The origins of MIT’s Specifications for Thesis Preparation

Faculty Minutes, 23 May 1868As the deadline for submitting theses for the 2014 June degree period approaches, students may be wondering how the specifications originated. 

In May of 1868 the MIT faculty voted to approve the first specifications for theses, requiring only that a thesis be written “on paper of ordinary letter size (about 8 x 10 in.), on one side of the paper only, and with a margin of one inch on the left.” In 1872 additional specifications were added: the paper was to be of good quality, “with drawings on double elephant paper 40 x 27, or single elephant 20 x 27.” Early theses were handwritten, with hand drawings of illustrations, until about 1914 when typewriters began to be used with regularity.

For more information about early theses, and the development of thesis specifications, contact the Institute Archives and Special Collections. Current thesis specifications are prescribed by the Committee on Graduate Programs and the Committee on Undergraduate Programs and are published by the MIT Libraries.