Cookies on this website
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Continue' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.
Submitting your thesis

This section contains essential information and guidance for the preparation and submission of your thesis.

Preparation and Submission of your Thesis

IMPORTANT - When preparing your thesis please ensure that you have taken into account any copyright or sensitive content issues, and dealt with them appropriately. 

Tips on planning your thesis

At an early stage you should:

  • Prepare a detailed work plan for your research in consultation with your supervisor.
  • Build some flexibility into your plan. It is difficult to give general advice about the allocation of time on theory‑oriented projects, because the nature of these is so variable. In the case of experiment‑based research projects, you should normally allow up to six months to write a DPhil thesis, or three to four months for a corresponding MSc by Research thesis.
  • Consider attending available skills training courses, for example Thesis and Report Writing.

It is not advisable to leave all the writing to the end, for several reasons:

  • You will need practice at writing over a period of time in order to develop a good style.
  • There will inevitably be hold‑ups in experimental work and it is better to use that time to work on part of your thesis, rather than to waste it. If you do some writing earlier the final completion of your thesis will not seem such a daunting task.
  • Approaching your submission date will become more stressful than necessary.

About your thesis

The best way to find out what is required for a successful thesis in your subject area is to look at some written in recent years. You should obviously look particularly closely at theses written by previous members of your own research group, which are available in the University library.

The formal requirements for obtaining your degree are set out in detail in the ‘Examination Regulations’. 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. For the MSc by Research the standard required is 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.

Thesis structure

There are two approaches to the structure of theses in the Division. Certain departments in the Division have decided that theses may not comprise a collection of published papers. These departments are Chemistry, Computer Science, Earth Sciences, Engineering Science, Materials, Mathematics, Physics, Statistics, and the Doctoral Training Programmes.

There are two main reasons for this. First, papers in these subjects are frequently multi‑authored, and it may be difficult to ascertain the contribution made by each individual. Second, because of space limitations in many learned journals, much detailed information is usually omitted. Such information may be essential to anyone wishing to reproduce the work, and often forms a valuable archive for the research group in which the work was carried out.

The Departments of Plant Sciences and Zoology take a different approach. The University’s Examination Regulations for these subjects permit that:

“A set of scientific papers prepared as for publication, but not necessarily yet published, that concern a common subject may constitute an acceptable thesis, provided that with the addition of an Introduction, General Discussion, and General Conclusions they constitute a coherent body of work. Such papers should either be incorporated as typescript pages or as offprints bound in to the body of the thesis. Papers written in collaboration should not be included unless the greater part of the work is directly attributed to the candidate himself or herself, and the supervisor so certifies. Joint papers may however be included as appendices in a thesis. Candidates with some published work may also include that as part of a traditional thesis, normally as an appendix.  Approval to submit a thesis using this format must be sought in advance from the appropriate Director of Graduate Studies."

In all departments, if some part of the thesis is not solely your work or has been carried out in collaboration with one or more persons, you should also submit a clear statement of the extent of your contribution.

Thesis page and word limits

Several departments place a word limit or page limit on theses. Details can be found in the Examination Regulations or GSO.20a Notes of Guidance for Research Examinations.

Permission to exceed the page and word limits

Should you need to exceed your word/page limit you must seek approval from the Director of Graduate Studies in your department. You and your supervisor must submit a letter requesting approval, giving reasons why it is necessary to exceed the limit. This must be submitted to the Graduate Office, 9 Parks Road.

Examiners and Submission Dates

You are strongly advised to apply for the appointment of examiners at least four to six weeks before you submit your thesis.

Appointing examiners for your thesis

Approval of the proposed names of examiners rests with the Director of Graduate Studies. Two examiners are normally appointed. It is usual for one of the examiners to be a senior member of Oxford University (the ‘internal examiner’) and the other to be from another research organisation (the ‘external examiner’). The divisional board will not normally appoint as examiners individuals previously closely associated with the candidate or his or her work, representatives of any organisation sponsoring the candidate’s research, or former colleagues of a candidate. Your supervisor will make suggestions regarding the names of possible examiners. Before doing so, your supervisor must consult with you, in order to find out if you have any special views on the appointment of particular examiners. Your supervisor is also allowed to consult informally with the potential examiners before making formal suggestions. Such informal consultation is usually desirable, and is intended to determine whether the people concerned are willing in principle to act, and if so, whether they could carry out the examination within a reasonable period of time. (For example, there may be constraints if you have to return to your home country, or take up employment on a specific date).

What forms do I need to complete?

You will need to complete form GSO.3. Supervisors are required to complete Section 4 of the form to indicate names of the proposed examiners, and they should provide alternatives in case the preferred examiners decline to act.

Timing for appointment of examiners

You are advised to submit your GSO.3 form for the appointment of examiners in advance of submission of your thesis to avoid delays with your examination process. Ideally you should apply for the appointment of examiners at least 4-6 weeks before you expect to submit your thesis for examination. You may submit your thesis to the Submissions Desk, Examination Schools, High Street at any time up to the last day of the vacation following the term in which you submit the form GSO.3. If you fail to submit by this date your application will be cancelled and you will have to reapply for appointment of examiners when you are ready to submit. Please note that your thesis should not be submitted until your application for confirmation of status has been approved (this applies to DPhil students only). For MSc by Research students you should ensure that your transfer of status has been completed.

If you are funded on a research council studentship, you will have a recommended end-date before which your thesis must be submitted. If you do not know this date, please consult your supervisor.

Early viva

There are currently no University regulations requiring examination to take place within a certain time limit after thesis submission. However, your examiners would normally be expected to hold your viva within 3 months. If you need to have your examination sooner than this, you may apply for an early viva, by completing section 3.3 'request for time specific viva' on the GSO.3 form. The request must be made at the time of completing and submitting the GSO.3 form, it cannot be done after this. Please bear in mind that the examination date requested must not be earlier than one calendar month after the date on which the thesis has been received by the Examiners & Submissions Office or after the date on which the examiners have formally agreed to act, whichever is the latest. The actual date of the examination will depend primarily on the availability of both examiners. In the Long Vacation, a longer time is normally required. It is therefore essential that you leave sufficient time for your forms to be formally approved, and for your examiners to be formally invited.  If sufficient time has not be given this could impact on your early examination request.

If, for any reason, examiners wish to hold a viva within four weeks of receiving their copy of the thesis, notification should be sent to the relevant board, and the permission of the Proctors must be sought. The internal will need to give details of the proposed arrangement and the reasons for the request. Under no circumstances will a viva be permitted to take place within 14 days of receipt of the thesis by the examiners.

Special considerations

Your supervisor is permitted to indicate to the Director of Graduate Studies if there are any special factors which should be taken into account in the conduct of your examination. For example, a scientific paper may have been produced by another researcher which affects the content of your thesis, but which was published too late for you to take into account. The Director of Graduate Studies will also need to be told of any special circumstances you may require or need to inform your examiners of which may affect your performance in an oral examination, or if any part of your work must be regarded as confidential. The Director of Graduate Studies will then forward (via the Graduate Office), any appropriate information that they think should be provided to the examiners. The Graduate Office will also seek approval from the Proctors Office if required.

Change of thesis title

If during your studies you want to change the title or subject of your thesis, you must obtain the approval of the Director of Graduate Studies using form GSO.6. If you are requesting the change at the time of submitting your thesis, you may do this on the application for appointment of examiners form GSO.3, under section 1. A change of title is quite straightforward; it is common for students to begin with a very general title, and then to replace it with a more specific one shortly before submitting their thesis. Providing your supervisor certifies that the new title lies within the original topic, approval will be automatic. A change of the subject of your research requires more detailed consideration, because there may be doubt as to whether you can complete the new project within the original time‑scale.

If following your examination your examiners recommend that your thesis title be changed, you will need to complete form GSO.6 to ensure that your record is updated accordingly.

Submitting your thesis

Completed theses must be delivered to the Submissions Desk, Examination Schools, High Street. Two printed copies of the thesis (soft-bound), incorporating two printed copies of an abstract, not normally more than 300 words, must be submitted.  The documents must be submitted in unsealed padded envelopes. If you are supported on a research council studentship, you will have a specified end-date before which your thesis must be submitted.

Please note that you must not submit copies of your thesis directly to your examiners as this could result in your examinations being declared void and you could be referred to the University Proctors.

On this page