This manual sets forth the University of Pittsburgh’s requirements for the preparation and electronic submission of graduate theses and dissertations. Individual departments or schools of the University may have additional, or more specific, requirements. It is the student’s responsibility to learn of any special requirements that apply and to prepare the dissertation or thesis in accordance with them as well as with the instructions in this manual. While the thesis or dissertation is generally the work of the degree candidate alone, if it is the result of a collaborative research effort, the contributions of the student and the other collaborators must be clearly delineated. The scholarly work done by the student prior to the final preparation of the thesis or dissertation is outside the province of this handbook. It is assumed that once the research is complete, a final draft is examined and approved by the thesis/dissertation director and/or the candidate’s thesis/dissertation committee. At that point, the student is ready to prepare a document for final submission. (For information on the scholarly requirements of theses and dissertations, see the University’s Graduate and Professional Catalog and consult with the thesis/dissertation director.) 

The language in which theses and dissertations are written shall normally be English. Exceptions may be granted by the student’s dean with the approval of the thesis/dissertation director and committee but only for sound reasons of scholarship. Permission shall never be granted on the ground of inadequate command of English. This manual also assumes that every thesis or dissertation will demonstrate effective communication skills. It is the responsibility of the student that the thesis or dissertation demonstrate clarity, correctness, and organization. A student may use the assistance of a professional editor if he or she receives the prior approval of the research advisor; the editorial assistance is limited to the use of language and not to subject matter content or meaning; and all editorial assistance is acknowledged in the preface of the final document. 
Of crucial importance to each thesis or dissertation is the issue of legibility. It is especially important that doctoral dissertations have good quality illustrations and sufficiently dark print to microfilm legibly. Color will not microfilm legibly. Therefore, when including photographs, students should place a black-and-white photo in the body of the dissertation and include a link to a file containing the color image. However, since the PDF copy of the ETD is also archived by ProQuest, students may include color within their ETD if they decide that the benefits of color in the ETD outweigh the problems caused with microfilming color.

Characteristics that a dissertation should demonstrate are: 

  • the establishment of a historical context for the presentation of an innovative and creative approach to the problem analysis and solution;
  • a clear understanding of the problem area as revealed by analysis and synthesis of a broad literature base; 
  • a well-defined research design;
  • clarity in composition and careful documentation; 
  • results of sufficient merit to be published in refereed journals or to form the basis of a book or monograph; sufficient detail so that other scholars can build on it in subsequent work; 
  • the preparation of the author to assume a position within the profession. 

After the dissertation has been submitted in final form to the approved office in the student’s school or department, it is forwarded to ProQuest, which publishes the abstract in ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global, microfilms the entire dissertation, and stores it electronically. The microfilm copy is the official archival record of the dissertation.

Questions regarding thesis or dissertation format that are not answered in this manual should be directed to the appropriate office in the student’s school or department. It may be necessary to check with ProQuest, about any deviations that might hinder their ability to reproduce dissertation material. See their website, Submitting Your Dissertation or Thesis to ProQuest

Students may find it appropriate to consult a style manual published by the professional society of their field of study, such as the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, Scientific Style and Format: The CBE Manual published by the Council of Biology Editors, The Chicago Manual of Style, or the American Institute of Physics Editorial Handbook. A student’s advisor will identify the correct manual or guide to be used in determining footnote and bibliographic format for a given discipline or subject area. If points in any of the specialized style manuals differ markedly from the requirements for margins, format, etc. stipulated in this manual, the latter takes precedence. Some basic guidelines for thesis and dissertation preparation are revised frequently and should be widely available in paperback in most bookstores: the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (1999), by Joseph Gibaldi, published by the Modern Language Association; and A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations (1996), written by Kate L. Turabian and published by the University of Chicago Press. Students should contact the appropriate office in their school or department for details on the procedures and deadlines for submitting completed theses and dissertations.