Master's Paper Guidelines

Planning the Paper

Choosing a Faculty Advisor

Writing the Text 

The Final Version and Printing


Library Maintenance

Submitting the Electronic Version of the Paper

Planning the Paper

1. The student prepares the proposal under the joint supervision of the faculty advisor and the instructor of INLS 781 (Proposal Development) for students who continue to follow the pre-spring 2022 curriculum requirements or INLS 778 (Research Methods and Proposal Development) for those who entered SILS starting in Spring 2022 or those who were admitted in summer or fall of 2021 who have opted to follow the new curriculum effective spring 2022. The writing of a proposal is an integral part of the planning the master's paper.

2. The instructor of INLS 781 will make clear to the student the types and amount of information expected in the proposal and the timetable for proceeding.

3. Changes in the plan for the study after submission of the proposal in INLS 781 or INLS 778 may be made only as the result of mutual agreement between the student and the advisor.

4. If a student plans to make use of human research subjects for the master's paper (i.e., plans to use interviews, questionnaires, or tests), s/he must complete an IRB proposal within the university system. Students must also complete the CITI Human Subjects Training and earn the certificate for completion prior to submitting their IRB application. Even if working on campus, the student's home department for this purpose is SILS. Once completed, the proposal will be routed to the faculty advisor listed in the proposal for review and subsequent approval. After approval by the executive associate dean for administration it will be submitted to the university review board.  NOTE: IRB review and approval can take several weeks to process so students should plan appropriately. University IRB approval must be obtained prior to sending out questionnaires or conducting interviews.


5. Carnegie Research Grants, up to $200, are available to SILS students for assistance with unusual expenses involved in researching the master's paper. Grants have been made for the costs of travel, postage, microfilm materials, and certain other necessary expenses. Grants are not made for the mechanical preparation of a Master's paper, such as typing or copying the finished paper.

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Choosing a Faculty Advisor

The student is responsible for selecting a topic and finding a faculty member willing to serve as advisor. In general, the student should follow these steps in choosing a topic and advisor:

  1. Begin by exploring topics that match the student's interests, knowledge and skills.
  2. During INLS 781 (Proposal Development) or INLS 778 (Research Methods and Proposal Development) refine ideas, conduct literature review, develop methodology, and select an advisor:
  3. Discuss ideas for the master's paper with faculty members who have an interest and expertise in the selected area.
  4. The student may explore possible paper topics with several faculty members before selecting the final topic.7
  5. Select an advisor based on mutual interests and the availability of the faculty member to direct the paper/project during the appropriate semester(s).
  6. See the list of full-time teaching faculty members who are currently authorized to serve as master's paper advisors. Adjunct and clinical faculty may also serve as advisors at their discretion. They perform this service as a professional courtesy; it is not part of their instructional obligation to the School. A student interested in working with an individual who is not a full-time faculty member must see the Associate Dean or the Graduate Student Services Coordinator.
  7. Create a learning contract in cooperation with your advisor to come up with a timeline for completing your paper including any milestones, deliverables, and meetings. Having a timeline will ensure that you and your advisor have the same expectations.

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Writing the Text

1. Write your paper. A template is available to help correctly format the master’s paper. The template contains helpful information as well as how to number your paper and set the margins. This template is from Office 365 and is likely to work better in a newer version of MS Word. Students should have access to the latest version of word through We highly recommend using the most up to date version of Word to write and format your paper.

Tip: Make sure to save your work often and have a backup copy saved somewhere just in case.

2. The student submits to the advisor a first draft of the paper which conforms to the characteristics described, along with an abstract of no more than 150 words. The draft should follow the latest edition of Turabian's Manual, The MLA Style Manual or the APA Publication Manual consistently, with these additions:

a. Abstract page: The abstract page should conform with the sample. Several important things to note about the abstract:

  • Note that the abstract page is not numbered.
  • The page count in the citation should reflect your total pieces of paper including your abstract page and title page even though they are not numbered.
  • The abstract has a 1" margin at the top.
  • Single-space the citation and the abstract itself.
  • The subject headings should be placed in a list one under the other.
  • The subject headings are double spaced and should be indented one tab from the left. 

b.  Subject Headings: Submit no more than four subject headings to assist in indexing the paper in bibliographic sources. The headings to be used are those employed in the Library & Information Science Source thesaurus and should closely reflect the content of the study. To locate the headings that align with the paper use the instructions below: 

  • Navigate to Library and Information Science Source Click on Library & Information Science Source in the box titled "Recommended Databases" to log into the database.  Authenticate with your ONYEN then the EBSCO database will be accessible to you. Look at the third tab at the top of the page and you will see the tab for Thesaurus. Enter keywords and click Browse to find related subject terms. If you have questions, please contact Rebecca Vargha, SILS Librarian for assistance. 
  • If the student does not find appropriate headings in Library & Information Science Source, they should create headings that are consistent with those.
  • These subject headings will need to be entered when you upload the paper into the Carolina Digital Repository.

c. Title page: The title page should conform with the sample. Several important things to note about the title page: 

  • The title page has a 2" margin at the top. 
  • The title of the paper should describe precisely the nature of the study.
  • The title page is also not numbered but should be included on the page count on the abstract. 
  • The title of the paper should be in ALL CAPS. No bold, no italics. 
  • The date should reflect the month in which the paper is actually completed.

d. Margins: 

  • The following pages have 2 inch margins at the top: the title page, the table of contents (if applicable), the first page of text of the paper, the start of each chapter (if applicable), the first page of your bibliography, and the first page of your appendices (if applicable).
  • The rest of the pages within the paper should have a 1inch margin at the top including the abstract. 
  • The left side margin is 1.5 inches on the left throughout the paper to make room for the binding
  • Margins should be 1 inch on the right and the bottom. 

d: Footnotes: instead of being placed at the foot of the pages, may be gathered at the ends of chapters or at the end of the paper, with the heading: NOTE: End notes always precede appendices (if any) and the bibliography.

e. Pagination should appear on each page except the title page and the abstract. Arabic numbers should appear in the upper right-hand corner of the paper starting on the table of contents (if applicable) and should be black. 

f. Tables: When placing tables broadside, place headings at the binding and notes, if any, at the bottom of the table. Tables can be in color or black and white.

g. Photos or other images can be in black and white or color as long as they are readable.

h. Appendices: Placement of appendices relative to the bibliography or list of works cited depends on the particular style manual consulted. However, the bibliography must not be one of the appendices.

i. Block quotations are indented one tab from the left and are single-spaced.

j. The body of the paper should be double spaced. 

3. The first draft and subsequent drafts will most likely require revisions. Students should expect to rewrite all or part of the text before final acceptance, and should submit substantial drafts to their advisors according to the timeline set up in their learning contracts.

4. The final draft: Students should expect to turn in the final copy of their paper at least two weeks prior the posted deadline to give their faculty advisor ample time to read the final draft and for the student to make any needed adjustments to the text before submitting the final copy.

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The Final Version

Printed paper copies of the paper are now no longer required. After the advisor has approved the final version of the paper, the student must submit the following:

  1. Two (2) printed copies of the abstract on regular paper submitted to the Graduate Student Services Coordinator. These abstracts are used by the SILS library for indexing and other records. 
  2. The final electronic version of your paper submitted to both SILS and the Carolina Digital Repository. See instructions on how to submit the electronic copy in the Submitting the Electronic Version of the Paper section
  3. Master's paper distribution agreement
  4. Approved Substitute for a Master's Thesis signed by your advisor. This form will be provided to your advisor from the Graduate Student Services Coordinator. Once signed this form will be submitted to the graduate school on your behalf.

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1. The SILS Library sends a copy of the abstract to Library & Information Science Source for inclusion.

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Library Maintenance

  • A copy of the abstract is added to the Abstract Book and kept for reference in the SILS Library
  • Files by author name and accession number are kept in the SILS Library.
  • Past copies of Master's papers are available for borrowing using normal circulation procedures.

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Submitting the Electronic Version of the Paper:

Students are responsible for creating their master's paper in archival PDF format. The steps below describes how to create a PDF in Microsoft Word. You may, however, use any application to create your master's paper, as long as you prepare a PDF version. If you used another method to create your PDF file, begin at  step 2 and follow the instructions to upload your paper to the CDR.

1. Creating a PDF for electronic submission using MS Word:  

  • Open your Word document. Click the FILE tab in the upper left-hand corner, then select Save As and select PDF(*.pdf).  Review the PDF to ensure that all text and images are correctly formatted.
  • Type in the filename (your first and last name only, in all lower case letters, with no spaces - ex: johnsmith.pdf), and save it your personal storage space such as your UNC OneDrive.
  • Upload the final advisor approved copy of your paper using the SILS Masters Paper Upload Form along with the Masters Paper distribution agreement.

2. Submitting the Metadata for Library approval

  • Navigate to the Carolina Digital Repository and click on the  DEPOSIT tab near the top. Under SELECT TYPE OF WORK choose MASTER'S PAPER from the list and click on CREATE WORK at the bottom. Fill in the fields under "Author Information," "Paper Information," and "Faculty Advisor." See the next step for information about the subject fields.
  • Enter your subject headings in the "Subject topical" fields (2-3 terms are recommended). As you start to enter your terms, a list of controlled vocabulary terms will appear. You can select from that list or, if there is no suitable subject heading in the list, type your own. NOTE: New subject headings should be drawn from the Library & Information Science Source thesaurus for terms, or see the SILS Librarian for assistance.

IMPORTANT: Note that Lib Lit has punctuation and capitalization rules that we must follow:

•    Faceting is created by means of a double dash
•    Only the first word of a multi-word term is capitalized except for those words that are proper nouns
•    If a term contains a double dash (faceted term), the portion after the dash follows the same rules as the portion before the dash (initial caps, etc.).
•    There is a space on either side of the double dash, and terms do not end in periods

Examples of subject headings:
        Audiovisual materials
        Archives -- Collection management
        Coretta Scott King Award

3. Under "File for Deposit," click in the text box or click "Browse." Select your final PDF from the your computer.

4. Double check that all the required fields are filled in and that there are no typos or other errors.

5. Click "submit deposit."

6. Students should see their papers available in the CDR a few month after submission.

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