Student Resources

Thesis Formatting and Guidelines

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The following information is intended to advise you both in matters of technical detail and style. Copies of old theses are available in KSC 101 for further information.

Technical Details

  • Use 20 weight, bond paper or equivalent (copier paper is okay).
  • The thesis should be written in proper English with no spelling or punctuation errors. Typing must be neat and correct.
  • Leave 1.1/4” margins on the left (for binding) and 1” margins on the right.
  • Photocopying can be obtained at several places in Claremont, but they are very busy at the end of the semester so phone for an appointment if necessary.
  • Binding (hard cover) is also done by the above establishments. We use Printing Works, 681 Foothill Blvd, Pomona CA 909-624-8979, or Honnold Library Copy Center. We require black covers (see style in Room 101).

Number of Copies

  • 2 bound copies (Keck Science and first reader) AND 1 copy with plastic or paper cover for second reader.
  • In addition you may wish to have your original as well as other copies bound for yourself, relatives, or friends. Note: if your work is to be published, your thesis director will likely need to have your original drawings and possibly other materials related to the work.

Contents should normally include, in this order:

  1. title page (see below)
  2. table of contents
  3. abstract (see below)
  4. introduction – a clear statement of the purpose
  5. historical background
  6. materials and methods
  7. results
  8. discussion, conclusions
  9. literature cited (not complete bibliography, but only articles actually cited in the thesis).
  10. appendices – any background material

In the case of one semester thesis – where an actual experiment is not performed, we ask that you outline an experiment that ought to be performed in order to expand our knowledge in the area. In this case, the results section should reflect what might occur, depending on the outcome of the proposed experiment. The written report at the end of the first semester of a two-semester thesis should contain all of the contents listed above except results and discussion/conclusions.



Styles for citing references and using footnotes vary among disciplines.  It is best to consult with your thesis reader to see if there is a preferred style.

Scientific writing rarely uses footnotes, and certainly not in the same way as the writing in the social sciences and humanities.  A recent journal article is often a good guide.  Here are some suggestions:

I.      Method of Citing References in Text

   a.   Guthrie et al. (1999) reported that biologists have fun doing their research.

   b.   Several studies confirm that biologists have fun (Mathies, 1999; Sadava, 2000).

   c.   A major conclusion of McFarlane was the biologists are not the only scientist who enjoy their work.

   d.   Page references are unnecessary except when using a direct quotation:

“Physicists and chemists may have fun, but biologists are truly funny” (Edwalds-Gilbert, 2000: 46).

*If the quotation is longer than one or two sentences, it should be an insert and single spaced.

II.     Footnotes (Avoid them).

III.    Literature Cited

All references should include the full title, and should be listed alphabetically by author or chronologically if that author has more than one publication. Two or more publications by the same author(s) in the same year as designated as (1998a), (1998b), (1998c), etc.

   a.   Journal Articles:

Mathies, M., Pinnell, R. and Naftilan, S., 1999. Comparative study of research enjoyment by biologists, chemists, and physicists.  J. Claremont Res. 76:21-46.

   b.   Books:

Justice R., 2000.  Fun in Science.  Cucamonga Press, Upland, CA. 1756 pp.

IV.    Citing of Secondary Sources

If you wish to make reference to articles which you have not read, you should indicate the sources form which you learned of them, e.g.,

Mathies reported in 1978 (cited in Sadava, 1968a) that bearded men are a hazard in cell biology laboratories.

V.     Citation of Web Documents

In your references, list:

   a.   Literature cited:

   b.   Web page documents - a separate section at the end of literature cited.

All web documents should be cited as follows:

Address: date posted: brief title: source

Example:, 1997. Process and Pattern in the Darwinian Debate; book review by Peter Causton. The Boston Book Review.


References are listed in the order in which they appear in the text.  Citations are normally done by superscripting the number of the citation at the end of the sentence in which the reference is cited.  Another accepted method is to put the citation number in parentheses.


  1. Fucaloro, A. F.  Physical Education for Chemists, 2nd ed.; Brooklyn University Research Press:  Boston,  1988; pp 204-207.

Edited Books:

  1. Black, K. A.;  Gould, S.; In Strange and Abnormal Molecules, Vol 13; Landsberg, A.; Higdon, J. C., Eds.; Wince Press:  New York, 1999; PP 185-266.


  1. Pinnell, R. P.; Hatcher-Skeers, J.; Poon, T. Synthesis and NMR of Dodecaguanidyllphosphate:  An Unstable Compound with an Dislocated P=C Bond.  J. Cal. Chem. Soc 2000, 47, 1886.


  1. Handbook of Alchemy and Astrology, 567th ed.; Naftilan, S. A.; Zanella, A. W., Ed.; CROC:  Boca DiBeppo, FL, 1987-1988.

Web Center Documents:

Address: date posted: brief title: source

  1.,1997.  Process and pattern in the Darwinian Debate; book review by Peter Causton.  The Boston Book Review.









A Thesis Presented



  (Your Name)





To the Keck Science Department

Of Claremont McKenna, Pitzer, and Scripps Colleges

In partial fulfillment of

The degree of Bachelor of Arts


Senior Thesis in Chemistry (or whatever)





Kenneth K. Landes, Ann Arbor, Michigan

ABSTRACT:  The behavior of editors is discussed.  What should be covered by an abstract is considered.  The importance of the abstract is described.  Dictionary definitions of “abstract: are quoted.  At the conclusion a revised abstract is presented.

Presumably new editors, like new senators and small children, should be seen and not heard.  But, unfortunately, the Association has elected (the electorate had no choice) an editor who is a non-conformist.  For many years I have fretted over the inadequate abstract, and now perhaps I can do something about it, but not by keeping quiet.

Many of the abstracts appearing in the publications, including the meeting programs of the A.A.P.G., can best be described by the use of a homely word that refers to an infestation by certain minute organisms.  The abstract appearing at the beginning of this note is in the category.  I regret to say that it is not an extreme case.  My collection refers to such abstracts as “expanded titles.”  They could also be looked upon as a table of contents, in paragraph form, with “is discussed” and “is described” added so as to furnish each subject with the verb necessary to complete the sentence.  The reader is left completely in the dark not as to what the paper is about but as to what it tells!  The information and the interpretation contained therein remain a mystery unless the reader takes the time to read or listen to the entire paper.  Such abstracts can be likened to the “teasers” which your local movie manager shows you one week in the hope of bringing you back the next week.  But the busy geologist is more likely to be vexed than intrigued by the coy abstract.  To many geologists, especially to the types in exposition, the writing of the abstract is an unwanted chore required at the last minute by a rule-ridden editor or insisted upon even before the paper has been written by a deadline-bedeviled program chairman.  However, in terms of market reached, the abstract is the most important part of the paper.  For every individual who reads or listens to your entire paper, from ten to five hundred will read the abstract.  It is much better to please than antagonize this great audience.  Papers written for oral presentations should be prepared with the deadline of the abstract date instead of the delivery date.  Later discoveries can be incorporated within the paper – and they would miss the program abstract anyway.

My dictionary describes an abstract as “ a summary of a statement, document, speech, etc.” and “that which concentrates in itself the essential qualities of anything more extensive or more general, or of several things; essence.”  The definition I like best has been set in italics.  May all writers learn the art (it is not easy) of preparing an abstract containing the essential qualities of their compositions!  With this goal in mind I append an abstract that I believe to be an improvement over the one appearing at the beginning of this discussion.

                ABSTRACT:  Your abstract is of utmost importance, for it is read by many more people than hear or read your entire article (thesis).  It should not be a mere recital of the subject covered, replete with such expressions as “is discussed” and “is described.”  It should be a condensation and concentration of the essential questions and conclusions of your work.