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How to write a thesis

Table of contents

  1. Before you begin writing
  2. How the thesis is structured
  3. General information on style
  4. Bibliographical sources for final year students
  5. Electronic resources

1. Before you begin writing

1.1. Preliminary stages

Once the thesis topic has been agreed on and the stages of writing the thesis have been established with the supervisor, the candidate should follow several preliminary steps prior to drafting the paper:

  • Do some initial bibliographic research using catalogs, databases (in Italian), and specialized periodicals available at the Luiss Library;
  • Plan out the organization and exposition of the thesis through the drafting of a preliminary outline that is supported by a brief description of each chapter, which will clarify the project plan for both the supervisor and the candidate.

1.2. Objectives

The objectives of a paper such as the thesis are as follows:

  • Clarity: the candidate’s arguments should be expressed in linear phrases that are not redundant. Sentences should be kept as short as possible;
  • Completeness: all the information needed to understand the candidate’s reasoning should be carefully presented.

2. How the thesis is structured

The thesis is divided into sections, which are ordered systematically.

2.1. The title page

The title page is the first page of the thesis and it contains essential information about the thesis, such as:

  • the institution
  • the department
  • the thesis material
  • the thesis title
  • the candidate’s name
  • the supervisor’s name (and the co-supervisor’s name, where applicable)
  • the academic year

For the Luiss thesis, the Student Office has prepared Final Paper first page template to use:

2.2. Table of contents

The table of contents indicates the titles and page numbers at the beginning of the sections that make up the text of the thesis (chapters, sections, subsections, bibliography, etc.) and provides a snapshot of the content and structure of the paper. It has an organizational purpose with regard to the work being prepared and undergoes modification as the research on the thesis evolves and expands.

2.3. The introduction

The introduction, which is written after drafting the rest of the thesis, explains the choice of topic, the hypotheses that the candidate intends to prove and the tools used.

2.4. Chapters, sections and sub-sections

The body of the paper is subdivided into chapters, sections and subsections, numbered sequentially to facilitate internal references.

2.5. The conclusion

The last chapter of the thesis, it is presented as a response to the hypotheses presented in the introduction and comments on the results of the research.

2.6. Footnotes

Footnotes can be used for various purposes:

  • to cite the sources of the topics discussed;
  • to contain further information or digressions;
  • to refer to other sections of the text.

Footnotes are at the bottom of the page and use a smaller font than the rest of the text.
The numbers corresponding to the notes precede any punctuation marks, except in the case of quotes.

2.7. The bibliography

The bibliography lists and orders works consulted during the writing of the paper and the citations contained within it, and it contains the information needed to identify and find these documents.
Given that there is no single citation style, several variations can be used, as long as the selected style is used consistently throughout the thesis.

Distinguishing different types of documents is essential:

  • monographs;
  • chapters of monographs;
  • periodical articles;
  • gray literature (material produced by an entity but not published by an editor);
  • documents on the web.

Each of these is cited in a different way: for example, while the place of publication and the publisher must be indicated for monographs, this data can be omitted for periodicals because normally the name of the periodical is sufficient.

Several sources that provide specific instructions and examples are available for sale and online, such as the following:

In print

  • Eco, Umberto. Come si fa una tesi di laurea: le materie umanistiche. Milan: Bompiani, 2012;
  • Lesina, Roberto. Il nuovo manuale di stile: guida alla redazione di documenti, relazioni, articoli, manuali, tesi di laurea. Bologna: Zanichelli, 2009;
  • Revelli, Carlo. Citazione bibliografica. Rome: Associazione italiana biblioteche, 2002.

Electronic format

A seemingly mundane but important piece of advice is to always carefully write down the bibliographical information of the books and/or periodicals consulted or photocopied, in order to avoid having to look for the same material again as you finish the final draft of your thesis. 

From Summon discovery, through the "Cite this item" tool, you can create citations using different International Standard formats. Watch the Tutorial (in Italian with English subtitles) to find out more (login through the Luiss account).

3. General information on style

3.1. Graphic standards

In order to reduce paper and ink consumption, we suggest the following format that limits waste while still providing an enjoyable reading experience.

  • Format: 29x21 cm (A4)
  • Character: Times New Roman
  • Size: 12
  • Spacing: 1.5
  • Right margin: 1
  • Left margin: 1.5
  • Upper and lower margins: 1.25
  • Paragraph spacing: no spacing, tab at the beginning of a new paragraph

In addition to these formatting suggestions, we suggest using double-sided printing in order to further limit paper consumption.

3.2. Foreign words and emphasis

The rules state that foreign words commonly used in Italian should be written normally; in other cases they should be italicized, except for proper names, official names of institutions, or laws, which are not considered to be foreign words.
Latin terms are considered foreign and should be italicized.
Italics are also used to draw attention to specific words or passages in the text, while double quotes are used for idiomatic expressions.

3.3. Figures and tables

The source and the date the information was updated must always be provided for graphs and tables.

3.4. Abbreviations

Abbreviations can be used in the body of the thesis, as well as in the notes and bibliography.

Abbreviations may be editorial:

  • Article = art.
  • Chapter = ch.
  • Cited = cit.
  • Compare = cf.
  • Et cetera = etc.
  • Edition = ed.
  • Example = e.g.
  • Figure = fig.
  • Ibidem = ibid.
  • Idem = id.
  • Number = no.
  • Work cited = op.cit.
  • Page = p.
  • Pages = pp.
  • And the following = et seq.
  • No date = n.d.
  • No place = n.p.
  • Translated by/translation/translator = trans.
  • Volume = vol.
  • Volumes = vols.

Or related to the publications cited:

  • J. = Journal
  • Rev. = Revue, Review
  • Riv. = Rivista
  • Z., Zeit. = Zeitschrift Zh.
  • Zhur. = Zhurnal
  • Bull. = Bulletin
  • Proc. = Proceedings
  • Ann. = Annals,Annual 
  • Hist. = History, Historical 
  • Soc. = Society, Social
  • Am., Amer. = America, American 
  • Can., Canad. = Canada, Canadian 
  • Brit. = British
  • It., Ital. = Italy, Italian

A summary table of all abbreviations used in the paper should be included if they are used throughout the thesis.

4. Bibliographical sources for final year students

4.1. How do I get started?

The Library staff provides general bibliographical information and guidance, as well as help with document retrieval and in consulting catalogs and databases; these services are provided in the following areas of the Library:

Main Library:
Monday - Friday 8:00 a.m. - 9:00 p.m., Saturday 8:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. ( - +39.06.8522.5600)

Reading Rooms:
Monday – Friday 8:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m., Saturday 8:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. ( +39.06.8522.5602/5651/5606)

In addition, you can use the online ask a librarian service for questions related to: writing a bibliography, getting information and material on a specific topic, information on research strategies and sources to consult, access to other libraries, information on the Library’s services and its print and electronic resources.

4.2. How do I find a book?

You can use Summon, a discovery system that allows you to do a single integrated search of the majority of bibliographical and full text resources available in the Luiss Library and of other relevant, open source resources, as well as of the following institutional archives: LuissThesis and Digital library.

The list of results shows the location and the shelf-list of printed books or the link to access e-books.

If you do not find the book you are looking for in the catalog you can:

4.3. Loans

Students can borrow up to 10 books for 40 days.

Remember that loans can be renewed up to their due date as long as other users have not reserved them.

Renewals can be done:

4.4. How can I find a periodical?

Consult the Journal Search, which publishes all of the titles in print and/or electronic format available at the Library.

  • The following information is included for printed periodicals: the name of the periodical, ISSN, room location, what the Library has and what it is missing;
  • The following information is included for periodicals in electronic format: the title, with a direct link to the resource, ISSN, the full text of the cover, the database it belongs to and how to access it.

Remember that with the remote access service you can consult most of the Library’s electronic periodicals from home.

If the Library does not have the periodical that you are looking for, you can:

4.5. How to identify periodical articles?

If you already have the bibliographical data for the article, consult the Journal Search, which has the complete list of periodicals in print and/or electronic format available at the Library.

If the Library does not have the periodical you are looking for, you can:

  • Consult other national catalogs such as ACNP or  SBN to see if other libraries in Rome have them, where you can go in person;
  • Use the document delivery service for periodicals that are not found in Rome (average wait time: 7 days).

If you do not have the article’s bibliographical data or if you are looking for articles on a specific topic:

  • Consult the ESSPER catalog (in Italian), which is freely accessible online;
  • Consult the database (in Italian) of periodicals in electronic format, which can be searched by author, title or keyword.

Remember that with the remote access service you can consult most of the Library’s databases even from home.

5. Electronic resources

The Library has a number of electronic resources that can be accessed from the thematic rooms, from the University’s network, or remotely; the main advantages of these with respect to the free information available on the web are:

  • A guarantee of reliability and scientific quality;
  • Increased time coverage: the availability of historical series;
  • The possibility of processing the data available in spreadsheets or using graphs;
  • The possibility of comparisons and analysis according to variables that you can choose.

See the list organized by type of resource in the following areas:

5.1. How to access electronic resources from home

To access this service you will need to have an Internet connection and to configure your browser according to a few simple steps that are explained below:

Windows environment:

Macintosh environment:

Please note: for those who have an Internet connection through an ISDN modem (56 kb or 128 kb for example), Internet key or USB modem, the configuration must be entered in the remote connection settings used and not in the LAN settings (Internet Explorer, in Italian).

Once you have set the configuration, you will need to restart the browser. After doing so, click on a link for one of the externally accessible resources. A login screen will appear, where you will need to enter your username and password for your email account.

To disable the proxy, simply uncheck the last option selected during configuration. The address entered will be saved for the next use.

For all information, or if you need any assistance, please contact: