Abstract – A key feature of a thesis is the abstract, which is a short summary of the entire paper, ranging from 150-250 words. It summarizes the central question or questions explored in the thesis and explains their significance. The abstract is often the only text a publisher makes available for free viewing; therefore, its contents should be able to demonstrate to prospective readers the importance of the work, as well as entail an overview of the methodology, results, and conclusions.

AMA StyleThe AMA Manual of Style: A Guide for Authors and Editors is the style guide of the American Medical Association. It is the formatting style required for submission in many scientific, medical, and public health journals. It adopts a minimalist style appropriate for scientific writing for an educated audience, such as dropping periods after abbreviations and including specific sections for medical terminology and Greek letters. It also offers guidance for editors, including setting standards for mechanical style and formatting, but allows for fluctuation when necessary.

APA Style – The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association is a frequently used style guide in the arts and social sciences. The 6th edition, the most current, recommends two spaces after each sentence, double spacing of text, Roman numeral page numbers, and five sequential levels of headings.

Bibliography – An organized list of the authoritative sources cited in the text. Similar to the References list in APA and ASA style, and Works Cited in MLA style, a bibliography may include sources, such as journal articles, books, and Internet sources. Although the format may vary, the elements of a bibliography include the author and/or editors, title, publisher/location, and date of publication. For journal articles, elements include the author, article title, journal title, volume number, issue number, page numbers, and date of publication. In an annotated bibliography, a brief summary of the source cited follows each citation.

Block Quote – A long quotation (typically of 40 words or more), which is set apart from the text by indenting the block one additional half inch from each margin. No quotation marks are used and parenthetical citations are located after the final punctuation mark. Depending on the style manual, a block quotation might be either single or double spaced.

Capstone – A capstone project is a final project often required for completion of master’s, and some undergraduate programs. Through completion of a capstone project, students have the opportunity to apply the research skills, theory, and quantitative and qualitative methods they have learned over the course of their program. In line with a thesis or dissertation, a capstone usually requires the development of a proposal, including a hypotheses, literature review, and methods section, which needs to be approved by a committee or advisor. Types of capstone projects vary, but they may range from case studies to surveys to program evaluations.

Chart – A type of figure presenting data in graphic form.

Chicago Manual of Style – Also referred to as Chicago or CMOS, The Chicago Manual of Style, published by the University of Chicago Press is used in academic publishing, particularly in history, social science, and law journals. Many universities require students to write dissertations according to the Chicago style guidelines, or the Turabian style, which is similar and based on the CMOS. Chicago style allows authors flexibility, permitting a mix of citation styles, including in-text citations and footnotes or endnotes. The 16th edition includes expanded sections on electronic publishing and editing.

Citation – A citation is an acknowledgement of the contribution of another’s work or an authoritative source, appearing at the place in the text where words or ideas from the source are used. In-text citations, which typically take the form of parenthetical, author-date format citations, or footnotes, are often paired with a bibliographical list of references, also called “works cited,” to present all the relevant information about published or unpublished sources cited in the dissertation.

Copy Editing – Copy Editing is a form of editing in which an editor corrects for spelling, punctuation, grammar, syntax, and academic style. With this style of editing, the editor will also correct text and citations in accordance with the author’s preferred style manual.

Thesis – A final paper written as a requirement for a doctoral degree, a thesis is the culmination of a lengthy research project. A thesis typically consists of an introduction, a discussion of the study, a literature review, an overview of the methods, a presentation of the results, interpretation of the data, and conclusions. A proposal must first be approved, then the author conducts the research, writes the thesis, and submits the final paper for approval. Because universities often require a thesis to comply with specific style guides and formatting rules, authors may choose to engage a professional editor.

Endnote – A system of referencing sources in which a superscript numeral is placed following quoted or paraphrased material and a corresponding superscript numeral is placed in a separate Endnotes or Notes section at the end of the document. The reference at the end of the text contains a formatted bibliographic citation to the authority, the source of the words or idea quoted or paraphrased in the text. Depending on the style manual, references in the endnotes may be formatted differently than in the bibliography or “References” section. Works previously cited may be abbreviated in subsequent endnotes.

EndNote SoftwareEndNote is a computer program produced by ThomsonReuters to assist authors with references and bibliographies when writing academic papers. Authors can add references to an EndNote library manually, or by exporting or importing files from bibliographic databases. The software applies the specified citation format.

Figure – Visual representation of information inserted into a thesis or dissertation, such as a chart, graph, visual depiction of a model or theory, and photographs, which supplement the dissertation text. The title and caption go beneath the figure. When necessary, particularly for graphs, a legend should explain the meanings of symbols, abbreviations, and terminology used in the figure.

Footnote – A system of referencing sources in an academic paper in which a superscript numeral is placed following quoted or paraphrased material and a corresponding superscript numeral is placed at the bottom of the text of the page. The reference at the foot of the text contains a formatted bibliographic citation to the authority, the source of the words or idea quoted or paraphrased in the text. Depending on the style, references in the footnotes may be formatted differently than in the bibliography or “References” section. Works previously cited may be abbreviated in subsequent footnotes.

Graph – A visual representation of data, usually inserted as a figure, this image should efficiently display relationships or trends in the data, such as comparisons and distributions. Types of graphs include scatter plots, line graphs, bar graphs, pictorial graphs, and pie graphs. Authors can use SPSS, Microsoft Excel, R, Amos, or other statistical analysis software to help create graphs.

Header – Used for continuity and to make a document easier to read, this is the space between the bottom edge of the top margin and the top of the physical page in which the running head and the page number are located in a dissertation. Each header can be linked to the previous header. If a header on a particular page or in a particular section needs to be unique, section breaks can be inserted using word processing software to make changes to the header on one page but not the next.

Heading – A system of using font style and formatting to subdivide the body of the text and label each section to form the outline of the dissertation. Different style manuals have different guidelines for headings. For example, the American Psychological Association 7th Edition sets out five specific heading levels, whereas the Chicago Manual of Style allows the author to use his or her own system as long as consistency is maintained. Universities may provide their own dissertation formatting guidelines, which establish guidelines for headings that vary from the standard style guides. Dissertation authors and editors can use built-in word processing headings software to format entries, mark them as specific headings styles and add them to a custom table of contents.

Line Editing – Line editing is a more detailed form of editing than copy editing and proofreading. Line editing includes corrections to grammar, punctuation, spelling, syntax, style, and formatting, which is included with copy editing, but with line editing, the editor actively works to improve the author’s writing by suggesting changes to the text that will improve flow, readability, scholarly tone, and the strength of your argument. Line editing can range from light to heavy editing, depending on the degree to which the editor must be involved in reworking sentences. To some extent, the editor may also suggest changes in the overall organization of the dissertation to improve the flow and structure of the argument.

Literature Review – A section towards the beginning of the thesis where the author reviews the significant contributions of other researchers in their field. The literature review is often framed with the intention of highlighting the relevance of the research questions proposed in the thesis and identifying gaps in the current literature.

Methodology – A section in an academic paper where the author describes exactly how the research was carried out. In this section, the author discusses whether quantitative, qualitative, or a mixed-method approach was most appropriate to the study, explains how the data was collected, any relevant ethical considerations (anonymity, consent, data preservation, etc.). An independent researcher should be able to replicate a study based on detailed information in the methodology section.

MLA StyleThe MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing published by the Modern Language Association of America is the style guide primarily used for graduate dissertations and publication by students and authors in the humanities; particularly English and other modern languages, and literature.

Pagination – The system of rules setting out how dissertation content is divided into discrete pages (i.e. where page breaks fall), and determining the format and location of page numbers in a thesis.

Paraphrasing – Paraphrasing involves presenting information from an original source into a thesis using your own words. Paraphrasing can be used to present information from an original source more briefly, or in a manner more relevant to the specific context of the dissertation compared to a direct quote. However, as with a direct quote, or any other use of another’s ideas in one’s own work, authors should mark instances of paraphrasing using the proper in-text citation method and include the original source in the references or works cited list.

Plagiarism – Plagiarism is the passing off of another’s work or ideas as one’s own. This includes paraphrasing another’s ideas without giving the appropriate credit or citing the original source. In academia, plagiarism is a type of academic dishonesty or fraud, which can result in serious consequences, including expulsion. Many institutions utilize plagiarism detection software to identify instances of borrowing or copying from existing works. In journalism, plagiarism is an ethical (and possibly contractual) breach, which can result in the termination of one’s employment.

Primary Source – The original source of information about a topic, a primary source is a type of evidence or material that was created at the time that is the subject of study and has not been altered in any way. A primary source can be any type of object or document, including writings, paintings, or other art, that gives information about the time in which it was created. In journalism, a primary source can also be a person with first-hand knowledge of an event, or a document or other evidence created by that person.

Prospectus – A prospectus is a description of the author’s research project, which typically needs to be approved by your advisor/committee before embarking on the thesis or dissertation. The prospectus is a preliminary document, which describes the proposed topic for the dissertation, highlights the relevance of the topic, and includes an outline of how the researcher plans to carry out the project.

Qualitative Methodology – Methods used to gather narrative or anecdotal details to explain the how and why of particular behavior or phenomena. In social science, qualitative methods are often paired with quantitative methods to flesh out, and give reasoning and depth to empirical data. The specific utility of qualitative data is limited to the cases studied, but the information gathered through qualitative methods can produce more generalized propositions to explain broader behavior. Open-ended survey questions and interviews are examples of qualitative methods.

Quantitative Methodology – Any method of research that seeks to answer a research question using processes of measurement. Quantitative methods seek to express empirical results using numerical data. Formulae and equations can be used to manipulate empirical results such as survey data to find meaning and draw conclusions in the process of analysis or interpretation. Tables and figures are often used to express quantitative data efficiently.

Running Head – The running head is an abbreviation of the dissertation title that appears in the header of every page of the thesis within the top margin. It is typed in all caps, left justified, and should be no longer than 50 characters (including spaces and punctuation). On the first page, the words Running head and a colon precede the running head.

Scholarly Tone – A manner of writing suitable for academic papers that maintains an awareness of the likely audience. Authors employing scholarly tone use clear, professional diction, avoid contractions and colloquialisms, and include brief, explanatory phrases, when necessary, so their writing is easily understood by individuals with limited understanding of the topic, rather than applicable only to experts in the authors’ field.

Secondary Source – Unlike primary sources, secondary sources are written after an event has occurred, or after the time under study. They analyze primary accounts to offer commentary and perspectives, and to support or disprove theories about the time, period, or event.

Source – A source is an embodiment of information. It can be a person (as in an interview), a document, a recording, or an object, such as a painting, that provides information an author may rely upon for research. In a thesis, the author must cite all sources they use, both in the text, according to the format specified in the appropriate style guide (often author-date parenthetical citation format) and in a separate section at the end of the dissertation.

Summary – A concluding paragraph or subsection at the end of each chapter or section in a thesis in which the author recaps the main ideas of the chapter, relates these concepts back to the main question under study, discusses any relevance to any hypotheses proposed, and transitions to the next chapter.

Synthesis – The concept of how a particular idea explored in a thesis fits into the larger related scheme or field of study. In synthesis writing, the author will draw out the main ideas of previous works or theorists, discuss and analyze them, and synthesize common themes or subtopics to connect these concepts to the topic of their paper. This understanding of the greater body of knowledge in which the thesis is situated, and the prior studies and theories on which it is based, provides a sense of what the dissertation will contribute to the wider field, and thus gives meaning and relevance to the research question under study.

Table – A visual means of clearly and succinctly presenting data organized into labeled columns and rows. Tables should not be used to repeat data already presented in the text. Rather, tables should be used to supplement the text, to present a large amount of data efficiently so that it can be read and absorbed quickly. The title and description caption of the table are situated above the graphic. When necessary, general, specific, and probability notes are included below the table in that order.

Title Case – A capitalization style in which most words are capitalized, used for titles of references when they appear in the text of a paper, titles of inventories or tests, titles of periodicals, the title of your own paper and named sections within it, and Level 1 & 2 headings. All words of four letters or more are capitalized. All principal words are capitalized (nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and pronouns), as is the first word of the title/heading and the subtitle/heading.

Turabian – Named after the original author of the book A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, Kate L. Turabian, this formatting style is similar to the Chicago Manual of Style. However, there are some minor differences, as Turabian style is designed specifically for theses and dissertations, whereas the Chicago Manual of Style is used primarily for publication.

Vancouver Style – The Vancouver reference style, or the Vancouver system, also sometimes called the author-number system, is a citation style often used in the physical sciences and medical field. PubMed and the AMA reference style are two examples of the Vancouver reference style. The most current version of the Vancouver style can be found in Citing Medicine: The NLM Style Guide for Authors, Editors, and Publishers, the style guide of the US National Library of Medicine (NLM).


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