Formatting Guidelines

Every dissertation that is uploaded to the digital deposit system is reviewed by the Dissertation Office for formatting. If there are any issues, the file will be returned to the student for revisions. Uploading the revised dissertation is a simple process. 

If you are aiming to deposit in time for a particular deadline, please upload the document several days in advance. This allows for any formatting issues to be identified and corrected. We do not accept dissertation files via email.  


All four margins of the page must be at least one inch, and the left and right margins should be equal. All material, including figures, tables, headers/footers, footnotes/endnotes, and images, must appear within the margins of the manuscript. Page numbers are the only exception; these must appear at least three quarters of an inch (3/4”) from the edge of the page, but can appear in the one-inch margin. Charts, graphs, and illustrations may be placed horizontally in order to conform to the margin requirements as long as they remain clear and legible—when this occurs, however, the page number must still appear "right-side up," matching the rest of the page numbers in the manuscript. Musical scores must have at least one-inch margins on each side.


The text, abstract, dedication, acknowledgments, and table of contents are double spaced. Normally, quotations of eight lines or more are indented and single spaced. Footnotes, endnotes, and bibliographic entries should be single spaced with double spacing between each entry.

Required Order and Page Numbering

All dissertations should be structured according to the table below. The three broad sections (cover pages, prefatory pages, and the main body and other pages) each have a different convention for page numbering; please see the more specific notes below the table.

Please pay careful attention to the requirements for page numbering, as they are necessary to ensure that your dissertation is properly formatted and prepared for possible printing.

Required Order Contents Page Numbering
Cover pages
and abstract

1. Title page
2. Copyright page
3. Abstract

No page numbers; pages are not counted
Prefatory pages 1. Table of contents    
2. List of charts, graphs, illustrations
3. Acknowledgments
4. Dedication
5. Preface (if applicable)
Lowercase Roman numerals beginning with "i" centered at the bottom of each page
Main body and
all other pages
1. Main body of the dissertation 
2. References and/or bibliography
3. Appendices (if applicable)
Arabic numerals beginning with "1" centered at the bottom of each page


Cover pages (title page, copyright page, abstract) are NOT numbered.

All prefatory pages are numbered continuously using lower-case Roman numerals (i, ii, iii...) centered at the bottom of the page.

All other pages, including the main body of the dissertation, references, bibliographies and appendices, are numbered continuously using Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3...), starting from the number "1." These page numbers should be centered at the bottom of each page; however, if you have formatted your dissertation according to the previous guidelines, placing the Arabic numerals at the top right corner of each page, we will still accept your dissertation deposit.

It is possible to set up section breaks in Microsoft Word to account for the three different types of page numbering while keeping the entire dissertation in one file.

Please note that any page that contains a large chart, graph or image that has a "landscape" orientation must still include a page number in the same location as all other pages. This page number should be placed so that, if the page is rotated to a "portrait" orientation, the number appears centered at the bottom. These individual pages may then be oriented "landscape" within your PDF file if you wish, to make them easier to read.

If a part of the dissertation is a reproduction that has already been paginated in another source (e.g., a journal article), page numbers must be added as described above, running continuously with page numbers in the rest of the dissertation.


The preferred fonts are 10-point Arial or 12-point Times New Roman; however, any legible serif or sans-serif standard font may be used, as long as it is roughly equivalent in size. Script or ornamental fonts should not be used. The font should be uniform throughout the text, although a separate font or a slightly smaller size may be used for footnotes, tables, graphs or appendices, pagination, the abstract, and the table of contents. All fonts must be embedded in the PDF file.

Title Page

In the title of your dissertation, use full proper names of people, organisms, places, etc. For example: "Samuel Clemens," not "S. Clemens"; Caenorhabditis elegans, not C. elegans. Spell out abbreviations, and use word substitutions for formulae, symbols, Greek characters, etc. For example: "Triassic," not "Tr."; "carbon dioxide," not "CO2"; "first," not "1st"; "delta," not "Δ". Use italics for the titles of other works or for the scientific name of an organism. Be sure to include all appropriate accent and diacritical marks.

Choose the relevant example to see how the information on your title page must be presented. There are differences in text for each one, so be sure to choose the correct example.

PhD in: Architecture
Biomedical Informatics
Cellular, Molecular & Biomedical 
   Studies (Integrated Program)
Chemical Physics
Classical Studies
Environmental Health Sciences
Neurobiology and Behavior
Nutritional and Metabolic Biology
Social Work
Sociomedical Sciences
Teachers College
   (all PhD programs) 
Urban Planning
Sample Page
PhD in: any other PhD program Sample Page
DMA Doctor of Musical Arts 
   (Department of Music)
Sample Page
DES Doctor of Engineering Science 
   (SEAS; this is not the PhD)
Sample Page
JSD Doctor of the Science of Law 
   (School of Law)
Sample Page


The year on the title page must be the calendar year in which the degree is conferred. This may in some cases differ from the year on the copyright page (see below).

Copyright Page

The copyright page should immediately follow the title page. Centered at the bottom of an otherwise blank page, there should be three lines, substituting your own name and the year the manuscript was completed:

© 20xx
Jane Smith
All rights reserved

Click here for an example page. The year on the copyright page should be the calendar year in which the manuscript was completed, and in certain cases this may differ from the year on your cover page. If, for example, you complete and deposit your dissertation in late October, November, or December, your degree will be conferred the following February. This means that your copyright page will have one year on it (the year in which the manuscript was completed) and the cover page will have the following year on it (the year in which the degree will be conferred).

While your dissertation will be as a rule made available openly through Academic Commons, Columbia's institutional repository, you may also wish to apply a Creative Commons license to your dissertation rather than a traditional copyright. For more information on how this works, please consult this page.

The copyright page should not have a page number, and is not counted toward the page count of your prefatory pages.

The Columbia Copyright Office is an excellent source of information about copyright.


The abstract page(s) should immediately follow the copyright page. At the top of the page should be the following header, substituting your own name and the title of your dissertation:


The Title of a Fantastic Dissertation about Very Important Things

Jane Smith

The abstract itself follows below. It should be double spaced, and there is no word limit. Do not include diagrams, images, abbreviations, or formulae in the abstract. Click here for an example page.

The abstract should not have a page number, and is not counted toward the page count of your prefatory pages.


Reference notes may be placed at the bottom of the page, at the end of the chapter, or at the end of the dissertation before the bibliography. Dissertations in the natural sciences and in some social sciences place citations to the reference or source material in parentheses throughout the text itself with a list of all references in the latter part of the work. The student should verify the desired footnote style with the advisor or the department/program.


The author should follow the leading manuals in his or her field regarding style unless it conflicts with the requirements set out in these instructions. Check with the advisor and department/program about their policies on style. Any quotations, references, and phrases in foreign languages should follow departmental or disciplinary style. GSAS recommends the most recent editions of these style manuals: Kate Turabian, A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, University of Chicago Press; MLA Style Sheet, New York Modern Language Association of America; The Chicago Manual of Style, University of Chicago Press; Publication Manual, American Psychological Association.

Dissertations Written in Foreign Languages

Students whose dissertations were approved to be written in a language other than English should consult this page.