Academic Study

Format Guidelines


This document explains the formatting and submission requirements that Westminster expects all students to follow in their theses, dissertations, or projects only. Make sure you refer to it often during your writing and submission process. For guidelines on formatting course papers, please see the CTW’s Citation and Formatting Guide.

Please note that for each degree program the thesis should conform to the following length limitations.

  • PhD dissertations: 100,000 words (including footnotes).
  • ThM Theses: 50,000 words (including footnotes)
  • DMin Projects: 300 page maximum (including bibliography)

Please note that students are responsible for the information provided in this document. Check back regularly for updates or revisions that may affect the formatting of your thesis, dissertation, or project (hereafter referred to collectively as “theses”).

A. Basic Guidlines

1. Turbian

The primary style guide for WTS theses is Kate L. Turabian’s A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, 9th edition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2018). The thesis format and bibliographical guidelines of Turabian should be followed unless they are modified by this document.

For problems or questions of format not covered by Turabian or this document, WTS thesis writers should follow The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017).

2. SBL Handbook

The Biblical Studies department may require that you use The SBL Handbook of Style, 2nd edition (Atlanta, GA: SBL Press, 2014), supplemented by Turabian. Please check with your advisor or department for more details.

Note: All departments use the SBL abbreviations for ancient texts and standard references, as described in Section B below.

3. Review your Formatting

Your completed thesis should comply with all of the formatting requirements outlined in this document. If you are unsure of any of the format requirements, be sure to check with the Center for Theological Writing or the Library Director before you turn in your completed thesis. If you would like assistance with formatting, please request an appointment with the Director of the Center for Theological Writing. Works not conforming to these standards will be rejected. Sample pages may be sent to the Library Director at an early date for review.

B. Abbreviations

1. For the use of abbreviations in general, see Turabian, 9th ed., 342–351, 355–357. Use abbreviations sparingly in text, more liberally in footnotes and tables. Abbreviations containing all capital letters do not usually use periods.

2. In many theses, numerous citations of standard works and major journals make it desirable to use abbreviations when citing them.

a. For directions in the use of abbreviations in biblical areas, please consult The SBL Handbook, 2nd ed., chapter 8.

b. When citing biblical texts, use the abbreviations for books of the Bible and other primary source Ancient Texts as found in Section 8.3 of The SBL Handbook, 2nd ed. Although most extra-biblical ancient sources are abbreviated using periods, note that you are not to put a period after abbreviations of biblical books.

c. For citing secondary sources in biblical studies (including certain journals, periodicals, major reference works and series), please use the abbreviations found in Section 8.4 of The SBL Handbook, 2nd ed.

d. If you use abbreviations for standard works or major journals in the body of your text, footnotes, or bibliography, you must include a list of these abbreviations with their matching full titles in the “Abbreviations” page in the preliminary pages of your thesis or dissertation. Keep in mind that you do not need to include in this list common academic abbreviations, such as the ones listed in Turabian, chapter 24. (See Section E.7 below for instructions for formatting the Abbreviations page, and click here to see a sample abbreviations page.)

C. General Formatting Guidelines

1. Font

The font size must be 12 point for the body of the text; for footnotes the font size may be as small as 10 point.

2. Line Spacing

a. The body of the text should be double spaced. The abstract should be double spaced.

b. Footnotes should be single spaced, with a double space between each note.

c. Leave two blank lines between the title and the first line of the text for all major elements of your thesis.

3. Margins

a. The left margin must be 1½ inches. Do not, for any reason, type anything in this margin. Margins of this size are needed so that the thesis can be properly bound.

b. Right margin: 1 inch. Top and bottom margins: 1 inch

4. Chapter Titles and Subheadings

a. Chapter titles should be formatted as described in Turabian, 9th ed., 402–404, and Fig. A.9. Do not use the alternative format. Chapter titles that exceed one line should be single-spaced.

b. Turabian provides for five distinct formatting levels for subheadings (Turabian, 9th ed., 404–405). Use only as many levels as you need. The title of the chapter does not count as a level of subheading.

c. The most basic divisions of your chapter should be more visually prominent (first or second level subheads), while the subdivisions of each of these sections should be less visually prominent (third level on down). Be sure to leave two blank lines before and one blank line after each subheading, and do not put a period after a subheading that is not immediately followed by text. Never allow a subheading to appear at the bottom of a page without text immediately following it.

d. The following example of how to use subheadings is based on Turabian, 9th ed., 404–405. This example is provided in order to illustrate the common three-level system. You do not have to use the exact number of levels illustrated below; choose the number of levels suited to the divisions in your thesis chapters, maintaining the principle of visual prominence explained above.

Click here to view a sample first page of a chapter and an example of proper line spacing for subheadings.

5. Pagination

a. Assign page numbers to the title page, the copyright page, the dedication page, and the CV, but adjust the settings on your word processor so that the page numbers do not appear.

b. The preliminary pages should be numbered using lower-case Roman numerals (i.e., i, ii, iii, etc.). Restart page numbering using Arabic numerals beginning with the first page of chapter one.

D. Sequence of Elements

Place the preliminary pages in the following order. Do not follow Turabian, 9th ed. or the SBL Handbook, 2nd ed. for this sequence.

a. Title page

b. Copyright page

c. Dedication (optional)

d. Abstract

e. Contents

f. Figures

g. Tables

h. Abbreviations

i. Preface or Acknowledgements (optional)

j. Body of Text

k. Appendices

l. Bibliography

m. Curriculum Vitae

E. Specific Elements

1. Title Page

Please use these fillable forms to complete your title page.

ThM Thesis Title Page

PhD Dissertation Title Page

DMin Project Title Page

Please note that if the thesis has both a main title and a subtitle, the main title should appear on a single line, followed by a colon. Begin the subtitle on a new line.

On the title page, the title of the thesis should be double-spaced. Use our preformatted title pages for correct line spacing.

There are no exceptions to the format of your title page.

2. Copyright Page

a.In submitting their approved theses, students are responsible for complying with US copyright law. For more information, please see “Copyright and Your Disseration Thesis: Ownership, Fair Use, and Your Rights and Responsibilities.” Also consult the discussion of fair use in chapter 4 of The Chicago Manual, 17th ed.

b. When quoting from the Bible, please ensure that you have followed the copyright restrictions for the version(s) you have used.

c. If you choose to include a copyright notice in your thesis, please consult Turabian, 9th ed., 388–389, for instructions on how to format the copyright page.

Click here to view a sample copyright page.

3. Abstract

a. An informative abstract will help readers decide whether or not to consult the full text of your work. Include your thesis statement, main arguments, and conclusions presented in the order in which they appear in your thesis. Use keywords but avoid references to tables, figures, or outside sources.

b. Label the first page “Abstract,” centered at the top of the page. Leave two blank lines between the title and the first line of the text, and double space the text, as described in Turabian, 9th ed., 389.

4. Contents

The label for this page should read “Contents,” not “Table of Contents” (see Turabian, 9th ed., 390, 393, and Figs. A.3–A.4).

Click here to view a sample contents page.

5. Figures

If your thesis contains figures, they should be listed on a “Figures” page in the front matter, as described in Turabian, 9th ed., 393. Click here to see a sample “Figures” page.

Click here to see a sample figure with caption. See Turabian, 9th ed., chapter 8, and 370–373, 380–382, for a discussion of how to format and label your figures. Please note that you should state the source of any figure you did not create yourself. Follow the guidelines described in The Chicago Manual, 17th ed., 141–144, and Turabian, 9th ed., 372–373.

6. Tables

If your thesis contains tables, their titles should be listed on a “Tables” page in the front matter, as described in Turabian, 9th ed., 393 and Fig. A.5. Do not combine figures and tables into a single list; in other words, follow Turabian, 9th ed. Fig. A.5, not A.6. Click here to see a sample “Tables” page.

Click here to see a sample table. See Turabian, 9th ed., chapter 8 and 370–379, for information about design and format of your tables. Please note that you should state the source of any table that you did not create yourself. Follow the guidelines described in The Chicago Manual, 17th ed., 141–144, and Turabian, 9th ed., 372–373.

7. Abbreviations

Abbreviations of standard works and major journals referenced in the thesis (see section B above) must be listed and defined, as described in Turabian, 9th ed., 398, and Fig. A.7.

Click here to see a sample abbreviations page.

8. Notes-Bibliography Style

a. The notes-bibliography style as explained in chapters 16 and 17 of Turabian, 9th ed., is the primary citation system used at Westminster, supplemented by The SBL Handbook, 2nd ed., for theses in biblical studies.

Please note the following:

(1) All footnotes must be placed at the bottom of the page as described in Turabian, 9th ed., 162, Section (see also, The SBL Handbook, 2nd ed., chapter 6). There is no other option. Begin each footnote on the page in which the source is referenced. Footnotes should be numbered consecutively from the beginning of each chapter. Do not attach footnotes to titles or subtitles.

(2) When using “shortened notes” (see Turabian, 9th ed., 163–167), follow the template labelled “Author-Title Notes” on pages 165–166. Do not use “Author-Only Notes.” For SBL, consult The SBL Handbook, 2nd ed., chapter 6.

(3) The use of “Ibid.” is discouraged in order to avoid errors caused by reordering one’s references. Shortened notes should be used instead. If you choose to use “Ibid.,” carefully study the guidelines in Turabian, 9th ed., 166–167.

(4) For references to encyclopedia and dictionary articles, the citation method for “Parts of Edited Collections” should be used (see Turabian, 9th ed., 184–185). For subsequent references, use “Author-Title Notes” format described in number 3 above. Do not use the citation method for reference works found in Turabian, 9th ed., 204–205. SBL users should follow The SBL Handbook, 2nd ed., 94–95. See the chapter “Lexicons, Dictionaries, Encyclopedias, and Grammars” in the CTW’s Citation and Formatting Guide for examples.

b. Electronic Sources. For a useful orientation to citing online sources found in Westminster’s databases or on the web, consult Turabian, 9th ed., 143–146. Models for citing a variety of electronic sources are provided in the Citation and Formatting Guide.

Click here for a sample bibliography.

9. Appendix

The appendix to your thesis is a separate element placed after the main body of the thesis but before the bibliography and CV. An appendix normally includes supporting material that cannot be easily placed in the body of your paper. In the case of a Dmin project, materials (books, curriculum, etc.) that are part of the ministry model can be included here. If different types of materials are provided, group each type in separate appendices. When thinking about what should be included in an appendix, select only that information which is critical to the reader’s understanding of the main body of the project. For example, survey results should be summarized rather than presented by individual respondent. Please consult Turabian, 9th ed., 410, for more details.

Click here for a sample appendix page.

10. Curriculum Vitae

The last page of the thesis must include a curriculum vitae (“CV”). This page should not be numbered. The curriculum vitae should include information about the author’s life (birth date, marriage), ordination and/or ecclesiastical membership, education (degrees, dates, thesis or dissertation titles), publications, and academic awards. Do not include references. Do not put a page number on your CV, and do not list a page number for it on the contents page. Click here to see a sample CV page.

F. Submission Deadlines and Plagiarism Guidelines

1. Submission Deadlines

a. DMin Deadlines

Nov. 15: Completed DMin project due

May 1: Approved DMin project due

b. PhD Deadlines

Dec. 15: Completed PhD dissertations due to advisor for preapproval

Jan. 30: Completed PhD dissertations due

May 1: Approved PhD dissertations due

c. ThM Deadlines

Oct. 1: Completed ThM theses due (fall completion students only)

Dec. 15: Approved ThM theses due (fall completion students only)

March 1: Completed ThM theses due

May 15: Approved ThM theses due

Note: When the dates listed above fall on a weekend in a given year, the thesis deadline will be the following Monday.

2. Plagiarism Pledge

In keeping with the Seminary’s honor code, students will be required to sign a “plagiarism pledge,” which will be sent electronically to the student by Academic Affairs. Be sure to review the seminary’s definition of plagiarism before signing the pledge. The plagiarism pledge must be signed by the final submission deadline.

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