The purpose of the thesis to to summarize and communicate your research to your student and faculty colleagues. To do so with integrity and clarity will document your work for future investigators while providing perspective for yourself.

The thesis should be complete but not verbose, be well illustrated including drawings or photographs of relevant equipment, and contain appropriate references to the literature. Below are some guidelines toward the construction of a scientific thesis manuscript.

Example Outline

  • Sample Title Page (.pdf)
  • Table of Contents
    List of Tables
    List of Figures
  • Acknowledgments (optional)
  • Abstract
  • Introduction and overview of literature
  • Background and Theory
  • Procedure
  • Results
  • Comparison with Theory and Discussion
  • Conclusion and Recommendations for further work
  • References (see the Physical Review Style Guide (.pdf) for proper form)
  • Appendices (optional - may contain computer programs, data sets, computer disks, etc.)


  • There are multiple options for mathematical typesetting, including (but not limited to) LaTeX.
  • Each of the sections in the above outline should begin on a new page.
  • Pages should be numbered sequentially.
  • Figures and Tables should be numbered sequentially, have self-contained captions, and appear in the text following (but near to) the first reference to them.
  • All statements of fact which are not common knowledge must be referenced (see "Plagiarism" in the Code of Academic Integrity of the Scot's Key. A thesis containing plagiarized material will result in an NC for 452.
  • Many science and engineering texts are traditionally written in the passive voice: "An interesting effect was observed" rather than "I observed an interesting effect". However, confusing and awkward constructions should be avoided and may benefit from personal pronouns.
  • Good references for form and style include:
    The Physical Review Style Guide (.pdf) (1983-2005).
    American Institute of Physics Style Manual (1990-1997).
    Kate L. Turabian, A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, 6th edition (University of Chicago Press, 1996).


  • The thesis must be printed at high resolution on 8.5 x 11" white paper.
  • Double-sided pages can be especially effective in achieving the look and ease-of-use of a book, but the paper must be thick and opaque.
  • The thesis should be bound so that it opens flat and is durable.
  • One thesis manuscript is for the advisor and a second is for the department. Double majors will need to print additional manuscripts.