Preparation of the thesis

Preparation of the thesis

The thesis must conform to the standards established by the University of Waterloo.  Copies of other students' theses should not be used as a guide in preparing the thesis.

Doctoral and master's theses can take various forms. The traditional thesis is a sole-authored document with various chapters (acceptable in all Departments/Schools). Some theses consist of a collection of papers which are published or submitted for publication (accepted in some but not all Departments/Schools). Some theses involve co-authored material (accepted in some but not all Departments/Schools). Students should consult with their Department/School prior to embarking on a thesis project, to understand clearly the form(s) permitted in their Department.

For the thesis which is not a sole-authored document, the University requirements are that the student has made the major contribution to the work, to the satisfaction of the examination committee. The student will include a Statement of contributions in the thesis. Best practice is that co-authors do not form the majority of the examining committee for doctoral theses or, the reading or examining committee for master's theses.

Regardless of the format of the thesis, all theses must follow the requirements for the Organization of the thesis below below – e.g. one single bibliography, continuous pagination.

Organization of the thesis

In order for the thesis to meet the standards of the University of Waterloo, it must be organized as follows.

Numbering of pages

  • All pages must have visible page numbers, centered at the bottom of the page.
  • Do not include page numbers on blank pages but ensure that the page is accounted for in the overall numbering of pages.
    • Front matter
      • The page number is omitted from the Title page, although it is considered page i.
      • Front matter pages are numbered with lower case Roman numerals, beginning with the Author's Declaration (page ii) following the title page.
    • Text (main body) and back matter
      • Arabic numerals are used for all pages in the Text (main body) and Back matter.
      • Each chapter/section must begin on a separate page.
      • The Text (main body) of the thesis begins with page number "1," placed in the centre at the bottom.
    • All pages in Text (main body) and back matter must be numbered consecutively.

Order of items

The organizational sequence must appear as follows:

Table of what to include in the front matter of a thesis
Front matter Page number Note
Title page  i


The page number should not be displayed, however, the title page counts as page one in the overall numbering of pages.

Examining committee membership (docx) ii PhD theses only
Author's declaration iii Required
Statement of contributions iv If applicable
Abstract v


The thesis should have only one abstract , located within the Front matter in the order indicated here
Acknowledgements vi Required
Dedication vii Optional
Table of contents viii Required
List of figures ix

If applicable

Each figure in the text must be numbered; if the title/caption of the figure cannot fit on the same page as the figure, the title/caption may appear on the previous page facing the figure
List of tables x

If applicable

    Each table in the text must be numbered; if the title/caption of the table cannot fit on the same page as the table, the title/caption may appear on the previous page facing the table
List of illustrations xi

If applicable

Each illustration in the text must be numbered; if the title/caption of the illustration cannot fit on the same page as the illustration, the title/caption may appear on the previous page facing the illustration
List of abbreviations xii If applicable
List of symbols xiii If applicable
Graphic or quote xiv

If applicable

Students may wish to enhance their thesis with either a graphic or meaningful quote.  These pages, if applicable, must appear as the last page of the front matter, immediately before the main body of the thesis

Text (main body) - footnotes (or endnotes) may be included in the text.

Note: Arabic numerals must begin on the first page of Text (main body) and continue through to the last page of the back matter.

Table of what to include in the back matter of a thesis
Back matter Note
Letter of copyright permission

If applicable

It is the student's responsibility to determine if letters of copyright permission are required
References (or Bibliography) Only one Reference (or Bibliography) section may appear within the thesis and must be located within the Back matter
Appendices If applicable
Glossary If applicable

If applicable

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Title page

 The author's name must appear as it does on the official student record in Quest.

The name of the degree must appear in full (e.g. Master of Applied Science, Master of Arts, Doctor of Philosophy).

The name of the discipline is the degree program in which the student is registered (e.g. Computer Science, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Recreation and Leisure Studies), not an option, department or school.

The universal copyright notice © must appear on the title page of the thesis. The copyright date is the year the thesis is accepted and submitted to UWSpace.

The format of the title page must be the same as the sample title page (pdf). Please see the following additional sample title pages for specific programs:

Author's declaration

The thesis must contain one of the two following statements on the Author’s Declaration page:

EITHER: “I hereby declare that I am the sole author of this thesis. This is a true copy of the thesis, including any required final revisions, as accepted by my examiners.

I understand that my thesis may be made electronically available to the public.”

OR: “This thesis consists of material all of which I authored or co-authored: see Statement of Contributions included in the thesis. This is a true copy of the thesis, including any required final revisions, as accepted by my examiners.

I understand that my thesis may be made electronically available to the public.”

Formatting requirements

Theses must follow standard typesetting conventions. The responsibility for graphic design and typesetting rests with the student.

Font sizing and spacing

  • The typesize of the main body of text must be 10 points or larger, with smaller sizes permitted for footnotes, graphs, formulae, appendices, etc. Type larger than 12 points is not recommended for the main text.
  • A serif typeface is recommended for the main text (e.g., Times Roman, Palatino, ITC Garamond, Baskerville, Lucida, or TeX's Computer Modern Roman). Monospaced typefaces, such as Courier, are not recommended though they can be used to set computer programs or computer printout as part of a thesis.
  • Line spacing, or leading, should be wide enough to permit ease of reading and should be appropriate for the typeface, font, page size, and line length. Due to the number of possible combinations of these factors, it is difficult to give precise guidelines, though some generalizations can be made.
  • Maintain consistency in the use of different typefaces for headings, footings, and titles.

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  • Each page should include a minimum 1 inch (72 points) margin at the top, bottom, and outer edge of each page. A minimum 1 1/8 inch (81 points) gutter margin should be included if printed copies are planned. Wider margins, as part of an overall graphic design, are acceptable.
  • Running headers may be placed outside the margins but not closer than 15mm from the outer edges of a page. 


  • Either British or American spelling is acceptable; however, one or the other should be used consistently throughout. This includes the title page.



Copyright ownership

The Copyright Act protects the expressions of ideas. When a student submits work which is eligible for copyright (Copyright Guidelines website) to the University of Waterloo, as a requirement of an academic program, the University acknowledges the student's sole copyright ownership with the following conditions:

  1. The physical document (thesis, research paper, work term report, examination answer paper and such) submitted to the University by a student becomes the property of the University.
  2. With the exception of examination answer papers, the University receives a non-exclusive royalty free licence to:
  • circulate the work as part of the University Library collection;   
  • make copies or representations of the work for academic purposes within the University;
  • make copies of a thesis deposited in the University Library at the request of other universities or bona fide institutions;
  • submit the work to Library and Archives Canada;
  • publish the abstract of any work which is a student thesis.

Computer programs written or partially written by a student in support of a project, thesis or other original work, may have potential value as a marketable intellectual property. The University acknowledges the student's ownership of all rights with respect to such software except as follows:

  1. Students may be required to sign a waiver of rights to software by the academic department for which a supervised project or thesis is to be undertaken, or by the faculty supervisor of the project or thesis.
  2. The University assumes a non-exclusive, paid-up, royalty-free licence to use, for the University's administration, education and research activities, all software written using University facilities or written in support of academic work at the University. This licence does not include the right to use the software for commercial purposes or to distribute the software to others.
  3. Students acquire no rights to software written under supervision in the course of employment by the University.

Copyright is a statutory right conferred on citizens of Canada by the Canadian Copyright Act (Government of Canada website). By means of international treaties, the rights defined in the Canadian Copyright Act extend to nationals of some other countries.

For Canadians, there are no formalities required to copyright original work. The author is the immediate owner of the copyright in the original work, except in certain cases where he or she is under an employment contract. However, students including works by other authors in their document, should obtain prior permission from the copyright holder.

Use of copyrighted material

If the thesis includes copyrighted material, letters of copyright permission may be required. Students should follow the guidelines outlined by Library and Archives Canada.

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Editing of graduate theses

The University of Waterloo expects that graduate theses, regardless of subject area, will meet appropriate standards of clarity and coherence in written English (or in some cases, French or German). The student is primarily responsible for ensuring that the thesis is written in clear and correct language; the student’s supervisor and advisory committee (if applicable) also bear a weight of responsibility for providing guidance consistent with normal practice for the discipline.

It is expected that students, with input from their advisory committee, will be in charge of editing their own theses. In some circumstances, however, it may be determined that a professional editor should be employed.  “Professional editing” in this usage includes editing services by an outside party regardless of whether or not such services are paid for. Having a relative or friend edit one’s thesis, for example, even if no money changes hands, may constitute professional editing if the individual concerned has in the past received payment from other people for editing work. A supervisor may recommend that a student have their thesis edited, but may not require the student to do so.  Conversely, a supervisor can choose not to permit the use of a professional editor.

The following are the regulations and guidelines for the ethical use of a professional editor.

  1. If the thesis is to be edited by a professional editor, written permission from the student’s supervisor must be obtained. In order to avoid subsequent challenges or accusations of academic misconduct, it is highly recommended that the student, supervisor, and editor make use of the contract template provided by the Editors’ Association of Canada (Appendix A of Guidelines for Ethical Editing of Theses/Dissertations).

Note: it is important for the student to be aware that unauthorized use of editing services at any stage of the thesis production constitutes an academic offence.

  1. Under no circumstances is the level of editing to exceed the guidelines set out by the Editors’ Association of Canada in its Guidelines for Ethical Editing of Theses/Dissertations. In many instances it will be advisable for supervisors to impose a more restrictive level of editing. Ideally, the editing should take place in such a way that it constitutes a learning experience for the student.
  2. In all cases where an editor (professional or otherwise) has been used, specific acknowledgement must be made in the completed thesis. This acknowledgement must include the name of the editor and a brief description of the type of editing services provided (this description should be provided by the editor) and should be included in the "Acknowledgements" section fo the from matter.
  3. Individual Faculties/departments/supervisors may require the student to submit a marked-up copy (hard copy or electronic tracked-changes copy) of the thesis along with the final version in order to demonstrate the degree of editing that has taken place.
  4. It is highly recommended that the editor employed be a member of the Editors’ Association of Canada.

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