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Required Components of Formal M.D. Thesis

Required Components and Formatting


  1. Font: 10-12-point font should be used.
  2. Line spacing: Body paragraphs and tables should consist of double spaced text. Single spaced text may be used within block quotations, footnotes, and bibliography.
  3. Margins: 1.5-inch margins on the left with one-inch margins on the remaining three sides. These margins apply to text, full-page images and illustrations, and tables.
  4. Figures: Illustrative information, schematics, and representative data should be included as figures. Each panel in a figure should be labeled. Legends should describe each panel in detail in a 9-point font or greater and positioned below the figure to which they refer.
  5. Page Numbers: Each page in the thesis should be numbered except the title page, table of contents, abstract, and acknowledgements. The numbering should start at 1 and be placed either at the top center or at the top right-hand corner at least 1/2 inches from any edge.
  6. Minimal page requirement: Most Yale M.D. theses average 40-80 pages of text. A minimum of 30 pages of text excluding figures, legends, and references is required.

Required Components

  1. Title page: Title should not exceed 100 characters including spaces between words as shown in this example of a title page.
  2. Abstract page: As described on this example of an abstract page.
  3. Acknowledgements: Personal and faculty acknowledgements, grant support, departmental support, etc.
  4. Table of Contents: with page numbers for each section.
  5. Introduction: A thorough, complete, detailed, critical review of the literature that contextualizes and cites the work of previous investigators. This section should describe the state of the existing knowledge, provide rationale for the study, identify knowledge gaps, and frame the contribution of the thesis to medicine.
  6. Statement of purpose: Specific hypothesis if appropriate, and specific aims of the thesis.
  7. Methods: Thorough description of valid and rigorous study design.
    1. Student Contributions: Describe in detail exactly which procedures, methods and experiments were conducted by you and which procedures, methods and experiments, generation of data, or production of reagents, were performed by other members of the study team. It is not sufficient to state that this information may be mentioned elsewhere. It must be summarized here. It is recognized that students may often be completing a portion of a larger work. A statement detailing precisely what was done by the student and what was done by others does not detract from the thesis but is necessary for academic honesty.
    2. Ethics Statement: Include information regarding the ethical conduct of research.
    3. Human Subjects Research: If relevant, include explicit information regarding Institutional Review Board approval and informed consent. If the study had a waiver of consent, this exception must be clearly stated. Information regarding inclusion of women and minorities as research participants should be included here.
    4. Laboratory Animals: For studies involving laboratory animals, include an explicit statement regarding study approval from the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee. Include information regarding the species, strain, sex, and age of laboratory animals in this section as well.
    5. Methods Description: Provide information regarding the materials and methods used in the study. Each method should consist of its subheading and paragraph and be described in detail that is sufficient to allow its replication by an investigator who did not participate in the study.
    6. Statistical Methods: The last paragraph in this section should present the methods used to derive results. As needed, describe any data preprocessing such as transformation and normalization. Describe how outliers were defined and handled and present descriptive statistics as appropriate. The number of sampled units (ie, “n”) and significance (ie, “P”) should be reported for each statistical comparison. Continuous variables that are normally distributed may be presented as mean + standard deviation. Continuous variables that are asymmetrically distributed should be presented as median + interquartile range. All statistical tests should be clearly described and include information regarding testing level (alpha) and one- or two-sided comparisons. Corrections for multiple testing should be addressed and reported. Any novel or complex data algorithms should be clearly described and appropriately referenced.
  8. Transparent reporting of results: All primary data related to the thesis topic should be presented. Important data should be highlighted in figures or tables. For ease of review, it is preferred that figures and tables be included in proximity to their callout in the text. Alternately, tables and figures can be presented separately after the discussion but, if possible, it is advantageous to the reader to include these components in the body of the results section, as occurs in research publications.
  9. Discussion: This section presents thorough and detailed interpretation and analysis of data, conclusions drawn, and framing of observations with the larger scientific literature. Limitations should be addressed, as should alternate interpretations and how the thesis may inform future studies in the field. Whenever relevant, a discussion of how the thesis may meaningfully impact communities of interest should be included here. Finally, given the historic disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, students may insert a paragraph describing how they approached and responded to the unique research challenges encountered during the 2020-2021 time frame.
  10. Figure References and Legends: Figures must be cited sequentially in the text using Arabic numerals (for example, “Fig. 7”). Provide a short title (in the legend, not on the figure itself), explanation in sufficient detail to make the figure intelligible without reference to the text, and a key to any symbols used.
  11. Tables: All tables should be double-spaced, self-contained and self-explanatory. Provide brief titles and use superscript capital letters starting from A and continuing in alphabetical order for footnotes.
  12. References: We strongly recommend the use of bibliography software such as Endnote for managing the references. References should be formatted according to New England Journal of Medicine Style.

It is acknowledged that theses in the area of medical humanities, ethics, history, and related fields may not obviously adhere to the above requirements. In this case, the thesis will likely replace the “hypothesis” with a “claim” based on evidence gleaned through literary, historical, and ethical research. The first paragraph of the Methods should still contain information about the student’s contribution. The subsequent paragraphs should describe the artistic, literary, or historical databases and methods used to gather the “evidence” presented in support of and contrary to the central claim. The discussion and remaining sections are the same. If you have questions about how to best frame your thesis, please contact OSR.