However, titles for figures and illustrations should be positioned below.4Microsoft Word comes with a feature that allows you to automatically insert the numbers and titles in the right position.

All you need to do is:

  1. Select the table or figure
  2. Right-click
  3. Pick “Insert Caption”

Then a dialogue box will appear. In the dialogue box, specify if it is a table, figure, or illustration and types its title. Finally, click “okay” and the number and title will automatically appear in the correct position.5


This Microsoft Word feature also automatically generates a list of tables and figures with a button’s push.2

Dissertation layout formatting: Styles throughout the paper

You can use different styles throughout your paper to differentiate the various sections, subsections, and chapters. For example, you can bold all chapter headings, and italicize the section headings. The key is ensuring that you apply a uniform scheme consistently throughout the dissertation.1

Microsoft Word has a “Style” feature that you can use for dissertation layout formatting in different styles. You just need to create a heading, highlight it, and select the style. The styles are labeled as Heading 1, Heading 2, and so on in the Home toolbar. You can keep a list to help you keep up with your style choices.3


Dissertation layout formatting: Referencing and citing sources

There are also specific dissertation layout formatting guidelines for references and source citations. Proper citation is crucial in dissertation writing.2 The dissertation layout formatting guidelines for references differ depending on the style.

For instance, APA style and MLA style are one of the most commonly used. You can find and study the referencing guidelines for each style in our Study Guide to be on the safe side.1 We also provide articles on Chicago style and Harvard referencing.

Dissertation layout formatting: Using paragraph marks (¶)

There are also specific dissertation formatting guidelines for paragraph marks. These dissertation formatting guidelines especially come in handy when using Microsoft Word. When using Microsoft Word, you ought to be careful because doing something as simple as moving a graphic can alter the entire document.2

You can avoid this issue by using the “show paragraph marks” tool in Microsoft Word. Click on the paragraph symbol in your home toolbar to turn on this feature.1 When this feature is on, a black symbol will show up after each paragraph and a hard return in your document to show you how the layout is formed.3


Dissertation layout formatting for headers and footers helps give your document a professional look. You can add a header or footer to your document by double-clicking at the top or bottom of your page, respectively.5


There are no standard rules regarding what you should include in your header or footer. However, most writers include their:

  • Names
  • Date
  • Personal logo
  • Company logo
  • Page numbers
  • Dissertation titles4

Dissertation layout formatting: Page numbers

Page numbering is also a key element in dissertation layout formatting. Page numbers typically appear in the lower right page corner. You can add page numbers by creating a footer. However, always note that the page numbers should not be included on the dissertation title page.3

So, you can ensure that the page numbers do not appear on the cover page by placing your cursor on the page bottom where you wish to begin the numbers.

  • Next, select “page layout”
  • Click “breaks”
  • Go to “next page”
  • Revert to the side where the numbering should start.

For example, if you want your numbers to begin on page 2, click at the bottom of page 1, then switch to page 2.2

  • Select “link to previous”
  • Then “move to footer”
  • Finally, “link to previous” again in the header and footer edit mode2
  • Next, click “insert tab”
  • Then “header and footer” group
  • Finally, “page number”
  • From there, you can select the position of the number (margins, top, or bottom)
  • Complete the process by selecting “format page number,” and entering the page numbers where you want them to start, then “OK.”3

Dissertation layout formatting: Title page

The title page is also critical in dissertation layout formatting. The title page should be precise and well-presented.4

The title page typically includes:

  • The dissertation title
  • Your name
  • Document type (dissertation/thesis/research paper)
  • Department and institution
  • Program
  • Submission date
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Dissertation layout formatting: Structure

Proper dissertation layout formatting dictates that everything in your dissertation should be orderly and placed in the correct chapter.5 Here are the chapters that should be in a dissertation and their correct order:

  • Title page
  • Acknowledgment
  • Abstract
  • Table of contents
  • List of figures and tables
  • List of abbreviations
  • Glossary
  • Introduction
  • Literature review
  • Methodology
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Conclusion
  • References list
  • Appendices


The main section is the:

  • Introduction
  • Literature review
  • Methodology
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Conclusion

There are other sections, like the reference list and title page.

The title page should contain:

  • The dissertation title
  • Your name
  • The document type
  • The department and institution
  • The program
  • The submission date

There is no standard guideline. The dissertation layout formatting guidelines differ depending on the referencing style, institution, program, and instructor.

You can use professional font styles, like Times New Roman, Calibri, and Verdana. The ideal font size is 10 or 11.


1 Jansen, Derek. “Dissertation Structure & Layout 101.” Grad Coach. Accessed April 21, 2023. https://gradcoach.com/dissertation-structure/.

2 Harvard. “Formatting Your Dissertation.” February 04, 2023. https://gsas.harvard.edu/policy/formatting-your-dissertation.

3 Best Edit and Proof. “How to Layout and Format a Dissertation: 10 Tips.” September 06, 2022. https://besteditproof.com/en/academy/how-to-layout-and-format-a-dissertation-10-tips.

4 Oxbridge Essays. “How to finish and format your dissertation.” July 18, 2017. https://www.oxbridgeessays.com/blog/how-to-finish-format-your-dissertation/.

5 Study Essay. “How to Structure a Dissertation Step-By-Step.” July 15, 2020. https://studyessay.org/blog/dissertation-structure/.