Structure of Theses and Dissertations

This document describes UBC's structural and formatting requirements for both master's theses and doctoral dissertations. For brevity, the term “thesis” is used here to include both types of document.

Failure to comply with all thesis specifications and formatting requirements may delay your graduation. Unless the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies has given consent in advance, theses that do not comply with these specifications will not be approved.

Elements in a thesis must appear in the following order:

1. Title page (required)

2. Committee Page (Required)

Effective May 1 2018, all theses and dissertations must include a page that lists the supervisory committee, and if applicable, the examining committee.

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. You should confirm with your External Examiner whether or not they wish to be included.

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 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.

Note on authorship:
Students are sole authors of their theses. You may have co-authors on parts or versions of the thesis that have or will be submitted for publication, but a supervisory committee's work in assisting students with their research and thesis writing is not considered to be co-authorship.

Note on grammar:
Please pay attention to the difference between the following:
"Chapter 1 was written by me" is correct. It means "I wrote Chapter 1".
"Chapter 1 was written by myself" is not correct, unless you mean you wrote it all alone with no-one else around.
"Myself" is a reflexive pronoun and is not a synonym for "me". Please look this up in order to ensure that your preface is grammatically correct.

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 illustrations (required if document has illustrations)

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?”

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

11. Glossary (optional)

12. Acknowledgements (optional)

Students may include a brief statement acknowledging the contribution to their research and studies from various sources, including (but not limited  to)

  • Their research supervisor and committee,
  • Funding agencies,
  • Professional or community collaborators,
  • Fellow students, and
  • Family and friends.

13. Dedication (optional)

14. Document Body

The text of the thesis must contain the following elements, presented to conform to the standards and expectations of the relevant academic discipline. In some cases, the ordering of these ingredients may differ from the one shown here.

A. Introduction. The thesis must clearly state its theme, hypotheses and/or goals (sometimes called “the research question(s)”), and provide sufficient background information to enable a non-specialist scholar to understand them. It must contain a thorough review of relevant literature, perhaps in a separate chapter.

B. Research/Scholarship Chapters. The account of the scholarly work should be presented in a manner suitable for the field. It should be complete, systematic, and sufficiently detailed to enable a reader to understand how the data were gathered and analyzed, and how to apply similar methods in another study. Notation and formatting must be consistent throughout the thesis, including units of measure, abbreviations, and the numbering scheme for tables, figures, footnotes, and citations. One or more chapters may consist of material published (or submitted for publication) elsewhere, or other artifacts (e.g., film, application-oriented documents) placed in a scholarly context. See “Including Published Material in a Thesis or Dissertation” for additional details.

C. Conclusion. In this section the student must demonstrate his/her mastery of the field and describe the work's overall contribution to the broader discipline in context. A strong conclusion includes the following:

  • Conclusions regarding the goals or hypotheses presented in the Introduction,
  • Reflective analysis of the scholarly work and its conclusions in light of current knowledge in the field,
  • Comments on the significance and contribution of the scholarship reported,
  • Comments on strengths and limitations of the research/scholarship,
  • Discussion of any potential applications of the findings, and
  • A description of possible future research directions, drawing on the work reported.

A submission's success in addressing the expectations above is appropriately judged by experts in the relevant discipline. Students should rely on their research supervisors and committee members for guidance. Doctoral students should also take into account the expectations articulated in the University's “Instructions for Preparing the External Examiner's Report”.

15. Bibliography (mandatory)

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

16. Appendices

Appendices must be limited to supporting material genuinely subsidiary to the main argument of the work. They must only include material that is referred to in the document.

Material suitable for inclusion in appendices includes the following:

  • Additional details of methodology and/or data
  • Diagrams of specialized equipment developed
  • Copies of questionnaires or surveys used in the research
  • Scholarly artifacts (e.g., film and other audio, visual, and graphic representations, and application-oriented documents such as policy briefs, curricula, business plans, computer and web applications, etc.) not included in the body of the thesis

Do not include copies of the Ethics Certificates in the Appendices.

Material supplemental to the thesis but not appropriate to include in the appendices (e.g., raw data, original plan for research and analyses, audio or video files) can be archived in cIRcle as Supplementary Material.