Detailed Essay, Thesis and Dissertation Rules

Before you start

In addition to these format instructions, be sure you are aware of the following: 

  • general requirements for the research and document as specified by your department and your advisor
  • rules regarding committee or readers

Before you finish

Early in the term in which you intend to graduate, you should start looking at the detailed information on how to submit the electronic essay, thesis or dissertation on Pitt Public Health's graduation information page. Questions should be directed to the school's Office of Student Affairs. 

Generic research document outline

Many students have found the following description of the components of a typical thesis/dissertation helpful as they begin to plan the layout of the document. Some essay writers may also choose to use this format. 

Other sources of format information

You will also find it useful to refer to a style guide such as Strunk and White's Elements of Style or the Chicago Manual of Style. Consult with your department and/or advisor about recommended style guides. 


You may find it useful to use software such as Endnote for managing your bibliography.

ETD Website

Your basic source for format instructions is the University’s ETD Web site. This includes instructions, templates, forms, support, and a portal to view all University of Pittsburgh theses and dissertations that have been submitted in the past. However, there are some minor differences in format requirements between the general University guidelines and Pitt Public Health. Some instructions on the University ETD site may conflict with Pitt Public Health instructions, in which case you should follow the school instructions outlined in the sections below.

MPH/MHA Essay Format

The preferred method for formatting your essay is to the template the school offers (email for an updated template). If you do not use the template, be sure that your essay formatting follows ETD guidelines. However, the essay sections should be ordered and numbered as in the table below, which is slightly different from the university ETD instructions. In addition, you do not need bookmarks in the essay. Your final essay can be deposited as a Word document or as a PDF.

Required order and numbering of pages for essays:

  1. Title page: Small Roman numeral i assumed, but not numbered
  2. Committee page: Small Roman numeral ii
  3. Copyright: Small Roman numeral iii
  4. Abstract: Small Roman numeral continuation
  5. Table of contents (including appendix titles): Small Roman numeral continuation
  6. List of tables (if any): Small Roman numeral continuation
  7. List of figures (if any): Small Roman numeral continuation
  8. Preface/Acknowledgments (optional, and if used should be brief): Small Roman numeral continuation
  9. Body of essay: Start with Arabic numeral 1 and continue
  10. Appendices (if any): Arabic numeral continuation (If there is more than one appendix, denote them with letters, e.g. “Appendix A, Appendix B.” Separate cover sheets for each appendix are not required, although each appendix must begin at the top of a new page. The heading for each appendix is centered without punctuation. The appendix title can either follow the heading or it can be centered below.)
  11. Bibliography: Arabic numeral continuation

Thesis and Dissertation Format

Follow the ETD guidelines, be sure the title page, committee page, and abstract page have the information as noted in the examples below. You may also use this template for formatting your thesis or dissertation. In addition, Pitt Public Health requires more complete bookmarks than the University guidelines indicate (see below).

Thesis or dissertation title page
Thesis or dissertation committee page
Thesis or dissertation abstract page


MPH/MHA essays do not need to have bookmarks. Theses and dissertations MUST include complete bookmarks. All items in the thesis or dissertation, beginning with the title page and ending with the bibliography, must be bookmarked. This includes headings/subheadings, heading numbers, committee member page, abstract, table of contents, list of tables, list of figures, preface, acknowledgements, appendices, etc. See the ETD bookmark help sheet for instructions on how to insert bookmarks. The following notes may also be helpful.

Note 1: The following sections will hyperlink in the pdf conversion: table of contents, list of tables, and list of figures. You may either create drop-down lists for the items belonging in the list of tables and the list of figures or nest the table and figure bookmarks under the heading they fall under.

Note 2: Any bookmarks or links already in place before the thesis/dissertation is converted from an MS Word document to a PDF document will automatically be tagged “inherit zoom,” a feature that ensures that the destination window is displayed at the magnification level the reader uses when viewing links or bookmarks. If you add bookmarks or links after the document has been converted, you will have to manually change them to “inherit zoom” using the following instructions:

  1. Right-click on bookmark or link and choose “properties”
  2. Choose “actions” tab
  3. Click “edit”
  4. Change zoom to “inherit zoom”
  5. If multiple bookmarks/links need to be changed, click through them individually
  6. Close bookmarks (press minus sign so that a plus sign appears)
  7. Save
  8. NEW: In late fall 2019, the ETD Support adjusted the revised template so now if you “save as ” it will give you bookmarks (don’t need Adobe Acrobat prof software). 
    Directions: “save as type” your word document and pick from the drop down ”PDF” (*.pdf), then under this there will appear an “Options” box, under “Include non-printing information” check “Create bookmarks using”—“Headings” is greyed out—but when you click in the box it appears; then “Ok”, then “Save”.
Using published papers in your essay, thesis or dissertation

Some departments and advisors allow students to submit published or publication-ready manuscripts as thesis or dissertation chapters. Such papers may be included either in the body of the document or in the appendix. They must be based on work done during the student’s enrollment at Pitt Public Health. In general, the student should be the primary author on such a paper, but that is not absolutely required. The thesis or dissertation should include a preface listing the authors, the full citation (if published), and the role of the student in the work.

The articles must be logically connected by added text and be integrated into the document in a coherent manner. They must be presented in a manner consistent with the remainder of the text, i.e., identical typeface, paper, margins, and consistent numbering of tables, figures and footnotes. Bibliographic citations should be integrated with those for the rest of the document. Everything must be consistent with University ETD guidelines.

If your article is already published or in press, you will need permission from the publisher in order to reuse the article, unless you own the copyright (see below).

Copyright general information

The following links contain helpful information on copyright rules.

1. Copyright Information for Graduate Students Writing a Thesis or Dissertation

2. The University Library System’s copyright page.

Use of copyrighted material

When using text, tables, or figures from a published work, whether your own article or that of another author, you must receive the permission of the journal in which it was published. As a courtesy, you should also request permission of the author. Sample templates for contacting publishers are available here. Many journals have on their Web sites a “copyright permission request form.”

A copy of the letter or email giving you permission to use the article, table, or figure must be submitted along with other documents that you submit for your thesis or dissertation. Do not incorporate the permission letter into the paper.

Effective for summer graduations: you will no longer need to complete the ProQuest Agreement. The University has adopted the ProQuest Paragraph option (replacement for completing online form) effective immediately for all students submitting a Master's thesis or Doctoral Dissertation in D-Scholarship (Note: Previously, Master's theses were being sent to CompuCom to be made into microfilm). 

Students will agree to release their thesis or dissertation to ProQuest within the D-Scholarship system. A new page has been added in D-Scholarship as part of the submission process. 

  • Students will no longer be required to complete the ProQuest electronic form. Further, students will no longer need to submit proof of completion to you as part of their thesis/dissertation package.
  • ProQuest will not harvest the thesis or dissertation until it is released from the repository. In other words, ETDs that are embargoed within the Pitt community, will not be harvested by ProQuest until that embargo has expired. Similarly, students' ETDs that have been approved to be kept in the dark archive for one year, will not be harvested by ProQuest until that embargo has expired.
  • Any additional services that a student wishes to purchase from ProQuest will be done directly with ProQuest. No checks or money orders should be submitted to you or the University's Registrar's office.


AGREEMENT TAB in D-SCHOLARSHIP reads as follows: (click here for a screenshot)
I understand and agree that my master's thesis or PhD dissertation will be made available in the ProQuest Dissertation & Theses Database (PQDT), which reaches 3,000 universities with over 200 million searches annually, and supports discovery through major subject and discipline indexes (SciFinder, MLA, MathSciNet, PsycINFO, ERIC, etc). ProQuest provides these services at no charge, and is a non-exclusive distribution of your doctoral dissertation. You will be eligible for a royalty based upon sales of the full-text of your work in all formats. More information is available here.

*University Honors College Undergraduate theses are not shared with ProQuest

By clicking on Next I agree to these terms and conditions.