Environmental Science, Policy & Engineering Program

Thesis formatting guidelines

Your senior thesis is the final product of months of hard work, so it is important that the thesis be formatted and printed in a standard, professional way so that it will give a good impression to future generations of faculty, students, and current and alumni. Following these guidelines will also give you practice using a format that, with minor modifications, is used throughout much of your professional career. The thesis format described below is, with the exception of one line in the title page, acceptable for submission as an Honors Thesis.

1.0 Due Date

The complete thesis (but not extra copies) is due on the day two weeks prior to the last day of classes in the term that the thesis is to be finished. The thesis must be complete in all respects, including all preface pages, text, figures, tables, references, and appendices, all in the proper format specified in this document.

2.0 Paper, Typing, and Margins

The thesis must be typed, and the final printout must be done on a laser printer or other high-quality printer. The paper used should be plain white 11″ by 8.5″ and of high quality. The final copy should be single-sided, space and a half , with 1.5″ margins on the left side of the paper and 1″ margins on all other sides. The type used in all text, tables, and captions should be Helvetica, Arial, or Times Roman 10 point. All text, including captions and references, should be justified left and right. First lines of paragraphs should be indented 0.4 inches, and blank lines should not separate paragraphs. Two blank spaces should separate sentences.

3.0 Sections of the Thesis

The thesis will have sections placed in the following order:

Title page
Dedication (optional)
Table of Contents
List of Figures
List of Tables
Body of the text divided into its own sections, with figures and tables

4.0 Pagination of the thesis

All preface pages including the Title Page, Abstract, Dedication, Acknowledgments, Table of Contents, List of Figures, and List of Tables, should be numbered in sequence with lower case roman numerals (ii, iii, iv, etc.). The title page is the first page (page i) but is not numbered. All other pages from the first page of text to the end of the document should be numbered in sequence with Arabic numerals. All page numbers should be centered at the bottom of each page 0.5″ above the bottom margin, except the title page (page i) which is not numbered.

Figures, tables, and appendices should be numbered in the same sequence they are referred to in the text. Most word processors have automatic functions for numbering pages, but do it last.

4.1 Levels of Headings

The various levels of headings separate your thesis into its different parts. No more than three levels of headings are allowed. First order headings separate the thesis into its major parts, such as the Abstract, Introduction, Conclusions, and References. Second order headings separate the major parts into intermediate parts. Third order headings separate the intermediate parts into minor parts. Headings of any order must be on the same page as the first line of text below it (headings may not be alone on the bottom of a page).

First order headings are FULLY CAPITALIZED, centered, and in bold type.
Second order headings have Major Words Capitalized, are centered, and are in bold type.
Third order headings have Major Words Capitalized, are left justified, and are in bold type.

4.2.0 Body of Text

4.2.1 Title Page

The format of the title page must follow that shown in the example below. The title should give the reader a clear idea of the nature of the material in the thesis. It is important that the title be clear and informative rather than mysterious or imaginative.

4.2.2 Abstract

The abstract should be on its own page and may not exceed 250 words. Most word processors have a function to count words. The abstract should succinctly state the nature of the thesis project, the reasons for conducting the work, the results of the research, and your conclusions.

4.3.3 Text, Figures, and Tables

The body of the text also contains the figures and tables, all of which must be cited in sequential order in the text. Each figure and table should be located as soon after its first citation in the text as possible. Figures and tables should be cited using the full capitalized word, for example “Figure 1” and “Table 1”. Each figure and table caption should start with the figure or table number, followed by the text of the caption (for example: “Figure 3. Location of study area.”). Captions should appear above tables, and below figures. Captions should be single-spaced, fully justified (if possible) with no indents or hanging indents.

5.0 Number and Type of Copies of the Thesis to Make

You should make a minimum of four copies, including the original: one for yourself, one for your advisor, one for the ES & P Program, and one for the library. In addition, a single PDF version is required and this must be submitted on a CD with the paper copies. All copies should be submitted to Jean Conley (Olin 310) in separate binders that do not damage the paper.

Only the original is due two weeks prior to the last day of classes in the term the thesis is due. Do not submit extra copies at that time. No punched holes, staples, or tape are allowed.

6.0 References

All references cited in the thesis must have a complete citation in the Reference section. Here are examples of the two types of citation usually used in the text:

“Despite using a paleontology textbook, Brubaker (1992) did not conclusively demonstrate Devonian age for his corals.”
“Though not well known, some rivers are so contaminated that fish cannot spawn (Smith and Wesson, 1878).”
The formats for citing other peoples’ work in the text and in the reference section should follow the standard format for scientific literature. The first line of each reference should be printed with a hanging indent, and references should be separated from one another by blank lines.


Alestalo, J. 1971. Dendrochronological interpretation of geomorphic processes. Fennia 105. p. 1-140

Begin, Y. and Payette, S. 1988. Dendrochronological evidence of lake-level changes during the last three centuries in subarctic Quebec. Quaternary Research 30. p. 210-20.

Bell, D. T., and E L. Johnson. 1974. Flood-Caused Tree Mortality Around Illinois Reservoirs. Trans. Ill. State Academy of Science Vol 67 (1), p. 28-37.

Appendices should contain any substantial length of material that, while pertinent to the thesis, would detract from a reading of the thesis if left in the main body of the text. In general, material that is important to the thesis but not critical for understanding the main points are put in appendices. Such things include lengthy tabular data or values from model calculations, lengthy details of mathematical or analytical procedures, or sample location or specimen descriptions. The usual text, caption, figure, table, and citation guidelines apply. Table and figure numbers should simply continue the numbering used in the text. For example, if Table 7 is the last table in the body of the text, the first table in the appendix will be Table 8.

All appendices must be cited in the body of the text (e.g., see Appendix 2) just like all figures, tables, and references. Appendices should be labeled in sequence with Arabic numerals: APPENDIX 1, APPENDIX 2, and so on. If there is only one appendix, it should also be labeled as APPENDIX 1.


All theses will be presented as poster or oral papers at the annual Union College Steinmetz Symposium, which is usually held in early May.

8.0 Citing Web resources

It’s not as easy to cite Web resources in your bibliography as it is to cite books because (1) standards for citing Web resources are still being developed and (2) Web resources don’t have a title page where you can easily locate the information needed for a reference. This guide tries to answer some of the most frequently asked questions about citing Web resources, including how to cite articles from databases. If you need more assistance, contact the Reference Desk. For information on creating parenthetical notes to Web resources, see the separate Skillman reference guide. These components should be included in a reference to a Web resource:

Author and organization

If author information is not listed at the top of a document, check the bottom or follow any links to the Web site’s home page to search for author information. Try to distinguish the author of the content from the page designer and avoid listing the designer as an author. Remember that organizations or government agencies can be authors.
If no author is listed, begin the reference with the title.


If you have trouble identifying the title, check the top left corner of your Web browser. The title of the document should appear there, above the File menu. It also may appear in the top left corner of a printout from your Web browser.

Date of publication

The date a Web document was created or last updated is frequently listed at the bottom. If a document includes both a date of creation and a date it was last updated, use only the latter. Include a day and month in addition to a year if they are included on the document. If the Web site does not include a date of publication or a date that the resource was last updated, use the abbreviation n.d. (for no date) just as you would for a book or article with no date.

The URL or address of a Web document is located near the top of the screen in the box often labelled “Location.” or “Address.” The URL may appear in the upper right corner of a printout from your Web browser.

Date accessed

Because Web documents can change or disappear at any time, your reference must include the date that you looked at the document.
The date of use usually appears in the bottom right corner of a printout from your Web browser.




Jill Fitzpatrick Green


Submitted in partial fulfillment

of the requirements for the degree of

Bachelor of Science/Arts

Environmental Science and Policy Program


June, 2009


GREEN, JILL FITZPATRICK, This is the title of my thesis in Environmental Science and Policy. Environmental Science and Policy Program, , Union College, Schenectady, New York, June 2009.

The part of the abstract shown above, with your name, the thesis title, the department name, and the school is single spaced. The text of the abstract is double spaced. All new paragraphs are indented about 0.4 inches on the first line.

A blank line should separate all paragraphs in the abstract. Remember that abstracts may not have more than 250 words of text, must be alone on the page, and must cover no more than one page. Since the Abstract is required to follow the Title Page, the abstract page number must be ii.