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How do I format a thesis or dissertation in MLA style?

The MLA Handbook does not provide guidelines for formatting a thesis or dissertation—or for preparing the parts of such a project, like a preface, dedication, or acknowledgments page—because most schools maintain their own formatting requirements. Although the MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing, out of print since 2016, summarized some of these requirements, it did so only in a very general way. 

Writers of theses and dissertations should follow any guidelines their schools provide. If a school does not provide such guidelines, a successfully defended dissertation in the writer’s department might provide an example to follow.

Published 1 May 2018

How do I cite a dissertation in MLA style?

A dissertation is a unique type of source. It is a finished, stand-alone work written under the auspices of an institution. In a change from the previous edition of the MLA Handbook we do not distinguish between published and unpublished dissertations. To cite a dissertation, include in the entry the author, title, and date of publication as core elements. As an optional element, list the institution granting the degree and a description of the work.

Njus, Jesse. Performing the Passion: A Study on the Nature of Medieval Acting. 2010. Northwestern U, . . .

Published 7 July 2016

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