How Dissertation Formatting Can Help

Hours, days… months later and you are almost there. Your hard work is there on a screen all 15,000 beautifully constructed words – all positioned in such a manner that makes you the greatest academic who ever lived. And then it dawns on you, you’re not done… and a wash of panic comes over you. You haven’t formatted your dissertation; you know you must, so you shall. You can do it one of two ways – yourself (I remember doing my own formatting at undergrad level almost threw my laptop out of my third story flat), or give it to a professional (My postgrad dissertation was formatted professionally). Correct dissertation formatting will give the impression that this piece of work is well structured, well-written and organised before it is read.

We are going to go through the basics of formatting and why it is important. As always, nothing we write here overrides your institutions’ guidelines – check what is expected of you.

The cover page outlines who you are, what school you belong to (i.e., Humanities and Social Sciences), the title of your dissertation and the date it is due in. This is important for obvious reasons, and there is a tool in word that automatically creates you a formatted cover page. Now before you create your contents page, format your margins first. As a rule a 1.7 left indent works, as it leaves ample room for binding and for reading.

The space of between your lines depends on your institutions requirements. They could insist on double lines throughout, with the exception of long quotes that should be single lined, or they could ask you to 1.5 space it. The font you use should be consistent throughout – perhaps there is nothing more distracting that reading half of a dissertation in 12 Times New Roman and half in 12 Arial, it leaves the reader questioning your formatting intentions rather than your argument.

A dissertation is a long piece of work, typically it is no less than 40 pages, thus it is important to break it up into sections and format those sections accordingly into the chapters you outlined on your contents page. These sections should be formatted in the header of your document.

But more importantly and what could cost you the big marks is your reference list. Every single source you mention in your work MUST be included in your bibliography/works cited. If you have not included a source, the worst case scenario is that your dissertation will be marked as zero, and you will be invited in for a meeting and either invited to confess to plagiarism and/or asked to rewrite your work. Make sure it is in alphabetical order and it looks exactly as the style guide says it needs to be. There are numerous online guides on bibliographic formatting, in addition to your institutions.

If that all seems like far too much to be doing, let us format it for you, it is so important that you get it right and we can put your mind at ease.

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