Before beginning

Permission to write the thesis

In the normal course of events during the student's Program of Studies, it will become evident to the research supervisor and other members of the Advisory Committee that the student's research progress is sufficient to indicate that the writing of the thesis ought to commence.  Permission to write the thesis is given by the Advisory Committee when there is general agreement that sufficient work on the research project has been carried out. 

This will normally occur after:

  • All course work and required examinations are completed;
  • The thesis topic has been approved by the Advisory Committee;
  • The results of research findings are available. 

Students should seek guidance from their supervisor regarding the use of a style manual appropriate to the academic discipline in which they are working, as well as other guides needed to write correctly and effectively.

Academic Writing

The HUB Lab offers a self-guided course on graduate writing. The course is offered through Canvas and covers: 

  • Key features of good writing 
  • Writing as a process 
  • Plagiarism and patchwork plagiarism 
  • The consequences of academic dishonesty
  • Key resources for writing on the USask campus 

If you are interested, you can self-enroll! 

Hub Lab




Form and style will differ from department to department and from discipline to discipline. The main point to keep in mind is to have consistency of form and style throughout the thesis. 

Departments and colleges are expected to provide students with titles of style manuals on thesis writing which they currently approve. The style selected must be maintained throughout the thesis. 

Accepted rules of grammar must be followed, and forms of spelling and punctuation must be used with consistency. That chosen may be Canadian, American or British, as approved by the Advisory Committee. 

Suggestions for assistance in writing clear, correct and concise prose are:

  1. The Canadian Style: A Guide to Writing and Editing and
  2. Clear, Correct, Creative: A Handbook for Writers of Academic Prose.

At the option of the student in consultation with the Advisory Committee, (foot)notes or a keyed bibliography or both may be used for references.  It is the responsibility of the student, the supervisor, and the Advisory Committee to ensure before the thesis is approved to go to the oral examination that typographical errors have been eliminated and punctuation corrected and that the language of the thesis reflects the finest standards of correct, scholarly expression.

Each page in the thesis must be numbered consecutively, except for the title page.  Page numbering should be centered at bottom, with lower case Roman numerals used for the prefatory pages. All remaining pages of the thesis, beginning with the introduction (Chapter One) should be numbered consecutively in Arabic numerals consistent text font style and size (11pt or 12pt is appropriate).

Landscape-oriented pages must have the page number situated in the same place as if it were a portrait-oriented page.  That is, that the numbers will line up at the bottom of the page as in a bound copy of the thesis or dissertation.

All margins of your thesis are to be set at 2.5 cm (1 inch).  These margins apply to all thesis and dissertation material, including appendices, diagrams, maps, photographs, charts, tables, and others.  All chapters should begin on a new page and should have a top margin of 2 inches (5cm), with the page number centered at the bottom.

Line spacing should be either single or one and a half (1.5).  Your committee may prefer the working paper drafts to be double spaced for editing purposes, but smaller line spacing is easier to read on a computer screen.

For best readability, normal body text should be sized to twelve-point (12pt).  The style should be Times or Roman family font.  Chapter titles and section subheadings may be bolded or have a different-sized text font (either 12pt or 14pt).  The same font and size must be used throughout the thesis, although boldface type for headings and italics for emphasis is permitted.

Each subsection in a chapter should be numbered and arranged in a manner so as to maximize clarity for the reader. The following format is suggested:

.....1. Marbles
........1.1 Introduction to Marbles
........1.2 Marble Colours
...........1.2.1 Blue Marbles
...........1.2.2 Red Marbles

The numbering system used for different sections denotes the following: the first number refers to the chapter number, the second number refers to the primary section number, and the third number refers to the secondary section number. Thus, the number 2.4.1 denotes chapter 2, primary section 4, secondary section 1.  

Each equation in a chapter is to be numbered consecutively using a decimal system appearing flush with the right-hand margin. For example:

y = mx + b ...................................................................................................................(5.1)

The numbers in parentheses are the chapter number and equation number respectively. Every new symbol used in the thesis text for the first time must be explained. When a large number of special symbols are used, it is permissible to collect them in a table or in a special appendix.

Following the advice of their supervisor, students may use any appropriate combination of footnotes at the bottom of pages in the text, endnotes at the end of each chapter, and direct reference to the bibliography. The method chosen must be used consistently throughout the thesis. The font used in notes should be the same in form and size as that used in the text.

Any change in the level of the argument, such as a change in the rigor, a change in terms of empirical content, or definitions of key words or concepts should be put in the form of a note.  Any cross referencing of the material contained either in the main body or in appendices should also be indicated with the help of a note.

The general place of a footnote is beneath the text, leaving one double space, a solid line extending approximately five (5) centimeters from the left-hand margin is drawn. The footnote number as shown in the text appears one single space below this line. The first line is indented. One half space below and one space to the right, the text of the footnote is typed using a single spaced format. Footnote numbering must be done consecutively and separately for each chapter.

Endnotes should appear at the end of each chapter. They should be single spaced with double spaces left between notes. Endnote numbering must be done consecutively and separately for each chapter.

Arrangement of Contents

The title page should contain the following information:

  • Title of the thesis;
  • Name of the College of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies;
  • Name of the degree for which the thesis is submitted;
  • Name of the academic unit;
  • Name of the institution;
  • Full name of the author;
  • Copyright notation, reflecting month and year of successful defence;
  • Students should include the following language: Unless otherwise noted, copyright of the material in this thesis belongs to the author.

No other information should appear. Keywords and the supervisor's name should not appear on the title page.

A thesis will be a valuable source for other scholars only if it can be located easily. To locate a thesis, modern retrieval systems use the words in the title and sometimes a few other descriptive words. It is essential that the title be meaningful and descriptive of the content of the work.

If possible, students should use word substitutes for formulae, symbols, superscripts, subscripts, Greek letters, etc. The title as it appears on the thesis certification page, title page, and thesis cover must be identical.

When planning the title of their theses, students should bear in mind that most bookbinders charge extra for overly long titles.

Students hold the copyright to their thesis.  To remind readers that the thesis is protected by copyright, a statement outlining the permission to use under specifically stated conditions and indicating the address of the position, department, or college to which requests for such permission should be sent will immediately follow the Title Page.  This page should reflect the addresses of the student’s department in addition to the College of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies.

As a condition for the award of the degree, the author is required to give permission to the University Library to make the thesis available for inspection and to permit copying of the thesis in any manner, in whole or in part, for scholarly purposes only. 

Reference in a thesis or dissertation to any specific commercial product, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise, does not constitute or imply its endorsement, recommendation, or favouring by the University of Saskatchewan. The views and opinions of the author do not state or reflect those of the University of Saskatchewan, and shall not be used for advertising or product endorsement purposes. The Disclaimer statement is required when there are proprietary brand names etc. used in the thesis/dissertation.

The abstract should identify clearly and succinctly the purpose of the research, the methods used, the results obtained and the significance of the results or findings. A maximum of 350 words (1 word = 5 letters or spaces) is suggested for the Abstract.  A figure or figures may be included in the abstract.

The content of this single page is left to the discretion of the author. It is suggested, however, that the page make reference:

  • To guidance received by the author from his or her supervisor and Advisory Committee members;
  • To any financial assistance received to carry out the project;
  • To any extraordinary assistance received by the student, for example in word processing, data collection, data analysis, and so on.

The acknowledgements should not exceed 250 words.

Where a thesis includes a "substantial part" of a work or other proprietary material in the thesis, permission from the rights-holder must be obtained.  This should be included as a separate appendix.  No signatures should be included. 

Students must be aware that obtaining this permission may take some time and may require a fee.  Allowance must be made for this.

Inclusion of a dedication is permitted.

The Table of Contents must list and provide page references for all numbered elements of the thesis and indicate chapters, sections, and important subdivisions of each section. 


  • The numbering and format of material in the table of contents must be identical to the way this material appears in the text of the thesis. 
  • The title of each chapter or section may be written in full capitals with no terminal punctuation. 
  • The title of a subdivision of a chapter or section should be in small letters, with the exception of the first letter of significant words. 
  • Dots between titles and page numbers are optional. 
  • Page numbers should be right-justified.

Layout of a Table 

  • Each table has a number and a title. The first number refers to the chapter number and the second refers to the table number in that chapter.
  • The number and title of the table should appear at the top of the table.
  • Tables must conform to the margin requirements of the thesis format. They should be centered between the left- and right-hand margins and, as appropriate, between top and bottom.
  • It is strongly recommended that oversized tables be reduced by photocopying in such a way that they remain clearly legible. Tables should not be folded.
  • The title of the table should be as short as possible but should indicate the major focus of the table.
  • Ordinary rules of referencing and footnoting apply. The numbering of footnotes in the table is independent of that followed in the text.

List of Tables 

The list of tables follows the Table of Contents. This list includes the number of each table, the title, and the page number. It should have the same format as the Table of Contents.

Layout of a Figure

  • Each figure must have a figure number and a title.
  • Each figure has a number and a title. The first number refers to the chapter number and the second refers to the figure number in that chapter.
  • The number and title of the figure appear at the bottom of the figure in the figure legend.
  • Both axes of the figure must be properly labelled. If a figure shows more than one relationship, each relationship should be properly labelled with the appropriate axis.
  • Figures must conform to the margin requirements of the thesis format. They should be centered between the left- and right-hand margins and, as appropriate, between top and bottom.

List of Figures –

The list of figures follows the list of tables. This list includes the number of each figure, the title, and the page number. It should have the same format as the Table of Contents.  

  • This list includes all non-standard abbreviations used in the text of the thesis.
  • It follows the list of figures.

  • The method chosen to organize the body of the thesis should be discussed with your research supervisor. 
  • It is in the body of the thesis that the author presents and develops in an orderly fashion all relevant aspects of the research project for which the degree is to be granted. 
  • The recommended length of the main body of a Master's thesis is between 50 and 150 pages.
  • The recommended length of the main body of a Ph.D. thesis is between 150 and 300 pages.

The main body of a thesis should normally contain: 

  1. A statement of objectives;
  2. A critical review of the relevant literature;
  3. A theoretical framework;
  4. An analytical framework;
  5. Results;
  6. Discussion of results;
  7. Conclusions.

The nature, the relative size, and the placement of each one of these components will be determined by the problem under investigation and by the current practices in the discipline involved.

The components of the thesis should be decided by the student in consultation with his or her supervisor. Students and members of Advisory Committees are reminded that the purpose of a thesis is to give students the opportunity to demonstrate their ability to carry out a research project and to produce significant results.  Its purpose is not to produce definitive or exhaustive research on a subject.

Supervisors should counsel graduate students early in their program on the judicious selection of a manageable and suitable thesis topic. Research topics should be chosen so that time to completion is controlled: Master's degrees done full time, no more than five (5) years, Ph.D. degrees no more than six (6) years.

Appropriately credited references to other works may form an integral part of this presentation and are likely to take several forms: 

  1. The idea may be written in the student's own words with the original author referenced.
  2. A direct quotation of less than three lines may be incorporated into the text using quotation marks.
  3. If the quotation is more than three lines it should be arranged in the following format: indented one and one half (1.5) centimetres from the left margin and typed in a single space format without quotation marks. 
  4. Any borrowed thoughts or expressions, or use of non-original material, must be acknowledged and documented

The purpose of an appendix is to contain those research materials which are pertinent to the thesis, but which are not essential to an understanding of the work which the student has done.  The types of material which may be contained in an appendix are:

  • Proof of equations;
  • Raw data for analyses, figures, or tables;
  • Details of methods used on a specialized topic not of crucial importance to the discussion;
  • A lengthy debate on a topic of secondary importance to the issues discussed;
  • Computer programs;
  • Illustrative material.


  • Journal articles should not be included in the appendix.
  • Appendices should be numbered consecutively using capital letters of the alphabet. 
  • Pages of the appendices are numbered consecutively respecting the overall pagination of the thesis. 
  • Tables, if included, should be numbered A.1, A.2, etc.

The fundamental rule of good scholarship is that the basic research be complete, reliable, correct, with all sources duly acknowledged. The purposes of a reference are to acknowledge the contributions of other authors and to enable readers to locate sources easily. 


  • This list must contain every reference cited, mentioned or used in the text of the thesis. 
  • The references in this list should be arranged either alphabetically or numerically, in order cited in text. 
  • References not cited must not be listed in the bibliography. 
  • Departments and disciplines usually have a preference for the way in which references are cited. Students should consult with their supervisors or department heads to obtain information on the style manual approved by the department. 
  • The format used for references must be consistent throughout the thesis.                  

If electronic supplements are included, a brief description of their contents should appear as an appendix in the thesis.

Manuscript-Style Theses and Dissertations

With the permission of their research Advisory Committee, a student may submit a manuscript-style thesis in a style approved by the academic unit. A manuscript-style thesis is a document that includes one or more scholarly manuscripts written in a manner suitable for publication in appropriate venues.

What makes a good thesis?

The thesis serves as: 

  • Evidence that a student is able to describe, explain and defend the research work that he/ she has undertaken, and how it contributes to and furthers the knowledge within the discipline;
  • Description of why the research work was undertaken, justifies the methods used, and provides an interpretation and analysis of the results;
  • Preparation for the student to undertake further research in the field of study and to make significant contributions to the field of knowledge.

Check out HARVEST to see examples of successful theses. 

< Researching         4. DRAFTING         Defending >


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