Structure and Style of Theses and Dissertations

Each student and their supervisory committee should work together to determine the scholarly scope and most appropriate structure of the thesis, keeping in mind scholarly standards within their fields and professional objectives of the student.

As forms of scholarship continue to evolve, so do the possibilities for how a body of scholarly work can be expressed. Theses at UBC can include many forms of knowledge production and scholarly representation. Some examples are:

  • a fully unified textual volume, similar to a scholarly book
  • a series of published or publication-ready manuscripts with synthesis
  • inclusion of scholarly professional artefacts such as policy papers or curriculum plans, for example, along with description and analysis
  • a compendium of multimedia works with written description and analysis

Within this flexibility of structure, there remain several elements that must be included in each thesis or dissertation, and specifications to be followed, in order to enable consistent standards and proper archiving.

In addition to the preliminary materials described below, all theses should include an introduction to the subject, a critical analysis of the relevant prior scholarly work, a description of the scholarly methods, a presentation of the results, and a discussion and summary of the results and their implications. Knowledge dissemination products or modes can be incorporated as appropriate.

As appropriate, representation of the research results or methodologies may take a variety of forms, including scholarly publications or submissions (manuscripts), scholarly text, creative text, graphics, audio/visual products, or web pages,  Additional knowledge translation or dissemination products or descriptions of activities can be incorporated, such as policy briefs, lay or professional publications, syllabi, or outlines of workshops or exhibits.

Every thesis will have a PDF component that includes at least the following elements:

  1. Title page
  2. Committee page
  3. Abstract
  4. Lay summary
  5. Preface
  6. Table of contents, and/or a List of all submitted files (if there are files in addition to the PDF)


1. Title page (required)

2. Committee Page (Required)

The committee page:

  • is the second page of the thesis and is numbered ii
  • lists all examining committee members and supervisory committee members, along with their titles, departments, and universities or organizations
  • does not include signatures
  • is not listed in the table of contents

See Resources for Thesis Preparation and Checking for examples and templates.

Doctoral students: Please include this page in the copy for the External Examiner, with your supervisory committee entered. If you know which members of the committee will be on the Examining Committee you can include them there; otherwise, they can go under Additional Supervisory Committee Members.

Doctoral students post-defence: Please remember to update the committee page before final post-defence submission if necessary.

3. Abstract (required - maximum 350 words)

The abstract is a concise and accurate summary of the scholarly work described in the document. It states the problem, the methods of investigation, and the general conclusions, and should not contain tables, graphs, complex equations, or illustrations. There is a single scholarly abstract for the entire work, and it must not exceed 350 words in length.

4. Lay Summary (required - maximum 150 words)

The lay or public summary is a simplified version of the abstract that explains the key goals and contributions of the research/scholarly work in terms that can be understood by the general public. it does not use technical terms and discipline-specific language. It must not exceed 150 words in length.

5. Preface (required)

Sample Prefaces

The Preface includes a statement indicating the student's contribution to the following:

  • Identification of the research question(s)
  • Design of the research work
  • Performance of the research
  • Analysis of the research results

If any of the work was collaborative, the above statement must also detail the relative contributions of all collaborators, including the approximate proportion of the research, analysis, and writing/representation conducted by the student.

If any of the work has led to any publications, submissions, or other dissemination modes, all should be listed in the Preface. For publications, the title of the article, the names and order of all co-authors, and the journal details (if accepted or published) should be included, and linked to the related chapter or portion of the thesis. For further details, see “Including Published Material in a Thesis or Dissertation”.

If any of the work is intended for publication but has not yet been published, you may say whether or not it has been submitted. Do not say where it has been submitted, as if it is not accepted for publication that information will be misleading.

If the work includes other scholarly artifacts (such as film and other audio, visual, and graphic representations, and application-oriented documents such as policy briefs, curricula, business plans, computer and web tools, pages, and applications, etc.) that have been published or otherwise publicly disseminated or that have co-authors, they must be listed in the Preface (with bibliographical information, including information on co-creators, if applicable).

If ethics approval was required for the research, the Preface must list the Certificate Number(s) of the Ethics Certificate(s) applicable to the project.

In a thesis where the research was not subject to ethics review, produced no publications, and was designed, carried out, and analyzed by the student alone, the text of the Preface may be very brief. Samples are available on this website and in the University Library's online repository of accepted theses.

The content of the Preface must be verified by the student's supervisor, whose endorsement must appear on the final Thesis/Dissertation Approval form.

Acknowledgements, introductory material, and a list of publications do not belong in the Preface. Please put them respectively in the Acknowledgements section, the first section of the thesis, and the appendices.

6. Table of contents (required)

7. List of tables (required if document has tables)

8. List of figures (required if document has figures)

9. List of Submitted Files (Required if additional files are submitted with the PDF)

10. List of illustrations (advisable if applicable)

If you remove copyrighted tables, figures, or illustrations from your thesis you must insert the following at the spot where the table, figure, or illustration previously appeared:

  • A statement that the material has been removed because of copyright restrictions
  • A description of the material and the information it contained, plus a link to an online source if one is available
  • A full citation of the original source of the material

See the UBC Library Copyright Educational Resources: Theses and Dissertations Guide “Unable to get Permission?

11. Lists of symbols, abbreviations or other (advisable if applicable)

12. Glossary (optional)

13. Acknowledgements (optional)

This may include statements acknowledging support and contributions from various sources, including the student’s research supervisor and committee, research participants, colleagues, friends, and family members. IMPORTANT: Please ensure that everyone you mention in your Acknowledgements understands and accepts that their name will be appearing online in an open-access document.

Any funding for the research should be listed here.

14. Dedication (optional)

15-17. Thesis Body: Introduction, Research Chapters, Conclusion (Usually required unless the thesis consists only of multimedia)

This contains the comprehensive contextualization, methods, findings, analysis and implications of the scholarly work. These components can be organized and expressed in a manner that the student and their supervisory committee deems to be most appropriate to the work, to the student and their objectives, and to the relevant disciplines.

In many cases the thesis will be organized in chapters, while for others (especially those including creative and/or other modes of expression) it may take different forms. The different elements should be divided appropriately (and indicated as such in the Table of Contents) to enable ease of review. The thesis should be presented in a manner that enables a cohesive understanding of the work and which is credible within the field. In all cases, certain elements are required:

Introductory content. This must clearly state its theme, topics, hypotheses and/or goals and provide sufficient background information to enable a non-specialist in the subject matter to understand them. It must contextualize the topic and questions within a thorough review of relevant literature and/or other foundational scholarship

Research/Scholarship methodologies, findings, products. The account and products of the scholarly work should be complete and sufficiently detailed to enable a reader to understand how the work was carried out and analyzed, and how to apply similar methods in another study.

Analysis and summary content. This should include a reflective analysis of the scholarly findings and/or products, integrated into the context of the thesis subject to demonstrate how the thesis leads to new understandings and contributions. The work’s potential (or actual) impact, its limitations, and its significance should be outlined.

18. Bibliography (mandatory except for MFA and MMUS)

There must be only one Bibliography or References section for the whole thesis.

19. Appendices (Optional)

These consist of supporting material that is not integral to the understanding of the work and/or easily incorporated into the thesis body, potentially including additional methodological details or data, copies of surveys used, etc. They must be referred to in the document.