MIT Specifications for Thesis Preparation
Covid-19 related updates
August 16, 2021: Students on the September 2021 degree list will submit their thesis electronically to their department. Special instructions for file naming, submission guidelines, and related information can be found on the MIT Thesis FAQ: September 2021 Degree Candidates
March 24, 2021: Students on the June 2021 degree list will submit their thesis electronically to their department. Special instructions for file naming, submission guidelines, and related information can be found on the MIT Thesis FAQ.
December 08, 2020: Students on the February 2021 degree list will submit their thesis electronically and should follow the special instructions posted below for the September 2020 degree list.
June 22, 2020: Alternative Specifications for students on the September 2020 degree list were posted from June 22, 2020 to March 24, 2021
March 23, 2020: Alternative Specifications for students on the May 2020 degree list were posted from March 23, 2020 to March 24, 2021.
March 18, 2020: Theses for the May 2020 degree period may be submitted electronically in accordance with the Emergency Academic Regulations in effect March 15, 2020.
- Is the author’s full name on the title page and the abstract? (see sections on title page and abstract)
- Are the correct names and titles of the thesis supervisor(s) and program head(s) on the title page? (see section on title page)
- Does the title on the title and abstract pages agree with the title given to the registrar?
- Is the publication date correct on the title page? The month should always be September, February, or May/June.
- Does the title page carry the appropriate copyright notice and, in cases where the student owns copyright, the appropriate copyright permission statement? (see section on copyright)
- Is the supervisor’s name on the abstract page? (see section on abstract)
- Is the date submitted to the department correct on the abstract page? (see section on abstract)
- Is the page-numbering sequence complete and correct? (see section on pagination)
- If you are printing double-sided (which is highly recommended), are page numbers placed either in the center or on the outside edge of every page? (see section on double- or single-sided printing)
- Have you obtained permission to use previously published material? (see section on previously published material)
- If you included acknowledgments and/or a biography, have you checked them for information you do not want exposed to internet search engines like Google?
- Are you printing the thesis, including the title page, on the correct paper? (see section on paper)
- Are you printing the correct number of copies? (see section on what to submit)
Before submitting to your department
- Are all necessary signatures on the title page of each copy? (see section on title page)
- Are the signatures for copy 1 original, not photocopied? (see section on title page)
- Has each copy been correctly collated? Are any pages missing or out of order? (see section on pagination)
- For doctoral theses only, has the form for UMI/ProQuest been completed, and has it been stapled to an extra copy of the title page and abstract? (see section UMI/ProQuest)
- Are you submitting the correct number of copies? (see section on what to submit)
This guide has been prepared by the MIT Libraries, as prescribed by the Committee on Graduate Programs, to assist students and faculty in the preparation of theses. The Institute is committed to the preservation of each student’s thesis because it is both a requirement for the MIT degree and a record of original research that contains information of lasting value.
The requirements in this guide apply to all theses and have been specified both to facilitate the care and dissemination of the thesis and to assure the preservation of the archival paper copy. Individual departments may dictate more stringent requirements. Questions not answered in this guide should be referred to the appropriate department officer or to the MIT Libraries (email@example.com).
What to Submit?
Degree candidates must submit the required copies of their thesis to the appropriate office of the department or program in which they are registered on the dates specified in the Academic Calendar. The Academic Calendar may be found in the MIT Bulletin and at https://registrar.mit.edu/calendar. September, February, and May/June are the only months in which degrees are awarded. The department may ask for copies in addition to those required for the Libraries. The student may, of course, keep personal copies.
Bachelor’s Degree Theses
Not all departments send bachelor’s theses to the MIT Libraries. If your department does, only one copy should be submitted. Please check the requirements of your department. Undergraduate students do not pay a library processing fee.
Graduate Degree Theses
Departments are required to submit two copies of each master’s and doctoral thesis. Doctoral theses must also be accompanied by a completed UMI/ProQuest form with an additional copy of the title page and abstract.
Abstracts of all doctoral theses (Ph.D. and Sc.D.) will be submitted for inclusion in ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global, an online database used by researchers around the world. PQDT can be searched by author name, subject terms, and all words in the title and abstract. All MIT abstracts will contain a note stating that copies of the full text are available from DSpace@MIT or the MIT Libraries.
- Complete the UMI/ProQuest form (PDF)
- The form may printed and completed by hand or filled out on a computer, then printed. When filling out the form, choose the appropriate subject categories from the list provided with the form.
- Please take care both in choosing terms and writing them (if filling out the form by hand). Subject-based access to your thesis will depend on the accuracy of the information you provide and the precision with which it is transcribed by ProQuest.
- It is especially important that your name appear on this form exactly as it does on the title page and abstract of your thesis.
- Staple the printed form to a copy of your title page and abstract.
- Abstracts should be no longer than 350 words, longer abstracts will be edited by ProQuest
- Submit this packed with your thesis
Most MIT theses are written by a single author. In those cases where two or more students are responsible, only a single copy (for undergraduates) or set of copies (for graduate students) should be submitted to the MIT Libraries. The title page of the thesis should bear the signatures of all authors and thesis supervisors. Permission to undertake collaborative thesis research must be obtained in advance from the Vice Chancellor or his/her designee. Undergraduate students who wish to undertake joint thesis research should submit a request to the Office of the Vice Chancellor. Graduate students who wish to undertake joint thesis research should submit a request to the Office of Graduate Education via the general petition process.
All copies must be submitted to the student’s department unbound between cardboard covers; the thesis and covers should be clipped or tied together, NOT stapled or punched. Recycled temporary covers and binder clips are available in the Lewis Music Library (14E-109 ). The front cover should be labeled with the following information: author’s name, thesis title, course, month and year of graduation, and which copy it is (first, second, or third).
Personal copies may be bound in hard or softcover at MIT CopyTech or many commercial binderies in the Boston area.
Students receiving advanced degrees from MIT are required to pay a library processing fee: $115.00 for a doctoral thesis ($50 for processing and $65 for the ProQuest abstract fee) and $50.00 for all other advanced-degree theses. Undergraduate students do not pay a processing fee. Thesis charges are billed to the student’s account when the thesis title is entered on the degree application. Please refer to the academic calendar on the Registrar’s website to review relevant deadline dates.
What Happens to the Thesis?
The academic department is required to deliver the proper number of copies of the thesis to the MIT Libraries within one month after the last day of the term in which the thesis was submitted (Faculty Regulation 2.72). One copy is the official copy and is kept as part of the permanent archival collection, and the other is reserved for future disposition.
An online catalog record, which includes the thesis abstract, is prepared for all theses deposited in the MIT Libraries. This information appears in Barton, our online catalog, which is accessible to researchers at other institutions, as well as in the OCLC database WorldCat, an online international bibliographic system available to libraries and individuals worldwide. PhD and ScD theses are also listed (title, author, and abstract) in ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global.
For each thesis received by the Libraries, a digital version is created and made publicly available in DSpace@MIT. Students may choose to submit a PDF of the thesis via the Libraries voluntary submission portal. Submitting a PDF, in addition to the physical copies, preserves color content, text searchability, and embedded links within your thesis when it is submitted to DSpace@MIT.
Changes to a Thesis after Submission
All changes made to a thesis, after it has been submitted to the MIT Libraries by the student’s department, must have prior approval from the Vice Chancellor or their designee.
When the purpose is to correct significant errors in content, the student should create an errata sheet using the form and instructions (pdf) and obtain approval first from both thesis supervisor or program chair, before submitting for review by the Vice Chancellor.
If the purpose of change is to excise classified, proprietary, or confidential information, the student should fill out the application form (pdf) and have the request approved first by the thesis supervisor or program chair, before submitting for review by the Vice Chancellor. Students and supervisors should vet thesis content carefully before submission to avoid both scenarios whenever possible.
The following guidelines assist the student in determining who holds ownership of the thesis copyright. The Institute will hold ownership of the copyrights to theses if:
- the thesis research is performed in whole or in part by the student with financial support in the form of wages, salary, stipend, or grant from funds administered by the Institute,
- the thesis research is performed in whole or in part utilizing equipment or facilities provided to the Institute under conditions that impose copyright restrictions.
A student will generally hold ownership of the copyright to their thesis if they have authored the thesis without sponsored research funds and without significant use of MIT administered facilities or funds.
Actual determination of sponsorship is made by reference to the account from which the student receives support. Questions regarding sponsorship may be addressed to the administrative officer of the laboratory or department.
Regardless of whether copyright is held by the student or the Institute, the MIT Libraries publish the thesis electronically in DSpace@MIT allowing open access to the research output of MIT.
Requesting a Waiver of Institute Copyright
Students may request a waiver of Institute copyright by written application to the Institute’s Technology Licensing Office. The waiver shall be granted only if the retained rights of the student as described in this guide are inadequate for the student’s needs and if a license from the Institute to the student would also be inadequate.
Any such waiver of the Institute’s copyright shall be subject to a royalty-free grant from the student to the Institute to publicly distribute copies of the thesis, in whole or in part.
This statement must appear on the title page: “The author hereby grants to MIT permission to reproduce and to distribute publicly paper and electronic copies of this thesis document in whole or in part in any medium now known or hereafter created.”
Specific questions on permission to copyright should be referred to the Technology Licensing Office (617-253-6966, firstname.lastname@example.org).
Permission to Reuse or Republish a Thesis
When copyright is held by the Institute, requests for permission to reuse or republish a thesis should be directed to email@example.com. However, the student is authorized to post electronic versions of the student’s own thesis, in whole or in part, on a website.
When copyright is held by the student, requests for permission to use portions of the thesis in third-party publications must be addressed to and granted by the student author.
How to Copyright a Thesis
Each student should place the appropriate copyright notice on the thesis. Copyright notice consists of four elements:
- the symbol “c” with a circle around it © and/or the word “copyright,”
- the year of publication (the year in which the degree is to be awarded),
- the name of the copyright owner, and
- the words “All rights reserved.”
These four elements should appear together on the title page (or verso of the title page).
- student is copyright owner: © 2008 Jane Doe. All rights reserved.
- Institute is copyright owner: © 2008 Massachusetts Institute of Technology. All rights reserved.
See sample title pages. A copyright notice should also appear on any non-paper material (e.g., DVD or CD) included with a thesis.
Use of Previously Published Material in a Thesis
Each student is responsible for obtaining permission, if necessary, to include previously published material in the thesis. This applies to most third-party materials (i.e. those created and published by someone else); it may also apply to the student’s own previous work. If, for example, a student has already published part of the thesis as a journal article and, as a condition of publication, has assigned title to the journal’s publisher, the student has no further rights in the article. Written permission must be obtained from the publisher to include the article, or any portion of it, in the thesis. Similarly, permission must be obtained to include papers written while the student was employed by a commercial company or nonprofit organization if title belongs to the company or organization. A sample permission letter (pdf) is available from the Office of the General Counsel.
If the student knows, prior to publication or employment, that such material will be included in a thesis, they may wish to retain title to the material or to reserve sufficient rights to use the material. Further information is available at Scholarly Publishing @MIT Libraries or by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Policy for Temporary Restrictions on the Distribution of Theses
Thesis research should be undertaken in light of MIT’s policy of open research and the free interchange of information. Written notification of patent holds and other restrictions must reach the MIT Libraries before the thesis in question is received. Under normal circumstances all theses are open and available for public inspection once they have been received by the MIT Libraries. A student may request to delay the distribution of their thesis under specific and limited circumstances.
When MIT holds the rights to any intellectual property contained in a thesis, students and their supervisors must work with the MIT Technology Licensing Office to determine if a patent application is to be filed. If so, the Technology Licensing Office will notify the MIT Libraries, and the thesis will be withheld from distribution for up to one year.
When a student holds the rights to any intellectual property contained in his or her thesis, permission to withhold a thesis temporarily from distribution must be granted by the Vice Chancellor or their designee (see instructions below).
Government Restrictions & Sponsor Review
A student should not embark without prior approval on a thesis that requires government restrictions. The Institute recognizes that certain government agencies and other third- parties which sponsor research may require that theses be submitted for security review before they can be placed in the Libraries or published. Permission to withhold a thesis temporarily from distribution must be granted by the Vice Chancellor or their designee (see instructions below).
Instructions for Requesting a Temporary Hold
- Undergraduate students instructions for temporary holds
- Graduate students instructions for temporary holds
If the hold is granted, the Office of the Vice Chancellor will inform the MIT Libraries, and the thesis will be withheld for a period of up to 90 days. If an extension is required, the student must contact the Office of the Vice President for Research to request the hold be extended.
Thesis Restrictions Related to Privacy and Security
Occasionally, upon completing a thesis, a student may believe that its distribution will jeopardize the privacy or safety of the author, other individuals, or organizations. If the thesis cannot be rewritten to remove the problematic material, the author and supervisor should, in consultation with the student’s department or program, prepare a request for the Vice Chancellor describing the situation. The Vice Chancellor may then consult with the Vice President for Research. The appropriate office will advise the MIT Libraries of the restricted period. In all cases the restricted period should be kept to a minimum. Permission to withhold a thesis temporarily from distribution must be granted by the Vice Chancellor or their designee.
The title page is always considered to be page 1, and every page must be included in the count regardless of whether a number is physically printed on a page. The entire thesis (including title page, prefatory material, illustrations, and all text and appendices) must be paginated in one consecutive numbering sequence.
Theses should be prepared double-sided whenever possible. In a double-sided thesis, both sides of every page (starting with the title page and including any pages that have been left blank) must be accounted for in the numbering sequence. Therefore, in a double-sided thesis, odd-numbered pages are always on the right and even-numbered pages on the left. Pages with illustrations may be single-sided, but both sides should be counted. Single-sided theses should be numbered only on the front of every sheet.
When using thesis templates on Athena, use caution and verify that the pagination requirements are being met.
Selecting a Title
Your work will be a more valuable research tool for other scholars if it can be located easily. Search engines use the words in the title, and sometimes other descriptive words, to locate works. Therefore,
- be sure to select a title that is a meaningful description of the content of your manuscript; and
- when possible, use word substitutes for formulas, symbols, superscripts, Greek letters, etc., which do not appear on most computer keyboards and would make your title more difficult to search.
- “The Effects of Ion Implantation and Annealing on the Properties of Titanium Silicide [not TiSi2] Films on Silicon Substrates”
- “Radiative Decays of the J/Psi [not J/ψ] to Two Pseudoscalar Final States”
Thesis Title Page
The title page of the first copy must bear the original signatures of the author, supervisor, and chairman; a photocopy of the signed title page is acceptable for the second copy. The title page should contain the title, name of the author, previous degrees, the degree(s) to be awarded at MIT, the date the degree(s) will be conferred (May/June, September, or February only), copyright notice (and legend if required), and appropriate names and signatures of supervisors and department head/committee chairman.
For candidates receiving two degrees, both degrees to be awarded should appear on the title page. For candidates in dual degree programs, all degrees and departments or programs should appear on the title page and the signatures of both department heads/committee chairmen are required. Whenever there are co-supervisors, both signatures are required.
See the proper title page layout (pdf).
Sample Title Pages:
- Bachelor’s Degree, Student Owns Copyright (pdf)
- PhD Degree, MIT Owns Copyright (pdf)
- Simultaneous Master’s Degrees, Two Departments (pdf)
- All Degrees, Multiple Authors (pdf)
Thesis Abstract Page
Each thesis offered for a graduate degree must include an abstract, preferably one single-spaced page, but never more than two pages (generally less than 350 words). The abstract should be thought of as a brief descriptive summary rather than a lengthy introduction to the thesis. Doctoral abstracts are submitted for inclusion in ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. Doctoral candidates should keep their abstracts under 350 words. Longer abstracts will be edited and shortened by ProQuest. Databases such as ProQuest provide full-text searching of abstracts, so the presence of significant keywords in a short abstract will facilitate access. The abstract should immediately follow the title page.
See the proper abstract layout (pdf).
Sample Abstract (pdf)
Biographical Note and Acknowledgment
Although not a requirement, each thesis may contain a short biography of the candidate, including institutions attended and dates of attendance, degrees and honors, titles of publications, teaching and professional experience, and other matters that may be pertinent. An acknowledgment page may also be included. These sections may be single-spaced.
Please note that your thesis will be publicly available online at DSpace@MIT, which is regularly crawled and indexed by Google and other search-engine providers.
Notes and Bibliographic References
Whenever possible, notes should be placed at the bottom of the appropriate page or in the body of the text. Notes should conform to the style appropriate to the discipline. If notes appear at the bottom of the page, they should be single-spaced and included within the specified margins (see margin and spacing section below).
It may be appropriate to place bibliographic references either at the end of the chapter in which they occur or at the end of the thesis.
The style of quotations, footnotes, and bibliographic references may be prescribed by your department. If your department does not prescribe a style or specify a style manual, choose one and be consistent. Further information is available on the web site of the MIT Writing and Communications Center.
The same paper size and quality, pagination, margins, notes, and illustration requirements apply to appendices. They support the research in your thesis and should be as readable and reproducible as the rest of your work. Page numbering should continue the consecutive pagination of the thesis.
Typeface And Size
For the main body of the text, including appendices and front matter, font size should be at least 11-point and should not be script or italic. Italics may, however, be used for short quotations or to highlight variables in an equation, for example. Notes and the text in tables, etc., should not be smaller than 10-point.
Margins and Spacing
Top, bottom, and both side margins must be at least an inch wide (1″) to allow for binding and trimming. All information (text headings, notes, and illustrations), excluding page numbers, must be within the text area. Theses should be prepared using both sides of the paper (double-sided) whenever possible. Oversize sheets must be folded to come within the text area so the folds will not be trimmed off or bound in during the binding procedure.
The text of the thesis may be single- double- or one-and-a-half-spaced. The abstract, biography, notes, bibliography, and acknowledgment should be single-spaced.
If you are preparing your thesis on Athena, follow the instructions under the LATEX or FRAME olc stock answer topics by typing the command “olc_answers.” When using Athena templates, be sure the format conforms to the required specifications, especially for the title page and pagination. Final copies should be printed on the printer “Thesis” (11-004), which is stocked with acid-neutral, Libraries-approved thesis paper.
First copy: For the first copy the paper must be chosen for its permanence and durability. This is the copy that should bear the original signatures. The paper must be (a) acid‑neutral or acid-free, (b) watermarked, (c) at least 20-lb. weight, and (d) contain at least 25% cotton. It may contain some post-consumer waste (pcw) recycled material. The following 20‑lb. watermarked acid‑neutral papers are examples of those that are acceptable
- Mohawk Via Bright White (available at CopyTech, 11-004)
- Xerox Image Elite
- Crane’s Thesis Paper
- Hammermill Bond
- Strathmore Bond
Second copy: The paper for the second copy should be (a) acid-neutral or acid-free, (b) at least 20-lb. weight, and (c) contain 25% cotton. It need not be watermarked.
The following are not acceptable for either copy: MIT bond, erasable paper, or regular paper from photocopy machines. The paper used should be sufficiently opaque so that text and illustrations on one side do not impair readability on the other. If there are any questions about the acceptability of paper, contact the Thesis Processor at email@example.com.
If you are preparing your thesis on Athena, print the final copies on the printer “Thesis,” which is stocked with Mohawk Via Bright White.
The standard size for theses is 8½ by 11 inches (see section on oversized pages).
Double-sided or Single-sided Printing
Double-sided printing is strongly recommended. However, the paper should be sufficiently opaque so that text and illustrations on one side do not impair readability on the other side. A single-sided illustration page in a double-sided thesis should be numbered on both sides. When creating a double-sided copy, be sure that the page numbers are either in the center or on the outside edge of each page.
Charts, graphs, tables, etc., should be reduced whenever possible to an 8½-by-11-inch format. If material is not reducible, oversize sheets must be folded to come within the text area so the folds will not be trimmed off or bound in during the binding procedure. Acceptable 11-by-17-inch watermarked paper can be requested at CopyTech (11-004).
Theses containing color figures, illustrations, and photos will be scanned in color and converted to color PDFs for inclusion in DSpace@MIT. Please be aware that heavily saturated color graphics may “bleed through” and compromise legibility for double-sided pages. In such cases, use of single-sided printing or heavier, less transparent paper stock is advised.
Pages containing photographs should be numbered as regular pages. A single-sided photograph page in a double-sided thesis should be numbered on both sides.
All graphics must respect the 1” margins.
Supplementary Material (Non-paper and Media)
Digital and magnetic materials such as cassette tapes, CDs, and DVDs may accompany the written text of the thesis. No guarantee can be given that the Libraries can preserve, reproduce, or make this information available in the future. Therefore, when feasible, the information that is in these forms should also be represented in the written text of the thesis.
A label containing the author’s name, the date of the thesis, and the copyright notice (see page 7) must be applied to all material in non-paper format. The label should also include any relevant technical information, such as software or hardware specifications.
In some cases DSpace@MIT may be an option for providing access to supplementary material. Please contact the Libraries for more information (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Room 14N-118 | 617-253-5690
MIT Libraries Scanning Lab
Room 14-0551 | email@example.com
Technology Licensing Office
One Cambridge Center Kendall Square Building NE18-501 Cambridge, MA 02142 | 617-253-6966
Office of the General Counsel
Room 7-206 | 617-452-2082
Office of Graduate Education
Room 3-138 | 617-253-4680
Office of Undergraduate Education
Room 7-133 | 617-253-6056
Office of the Vice Chancellor
Room 7-133 | 617-258-0809
Office of the Vice President for Research
Room 3-234 | 617-253-8177
Prepared by the MIT Libraries as prescribed by the Committee on Graduate Programs and the Committee on Undergraduate Programs. Updated and revised, June 2019.