Tips for Completing the Specialist Thesis or Project

Students in doctoral programs must demonstrate evidence of a high degree of scholarship, competence in scholarly exposition and ability to select, organize and apply knowledge through a dissertation.  “Guidelines for Preparing the Dissertation” as developed and enhanced by the Graduate Faculty of Jackson State University, provides examples of best practices concerning format standards that must be met before it receives final approval by the Division of Graduate Studies.

The unit highlights items from Chapter 3:  Technical Details.  It is not meant to replace the “Guidelines for Preparing the Specialist Thesis/Project”
Each student should obtain a copy of the “Guidelines for Preparing the Specialist Thesis”  for full details.


  1. Initial Steps
  2. Preliminary Items
  3. Text and End Items
  4. Approval Process
  5. Closing Comments
  6. Sample Pages

Initial Steps

1. Dissertation :Committee Approval Form—    (Click here for a copy of the form)

  • This form is essential for students who are writing a dissertation.  It is established policy that the student selects his/her advisor with consent of the department chair.  The advisor assists the student in the formation of a dissertation committee of at least four other graduate faculty members. This form documents the constitution of a student’s committee and approval of the student’s research proposal by the student’s committee.
  • The signatures of the committee members indicate their willingness to serve on your committee and their approval of the proposal.  After all the signatures have been obtained, file this form with the Division of Graduate Studies.
  • This form must be filed BEFORE you start your research.

2. Institutional Review Board (IRB) and Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC)

  • If your proposed research involves human subjects, it must be approved by the Jackson State University Institutional Review Board, (IRB).
  • If your proposed research involves animals, it must be approved by the JSU Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee
  • A full explanation of the procedures and Federal Guidelines are available from the JSU Office of Research Compliance.

3.  Proposal.

The Division of Graduate Studies does not specific the content or style required for a proposal. Please consult the chairperson of your committee.

Arrangement of Preliminary Items in the Dissertation.

Title Page………….Required……..counted as page “i”, but not numbered.
Approval Page……. Required…. …counted as page “ii”, but not numbered.
Copyright Page…… Optional…….. no page number.
Dedication Page……Optional………no page number.
Table of Contents….Required………Must be numbered as page “iii”.
List of Tables…….. If needed………Small Roman numeral.
List of Figures……..If needed………Small Roman numeral.
Acknowledgements..Required………Small Roman numeral
Abstract……………Required………counted as page, but not numbered.

  1. Title Page:  This page is assigned the Roman numeral “i”, although the number does not appear.  The date used is the month and year of commencement.  The page must be spaced EXACTLY as shown in Appendix A of the “Guidelines for Preparing the Doctoral Dissertation”.
  2. Approval Page:  Each copy of the dissertation must have an approval page using the exact wording and format shown on the sample page in Appendix A of the “Guidelines for Preparing the Doctoral Dissertation”. This sheet must be on the same brand and weight of paper as the remainder of the dissertation.  Although the page may be a copy,  THE COMMITTEE SIGNATURES MUST BE ORIGINAL.  Black ink is required for the original signatures.  (Use of ink of other color will result in the dissertation being returned.)  Approval pages are not numbered.
  3. Table of Contents:  The first page of the Table of Contents must be “iii”.  Other pages are numbered consecutively.  The page number is centered at the bottom of the page.  Chapter or Section Titles, References, Appendix(es) and Vita must be included. Although it is not necessary to include all levels of headings, inclusion must be consistent.  If a particular level is included at any point, all headings of that level must be included. This page should have a 2 inch top margin.
  4. Abstract:  The abstract is a brief summary of the problem and the results of the research.  The abstract of a dissertation should be concise review of the work and must not exceed 600 words.
    This page is numbered for the Table of Contents, but the page number must not appear on the page.  This page should have a 2 inch top margin.


Refer to the style manual required by your department for items not discussed in the “Guidelines for Preparing the Doctoral Dissertation”.

  • Font
    • The recommend font is Times Roman, size 12.
  • Line Spacing
    • Standard double spacing is used for the document text.  Most style manuals require single spacing for long quotations and  bibliographic entries (double spacing should be used between entries).
  • Margins
    • Left:  1.5 inches (this allows for binding)
    • Right and Bottom: 1 inch
    • Top:  Start of major section = 2 inches,  all other pages = 1 inch.
  • Page Numbers
    • The first page of the text section must be ‘1’.
    • Pages are numbered consecutively beginning with 1 continuing to the end of the document.
    • Page numbers for the start of each Chapter or major section are placed in the center bottom position (1 inch or 7 lines up from the bottom).
    • Page numbers for all other pages must be placed one inch (line 7) from the top and even with the right margin.
    • No other numbering scheme is acceptable, the standard scheme may not be disrupted with insertions numbered, 10a, 10b, 10c, etc.

(Return to Contents)


  • Initial submission of the dissertation, for review by the committee, should be on “regular” paper.
  • After the corrections from the committee are made, the student will submit  five (5) unbound copies of the dissertation, on white, (at least) 20 pound, 25% rag, acid-free paper, paper.

End Items

  • Bibliography/List of References
    • The format for the citations should be that used by the appropriate style manual for the student’s department.
  • Appendix or Appendices
    • An appendix (or appendixes or appendices), if included, is preceded by a numbered page with the designation centered vertically and horizontally between the margins.
  • If IRB approval was required, a copy of YOUR approval letter must be included as an appendix.
  • Vita
    • A vita is written in narrative form or outline form and contains appropriate personal, academic and professional information. It is the last item in the manuscript and appears with no preceding separation page and no page number.

(Return to Contents)

Approval Process

  • Timeline:  The Division of Graduate Studies issues a calendar each year which indicates the LAST DAY for satisfying all graduation requirements.  The Division of Graduate Studies encourages students to complete all requirements well be for the deadline.  Click here for Dates and Deadlines.
  • Scheduling your Defense:  The chairperson of the committee for the candidate for a  doctoral degree, in concurrence with the other members of the committee, shall adhere to the following process.  The chairperson will notify the members of the committee, the Department Chair, the Dean of the College, the Dean of the Division of Graduate Studies and other appropriate persons of the place, date and time of the defense.
  • The Committee Report of Defense Results : is completed upon the successful defense of the dissertation before the student’s committee.  This form must be submitted prior to the submission of the Final Clearance for Graduation”. Click here for Dates and Deadlines.
  • The academic unit is responsible for binding copies of the final dissertation.  Two bound copies will be deposited in the University Library, one bound copy to the department and two bound copies will be returned to the student.  Students may request additional copies of the dissertation to be bound at their own expense.

Closing Comments

Submission of a dissertation should not be interpreted as approval.  Approval comes only after the document is read and the format reviewed for consistency with guidelines.  The final copy of the dissertation must be acceptable to all members of the committee as witnessed by the signatures on the approval page.

Student’s Responsibility

  • Choosing a chairperson following the policies & guidelines of the major department.
  • Choosing the members of the dissertation committee in conjunction with the chairperson following the policies & guidelines of the major department.
  • Meeting with the chairperson and setting a schedule for completion of the dissertation in a timely manner.
  • Keeping on schedule.
  • Turning in all dissertation material to chairperson typed in correct format.
  • Knowing and meeting all deadlines.
  • Filing all forms in a timely manner.

Advisor and Committee’s Responsibility

It is the chairperson’s and committee members’ responsibility to know policies, rules, and regulations of both the Division of Graduate Studies and the major department relative to the  process.

  • In addition the chair is also responsible for..
  • Ensuring that the student is aware of the rules, regulations and policies of the Division of Graduate Studies and the department.
  • Assisting the student in the formation of a committee.
  • Meeting with the student on a regular basis.
  • Keeping the scheduled appointments.
  • Ensuring that the student’s work is properly documented and not plagiarized.
  • Scheduling the prospectus hearing, if required, and the final defense of the dissertation.
  • Notifying the committee members and the Department chair of the place, time & date of the prospectus hearing.
  • Notifying the Graduate Dean, College Dean, Department chair and committee members of the place, time & date of the final defense.

Committee’s Responsibility

  • It is the committee members’ responsibility to …
  • Attend the prospectus hearing and final defense.
  • Read the student’s work throughout the writing process.
  • Provide written feedback for correcting and/or improving the dissertation.

Department Chair/Program Director’s Responsibility

It is the department chair/program director’s responsibility for knowing and enforcing policies, rules, and regulations of both the Division of Graduate Studies and department/program.

The chair/director is also responsible for….

  • Ensuring that the graduate faculty of the department/program know and adhere to the policies, rules and regulations of the Division of Graduate Studies.
  • Keeping the faculty abreast of rule, policy and procedure changes from the Division of Graduate Studies.
  • Serving as a liaison between the student and the advisor, if necessary.
  • Ensuring the dissertation advisor and all committee members are qualified to serve.

Sample Pages

Title Page Approval Page
Table of Contents Abstract
Sample Table Vita
Sample Figure