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Thesis Formatting: Guidelines

This Guide is aimed at helping HDR & Honours students format theses by expanding upon the Using Word Effectively workshop that LIS delivers for the Graduate Research School.


  • The Formatting Word documents handout below provides practical instructions for formatting documents using Microsoft Word.
  • If you would like to see paper or online examples of theses in your subject area, click on the Examples tabs (above).

Using Word with large documents workshop handout

The Using Word with large documents handout provides practical instructions for formatting documents using Microsoft Word.

Unformatted Word doc for use in Formatting workshop

JCU and APA Word template

The JCU Library thesis template contains a suggested layout that you may find useful. It has been prepared by JCU library and it's use is not compulsory.

  • The JCU Library thesis template is based upon the JCU Graduate Research School guidelines for formatting thesis.
  • Where the GRS provides no guidelines, APA manuscript formatting style is used (i.e. heading styles, table captions etc.).
  • Where neither the GRS nor APA provide any guidelines (i.e. table of contents etc.) formatting that has proved popular with JCU PhD candidates in the past have been incorporated.


You may decide to modify the JCU Library thesis template for your own use. Check with your supervisor if they have any formatting requirements beyond that provided by the GRS.

General formatting tips from the JCU GRS

HDR Thesis Preparation Guidelines

Your particular school or college may have more specific requirements. Check with your supervisor if this is applies to you. 

Some of the sections pertaining to layout and formatting of the HDR Thesis Format Guidelines are reproduced below.

  • The font must be clear and easily read, such as Times, Times New Roman or Arial, in a font size such as 11, although another font of similar size and appearance is acceptable.
  • Paper sizing must be international size A4 (297mm x 210mm).
  • A line spacing of at least 1.5 is required.
  • Margins should be no less than 25mm.
  • Diagrams, maps, photographs, etc., interleaved in the text should be included in the page sequence and numbered accordingly.
  • Footnotes, if used, should be placed at the foot of the page to which they refer and not be carried over to another page.
  • Thesis pages may be printed double-sided on copies submitted for examination and to the JCU Library.

Suggested order of JCU theses

Theses at JCU often contain the following order. Check with your supervisor if this is appropriate for you. 

Title page  
Acknowledgements i
Statement of the Contribution of Others ii
Abstract iii
Table of Contents iv
List of Tables v
List of Figures vi
List of Plates (e.g. images, photographs) vii
Main text (i.e. the ‘body’ of the thesis) 1
References 2
Appendices 3

The Graduate Research School also provides more information about thesis contents.

Page numbering for Items 2-8 above are typically in the form of Roman numerals (i.e. i, ii, iii, iv, etc.), with Arabic numerals (i.e. 1, 2, 3, 4, etc.) commencing at the start of the Main text.

It is normal not to include page numbering on the title page of the thesis.

The thesis document should be formatted using the odd and even pages layout option, such that page numbers sit at the outer margin on all pages when the thesis is printed double-sided and bound.


APA 7th Headings

APA 7th headings

To apply Level 4 and 5 headings (which are inline headings, meaning the heading appears on the same line as paragraph text), first type the heading and a few words of the text that follows. Then highlight the text that you want to be your heading and select the appropriate heading level from the Styles menu. Only the highlighted text will be formatted as the Level 4 or 5 heading.

APA Style Blog

APA 6th manuscript style example from Purdue University

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Creative Commons Licence
Except where otherwise noted, this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike (CC BY-SA) 4.0 International License. Content from this Guide should be attributed to James Cook University Library. This does not apply to images, third party material (seek permission from the original owner) or any logos or insignia belonging to JCU or other bodies, which remain All Rights Reserved.