Writing up, Submission and the Viva
This section provides information about Writing up, Submission and the Viva, including links to relevant regulations and useful information and resources.
Contents of this section (please scroll down to see each):
DPhil students are usually expected to submit their thesis within three or four years (12 terms) of being admitted as Probationer Researcher Student (PRS). Part time DPhil students are usually expected to submit their thesis within eight years (24 terms).
MSc by Research (MSc(R)) students are usually expected to submit their thesis within two or three years of being admitted as Probationer Research Student (PRS), although some may complete within one year.
The expected completion date for both full time and part time students is six months after the submission date; this is to allow for the Viva examination to take place, and for the student to complete any minor corrections and re-submit the thesis. NB these extra six months should not be used to complete any research, as the maximum submission date remains the same.
Extensions: Should circumstances arise where your student may need to apply for an extension, you can find information on what they should do on the page on Extensions and Suspensions.
Thesis Standard: DPhil - The standard required for success in the DPhil examination is defined as follows: that the student present a significant and substantial piece of research, of a kind which might reasonably be expected of a capable and diligent student after three or at most four years of full time study in the case of a full-time student, or eight years in the case of a part-time student. MSc (R): The standard required for success in the MSc (R) examination is defined as follows: that the candidate should have made a worthwhile contribution to knowledge or understanding of the relevant field of learning after a minimum of one year or two years of full-time study.
It is important to note that at Oxford the examination assessment is completely independent of the student’s supervisor. While of course the supervisor offers support and advice, the outcome will rest on the recommendations of the examiners, and final approval by the relevant board. You should familiarise yourself with Section 7 of the University’s Policy on Research Degrees, which deals with examination.
Your department’s Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) will be able to advise you on the examination process and procedures, including guidance on examination criteria.
As supervisor you may advise the Director of Graduate Studies if there are any special factors which should be taken into account in the conduct of your student’s examination. For example, a scientific paper may have been produced by another researcher which affects the content of the thesis, but which was published too late for it to be taken into account. You should also advise the Director of Graduate Studies if the student has any special needs that might affect their performance in the oral examination, or if any part of their work must be regarded as confidential. The Director of Graduate Studies will forward, via the Graduate Office, any appropriate information that they think should be provided to the examiners. The Graduate Office will then seek approval from the Proctors Office if required.
Form GSO.20a provides notes and guidance for the student on the whole submission process.
Download an overview of the examination process (PDF on University of Oxford website).
The key stages of completion are:
Writing the Thesis
In the MPLS Division there are two approaches to compiling the thesis:
- The departments of Plant Sciences and Zoology permit that the thesis may comprise a collection of published papers. Details of what will and will not be permitted are included in the Examination Regulations for these two departments.
- In the departments of Chemistry, Computing Science, Earth Sciences, Engineering Science, Materials, Mathematics, Physics, Statistics and the Doctoral Training programmes, the thesis may not comprise a collection of published papers. Examination regulations for the Physical Sciences and Examination Regulations for the Mathematical Sciences.
You / your student should also check the examination regulations for any word or page limits.
You should work with your student to create a plan for writing up, and encourage them to start writing up early so that any hold ups or unexpected events can be absorbed more easily.
Appointment of Examiners
It is your responsibility as the supervisor to identify and propose appropriate examiners for your student. There are normally two, one internal and one external. The internal examiner is usually a senior member of Oxford University; the external examiner usually from another research organisation. Section 7 of the University’s Policy on Research Degrees provides further information on the appointment of examiners, particularly on who may act and what might be considered as a conflict of interest.
The application for the appointment of examiners should be made no earlier than the term before, and ideally no later than 4-6 weeks before the intended submission.
You should consult with your student before making final decisions about proposed examiners, and you are encouraged to contact potential examiners informally to determine whether they are willing in principle to act and, if so, whether they are able to carry out the examination within a reasonable period of time. The process is:
- Student completes sections 1, 2 and 3 of form GSO.3, Application for the Appointment of Examiners, and passes it to you as supervisor.
- Supervisor completes section 4 of form GSO.3 and returns it to the student for them to obtain the college signature in section 5.
- Supervisor choice of examiners is approved by the Director of Graduate Studies. (The University Regulations make reference to department, faculty or divisional board as being the decision making body in relation to examiner appointments. In MPLS this authority is delegated to the Director of Graduate Studies)
- The completed GSO.3 form is passed to the MPLS Divisional Graduate Office at 9 Parks Road for processing. The Graduate Office forward the form to the Exam Schools, who issue the formal invitations to the examiners.
submitting the thesis
Students are only permitted to submit their thesis when they have successfully completed the Transfer and Confirmation of Status milestones (Confirmation of Status is only required for DPhil Students, not for M.Sc(R) students.)
The final decision on when to submit is the student’s, noting that those funded by a research council may have a specified date by which they are expected to submit. It is of course in their interest to involve the supervisor at all stages, and to make the final version of the thesis available to you for your final comments in good time before they submit.
You should encourage your student to ensure that their standard of English is sufficient for the presentation of the thesis, and to pay particular attention to the final proof–reading. Read more information about layout and presentation of the thesis. It is the student’s responsibility to ensure their thesis has been adequately proof-read before it is submitted. As the student’s supervisor, you should tell the student if you notice that further proof-reading is required when reading a final draft. However, it is not your responsibility to proof-read the student’s work. Neither is proof-reading the job of the examiners: the student should not submit a thesis which requires further proof-reading, and should employ a professional proof-reader for this purpose if necessary.
Theses should be submitted to the Submissions Desk, Examination Schools, High Street. The University’s deadline for submission is the last day of the vacation following the term in which the GSO.3 form was submitted. The student should submit two printed copies of the thesis (soft-bound), and include two printed copies of an abstract that is no more than 300 words. The documents must be submitted in unsealed padded envelopes.
Copies of the thesis should NOT be given direct to the examiners as this could result in the examination being declared void and the student could be referred to the University Proctors.
It is normally expected that the Viva examination should take place within three months of thesis submission, although there are no regulations requiring it to happen within a defined period of time. The actual date of the exam will depend primarily on the availability of both examiners; it is worth noting that more time is usually needed to arrange the date during the Long Vacation. The internal examiner is responsible for arranging the date; they will contact the student once a date has been arranged.
If your student needs to have their viva sooner than three months after submitting the thesis, they may apply for an early viva on the GSO.3 application for appointment of examiners form, in the section 'Request for Time Specific Viva'. The examination date requested must fall at least one calendar month after the date when the Examinations and Submissions Office receive the thesis, or one calendar month after the date when the thesis is dispatched to the examiners, whichever is the latest. Because it can sometimes take longer to organise the date during the Long Vacation, it is important that your student allows sufficient time for forms to be approved and examiners to be formally invited.
Students and supervisors should not contact examiners themselves except to agree the date for the viva; if examiners have not been in touch within a month of receiving the thesis, the Research Degrees team will contact them.
Your student should wear appropriate academic dress and take a copy of their thesis to the viva.
Examiners will be provided with the Memorandum for Examiners for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy (GS0.5), or Memorandum of Guidance for M.Sc Examiners (GSO.7a), which give information about the purpose and formal requirements of the viva, the practical arrangements, the conduct of the exam and the requirements of the examiners’ report. They will also be sent a copy of the MPLS Division's additional notes of guidance for examiners.
For more information about regulations and the purpose of the viva, see section 7, about examination, of the University’s Policy on Research Degrees about the viva.
DPhil (first) Examination: Examiners must choose one of the following outcomes:
1. Award of the DPhil (possibly with minor corrections)
2. Major corrections to the thesis
3. Reference back (for revision) for DPhil or award of the M.Sc (as the thesis stands or subject to minor corrections) as the student may choose
4. Reference back (for revision) for the DPhil or (for revision) for the M.Sc as the student may choose
If the student chooses to revise and resubmit for the DPhil the following options will also be available to the examiners on the next examination:
5. Reference back (for revision) for the M.Sc only
6. Award of the M.Sc
7. Outright failure
M.Sc (R) (first) Examination: examiners must choose one of the following outcomes:
1. Award of the M.Sc (possibly with minor corrections)
2. Reference back (for revision) for the M.Sc
If the student chooses to revise and resubmit for the M.Sc the following option will also be available to the examiners on the next examination:
3. Outright failure
submission of hard copy thesis to the bodleian and e-theses to ora
If your student is granted leave to supplicate they will be required to submit a hard-bound copy of their thesis, incorporating any amendments required by the examiners, to the Submissions Desk, Examination Schools, High Street. This copy will be deposited in the Bodleian Library where it will be available for consultation by others (unless dispensation from consultation has been requested and approved by the Board). Permission to supplicate will be conditional upon this.
Students following DPhil and M.Sc. (by Research) programmes who registered from 1st October 2007 onwards are also required to deposit a hardbound and a digital copy of their thesis with the Oxford University Libraries (ORA). Further information on this can be found on the Bodleian Library's webpage for supervisors. See also this flow diagram from ORA.
All forms and guidance relevant to completion can be found on the page Writing up, Submission and the Viva.
Subject Specific Examination Regulations:
- Biological Sciences (Plant Sciences & Zoology)
- Mathematical Sciences (Computer Science, Mathematics & Statistics)
- Physical Sciences (Chemistry, Earth Sciences, Engineering Science, Materials & Physics)
Some departments organise briefing and discussion sessions for their supervisors, which are useful opportunities to update yourself on regulations and processes, and to share practice and discuss experiences. Please contact your Director of Graduate Studies to find out if your department is planning such a session.