The Guide to Preparation of Theses, Project Reports, and Dissertations ("ETD Guide")

The Guide to Preparation of Theses, Project Reports, and Dissertations ("ETD Guide" for short) gives a comprehensive overview of the procedures associated with the thesis, project report, and submission process. Candidates are strongly encouraged to read the guide in its entirety.


Candidates are strongly encouraged to use the templates provided to assemble and format their theses, projects reports, and dissertations.

Name File Type Degree
Thesis/Project Report Template .docx Master's
Thesis/Project Report Template (TVFT program only) .docx Master's
Thesis/Project Report Template (Interdisciplinary Studies only) .docx Master's
Dissertation Template (EdD program only) .docx EdD
LaTeX Template (formatted for Mathematics; available to all) LaTeX Any
LaTeX Template (formatted for Mechanical Engineering; available to all) LaTeX Any

Sample Pages

Candidates are strongly encouraged to use the sample pages as guides through the template.

Name File Type Degree
Thesis/Project Report Sample Pages .pdf Master's
Dissertation Sample Pages (EdD program only) .pdf EdD
Dissertation Sample Pages (PhD program only) .pdf PhD

Candidates are also strongly encouraged to attend one of the Thesis Formatting & Submission Workshops offered several times each quarter. Information regarding this workshop, including the handout given to attendees, may be found on the Workshops page.


Most candidates will use Microsoft Word to compose and format their thesis, project report, or dissertation. Some departments require other software, such as LaTeX, Final Draft, or Celtx, due to different needs of the content. With the exception of this latter group of candidates, we prefer that students stick with Microsoft Word for basic word processing, which often comes bundled with new computers and laptops and is now available free to Cal State LA students. Candidates are welcome to use other programs such as Apple Pages, OpenOffice, and Google Docs at the composition stage, but will nonetheless be expected to submit a Microsoft Word document for review.

Style Manuals

The candidate's department or program usually recommends that the thesis, project report, or dissertation follow the guidelines laid out in a specific style manual. Some common style manuals include:

Candidates are strongly encouraged to purchase their own copy of the required style manual. Candidates may also access several of these complete style manuals and/or quick guides through the following sites:

A Quick Overview of Cal State LA Manuscript Format

Cal State LA has its own formatting requirements that override those laid out in the candidate's assigned style manual. Additional information may be found in Chapter 3 of the Thesis Guide.

Title Page

The candidate's name listed on the title page, copyright page, approval page, and abstract should be identical to what is listed on their official Cal State LA records, including middle name or initial. Candidates who have changed their name during their time at Cal State LA, but have not registered this change with the campus should pay special attention to their name on record.

The candidate will list their department and degree on the title page according to the document below.

Margins, Font, and Spacing  

The top and bottom margins are set to 1 inch. The left and right margins are set to 1.25 inches. Page numbers fall within this margin and must be at least 0.5 inch from the edge of the page. 

Typing of the document is double spaced, with a 12-point size professional typeface, such as Times New Roman, Arial, or Courier. Only one size and one style of type may be used in the main sections of the manuscript; the size may vary in captions or footnotes but should nonetheless remain consistent throughout the document.

Preliminary Pages and End Matter  

Preliminary pages precede the main text and are arranged in the following order: 

  • Title page 
  • Copyright page
  • Approval page
  • Abstract (150 word limit for master's candidates; 250 words for doctoral candidates)
  • Acknowledgments (optional, unless you received financial support for your project)
  • Table of Contents
  • List of Tables (if any)
  • List of Figures (if any)

The end matter follows the main text and is arranged in the following order:

  • Endnotes (if any)
  • Glossary (if any)
  • List of references
  • Appendices (if any)

Each preliminary page, each chapter page, the endnotes, the references, and each appendix must begin on a new page. 


As of Winter 2015, there is no longer a word limit on the abstract. We nonetheless suggest that candidates keep their abstracts to no more than 250 words for the sake of brevity. 

However, ProQuest continues to publish print indexes of all dissertations and theses, requiring limits of 350 words for dissertation abstracts and 150 words for thesis abstracts. They will truncate an abstract if it exceeds these word limits; candidates may wish to limit the length of the abstract if this is a concern. 

If possible, avoid using special characters, symbols, or “smart” quotation marks in the abstract. Consult the ProQuest FAQ for more information. 

Page Numbers

Preliminary pages are numbered using lower case Roman numerals (ii, iii, iv, etc). Pages of the main text are numbered using standard Arabic numerals. All pages, including appendices are counted and numbered. 

Headings and Subheadings  

Chapters must be constructed and presented in a logical and consistent manner. Follow individual department guidelines. If a specific style manual is required then that manual's requirements for the styling of headings and subheadings should be observed. 

​​Citations and References 

Citation format must follow the style manual or guidelines specified by the candidate's department and must be consistent within the document. Candidates may opt to use a citation manager to organize and format their references. Some common citation managers include RefWorks, Endnote, Mendeley, and Zotero, among others (Harvard University Libraries offer a handy comparison guide). Candidates might consider using RefWorks to format their references, the use of which is free for CSULA students, staff, and faculty. Candidates may also attend a free Library workshop for help with references, citations, and issues related to plagiarism. 

Tables and Figures

Tables are comprised of data or statistical information, which are presented in column and row format. Illustrative materials such as graphs, charts, diagrams, maps, and photographs, are referred to as figures. Tables and figures are numbered consecutively, and in separate sequences, and conform to department or style manual guidelines. Tables and figures may be placed within the text, close to its first reference; together in their own section following the last chapter; or in appropriate appendices at the end of the document. Only figures may be rendered in color, not tables.

Exceptions and Variations

Candidates are encouraged to notify their Reviewer of any tweaks to format or style that their committee has requested. With the exception of a few elements of the manuscript, we are flexible within reason. The most important aspect of the review process is that the format and style maintains consistency throughout the document.