Thesis Writing


A thesis is a substantial and original contribution to scholarship, through the discovery of knowledge, the formulation of theories or the innovative re-interpretation of known data and established ideas. Writing a doctoral thesis—the culmination of years of research work—can be a daunting endeavor. At the Graduate Research School our Research Director, staff and supervisors are there to help you along the way as we mentor, facilitate and guide you with resources and support.

One of the more difficult tasks in writing your thesis is keeping track of the formatting of your footnotes and bibliography entries. There are so many different styles with various rules for the multitude of sources we use, it is hard to keep track of it all. Fortunately, there are software platforms that help make this task easier for you. Some of the major platforms are Endnote, RefWorks, Zotero, Mendeley, and Citationsy. Each of these will work relatively seamlessly with your word-processor. The word processor MS Word also has a basic function built in.


The key advantage of such program is that they automatically keep track of the format of your footnotes, identify repeat citations and treat them accordingly where necessary, and automatically generate a final bibliography. Often you can download entries from websites such as electronic journal databases and Googlebooks. They can also output these entries in different citation styles, as required. The Sydney College of Divinity does not specify which style of citations and bibliography you should use, but it is important to be consistent throughout the thesis.

You can see some of the features of the five programs noted above at Scribendi.

When you are nearing completion of your thesis, you may want to consider, in consultation with your supervisor, the need to employ editing services, to add a final degree of polish to the presentation of your work for examination. This may entail:


  • Proof reading: ensuring spelling, grammar and punctuation are correct; fixing up issues with footnoting and the bibliography; consistency in fonts and text size and so on
  • Copy editing: clarifying the expression; making sure word usage is correct; breaking up overly long sentences while retaining meaning and so on.


Such a process should not change your argument, address shortcomings in your logic or evidence, or introduce new ideas (or delete existing ideas) into the thesis, and so on. They are not to be creative contributors to the thesis. Professional editors should adhere to The Institute of Professional Editors Guidelines for editing research theses.


Two things to keep in mind:


  • Using a professional editor is not cheap. However, it will improve the quality of the final product considerably. Using a professional editor, as distinct from a friend for example, also provides some assurance that they will adhere to the professional code of conduct for editing thesis.
  • If you use an editor, it is your responsibility to acknowledge the use of the service, and whether they adhere to the IPEd’s Australian standards for editing practice.


Any decision to use a professional editor must be made in consultation with your supervisor. It is not a good use of the supervisor’s time and expertise to expect him/her to do this for you.

All copies of the thesis should be in good quality typescript on one side of the paper only. In the main body of the thesis double-spacing of typescript is preferred, but one-and-a-half-spacing is acceptable. Single-spacing may be used only for appendices and footnotes or endnotes. The paper should be good quality, medium weight white stock, sufficiently opaque for normal reading.


Gender-inclusive language should be used except in quotations, paraphrases, or re-creations of the language used in a different culture. God may be referred to in the gender language appropriate to normal practice within a particular theological tradition.


The size of the paper should be A4 (297mm x 210mm) except for illustrative material such as drawings, maps and printouts, on which no restriction is placed.


The margins on each sheet should be not less than 40mm on the left-hand side, 20mm on the right-hand side, 30mm at the top, and 20mm at the bottom.


The recommended structural sequence of a thesis is as follows:


  • Title Page
  • Declaration of Originality
  • Acknowledgements (if any)
  • Preface (if any)
  • Table of Contents
  • List of illustrations and tables (if any)
  • Abstract
  • Introduction (if separate from Chapter 1)
  • Chapters in sequence
  • Conclusion
  • Appendix or appendices (if any)
  • Bibliography


The title page should contain the thesis title, author’s name, degree and year of submission.


The Declaration of Originality should take the following form:


This thesis is based upon original work by the author and a study of the relevant published works as indicated and acknowledged in the text.


(Author’s signature)



The table of contents should be reasonably detailed in a thesis, since an index is not usually included.


Beginning with the first page of the first chapter (which may be headed either ‘Introduction’ or ‘Chapter 1’) pages should be numbered consecutively using Arabic numerals. Preceding pages, except the title page, should normally be given lower case Roman numerals, beginning with the page immediately after the title page.


Each copy of the thesis should have an abstract of 500-700 words bound in. The abstract should indicate the problem investigated, the procedure followed, the general results obtained and the major conclusions reached. It should not contain any illustrative material or tables. Note that it should not be replicated in the introductory paragraphs.


Appendices contain any supplementary material that the author considers necessary to the interpretation of the text itself. Appendices elaborate information or argument expressed within the body of the thesis; they do not introduce substantial new information or new argument. Materials that are generally more appropriately included in an appendix would include long tables, data that supports arguments contained in the thesis, detailed reports, detailed technical arguments and computer printouts.


Materials such as illustrations, charts or tables must not be submitted on the back of typed sheets. Except with the approval of the supervisor, these should be bound facing the text to which they refer, or if necessary, as right-hand pages, immediately after the first reference to them. The caption should be placed at the bottom of the page.


Materials such as diagrams, maps, and tables that exceed A4 size should be either:


(i) folded so as to read as a right-hand page when opened; or

(ii) clearly referred to in the text, numbered and folded for insertion in a pocket in the back inside cover of the thesis binding.


Footnotes at the bottom of each page are preferred but endnotes are permitted. It is normal to begin footnotes or endnotes at 1 for each chapter. Harvard-style notes included in the main body of the thesis are not generally appropriate for advancing theological argument but may be permitted if clearly appropriate to a particular thesis.


Bibliography and Referencing


No single method of referencing is prescribed, but candidates should use one or other of the generally recognized systems of referencing and do so consistently.


Recommended Style Manuals:


That of the Journal of Theological Studies.


Patrick H. Alexander and others, The SBL Handbook of Style: For Ancient Near Eastern, Biblical, and Early Christian Studies, Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1999, and Student Supplement rev. 2009.


Lawrence D. McIntosh, compiler, A Style Manual for the Presentation of Papers and Theses in Religion and Theology, Wagga Wagga: Centre for Information Studies in Association with ANZTLA and ANZATS, 1994.

This information is required when nearing completion.

There are a range of video tutorials presented by our faculty to provide candidates tips and pointers to help with their thesis writing. Candidates can view these tutorials on the our website.