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Lehigh University Libraries - Library Guides

Dissertation and Thesis Writing

Goal of guide

Goal of Guide

This library guide points to library resources relevant to the stages of writing a dissertation or thesis. 

The tabs on the left hand side of this page are roughly ordered by the stages of your work.

Consult with your subject librarian for help doing research. Also, please contact your subject librarian if you have any comments about this library guide and its usefulness.


Select a Topic

Select a Topic

Don't reinvent the wheel! Your librarian has focused literature searching skills that will help you avoid this.


  • It's better to start with a narrow topic, research it, then broaden it if necessary. There is so much literature now about any topic that even on a narrow topic, you are bound to find a good deal of relevant literature.
  • It can help to focus on a well-defined and focused existing debate and then develop your own position within that debate.  
  • As you select a topic, consider the notes in the "Write" section of this guide about writing a literature review that can become the first chapter of your dissertation. The process of writing a review of the literature in your topic of interest can help refine your topic and closely define it.





Find Sample Dissertations or Theses

Find Sample Dissertations or Theses

Before writing your dissertation or thesis, look at examples of completed examples by consulting the library guide Finding Theses and Dissertations. It has two pages:

  • Finding Lehigh Theses and Dissertations 
  • Finding Theses and Dissertations from Other Institutions


  • Ask your advisor to recommend some well-done dissertations, either at Lehigh or elsewhere. Use them as models 
  • Dissertations often have very complete bibliographies. Use them as one more source for literature citations.

Research the Topic

Research the Topic

The library provides a range of resources relevant to researching your topic. Below are some of them.

Set up an appointment with a subject librarian to discuss these and other resources.


Explore the wide array of library guides to identify relevant literature databases and other resources related to your subject and to researching and writing.


Consider using Browzine  to easily find, read, and monitor thousands of scholarly journals available from LTS, or through Open Access publishers, covering all disciplines. 

  • Browse titles by subject to easily find journals of interest
  • Easily view table of contents of current past journals
  • Create a personal bookshelf of favorite journals 
  • Share with other researchers by posting to Facebook and Twitter


Make heavy use of review articles, which summarize the literature in a sub-discipline. Some literature databases enable one to filter search results for this type of article. Also, you can often tell from its title whether an article provides a high-level review of a field.


Early on, set up email alerts, for example from library databases such as Web of Science, or Google Scholar, for new literature relating to your field. If you like a particular article or book, set up an email alert for literature that cite it. This is very important for purposes of tracking late-breaking literature as you do your research. Your librarian can help you design alerts.


Don't forget the importance, when researching, of finding an article or other document, then finding who has cited it. This is a very important way to build a bibliography, arguably one of the best. Librarians can assist you with this type of search as well as other approaches to searching. 


In addition to looking at dissertations to get ideas about how to write a one, they can provide valuable bibliography. Include them in your literature searches. See Finding Theses and Dissertations.


Organize Your Bibliography


How can you keep track of all the citations you come across and copies of the associated full text? 

One way to do so is to use RefWorks. For information, see these library guides:


  • To manage journal articles that you have printed out, consider numbering them and then putting the number into the corresponding RefWorks record for the article. That way you can use RefWorks as a search engine to find your print version of the article. 
  • Make use of the electronic folders in RefWorks that enable you to sort articles by subject area. 





Below are some tips and resources about writing your dissertation or thesis. See the box below this one for books about writing dissertations and theses.

At the outset: write a literature review (before you write an outline)

Spend a good deal of time at the outset, or at least early on, writing the literature review section of your dissertation. See "The Literature Review: For Dissertations", a library guide from the University of Michigan Library.

Writing a literature review at the very outset of your research gives you a solid sense of the literature in your field and provides a context to narrow in on specific topics. It might prove invaluable in helping you get a sense of areas about which little has been written.

You may even want to try to publish in a journal a "review article" that grows out of the first chapter of your dissertation.  

Some ideas for writing a literature review:

  • Do a Web of Science search and then narrow the search by review article. This will bring up sample review articles. Study them to get ideas about how to format or structure your own review article. Also try Annual Reviews Online.
  • For persons in the sciences, see Ten Simple Rules for Writing a Literature Review for tips about how to write a review article. The article also has a long list of references at the end that can point you to other literature about the genre of review articles.

Citation Guides and Style Manuals

Determine what citation style to use. It is a good idea to start using the appropriate style when you start your dissertation or theses. Consult the library guide Citation Guides and Style Manuals.


If you are writing a paper that contains equations, consider use of Overleaf, a cloud-based, collaborative LaTeX editor. Lehigh subscribes to a site-wide license for Pro+ (premium) accounts. Register with your Lehigh email address.

Dissertation boot camp

Consider going to the dissertation boot camps held by the Graduate Student Life office. These provide extended quiet time to work on your writing. Also, being surrounded by others doing the same can help motivate you.​

Books about Writing a Dissertation or Thesis

Consult books and e-books in Lehigh's library catalog about writing dissertations and theses

Here's an example of the genre:

by Bolker, Joan. 
Published 1998
Table of Contents: '; “... outside and inside -- You, your readers, and the dissertation support group -- Revising : the second draft...”
Call Number: 378.242 B689w
Located: Fairchild - 6th Floor - North

Templates, Formatting and Submission

University Templates for Formatting

Below are some university resources that address how to format your dissertation or thesis. They are given here for your convenience. 

*Contact your adviser to review your department's expectations, guidelines, or templates for submission.*


  • Students can upload all the files provided (rename Dissertation.tex to main.tex) to an overleaf project and start writing by creating a separate file for each chapter and appendix.
  • CAS has an approved TeX template, that what CAS folks should be using and modifying based on departments additional requirements.

Electronic Submission of Theses and Dissertations

For information about how to submit electronically your Lehigh dissertation or thesis, see the library guide about how to do so.

Contact Ilhan Citak (x4506) for details about the submission process. 

Publish Chapters as Preprints?

Publish Chapters as Preprints?

Preprints (scroll down a bit) are an increasingly important form of publishing. A preprint is a publicly accessible version of your research. Preprint servers serve as a place to publish an initial version of your research prior to seeking publication.

As you write successive chapters, consider publishing them as preprints, even as you submit them as journal articles...but first ascertain that the journal to which you submit your article allows "pre-publication" in a preprint. Or when your dissertation or thesis is done, consider publishing it as a preprint.   

See here for benefits and caveats about publishing preprints.

Publish the Final Product

Publish the final product

As you write your dissertation, submit chapters as articles. When your dissertation or thesis is complete, consider publishing it as a book. Not only will this help you get a job, but it is a way to make available to the world the fruits of your hard labors.


Other Resources

Other Resources

For additional ideas, rummage around in these library guides from other institutions . Check with a librarian about resources at Lehigh comparable to those mentioned in these guides: