Master's Paper Guidelines

Choosing a Faculty Advisor 

Planning the Paper

Writing the Text

The Final Version


Library Maintenance

Submitting and Printing


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), refine ideas, conduct literature review, develop methodology, and select advisor. 
  • Discuss ideas for the master's paper with faculty members who have an interest and expertise in the selected area.
  • The student may explore possible paper topics with several faculty members before selecting the final topic.
  • Select an advisor based on mutual interests and the availability of the faculty member to direct the paper/project during the appropriate semester(s).
  • 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.

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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). 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 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 located at  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 assistant dean for administration it will be submitted to the university review board.  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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Writing the Text

Please note: There is a template (.dot or .dotx) available for download that conforms to guidelines below for the abstract and title page. Students are encouraged to create pages using this template.   If you are unable to open this file you can try using the .doc version or a .docx version.

1. 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 ManualThe MLA Style Manual or the APA Publication Manualconsistently, with these additions:

a. The title page should conform with the sample attached to these policies. The date should reflect the month in which the paper is actually completed.

b. The abstract should conform with the sample. Note that the abstract page is not numbered.

c. 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: NOTES. End notes always precede appendices (if any) and the bibliography.

d. Margins for the paper are 1.5 inches on the left and 1 inch on the right, the bottom, and the top except that the first page of the text, each chapter (if any), the Table of Contents and the first page of the Bibliography have margins of 2 inches at the top.

e. Margins for the abstract are 1.5 inches on the left and 1 inch on each of the other sides. Single-space the citation and the abstract itself.

f. 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 and should be black. 

g. When placing tables broadside, place headings at the binding and notes, if any, at the bottom of the table.

h. 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 from the left and are single-spaced.

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

2. 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 several weeks before the final deadline.

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The Final Version and Printing

1. The title of the paper should describe precisely the nature of the study.

2. After the advisor finds the paper acceptable, the student must submit two copies of the paper in its final form. Both copies must be on white, 100 percent cotton paper or paper guaranteed by the manufacturer to be its equivalent in durability, 8.5 inches by 11 inches, 16 to 24 pound weight. 

3. The designated black-and-white printer reserved for printing final Master's papers can be accessed using the PCs found in the Computer Lab located in the SILS Library. While there is no printing fee, students must supply their own 100% cotton paper. The SILS IT Help Desk in the Library can assist students with printing their papers.


3. A total of five copies of the abstract must be submitted.

4. Submit not more than six subject headings to assist in indexing the paper in bibliographic sources. These headings should follow the sample abstract. The headings to be used are those employed in the Library & Information Science Source thesaurus and should closely reflect the content of the study.

Go to the University e-resouces guide page and look under recommended sources and select LISS.  Once you authenticate with your ONYEN then the EBSCO database will be accessible.  Look at the third tab at the top of the page and you will see the tab for Thesaurus.  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, s/he should develop headings that are consistent with those.

5. Non-print inclusion: submit two copies of equal quality when the master's paper includes items such as photographs, slides, or computer diskettes. For example, if including photographs as part of the paper, each copy must include original photographs and not photocopies. Put photographs and slides in acid-free holders, which are easily stored on shelves.

6. Arrange any folding tables or pages for ease of binding. Optionally, the table material may be reduced, reformatted, or placed on two pages.

7. Complete two copies of the Master's Paper Distribution Agreement and submit these with the final approved paper. It may be typed or printed.

8. Submit the two final copies of the paper to the advisor in temporary lightweight binders or folders that do not require punching holes in the paper; the extra abstracts may be laid in one of these. Students can obtain used binders in the SILS Library. Attach a label to each binder, giving author's name and paper title. Later, the paper will be permanently bound for the SILS Library.

9. When the advisor finds the final draft satisfactory, s/he signs both title pages and signs the form, REPORT OF APPROVED SUBSTITUTE FOR A MASTER'S THESIS.

10. The student submits to the SILS Office:

  1. The completed, signed paper (2 copies)
  2. A total of 5 copies of the abstract
  4. The signed Master's Paper Distribution Agreement (2 copies)
  5. PDF version of paper (see instructions)

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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

  1. Both copies of the master's papers are bound. The SILS Library keeps one copy as an archival copy; one copy is kept on the shelves for circulation.
  2. A copy of the abstract is added to the Abstract Book and kept for reference in the SILS Library.
  3. Files by author name and accession number are kept in the SILS Library.
  4. Master's papers are available for borrowing using normal circulation procedures.

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Students are responsible for creating their master's paper in archival PDF format. Section 2 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 use another method to create your PDF file, begin at Section 2:2 with your PDF file stored on disk

1. Creating Your Document

We encourage (but don't require) you to use the Microsoft Word template to write your paper. This template will help you format your paper correctly.

  1. Write your paper.
  2. Save your Word file (please keep a copy). Be sure to include ALL parts of your paper in a single file for submission (abstract, paper body, any appendices, bibliography, etc).

2. Creating a PDF for formatting approval

  1. 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.
  2. Type in the filename (your first and last name only, in all lower case letters, with no spaces - ex: johnsmith.pdf), and save it to either your USB jump drive or your Duck space (H:\ drive). 
  3. Give a printed paper copy of your paper to Lara Bailey so that she can approve the formatting. You will need for her to approve the PDF before you can complete the final step of uploading the paper and metadata to the Carolina Digital Repository
  4. Once your formatting has been approved, email a copy of the final PDF to Lara Bailey (ljbailey at EMAIL dot UNC dot EDU). She will save the final PDF to the "Masters Papers\Approved" folder.
NOTE: Temporary change in masters paper format review process and PDF submission due to COVID-19 Outbreak: 

a. Please email Lara Bailey (ljbailey at EMAIL dot UNC dot EDU) a PDF copy of your paper to review the format of your masters paper

b. Make any requested formatting changes 

c. Once your formatting has been approved and your final copy has been accepted by your advisor, please submit you final approved PDF and the Masters Paper distribution agreement via the SILS Masters Paper Upload Form. 

3. Submitting the Metadata for Library approval

  1. Once Lara has approved your paper, logon to any windows computer in the SILS Lab.
  2. Open your preferred web browser and navigate to Fill in the fields under "Author Information," "Paper Information," and "Faculty Advisor." See the next step for information about the subject fields.
  3. 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. New subject headings should be drawn from the Library & Information Science Source thesaurus for terms, or see the SILS Librarian for assistance.
    To access the thesaurus, follow these steps: from the UNC library's main website , click on "E-Research by Discipline" in the "Research Tools" box underneath the main search bar.  Click "Information and Library Science".  Choose the "Library & Information Science Source" database.  Select the "Thesaurus" tab. 
  4. 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

  5. Under "File for Deposit," click in the text box or click "Browse." Select your PDF from the "Masters Paper" folder: 
    1. SILS Lab computers typically have the M: drive mapped; your PDF can found under M:\Masters-Papers\Approved\"Term Year" \firstnamelastname.pdf. 
    2. If the M: drive is not mapped, you can open the folder using this path:  \\\sils\users\Masters-Papers\Approved\"Term Year"\firstnamelastname.pdf.
  6. Double check that all the required fields are filled in and that there are no typos or other errors.
  7. Click "submit deposit."

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