Carnegie Mellon Engineering

College of Engineering M.S. Thesis and Ph.D. Dissertation Document Standards

The thesis or dissertation must be a document of the best professional standards. It is also good practice for the student to prepare a document that meets the criteria for publication in the relevant professional journals. As the original copy of the thesis or dissertation will be kept in the University Libraries, and copied for microfilming and other purposes, the paper and the production must conform to standards of long archive life and clear reproducibility. In addition, an electronic copy of the thesis or dissertation is required by the College of Engineering for archiving by the department.

These instructions provide a guide for the production of a high-quality thesis or dissertation document, and formatting specifications to ensure some basic consistency among engineering theses and dissertations. It is the responsibility of the student to see that these guidelines are met, and the responsibility of the department to confirm this before submitting the thesis or dissertation to the College of Engineering Dean for approval. While preparing your thesis or dissertation the guidelines in the booklet, Publishing Your Doctoral Dissertation with UMI Dissertation Publishing, provided by ProQuest/UMI should be followed. Download a copy of this booklet, or obtain it from the department's graduate coordinator. Other requirements specific to the college are provided below.



Each doctoral candidate is expected to have a substantially complete version of the dissertation in the hands of his or her PhD Committee no later than 1.5 months before the Final Grades Due date for the semester in which completion is planned. A minimum of one month must then be allowed for Committee review of the dissertation, the thesis defense, for further writing as required, and production of final print and supporting documents. The dissertation defense must take place no later than 15 days before the Final Grades Due date to allow adequate time for revision and required approvals.

Following approval by the Ph.D. Committee for dissertations, or the advisor(s) for M.S. theses, the required copies of the final and complete thesis or dissertation must be submitted to the department by the following dates:  May graduates, 10 days before the Final Grades for Graduating Students Due date; August graduates, two days before the Final Grades Due date; December graduates, two days before the Final Grades Due date. The department will submit the signed thesis or dissertation to the Dean of the College of Engineering by the Final Grades Due date.



The College of Engineering requires the following copies of M.S. theses and Ph.D. dissertations:

  • One single-sided paper copy of good reproducible quality to the College of Engineering Dean’s Office (to be submitted to the University Libraries and used for microfilming).
  • One paper copy to the advisor.
  • One paper copy to the department, or to the relevant departments if the thesis or dissertation is for a joint degree.
  • One electronic file (PDF format) with the entire thesis, to the department, or to the relevant departments if the thesis or dissertation is for a joint degree.
  • One paper copy for the student.

Original signature pages will be associated with the copies for the University Libraries (via the Dean's office), the department, and the student. Only three original signature pages should accompany the thesis or dissertation submitted to the department head and Dean for review and approval.

Copies other than the single-sided version for submittal to the Dean's office may be double-sided. More copies may be made for distribution, as requested by a student. The preparation of the thesis and dissertation and copies are the student's responsibility, unless departmental policies dictate otherwise.

Carnegie Mellon has an agreement with ProQuest/UMI to copy and preserve M.S. theses and Ph.D. dissertations on microfilm for easy availability and retrievability to anyone who might want to obtain a copy. The M.S. student or Ph.D. candidate must choose a publishing option on Page 3 of the ProQuest/UMI booklet. If, in addition, the author wishes to copyright their work via ProQuest, he or she should fill out the appropriate form in the ProQuest/UMI booklet and attach payment as specified. A copy of the thesis or dissertation with the appropriate documentation then will be submitted to the department's graduate coordinator.

ProQuest/UMI requires that each thesis or dissertation be accompanied by an abstract and title page. ProQuest/UMI requests that the abstract be 350 words or less; however, it is not required. ProQuest/UMI will truncate abstracts exceeding 350 words for their use, but will not alter the abstract in the publication transcript. If the author chooses, he or she may submit two abstracts: one not to exceed 350 words, for microfilming; and the other not to exceed 1,000 words, for the dissertation. For a more detailed explanation, refer to the ProQuest/UMI booklet. The College of Engineering recommends that abstracts not exceed 350 words.

The electronic version of the thesis or dissertation will be archived by the department on a non-public server. In some departments, the author will have the option to post the thesis or dissertation on a publicly-accessible internet site maintained by the department. The author will need to complete a form provided by the department to request such posting. All engineering thesis and dissertation authors also have the option to post their thesis or dissertation on the Carnegie Mellon Research Showcase electronic repository internet site: ( The author will need to complete a form provided by the University Libraries to request such posting. Posting of the thesis or dissertation on a publicly-accessible internet site does not constitute a breach of Carnegie Mellon's agreement with ProQuest/UMI. However, authors should consider carefully the copyright implications associated with posting their thesis or dissertation on a publicly-accessible internet site. Some publishers consider material that has been posted on a publicly-accessible internet site as having been published previously, and will not consider such material for publication.



Except as specifically superceded by directions from the candidate's major department and the ProQuest/UMI booklet, the general rules with respect to form shall follow those provided below. Some of the guidance is from K. L. Turabian, A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Thesis and Dissertations, 6th Edition, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1996.



The first page of each thesis or dissertation must be a signature page and must follow the format specified for regular degrees and joint degrees. Note, two samples are provided, one for joint degrees and one for all others. For M.S. theses, “Master of Science” should be substituted for “Doctor of Philosophy.” The original signature page must be signed by the thesis or dissertation advisor(s), the department head and the Dean or Associate Dean of the College of Engineering. Only three original signature pages should accompany the thesis or dissertation submitted to the department head and Dean for review and approval.

The signature page should be followed by a title page. The title page of the dissertation should follow the format specified in the template.



All theses and dissertations must include an Acknowledgments section which, at a minimum, describes the source(s) of support for the research, even if it is self support. Acknowledgment of the source(s) of support is important ethically in all research publications and presentations, including theses, to give the sponsors the recognition they deserve, and also to disclose publicly the organization or persons funding the research.

For doctoral dissertations, the doctoral committee must also be listed in the Acknowledgments, and the chair of the committee should be identified.  The doctoral committee should not be listed on the title page.




6.1 Title – Your thesis or dissertation will be a valuable source for other scholars only if it can be located easily. Modern retrieval systems use the words in the title—and sometimes a few other descriptive words—to locate your document. It is essential that the title be a meaningful description of the content of your dissertation. Avoid highly specialized terms to the extent possible, and use word substitutes for formulas, symbols, superscripts, Greek letters, etc.


6.2 Preliminaries

A) Signature Page – see Section 4

B) Title Page – see Section 4

C) Copyright Notice – should follow the title page, on a separate page, if statutory copyright in the dissertation has been or is to be claimed

D) Acknowledgments – must include financial support acknowledgment as discussed in Section 5

E) Abstract – should not exceed 350 words; see Section 2

F) Table of Contents – with page references

G) List of Tables – with titles and page references

H) List of Figures and Illustrations – with titles and page references.


6.3 Body of thesis or dissertation

A) Introduction

B) Main Body – with larger divisions and more important minor divisions indicated by suitable, consistent headings

C) Summary and Conclusions – highlighting the key findings and conclusions of the work presented. For engineering and science theses and dissertations, this section often also includes recommendations for follow-up research.

D) References – >see discussion in Section 6.9

E) Appendices – each appendix should have a title and be listed in the Table of Contents


6.4 Page Numbering

Each page in a thesis or dissertation should be assigned a number. The following plan of page numbering generally is accepted:

A) For Preliminaries – use small Roman numerals (i, ii, iii, iv, etc.). The numbering begins with ii; the title page counts as page i, but the number does not appear.

B) For Remainder of Thesis or Dissertation – including the text, illustrations, appendices, and bibliography, use Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3, 4, etc.). Each page must be numbered. Try to avoid use of letter suffixes such as 10a, 10b. The numbering begins with 1 and runs consecutively to the end of the dissertation.

C) For More Than One Volume – each volume should contain a title page duplicating the title page of the first volume. If the volumes are separate entities, identify them further as Volume I, II, etc. In any case, the numbering may follow consecutively from one volume to another, or begin with Arabic 1 at each new title page.


6.5 Footnotes

If footnotes are needed, they should be placed at the bottom of the page below a 1.5 inch underscore (starting at the left border). The first line of each footnote should be indented 0.5 inches and identified by a raised numeral corresponding to that used in the test. Footnotes should be numbered consecutively throughout each chapter.


6.6 Reproduction of Data

The data on which the thesis or dissertation is based should be made accessible to the reader in substantially complete form. Generally, this means that raw data should be reproduced in a convenient manner in one or more appendices to the main document. In the case of extensive data gathered from readily available published sources, specific detailed citations will suffice, provided that a minimum of one set of the raw data used in the dissertation, complete in all respects, is presented with the original copy submitted to the Library. Deviations from a procedure of full disclosure must be specifically approved by the M.S. thesis advisor(s) or Ph.D. Dissertation Committee and explained fully in the thesis or dissertation.


6.7 Copyright Permissions

As author, the student must certify (by signing the ProQuest/UMI agreement form) that any copyrighted material used in his or her dissertation, beyond brief excerpts, is with the written permission of the copyright owner, and that he or she will save and hold harmless ProQuest/UMI from any damages which may arise from copyright violations. Copies of permission letters should be attached to the agreement form.


6.8 Reproduction of Procedures

All instruments, analytic procedures, apparatus, or other critical elements in the execution of the study should be described in detail. Apparatus normally should be described in an engineering drawing and by photograph. Instruments normally should be reproduced in full in pictures or drawings, unless they are easily available from other sources. Procedures of analysis should be specified fully either by citation or by detailed discussion in one or more appendices. Computer calculations that are essential to the central arguments of the research must be fully and clearly explained. If the computer programs which provide the basis for these calculations are originated by the student, the student is required to provide a program listing and minimal documentation on the program in the thesis or dissertation.

The program listing and documentation normally would be included in a separate appendix to the thesis or dissertation. However, in the case of extensive computer work considered by the student and his or her advisor to be too long to include in the thesis or dissertation, presentation in the form of tables elucidating important components is acceptable. In this case, the student is advised to submit a separate internal report giving further details. Standard subroutines or packaged programs which are routinely included as software support to a computer installation and which can be readily obtained are exempted from this requirement, but these should be clearly cited and the source of these programs made apparent in the thesis.


6.9 References

Citations of the professional literature should be standardized throughout the thesis or dissertation. The form of citation should be consistent with the form used in a standard professional journal of the candidates' field. The Harvard Citation Style is used commonly in engineering and science. The following journals are recommended as samples in each field of engineering:

  • Biomedical Engineering - Annals of Biomedical Engineering, Journal of Biomechanical Engineering
  • Chemical Engineering - Langmuir, Optimization and Engineering
  • Civil and Environmental Engineering - ASCE journals, e.g., Journal of Environmental Engineering, Journal of Transportation Engineering.
  • Electrical and Computer Engineering - Proceedings of the IEEE.
  • Engineering and Public Policy - Science, Proceedings of the IEEE.
  • Mechanical Engineering - Transactions of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.
  • Materials Science and Engineering - Metallurgical Transactions.



Refer to the ProQuest/UMI document "Guide 1: Preparing Your Manuscript for Submission to ProQuest/UMI" for margins, paper type, line spacing and additional formatting guidelines that have not been noted above.

(policy revised 10/19/2010)