As your audience will vary from supervisors to examiners to other researchers, writing up your thesis requires special attention to structure, writing style, formatting, and academic integrity.
Consult thesis writing guides, previous theses in your discipline, and your supervisor. There can be variations within disciplines on content and style. You must also consult the following official documents:
Email the Graduate Research School Office if you have questions about how these regulations and guidelines may affect you.
Formatting your thesis requires detailed attention so read the Library's practical guidelines in the Formatting your thesis box.
A prescribed Otago thesis writing template does not exist. Department requirements vary so consult your supervisor or recent departmental theses.
Graduate Research School provides access to an Otago thesis template based on APA Style, in your Blackboard Masters (or PhD) >Academic Writing> section, or use the links below - adapt it for your thesis or dissertation:
If you want your thesis bound, single sided, use the Recto template; if double-sided, customise the gutter margin on mirror pages in Word, or set the Inside and Outside margins based on the templates below:
OR, set your own margins:
The page binding margin should be at least 30mm - this means that:
In addition, the Library recommends that you keep all other margins uniform and at least 20mm, including for any appendices, tables and figures, photographs, or other illustrations you might include in your thesis. Following these recommendations will ensure that your entire text and page numbers remain intact when your thesis is trimmed during the binding process.
Use word processing software such as Word, Open Office, or Pages. See the IT support tab for more details.
Effective management of the print and e-resources that you use and create during your research project ensures that you:
Save time and checking by collecting all the necessary data for each reference, at the time of consulting the works concerned.
Managing your references - guide to recommended software for in-text and bibliography tasks.
Departments and supervisors vary in their preferred reference management systems - compare products:
Do not store your reference management files in cloud-based services, e.g. iCloud, Syncplicity, Dropbox, etc.
Seek assistance from your Subject Librarian and ITS staff.
Student IT training is available:
Use a writing lab, follow tweets, join a writing blog, group or workshop, or read expert titles below:
Map the connections between the themes, ideas and papers you've discovered:
Some disciplines have specific style manuals on writing, and citing. Check their details on layout, structure, writing style and formatting. Also check with your supervisor.
University of Otago Regulations and Library guidelines are in other tabs in this box.
PhD theses are limited to 100,000 words of text, excluding appendices, footnotes and references/bibliographies; Masters theses are up to 40,000 words.
Some disciplines have specific style manuals on writing, and citing. Check the details on layout, structure, writing style and formatting. Always check with your supervisor.
Font Face, Size and Spacing
The OU Regulations state that your thesis must be in typescript - s.14.2(a). In addition, the Library recommends* that you:
The Library recommends that you consecutively number your pages, as well any additional sheets, tables, maps, and/or appendices you might include.
The generally accepted rule is to spell out exact numbers up to ninety-nine. The following exceptions should be noted:
See the Templates tab for details.
* Turabian, K. L. et al. (2013). A manual for writers of research papers, theses, and dissertations, 8th ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
An abstract of no more than 500 words is required – see Examination and Assessment Regulations 2014, 14.2d.
The abstract should consist of a statement of the problem, an explanation of the method and procedures, and a summary of conclusions.
The following order is usually observed:
Author Declaration Form (only in the Library copy)
All quotations should correspond exactly with the original in wording, spelling and punctuation.
Single quotation marks are generally used for quotations within a quotation.
Omissions in quoted matter:
Use of double or single quotation marks varies from style to style:
so check with your supervisor in case your discipline has a preferred style.
These may include photographs, maps, graphs, charts, diagrams and musical examples.
Tables should appear as near as possible to the discussion relating to them:
Footnotes have four main purposes:
Use the Insert Footnote function in your word processing software to get consistency.
After the first footnote reference, in full, use short form for subsequent references, i.e. author, short title, page number/s. Reference management software will assist with this, or do this manually.
Ibid. (ibidem = in the same) is used for a consecutive reference to the same work, but not necessarily to the same page. If ibid. is used without a page number, the reference is to exactly the same page as that previously cited. Ibid. should not be used more than two pages after the original citation.
Any maps or other illustrative materials – including digital media such as CDs, DVDs or USB drives - that accompany your thesis can be deposited as separate files with your e-thesis PDF deposit;
OR if you are having a copy bound for yourself or department, these materials can be:
Extra large or bulky material can be bound separately as an appendix, or bound in (landscape form), folded in from the right edge,
In-text citation styles vary by discipline - check with your supervisor, and manuals of style, e.g. ACS, APA, Chicago, Harvard, Legal style, MLA, and Vancouver.
Use footnotes or one of these systems:
Author-Date system or Parenthetical system
Insert citations to the literature into the text as the reference is made, instead of using footnotes. Author-date citations consist of the author's surname and the year of publication, enclosed in parentheses. Depending on the sentence structure where the citation is made, parentheses may enclose either the name, or the date, or both. Page numbers may be included.
Full citations for these in-text sources should be listed alphabetically by author, in the “Bibliography” section of the thesis.
Reference Number system
Insert a number in superscript or parentheses, in the text at the point of citation. The citations appear in a numbered list of references at the end of the work. Vancouver, often used in the Biomedical Sciences, is an example of a "numbered" style and follows rules established by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors. Check examples of Vancouver style.
Bibliography or References
Commerce and Humanities
For theses in the humanities it is usual to choose a heading such as “Selected Bibliography”, “Works Consulted” or “Reference List”. Include all sources which have substantially affected the form or content of your thesis. For a “Works Cited” list only include materials referred to in-text. For a lengthy bibliography, as in a history thesis, the references can be arranged according to type of material, e.g. primary sources (manuscripts, official publications, newspapers) and secondary sources (books, periodical articles, theses).
Sciences and Biomedical Sciences
In science theses full citations for each source mentioned in-text are listed in a bibliography usually called “References”. If the Arranged references alphabetically by author’s surname and under each name by year of publication, in the Author-Date system. In the Reference-Number system arrange sources by authors’ names or in the order that the references are cited in the text.
An appendix is not always required. It provides a place for material that is not absolutely necessary to the text, or where inclusion in the text might break the flow of argument, e.g. the full text of an Act of Parliament; a timeline of key events; a questionnaire.
Appendices may be sub-divided according to the class of materials include, so list each appendix by capital letter and title in the Table of Contents.
There are preferred file types when depositing your thesis and supplementary files. This helps to ensure preservation and ongoing access to your research.
Graduate Research School has set up Blackboard papers for PhD and Masters students where you can use Turnitin to check your thesis chapters and supporting documents for matching and ethical referencing of sources.
Follow the steps in this Guide to using Turnitin.
Clinton Golding, Sharon Sharmini & Ayelet Lazarovitch. (2014). What examiners do: what thesis students should know, Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 39:5, 563-576. DOI: 10.1080/02602938.2013.859230
From this research reading:
(1) be broadly consistent
(2) expect a thesis to pass
(3) judge a thesis by the end of the first or second chapter
(4) read a thesis as an academic reader and as a normal reader
(5) be irritated and distracted by presentation errors
(6) favour a coherent thesis
(7) favour a thesis that engages with the literature
(8) favour a thesis with a convincing approach
(9) favour a thesis that engages with the findings
(10) require a thesis to be publishable
(11) give summative and formative feedback