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.

1. Title page (required)

2. 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.

3. Lay Summary (required - maximum 150 words)

Effective May 2017, all theses and dissertations must include a lay summary.

The lay or public summary 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.

4. Preface (required)

Sample Prefaces

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

  • Identification and design of the research program,
  • Performance of the various parts of the research, and
  • Analysis of the research data.

Certain additional elements may also be required, as specified below.

  • If any of the work presented in the thesis has led to any publications or submissions, all of these must be listed in the Preface. Bibliographic details should include the title of the article and the name of the publisher (if the article has been accepted or published), and the chapter(s) of the thesis in which the associated work is located.
  • If the work includes publications or material submitted for publication, the statement described above must detail the relative contributions of all collaborators and co-authors (including supervisors and members of the supervisory committee) and state the proportion of research and writing conducted by the student. 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.), all of these must be listed in the Preface (with bibliographical information, if applicable).
  • If ethics approval was required for the research, the Preface must name the responsible UBC Research Ethics Board, and report the project title(s) and 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 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.

5. Table of contents (required)

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

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

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

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

10. Glossary (optional)

11. 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.

12. Dedication (optional)

13. 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”.

14. Bibliography (mandatory)

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

15. 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) can be archived in cIRcle as Supplementary Materials.