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Required Components of Formal M.D. Thesis

Required Components and Formatting

In general, one topic is appropriate for the thesis, but it is recognized that some students may have performed several projects in parallel under the supervision of their mentor. If the student elects to include more than one study in the thesis, it is recommended that an attempt be made to integrate the topics into one coherent presentation. In rare cases where this goal cannot be achieved, it may be acceptable to divide the results section into different portions (or “chapters”). However, to be consistent with Yale formatting requirements, a thesis may not contain more than one abstract, introduction, statement of purpose, methods, results, and discussion section. It is not acceptable to submit a published or submitted manuscript in lieu of the thesis requirement. The formal thesis is presented as a digital document (PDF) during the graduation year. It must adhere to the following formatting and content requirements. These aspects of research are critical in making the work sound, error-free, and impactful for communities of interest. Recognizing that students may have uncertainty regarding how these guidelines relate to their thesis, OSR will be happy to answer any questions that may arise. Additionally, students may find it useful to consult the Equator reporting guidelines to enhance the quality and transparency of their theses. The Yale M.D. Thesis is a doctoral thesis that serves as the basis for the conferring of a doctoral degree. Therefore, a minimum requirement of 30 pages (exclusive of title page, abstract, acknowledgements, table of contents, figure legends, references) is considered the minimum acceptable length.


  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. Figure legends do not count towards the 30 page minimum.
  5. Page Numbers: Each page in the thesis should be numbered except the title page, abstract, acknowledgements, and table of contents. The numbering should start at page 1 of the first page of the instruction be placed either at the top or bottom center, or at the top or bottom 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 title page, abstract, acknowledgements, table of contents, figures, legends, and references is required. Tables may count towards the minimum page requirement.

Required Components

  1. Title page: Title should not exceed 100 characters including spaces between words as shown in Appendix Item C. The title page is not included in the 30 page minimum.
  2. Abstract page: As described on page 41 and Appendix Item D. The abstract is not included in the 30 page minimum.
  3. Acknowledgements: Personal and faculty acknowledgements, grant support, departmental support, etc. The acknowledgements page is not included in the 30 page minimum.
  4. Table of Contents: Include page numbers for each section. The table of contents is not included in the 30 page minimum.
  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. The introduction is included in the 30 page minimum.
  6. Statement of purpose: Specific hypothesis if appropriate, and specific aims of the thesis. The statement of purpose is included in the towards the 30 page minimum.
  7. Methods: Thorough description of valid and rigorous study design. The methods are included in the 30 page minimum.
    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 historically vulnerable populations 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 enumerated 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. The results section is included in the 30 page minimum.
  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 or already has meaningfully impact(ed) communities of interest should be included here. The discussion section is included in the 30 page minimum.
  10. Challenges & Limitations: A brief discussion of methodologic, operational, and other challenges relevant to the research presented in the thesis. Please also include a brief discussion of how these challenges were addressed. Recognizing that all research projects have important limitations that readers should consider in interpreting the results, please include a brief discussion of the limitations relevant for your research.
  11. Dissemination: Please include efforts made to share findings with the scientific community (through oral presentation, peer-reviewed publications, and other venues) and the larger community including patients.
  12. 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. Figures and legends are not included in the 30 page minimum.
  13. 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. Tables and their legends are included in the 30 page minimum.
  14. 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. References are not included in the 30 page minimum.
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 and the 30 page minimum applies. If you have questions about how to best frame your thesis, please contact OSR.