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Thesis UC3M: Writing your Thesis


  This guide contains recommendations from the library based primarily on the APA and IEEE style manuals, but you should always follow your thesis director’s guidelines and the standards of the Doctoral School.


  • Length of the thesis: consult the guidelines or your thesis director about a maximum length, and about the necessity of paginating indices or appendices.
  • Type of font: 12-point Times New Roman. Alternatives: 11-point Arial; 11-point Calibri; 11-point Georgia; or 10-point Lucida Sans Unicode
  • Alignment of text: justified
  • Spacing between paragraphs and lines:  Narrow (6 pt./1.15 between lines) or  Moderate (6 pt./1.5 between lines)
  • Margins:  Normal (2.5 cm or 1" at the top and the bottom; 3 cm or 1.25" on the left and the right)


Indices and other sections before the main body of the thesis

  • Type of font for titles: Times New Roman, 14 pt., in boldface and capital letters
  • Alignment of the title: centered


  • Type of font for titles: Times New Roman, 14 pt., in boldface and capital letters
  • Alignment of the title: centered
  • Numbering: if you use a numerical format for chapters, the section must identify the chapter with its first digit, followed by a period.
  • Each chapter must begin with a new page and must not have fewer than two pages.

Sections or subchapters

  • Type of font for titles: Times New Roman, 12 pt., in boldface
  • Alignment of the title: flush left
  • Numbering: if you use a numerical format for chapters, the section must identify the chapter with its first digit, followed by a period and the number which corresponds consecutively (3.1, 3.1.1, etc.).

Annexes or apendices

  • Type of font for titles: Times New Roman, 14 pt., in boldface and capital letters
  • Alignment of the title: centered
  • Numbering: identify annexes or apendices in capital letters (Annex A, Appendix B, etc.). Or just Appendix if there is only one.


  • Main body of the thesis: Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3,…), beginning with the first page of the first section, which will be page "1".
  • Pages before the main body: Roman numerals (I, II, III,…), beginning with the cover page, whose number will not appear but counts as page “I”.
  • Appendices: not numbered
  • Alignment of the page number: lower right corner


Tables: used to present text or quantitative data in rows and columns

  • Type of font for titles:
    • Social Sciences and Humanities: Times New Roman, 10 pt. Table number (e.g., Table 1) in bold font, table title below the table number in italic title case.
    • Engineering: Times New Roman, 10 pt., in capital letters
  • Alignment of titles:
    • Social Sciences and Humanities: flush left, above the table
    • Engineering: centered, above the table
  • Numbering:use consecutive Arabic numerals after the word “Table”. If a numerical format is used for chapters, the number of the table must identify the chapter with its first digit, followed by a period and the corresponding consecutive number (Table 1.1, etc.).
    In case of tables included in Annexes, a new numbering independent of that of the body of the work will be started (Table A.1.).

Social Sciences / Humanities table example (APA)

Engineering table example (IEEE)

  • Type of font for the contents of the table: Times New Roman, at least 8 pt.
  • Intellectual property: You must indicate the original source of the information in the lower part of the table. If you use tables made by other authors, you must include the citation according to the style chosen for the writing of the work and also include the corresponding reference in the bibliography.

Figures: used to present qualitative or semi-quantitative data. The main types are graphics, graphs, maps, drawings and photographs.

  • Type of font for titles:
    • Social Sciences and Humanities: Times New Roman, 10 pt. Figure number (e.g., Figure 1) in bold font, figure title below the figure number in italic title case.
    • Engineering: Times New Roman, 10 pt.
  • Alignment of titles:
    • Social Sciences and Humanities: flush left, above the figure
    • Engineering: flush left in the lower part of the figure
  • Numbering:use consecutive Arabic numerals after the word “Figure” (Fig. for Engineering). If a numerical format is used for chapters, the number of the figure must identify the chapter with its first digit, followed by a period and the corresponding consecutive number (Figure 3.1/Fig. 3.1).
    If figures are included in appendices, you must start a new numbering different from the numbering used in the main body of the work (Figure A.1/Fig. A.1).

Social Sciences / Humanities (APA) figure example

Engineering (IEEE) figure example

  • Intellectual property: You must indicate the original source of the information in the lower part of the figure, after the title. If you use figures made by other authors, you must include the citation according to the style chosen for the writing of the work and also include the corresponding reference in the bibliography.


  • Type of font: Times New Roman, 10pt.
  • Space between lines: 1 pt. (Single)
  • Numbering of notes: consecutive Arabic numerals


  • Alignment:: centered, with an additional space before and after the expression
  • Numbering: If a numerical format is used for chapters in the work, the chapter must be identified with the first number, followed by a period and the sequential number that corresponds to the expression (3.1, etc.). For short works, the numbering must be sequential in the order it appears in the text (1, 2, 3…).
  • Alignment of the numbering: flush right
  • Variables and mathematical parameters: these must be written in italics (except those that use Greek letters and/or Arabic numerals), and algebraic symbols must be used.
  • Mathematical functions: these are not written in italics. Avoid using the symbol * to represent the product.


  • The UC3M Doctoral School states on its web page Thesis Deposit the template that must be used to create the document in Microsoft Word to present it in PDF format.
  • The cover of the thesis must include thesis title, full name of the doctoral candidate, the text “A dissertation submitted by in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in” followed by the name of the PhD program, the text “Universidad Carlos III de Madrid,” the name of the advisor, the name of the tutor and, at the bottom, the month in which the thesis is defended.
  • Do not include personal data like your university username, your e-mail address or your ID card number.
  • According to the Rules and Regulations of the Doctoral School at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid art. 31 and 32, the thesis will be deposited in the open access institutional repository of the university e-archivo under the license “Creative Commons Attribution -- NonCommercial -- NoDerivatives”. The license will be included on page II in accordance with the template provided.


The dedication and the acknowledgements are optional elements. If they are included in the thesis, the dedication will be on page III of the introductory pages and the acknowledgements will be on page IV, according to the template provided by the Doctoral School. This is an example:


The doctoral thesis template provided by the UC3M Doctoral School indicates among the introductory pages, after the cover page, the license, the dedication and the acknowledgements, the following:

PUBLISHED AND SUBMITTED CONTENT. This is a bibliography of articles and other publications that meet these three conditions:

  • the PhD candidate is the author or the co-author
  • the documents have been included as part of the thesis
  • the documents have been published, submitted for publication, or submitted to obtain a degree or qualification

OTHER RESEARCH MERITS.. The PhD candidate can include research distinctions such as articles and contributions which are not listed in the previous section as part of the thesis.


Article 3 of the UC3M Doctoral School’s Code of Good Practice for Managing Plagiarism of Ph.D. Theses states that two summaries of the thesis must be presented in a separate document.

Article 3. Dissemination of doctoral research. To promote the dissemination of the research activity in UC3M PhD programs, a deposited thesis must be accompanied by two summaries: A non-technical summary of between 800 and 1000 words and a technical summary of between 2500 and 3000 words. Summaries will be delivered in a text file separate from the thesis. The word count will not include the title, the name of the doctoral student, or the bibliographic references. The inclusion of bibliographic references is optional. Avoiding their inclusion in the non-technical summary is recommended and, in any case, only those works explicitly referenced in the summary should be included. The summaries cannot include acknowledgments of any kind and will need to focus on the main novel contributions of the thesis.


The list of abbreviations is an optional element. It contains the account of abbreviations, acronyms and initials used throughout the thesis and indicates how they are used.

There are generally accepted abbreviations, but abbreviations can also be created according to necessity when writing the thesis. Find here some help about abbreviations use in dissertations.

Abbreviations must be listed in alphabetical order. The list should be presented in the format of a table without edges. The abbreviation should appear in the first column and the full phrase it stands for should appear in the second.

There are some lists of abbreviations that can be used as a reference:

This is an example of abbreviations list:



The table of contents is an obligatory element in an academic work.

Get automatic tables of contents in Microsoft Word via the following options: table of contents (for the contents index) and table of illustrations (for the list of tables and illustrations)

1. Table of contents

The table of contents is a list of all the chapters, sections, sub-sections, bibliography and annexes produced in the work and includes the name of each section and the page number it starts on.

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2. Table of illustrations

We must include a table of illustrations when we use tables, figures or other illustrations in our work.  You should obtain your indices of tables, figures and other kinds of illustrations separately. These lists should be placed after the table of contents and on separate pages.

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Table and index examples taken from UC3M Thesis


IMPORTANT NOTE: Find here some recommendations about the generic structure of a scientific research paper. The PhD candidate should always follow their tutor’s instructions about the structure and contents of their own work. A thesis must be an original research project (Art. 13 Royal Decree 99/2011) and must contain personal contributions and ideas from the PhD candidate, in addition to data analysis and a presentation of results.

The body of the work is the main part of the thesis, and the longest part. It must be divided into chapters or sections, which should preferably be numbered. We use an Arabic numeral for the first page of the Introduction, which indicates that we are in the main part of the work. We recommend following the IMRAD format (Introduction, Materials/Methods, Results and Discussion/Conclusions), the de facto standard for scientific publications adopted, among others, by the APA and the Vancouver Style, and adopted as the standard by the American National Standards Institute as ANSI Z39.16-1979. According to the IMRAD format, the main body of the thesis will consist of:

1. INTRODUCTION. To answer the question “What is being studied, and why?” the introduction must briefly mention the following aspects of the work:

  • Motivation or justification (why we chose this subject for the work; why this research is important)
  • Specific goal of the study (precedents, current status, premise or hypothesis of the work)

2. MATERIALS/METHODS. To answer the question “How is this studied?” in this section, you must present the essential aspects to understand the results of the research. Also, you must explain the methodological framework and systems of analysis used to obtain data.

3. RESULTS. To answer the question “What are your findings?” in this section, you must describe (not interpret or discuss) the results obtained from the research carried out, as outlined in the previous section. This is done with text and, where appropriate, tables and figures. We stress that the Code of Good Practice of the UC3M Doctoral School states in art. 3 that scientific integrity includes applying standards in the publication of results and considers unacceptable the practices of duplicate publication, the elimination of pertinent data and the inclusion of false data.

4. DISCUSSION/CONCLUSIONS. To answer the question “What does this mean?” the final section of the main body of an academic work must contain the conclusions that respond to the questions posed in the introduction of the work--in particular, the objective, which with the conclusions must be consistent--on the basis of the analysis and interpretation of the data presented in the previous section. This last section must include a section for discussion, which will be a final observation based on the arguments set forth in the work. It will have a personal contribution from the author which will be free of subjectivity--ideological or moral, for example--and will evaluate the results obtained, recognize the limitations and difficulties encountered, and outline a proposal for hypothetical future research.


The bibliography or reference list must follow the main body of the work. In this section, the details about your previously cited sources of information, in both printed and electronic format, are compiled.

In accordance with Art 4.b of the UC3M Doctoral School’s Code of Good Practices: Bibliographic citations. In research, it is absolutely necessary to acknowledge contributions with precise citations that clearly identify what is one’s own work and what is someone else’s so that there are no doubts about the contribution of the research.

The order of the references will depend on the citation system used in the work:

  • In author-date citation system the references are listed in alphabetical order.
  • In numeric citation system the references are listed by order of appearance in the text.

Author - date, or APA (7th ed.) Style Reference List



Numeric citation system (IEEE) Reference List


References to Spanish and European legal contents (judicial rulings, laws and other regulations) must appear in a section called Legislation and Jurisprudence, which will be included after the bibliography or reference list. In this case, the order of the references will be chronological, with the oldest regulations cited first.

Guía de citas bibliográficasTo get detailed information about making a bibliography, consult our Referencing Guide.



  • Annexes or appendices are optional elements of a thesis, and consist of additional or complementary materials related to the thesis, relevant but too long to be included in the main body of the document.
  • They can be images, graphics, tables, questionnaires, forms, interviews, etc.
  • They will be identified with capital letters (Annex A, Annex B, etc.). Each annex will appear on a page of its own.
  • The pages on which the annexes appear do not count in the total number of pages of the thesis, unless your tutor indicates otherwise.

Table of additional data


Examples of annexes from theses at the UC3M

Additional graphics

Additional maps


Consult your doctoral program to find out whether it is possible to prepare a thesis of this type and what criteria need to be considered.


  • The academic style in the writing of a thesis is different from styles that are normally used: it must be formal, but at the same time clear and comprehensible.
  • The writing must be grammatically correct, in particular the spelling and punctuation.
  • The text must be written from an impersonal point of view, never in the first person:
    I did We did It was done It is done
    I analyzed We analyzed It was analyzed It is analyzed
  • Use the present tense for generally accepted facts:
    The third law of thermodynamics states
    The law of civil procedure notes
  • Use the past tense to describe your own work:
    I wrote reports Reports were written
    We measured variables Variables were measured
  • Refrain from subjectivity in both the content and the tone of the writing, avoiding ambiguity or colloquialisms:
    Good Many Appropriate
    Bad Few Inappropriate
  •  If you use some terms in other languages you must indicate their translation the first time the term appears in each chapter and write the term in italics or between quotation marks.
  • Include one idea in each paragraph.
  • Avoid idioms and popular sayings:
    It's not rocket science
    Break the bank
  • Sustitute expressions for words:
    In a considerable number of cases Frequently
    There is not much doubt about Probably
  • Avoid sexist language


  • Don’t include irrelevant information.
  • Include only one idea per paragraph.
  • The information contained in one section of the doctoral thesis must not be repeated in others, except in the summary.
  • Don’t repeat data in a table or a graph if it is already contained in the text.
  • Avoid stating the patently obvious:
    Forests are very important ecosystems.
  • Distinguish your own data and ideas from the data and ideas of other authors.
  • Differentiate demonstrated facts from hypotheses or speculations.
  • Differentiate affirmations from points of view.
  • Defend conclusions with data and arguments.


  • Be sure to use appropriate terminology for the subject that you are writing about.
  • Avoid the use of jargon or highly complex language.
  • To avoid ambiguity, when you write scientific or technical terms, it is better to use the same word to denominate the same concept, even if it is repeated, than to use synonyms.
  • Define ambiguous or uncommon terms when you use them for the first time in the text.
  • If you use acronyms or abbreviations that are not commonly known by non-specialists, explain them the first time that they appear and include them in a list of abbreviations.
  • Use standard symbols to represent units of international systems (kg, m, l), chemical elements (Au, Pb), mathematical concepts (+, %), monetary units ($, €) and cardinal points (N, S, E, W).


  • Verbatim citations, or quotes, reproduced within the text should placed between quotation marks without changing the font relative to the rest of the text, except if they are longer than three lines, in which case the quote should occupy a paragraph of its own.
  • Avoid plagiarizing: do not copy ideas of other authors into your doctoral thesis without acknowledging them by citing the author’s name and the source of origin. The words of other authors must always be written between quotation marks.
  • Use double quotation marks (“”) for textual citations and single quotation marks ('') to quote within a quote.
  • Paraphrases (reformulating text from another author in your own words) are not placed between quotation marks, but the idea needs to be acknowledged by citing the author’s name and the source of origin.
  • The number of quotes used must be proportional to the text written: do not convert your thesis into a succession of quotes.


Portada oficial Cover in English. The thesis must be delivered in a PDF file produced by following this Microsoft Word template, including cover page and introductory pages


Once the text of your thesis is written, the document or documents must be prepared for submission in the form of files. We recommend following a series of conventions for naming them.

NAME: it must be brief (not more than 25-30 characters), with relevant words that describe the contents, written in lowercase letters. Special characters ($, %, &, *, /, etc.) should not be used, and only the underline character ( _ ) should be used to join words.



DATE OF CREATION: the format YYYYMMDD is recommended.

MyThesis-VersionJune2018.doc 20180601_thesis_name.doc
My-Thesis-VersionMay2018.doc 20180501_thesis_name.doc

VERSIONS: avoid calling files “definitive version”, “final version”, etc. and erase old versions.


Writing a Graduate Thesis or Dissertation [ebook Acceso restringido usuarios UC3M] by Lorrie Blair, 2016

Surviving and Thriving in Postgraduate Research [ebook Acceso restringido usuarios UC3M] by Ray Cooksey and Gael McDonald, 2019
Research methodology : a step-by-step guide for beginners by Ranjit Kumar, 1999

Writing the successful thesis and dissertation : entering the conversation [ebook Acceso restringido usuarios UC3M] by Irene L. Clark, 2007

Cite your sources


Avoid plagiarism


Find Ph D Thesis

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