Format Guidelines and Submission Requirements

for WTS Theses, Dissertations, and Projects  

(Revised July 2019)

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, 5th edition.

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”). Before you submit your thesis please complete the Format Guidelines Check.



A. Basic Guidelines

1. Turabian
2. SBL Handbook
3. Review Your Formatting

B. Abbreviations

C. General Formatting Guidelines

1. Font
2. Line Spacing
3. Margins
4. Chapter Titles and Subheadings
5. Pagination

D. Sequence of Elements

E. Detailed Instructions for Specific Elements

1. Title Page (Fillable Forms)
2. Copyright Page
3. Abstract
4. Contents
5. Figures
6. Tables
7. Abbreviations
8. Citing Sources
9. Curriculum Vitae

F. Submission Requirements

1. Submission Summary
2. Dates for Submission
3. Plagiarism Pledge

Appendix: Sample Pages with Instructions



1.  Turabian

The primary style guide for WTS theses is Kate L. Turabian’s 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 Library Director or the Center for Theological Writing 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.


1. For the use of abbreviations in general, see Turabian 2018, 342–351, 355–357.

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, 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. 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.

d. If you use abbreviations in the body of your text, footnotes, or bibliography, you must include a list of the abbreviations with the matching full titles in the “Abbreviations” page in the preliminary pages of your thesis or dissertation. (See Section E.7 below.)



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 2018, 402–404 and Fig. A.9. Chapter titles that exceed one line should be single-spaced.

b. Turabian provides for five distinct formatting levels for subheadings (2018, 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 a blank line before and 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 below it.

d. The following example of how to use subheadings is based on Turabian 2018, 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 here; choose the number of levels suited to the divisions in your thesis chapters, maintaining the principle of visual prominence explained above.

Sample Subhead Style – Three Levels

Top-Level: Centered, boldface type, headline-style capitalization (equivalent to Turabian’s first level)

Ancient Near East and Old Testament

Mid-level: Flush left, boldface or italic type, headline-style capitalization (equivalent to Turabian’s third level)

Ancient Near East

Lowest-level: Run in at the beginning of the paragraph (no blank line after), boldface or italic type, sentence-style capitalization, terminal period (equivalent to Turabian’s fifth level)

            Pastoral motifs in extra-biblical literature. In the epic of Gilgamesh, Gilgamesh, the main character and a ruler, is described as a bull and a shepherd, and the city of Uruk is described as the sheepfold . . . .

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.



Place the preliminary pages in the following order. Do not follow Turabian or the SBL Handbook 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 


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 The Chicago Manual of Style (2017, 210–214).

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 2018, 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. Please observe a 350-word limit, and double space the text, as described in Turabian 2018, 389. Click here to see a sample "Abstract" page.

4. Contents

The label for this page should read “Contents,” not “Table of Contents” (see Turabian 2018, 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 2018, 393. Click here to see a sample "Figures" page.  

Click here to see a sample figure with caption. See Turabian 2018, 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 inThe Chicago Manual of Style 2017, 141–144, and Turabian 2018, 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 2018, 393 and Fig. A.5. Do not combine figures and tables into a single list; in other words, follow Turabian Fig. A.5, not A.6. Click here to see a sample "Tables" page.

Click here to see a sample table. See Turabian 2018, 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 of Style 2017, 141–144, and Turabian 2018, 372–373.

7. Abbreviations

Abbreviations used in the thesis (see section B above) must be listed and defined, as described in Turabian 2018, 398, and Fig. A.7.

Click here to see a sample abbreviations page.

8. Citing Sources

a.  Bibliography Style. The bibliography style as explained in chapters 16 and 17 of Turabian is the primary citation system used at Westminster, supplemented by The SBL Handbook for theses in biblical studies. This method of footnoting uses superscript numbers in the text to indicate that a bibliographical or content footnote occurs at the bottom of the page.

Please note the following:

(1) All footnotes must be placed at the bottom of the page as described in Turabian 2018, 162, Section (SBL 2014, chapter 6). There is no other option.

(2) When using “shortened references” (see Turabian 2018, 163–167), follow the template labelled "Author-Title Notes" on 165–166. Do not use “Author-Only Notes.” For SBL, consult 2014, chapter 6.

(3) Shortened references are encouraged, but you may use "Ibid"; carefully study Turabian 2018, 166–167. This rule applies to SBL users. 

(4) For references to encyclopedia and dictionary articles, the citation method for “Parts of Edited Collections” should be used (see Turabian 2018, 184–185). For subsequent references, use "Author-Title Notes" format described in number 3 above. Do not use the method found in Turabian 2018, 204–205. SBL users should follow SBL 2014, 94–95. See the CTW's Citation and Formatting Guide for examples.

b. Electronic Sources. For citing sources found in Westminster's online databases, list the facts of publication, as described in Turabian 2018, 143–146.

For online sources that are exactly like print sources, use the print citation form and add the name of the database (preferred), or the URL if the name is not available. For websites, blogs and social media, include author, title of page, title of the site, and a date of publication derived from the following sources in order of preference: (1) a date of publication listed on the site; (2) the most recent date of revision; or (3) if none of the above are available, provide the date you accessed the material. Please consult Turabian 2018, 186–201 for more details and CTW's Citation and Formatting Guide for examples.

Click here for a sample bibliography.

9. 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.



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.


Sample Pages with Instructions

Title Page (fillable forms)

Copyright Page



Figures Page

Sample Figures with Captions

Tables Page

Sample Tables

Abbreviations Page

Chapter Title and Subheading Spacing

Sample Appendix


Curriculum Vitae


Return to Top ↑