Notes of guidance for research examinations



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GSO.20a


NOTES OF GUIDANCE FOR
RESEARCH EXAMINATIONS
(D.Phil., M.Litt., MPhil/MSt in Law, M.Sc. by Research)


These notes provide guidance on the preparation and submission of theses for examination. Section A (below) describes the submission and examination process. Section B provides specific advice on the preparation of theses and abstracts for examination.

A. THE SUBMISSION AND EXAMINATION PROCESS

The procedures for the submission and examination of theses are laid down in the Examination Regulations. The following notes are for guidance only, and they are intended to supplement, not to replace, the accompanying regulations. The Examination Regulations remain the final authority. [Please substitute divisional board for faculty board where appropriate.]



  1. Appointment of examiners (GSO.3)

Please complete your part of form GSO.3 and ensure that the relevant sections are completed by an officer of your college (consult the college office if in any doubt about whom this should be) and by your supervisor. If you are a student in the Medical Sciences Division you will also need to collect the signature of your department’s Director of Graduate Studies in Section 6 of the form.

In relation to the form, please note in particular:



General Any separate sheet enclosed with your application should clearly display your name, college and thesis title.

Section 1 Please ensure you note all of your contact details, especially if you are likely to be away from Oxford during the period before your oral examination. If necessary, indicate a number of addresses with appropriate dates. This is the address to which your examination result will be sent, so it is important to inform both the Research Degrees Team at the Examination Schools (researchdegrees@admin.ox.ac.uk) and the relevant Graduate Studies Assistant (see www.ox.ac.uk/students/academic/guidance/graduates/contacts/ for contact details) of any changes.

The title of your thesis must be approved by the faculty board. If you wish to change your title, you should indicate this clearly on your application form.

It is important that the title on your submitted thesis exactly matches the title approved by the faculty board and the title written on your GSO.3 form.

Section 2.1 This section relates to any parts of a thesis which have been submitted previously for a degree of the University or elsewhere. This would apply in most cases to the development of an M.Phil. dissertation into a thesis for the D.Phil. or M.Litt., but may refer also to the development of a dissertation submitted for the M.Sc. by Research, or the M.Litt., (where a candidate is submitting a thesis for the D.Phil.) and to the development of a dissertation originally submitted for the BCL.

Section 2.2 This section primarily relates to the submission of material which has been co-authored. Candidates in the sciences and related disciplines should pay particular attention to any regulations of the faculty concerned dealing with the inclusion of articles, and especially those of joint authorship.

Section 2.3 This section relates to content in the thesis that is of a sensitive nature, or where copyright is held by a third party. If this is the case, you must take the appropriate steps before depositing the thesis in the Bodleian Library and ORA. For advice and guidance on third party/copyright issues, refer to the ORA website: http://www.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/ora/oxford_etheses/copyright_and_other_legal_issues.
Section 2.4 This section requires you to indicate the number of words or pages contained in your thesis, and to check the regulation of the relevant faculty board concerning word or page limits (please give an approximation if the exact number is not known when submitting your GSO.3 form).
You are advised that word or page limits should not be treated lightly. Unless you have applied to the relevant faculty board for exemption from the word or page limit, a thesis which exceeds the stated limit may be refused by the examiners, or the faculty board, or may be returned by the examiners or the faculty board to you for reduction to the required word or page limit.

If you have been granted permission to exceed the word or page limit you must attach a copy of the approval letter to the GSO.3 form, which will then be communicated to your examiners



Section 2.5 Please indicate the term in which you transferred status (if applicable).

Section 2.6 Candidates for the D.Phil. must certify that they have had their status confirmed.

Section 3 The practical requirements for the submission of the thesis are set out in detail in Section B of these notes. A thesis which fails to meet these requirements may not be accepted by the Research Degrees Team.
It is strongly recommended that you hand in the GSO.3 form four to six weeks prior to submitting your thesis, since the names of your examiners have to be approved and their formal acceptance received before your thesis can be sent out. If therefore you submit your form and thesis together, your thesis will not go out until these preliminaries have been completed.
The submission of the thesis may not be made later than the last day of the vacation immediately following the term in which the form is submitted. This works to your advantage in that a submission is regarded as taking place in the term concerned up to this final date. For example, a thesis submitted on the last Friday of the vacation preceding Michaelmas Term is counted as a Trinity Term submission. This is of course important in terms of the need for extensions.
If you are still paying fees, the exact date of your submission may be critical. It is your responsibility to check. Students funded by Research Councils should check if there are any additional requirements linked to their funding, e.g. submission by 30 September instead of the end of term.
Section 4 While your supervisor may contact your suggested examiners informally to see if they would be prepared to act if invited, the choice of examiners belongs to the faculty board and they must be invited formally on behalf of the faculty board.

Examiners must be formally invited by the Research Degrees Team. Examiners have to be approved and their formal acceptance received before your thesis can be sent out.



Section 7 In a number of faculties, candidates may apply for restriction of access to an oral examination to prevent any loss of patent rights on material contained in the thesis. Similar applications can be made by the supervisor, department or by the University.

  1. Date of submission of examiners’ copies

Candidates are encouraged to apply for the appointment of examiners (using form GSO.3) prior to submitting the examiners’ copies of their thesis. Candidates will be required to state, at the time of their application for appointment of examiners, the date by which they will submit. This should be within four to six weeks of the date of application and may in no case be later than the last day of the vacation immediately following the term in which application for the appointment of examiners has been made. Candidates may also submit the examiners’ copies of their thesis at the same time as applying for the appointment of examiners.

  1. The oral examination or viva

It is the responsibility of the internal examiner to make all the arrangements for the viva examination. Your internal examiner should normally contact you to arrange a date for your viva within a month of receiving your thesis. If the Research Degrees Team do not receive a date for your viva within a month of sending out your thesis, they will contact your examiners. On no account should you contact the examiners yourself except where you have to agree a date for the viva.

The average length of time between submission and a viva is approximately eight weeks. Please remember that you have probably asked to be examined by a national or international authority on your subject, and his/her time-table is likely to be a crowded one.

If you wish to ask for an early viva, please complete the ‘request for time specific viva’ section of the appointment of examiners form (GSO.3). If the faculty board concerned accepts your request, your examiners will be invited on the basis that they can conduct the viva within a period you specify. You should bear in mind when specifying this date that you should allow your examiners at least four weeks to examine your thesis before the date of the viva, and the submission dates of your application form and thesis should reflect this. Examiners cannot be expected to meet a request for an early viva if a thesis is not submitted by the date promised by the candidate. If the examiners concerned cannot meet your request, then the faculty board will decide how to proceed, but it is your responsibility to be available for oral examination at the time arranged by the examiners, and not vice-versa.

For the viva itself, which is a formal examination of the University, you will be expected to wear academic dress – subfusc and a gown. This includes the appropriate gown (your college can advise), a mortar board or soft-cap, and the preferred subfusc from the following list: one of dark suit with dark socks, or dark skirt with black tights or stockings, or dark trousers with dark socks; dark coat if required; black shoes; plain white collared shirt or blouse; white bow tie, black bow tie, black full-length tie, or black ribbon.

Please do not forget to take a copy of your thesis with you to the examination.


  1. Minor corrections

The recommendations open to examiners are set out in detail in the Examination Regulations. If your examiners are satisfied that they can recommend that the degree should be awarded, but minor corrections need to be made before the thesis can be deposited in the Bodleian, then these minor corrections must be completed and approved, usually by the internal examiner, before the examiners make their report to the faculty board. In that case, your examiners will provide you with a list of the required corrections. If you have not received the list of corrections within two weeks of the viva, then you should contact the Research Degrees Team (researchdegrees@admin.ox.ac.uk) or the relevant Graduate Studies Assistant (see www.ox.ac.uk/students/academic/guidance/graduates/contacts/ for contact details).

The University expects that these minor corrections will be completed to the satisfaction of your internal examiner within one month of being issued. If, for exceptional reasons, additional time is needed you may apply for an additional one month by submitting a copy of form GSO.18 ‘(Extension of Time for Minor Corrections’). If you fail to complete your corrections within the time allowed your name will be removed from the Graduate Register and a reinstatement application will be required.



  1. Major corrections

If your examiners are satisfied that they can recommend that the degree should be awarded subject to the completion and review of major corrections, and the Examining Board endorses this recommendation, then these major corrections must be completed and reviewed by both examiners, who will produce a second report for the faculty board. Your examiners may wish to hold a second viva examination before producing that report. A copy of the Examiners’ Report with the required corrections will be sent to you by the Research Degrees Examinations Team, following approval by the relevant Board.

The University expects that these major corrections will be completed to the satisfaction of your examiners within six months of being issued. If you fail to complete your corrections within the time allowed your name will be removed from the Graduate Register and a reinstatement application will be required.



  1. Re-submitting a thesis

If you are re-submitting a thesis you should follow the same procedures detailed above, except that you will need to pay the required re-submission fee (see https://www.ox.ac.uk/students/academic/exams/research) when you apply for the appointment of examiners. Your resubmission fee should be paid via the Research Degrees section of the University's online shop.

Candidates resubmitting a thesis must also include a separate report indicating the specific changes made to the thesis for resubmission. For students in the Humanities, Medical Sciences and Social Sciences Divisions and the Department for Continuing Education, the word limit for the accompanying report is 1000 words; for students in the Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences Division, the word limit is 2000 words.

It is possible for you and your supervisor to propose new examiners at the time of re-submission, but it is usual for the previous examiners to be proposed since of course it is according to their guidelines that you have been revising your thesis.

Technically, a re-submission is a fresh examination, and you should remember that the oral examination is not necessarily restricted to points noted in the original examination. Examiners are still required to satisfy themselves that the revised thesis as a whole is of sufficient merit to qualify for the degree, and that you possess a good general knowledge of the particular field of learning within which the subject of your thesis lies.

The report on the first examination will automatically be sent to the examiners of the re-submitted thesis. This is to ensure that the examiners are aware of the background to the revision which you have made. If you wish to make a case for this not happening, permission must be sought from the Proctors. You will need to apply in writing via the relevant Graduate Studies Assistant (see www.ox.ac.uk/students/academic/guidance/graduates/contacts/ for contact details), stating the reasons for so doing, before or at the same time as re-applying for the appointment of examiners.

In the case of a re-submission a faculty board can exempt a candidate from a viva only where the examiners certify that they can recommend the degree without examining the candidate orally. However, this does not always happen even where a thesis goes on to be awarded the degree.



  1. Deposit and consultation of thesis

In order to have your degree conferred at a graduation ceremony you must submit one hard-bound copy of the final version of your thesis (including any approved minor corrections) for deposit in the Bodleian Library. You must submit forms GSO.3a and GSO.26 to the Research Degrees Team at the Examination Schools with your Bodleian copy. This rule is adhered to rigorously since the availability of your thesis for consultation is an indispensable element in the University’s contribution to scholarship.

Candidates for the degrees of D.Phil., M.Litt. & M.Sc. by Research who began their course on or after 1st October 2007 are also required to deposit a copy of their thesis with the Oxford Research Archive (ORA). Information regarding this process can be found at. http://www.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/ora and will be sent with your result letter. Deposit of a copy with the Archive is optional for candidates for the degrees of D.Clin.Psych, M.Phil., Master of Studies in Legal Research (M.St.) or Bachelor of Philosophy (B.Phil.) in Philosophy.



Applying for dispensation from consultation of thesis:

Form GSO.3c allows a candidate to apply for a dispensation from the usual requirements to make the thesis (lodged with the Bodleian or ORA) or any part of it available for consultation or to be photocopied. To apply for such a dispensation, use form GSO.3c to apply to the relevant Graduate Studies Assistant (see www.ox.ac.uk/students/academic/guidance/graduates/contacts/ for contact details). You will need to set out the reasons for your application, and the length of time for which you are seeking a dispensation. This application should be made as early as possible, and at the latest, by the time you put in your form for the appointment of examiners.


IF YOU HAVE ANY CONCERNS ABOUT THESE PROCEDURES OR THERE APPEARS TO BE AN EXCESSIVE DELAY IN THE PROCESSES INVOLVED PLEASE CONTACT THE RESEARCH DEGREES TEAM AT THE EXAMINATION SCHOOLS TO ENQUIRE (researchdegrees@admin.ox.ac.uk)

B. THE PREPARATION OF THESES AND ABSTRACTS
Please be aware that some of the sections below are excerpts from the University’s Examination Regulations: candidates for examination are advised to pay careful attention to the detailed requirements set out in full in the Examination Regulations themselves.

Please note that subject-specific excerpts from the Examination Regulations are listed in Appendix A.



  1. Miscellaneous points relating to the presentation of your thesis

Please ensure that you read the formal regulations relating to presentation in this section. Their purpose is to ensure that the examiners may examine your thesis on its merits, and not be distracted by poor presentation, spacing or printing. It is wholly in your interest to ensure that your text is readily understood by the examiners. The Research Degrees Team at the Examination Schools may not accept a thesis which fails to meet these requirements. If you are in any doubt, please bring a sample in to the Research Degrees Team and seek advice.

Examiners frequently comment on the number of typographical and grammatical errors which appear in submitted theses. It is unreasonable to expect an examiner to act as a proof-reader. You should take all necessary steps to eliminate as many of these errors as possible.



  1. Text and footnotes (taken from the ‘General Regulations of the Education Committee’ in the Examination Regulations)

Candidates should note that the purpose of these regulations is not only to ease the task of the examiners (which is obviously in candidates’ interests), but also to ensure that the copy finally deposited in the Bodleian or other university library is of a standard of legibility which will allow it (subject to applicable copyright rules) to be photocopied or microfilmed if required in future years.

The thesis must be printed or typed with a margin of 3 to 3.5 cms on the left-hand edge of each page (or on the inner edge, whether left-hand or right hand, in the case of a thesis which is printed on both sides of the paper). Theses in typescript should present the main text in double spacing with quotations and footnotes in single spacing. In the case of word-processed or printed theses, where the output resembles that of a typewriter, double spacing should be taken to mean a distance of about 0.33 inch or 8 mm between successive lines of text. Candidates are advised that it is their responsibility to ensure that the print of their thesis is of an adequate definition and standard of legibility.

Footnotes should normally be placed at the bottom of each page. Where they are given at the end of each chapter or at the end of the thesis, two separate unbound copies of footnotes should also be presented, for the convenience of the examiners.

Candidates should carefully note the regulations concerning word or page limits which individual boards have made. In such cases, candidates should state the approximate number of words or pages in their theses.

Theses must be submitted in English unless for exceptional reasons a board otherwise determines in the term in which the candidate is first admitted as a research student.

The pages of the thesis must be numbered. Each copy should have an abstract included (see below).


  1. Style and format summarised

  • Your thesis must be submitted in English, apart from quotations and recognised technical formulae, or where the divisional or faculty board has determined otherwise.

  • The pages of the thesis must be numbered.

  • Please include an abstract with each copy of your thesis (generally bound in with the thesis).

  • Please include a title page with each copy of your thesis, giving your name, college, thesis title and degree.

  • The main body of your thesis should be double-spaced, with quotations and footnotes in single spacing.

  • Your thesis should be typescript on A4 paper, using a heavier grain of paper if your thesis is double-sided.

  • Normally page orientation would be expected to be ‘portrait’ (with the exception of figures and tables, etc), but ‘landscape’ may be exceptionally permitted by agreement with the relevant board.

  • You should select an easily readable font, such as Times New Roman or Arial.

  • A 12 pt font size is preferred. A minimum font size of 11 pt is recommended for text and 10 pt for footnotes.

  • You should allow a margin of 3 to 3.5 cms on the left-hand/inner edge of each page.

  • Footnotes should normally be placed at the bottom of each page. Where they are given at the end of each chapter or at the end of the thesis, two separate, unbound copies of footnotes should also be presented, for the convenience of the examiners.

  1. Abstracts (taken from the ‘General Regulations of the Education Committee’ in the Examination Regulations)

The abstract of the thesis should concisely summarize its scope and principal arguments, in about 300 words. It should be printed or typewritten, on one side only, of A4-sized paper. Each copy of the abstract should be headed with the title of the thesis, the name and college of the candidate, the degree for which it is submitted, and the term and year of submission.

One copy of the abstract prepared at the time of the examination should be bound into each of the examiners’ copies of the thesis. Subsequently, when the examination is completed, candidates should also arrange for a copy of the abstract to be bound into the library copy of their thesis, and should submit with the library copy a separate, unbound copy of their abstract, which may be despatched to ASLIB and published. The copy of the abstract which is earmarked for dispatch to ASLIB should be presented separately in a form suitable for microfilming, i.e. it should be (1) on one side of a single sheet of A4 paper, and (2) a typed single-spaced top copy, a clear photocopy, or a printed copy (i.e. it should not be a carbon or poor photocopy, and (3) headed up with name, college, year and term of submission and the title of the thesis.

It should be noted that some boards have made regulations requiring the submission of more detailed abstracts in addition to the general requirement of an abstract not normally exceeding 300 words.


  1. Examiners’ copies: binding and presentation (taken from the ‘General Regulations of the Education Committee’ in the Examination Regulations)

At the time of their examination, candidates must submit two copies of their thesis, which must be securely and firmly bound in either hard or soft covers. Loose-leaf binding is not acceptable.

Candidates are responsible for ensuring that examiners' copies are securely bound and should note that theses which do not meet this requirement will not be accepted.

Fine Art candidates offering studio practice as part of their submission must submit, together with the written portion of their thesis, documentation in appropriate form of the exhibition or portfolio of works to be examined. Wherever possible, this documentation should be bound with the written portion of the thesis.

Candidates should pack each copy of the thesis intended for the examiners into a separate but unsealed parcel or padded envelope, ready in all respects, except the address, to be posted to the examiners when appointed. Each parcel should bear the candidate's name and society and the words ‘M.LITT./M.SC./D.PHIL. (as appropriate) THESIS AND ABSTRACT’ in BLOCK CAPITALS in the bottom left-hand corner. A slip giving the address to which the examiners should write in order to contact the candidate about arrangements for the oral examination should be enclosed with each copy of the thesis. Candidates are responsible for ensuring that their examiners have no difficulty in communicating with them. The separate copies thus packed should be submitted to the Examination Schools, High Street, Oxford. If sent or posted they should be enclosed in one covering parcel.

The theses of candidates who fail to follow this advice are liable to delay in being forwarded to the examiners.



  1. Library Copies: Binding and Presentation (taken from the ‘General Regulations of the Education Committee’ in the Examination Regulations)

Once the board has granted a candidate leave to supplicate, he or she must submit a finalised copy of the thesis, as approved by the examiners, to the Examination Schools for deposit in the relevant university library.

[For candidates admitted on or after 1 October 2007: The candidate must also submit an electronic copy to the Oxford Research Archive. (Candidates whose thesis has been prepared in non-standard media such as to make electronic submission impracticable may apply to the Proctors for exemption from this requirement.)]

These should incorporate any corrections or amendments which the examiners may have requested of the candidate. The examiners must confirm in writing in their report to the board that any corrections required have been made.

The library copy of the thesis must be in a permanently fixed binding, drilled and sewn, in a stiff board case in library buckram, in a dark colour, and lettered on the spine with the candidate's name and initials, the degree, and the year of submission.

Fine Art candidates offering studio practice as part of their submission must submit the written portion of their thesis together with documentation in appropriate form of their exhibition or portfolio of works. Wherever possible, this documentation should be bound with the written portion of the thesis.



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