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Composition Format Guidelines

There are no approved Rackham templates, but Scholarspace, at the Hatcher Graduate Library, can teach you how to create your own template. Do not use any other student’s dissertation or thesis as an example of how to format your dissertation. Your dissertation must follow these guidelines. To view a sample of a correctly formatted document, view the Dissertation Handbook.


Margins are a minimum of one half inch on each side. Generally, composition front matter pages (see #4) have one inch margins with the composition itself having one half to one inch depending on the composition size.

First Page of Each Section

The first page of each section of the front matter should start on a new page and have a two-inch top margin.

Front Matter

Front matter page numbers are lowercase Roman numerals, starting with page ii (preferably centered at the bottom of the page). The actual composition starts with page 1. All pages, except the title page, frontispiece and copyright page must have page numbers.

Front Matter Order

Front matter is in the following order (again, the first numbered page must be page ii):

  1. Title page: Mandatory; no page number (see following page for format)
  2. Frontispiece: Optional; no page number
  3. Copyright/Identifier page: Mandatory; no page number
  4. Dedication: Optional; must have page number (lowercase Roman numerals start here)
  5. Acknowledgements: Optional; must have page number
  6. Preface: Optional; must have page number
  7. Table of Contents: Mandatory; must have page number
  8. Lists: Mandatory when there is more than one; must have page number (rarely part of the composition, see 5 below)
  9. Instrumentation, Performance notes, Notations: Optional; must have page number
  10. Abstract: Optional; must have page number


Lists of tables, as well as lists of figures, illustrations, charts, references, citations, appendices, etc., rarely are part of the Composition. If there is more than one figure, table, etc., a List of Figures, List of Tables, etc., would be mandatory and should follow the Dissertation Format Guidelines.

Abstract for Online Submission

An abstract (text limit of 550 words), with no special characters, is required for the online submission of the composition. This abstract should be given to the committee with the composition before the defense.