Thesis and dissertation 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.

For the latest and most complete graduate policies, please view or download the graduate student handbook.

M.S. thesis and Ph.D. dissertation due dates

August and December graduates

Theses and dissertations must be submitted to the department ten days before the Final Grades Due date. The department must submit the thesis or dissertation and documentation to the Dean by the Final Grades Due date.


May graduates

Theses and dissertations must be submitted to the department ten days before the Final Grades for Graduating Students Due date. The department must submit the thesis or dissertation and documentation to the Dean by the Final Grades for Graduating Students Due date.

Submission procedure

The College of Engineering requires that all theses and dissertations be submitted to both the Carnegie Mellon University Institutional Repository and the ProQuest ETD Administrator Repository. This can be accomplished through the ProQuest ETD Administrator website.



ProQuest offers two publishing options: Traditional Publishing and Open Access Publishing PLUS. In all types of publishing, you will retain the copyright to your work. For a fee, ProQuest will officially register a student’s copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office. Official registration is not required to maintain the copyright, but registration may provide certain legal benefits. For more information, view the UMI Copyright Guide.


  • Traditional publishing
    Students enter into an agreement granting ProQuest the non-exclusive license to publish their abstract and to duplicate and distribute their dissertation. The abstract, bibliography, and other metadata of the thesis or dissertation will be included in the ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database (PQDT). ProQuest pays authors a 10% royalty on any sales of their work.
  • Open access publishing through ProQuest PLUS
    Students enter into an agreement granting ProQuest the non-exclusive license to publish their work on the ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Open Database and make it available for free download. Students do not receive royalties with this option. There is a one-time upfront fee. View more information on Open Access Publishing PLUS


Carnegie Mellon University Institutional Repository

During the ProQuest ETD Administrator submission process, students will be required to publish their thesis or dissertation at the Carnegie Mellon University Institutional Repository. This repository, supported by the Libraries, will provide online, open access to work produced by Carnegie Mellon University faculty and students. There is the option to restrict the thesis or dissertation to only campus (archival) access. There is no fee to submit.

Publishing to the Institutional Repository does not affect authorial copyright ownership. All embargo options will be honored.


Embargo options

An embargo is the ability to delay the release of a thesis or dissertation for a limited period of time, often due to pending patents, material within the work that cannot be released due to copyright, or a desire to publish all or part of the work in a journal or book.


Supplementary materials

Supplementary materials, such as the raw data underlying the research, should be uploaded during the submission to the ProQuest ETD Administrator process. The materials will be made available online with the thesis or dissertation in the Institutional Repository or available on a CD or DVD if a printed copy is requested.


Departmental copies

The thesis or dissertation may 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. Review the departmental handbook for more information.

Required documentation

The following documents must be submitted the College of Engineering Graduate School in additional to the uploaded submission of the dissertation:

  • A pdf of the completed document
  • A Signature Page, signed by the advisor(s) and Department Head(s)
  • A Committee Page, signed by all committee members
  • A Submission Checklist that confirms proper formatting of the document and copyright assertion decision


Signature page

Separate from the pdf of each thesis or dissertation must be a Signature Page and must follow the format specified for regular degrees and joint degrees. The original signature page must be signed by the thesis or dissertation advisor(s), the department head, and the Dean or Associate Dean for Graduate and Faculty Affairs of the College of Engineering. Only one original signature page should accompany the thesis or dissertation submitted to the department head and Dean for review and approval.


Committee page

Separate from the pdf of each thesis or dissertation must be a Committee Page. The original Committee Page must be signed by all members of the committee for doctoral works and all readers for master’s works.


Submission checklist

Separate from the pdf of each thesis or dissertation must be a Submission Checklist. The Submission Checklist should be thoroughly reviewed to ensure all requirements for submission have been met. The Checklist must be completed and signed by the student.

Manuscript format requirements

Except as specifically superseded by directions from the candidate's major department and ProQuest, 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, 8th Edition, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 2013.

The preparation of the thesis and dissertation and copies are the student's responsibility unless departmental policies dictate otherwise.



Your title is the first thing your readers read. It should announce the topic and communicate the conceptual framework of the thesis or dissertation using keywords that provide information to both the reader and potential search algorithms.



Choose a single, readable and widely available typeface/font, such as Times New Roman, Arial or Helvetica. If using a less common typeface, embed the font in the electronic file. Avoid ornamental typefaces. In general, use at least ten-point or twelve-point font for the body of the text.


Title page

The first page of the pdf will be a title page. The title page of the dissertation should follow the format specified in the template. Note that the title page must follow the template and not include additional information.


Copyright page

If the student asserts their copyright, then the second page of the pdf will be the copyright page, according to the template. If the student does not wish to assert copyright, then they must indicate that choice on the submission checklist page.


Acknowledgements page

All theses and dissertations must include an Acknowledgments section. This section is used to thank mentors and colleagues or name the individuals or institutions that supported your research or provided special assistance, such as consultation or aid. Acknowledge any owners of copyrighted materials that have granted you permission to reproduce their work. Describe all sources of funding from outside grants, fellowships, awards, or self-supported funding. For any grants, include the identifying number. 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 submissions, the doctoral committee must also be listed in the Acknowledgments, and the chair of the committee must be identified. The doctoral committee should not be listed on the title page. 



The abstract will be made available in the ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database (PQDT). Do not include footnotes, references, or unexplained abbreviations. There is no word limit on the abstract, however it should be concise.


Table of contents

The table of contents should include page references.


List of tables

Include titles and page references.


List of figures and illustrations

Include titles and page references.



The body of the thesis or dissertation should be broken into the following sections:

  1. Introduction
  2. Main body—with larger divisions and more important minor divisions indicated by suitable, consistent headings
  3. 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.
  4. References—see below
  5. Appendices—each appendix should have a title and be listed in the Table of Contents



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

  1. Do not number the Title or Copyright Page, although these pages will be included in the page count
  2. Preliminaries: Use small Roman numerals (i, ii, iii, iv, etc.). The numbering begins with iii; the title page counts as page I and the copyright page as ii, but the number does not appear.
  3. Rest of the thesis or dissertation– the body of the thesis, including 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.



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. 


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 and made available in the Carnegie Mellon repository, on a website that will be supported by the advisor or department, or an external repository related to the pertinent field. In the case of extensive data gathered from readily available published sources, specific detailed citations will suffice, provided that that data is included in an Appendix of the document pdf, if available, or otherwise a stable url is included. 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.  


Reproduction of materials

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, a 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 that 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. 



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 EngineeringLangmuir, Optimization and Engineering
  • Civil and Environmental EngineeringASCE journals, e.g., Journal of Environmental Engineering, Journal of Transportation Engineering.
  • Electrical and Computer EngineeringProceedings of the IEEE.
  • Engineering and Public PolicyScienceProceedings of the IEEE.
  • Mechanical EngineeringTransactions of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.
  • Materials Science and EngineeringMetallurgical Transactions.


Additional guidance

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