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Research Student Guide: Examination

 

Requirements of a PhD Thesis

The scope of the thesis shall be what might reasonably be expected after three or at most four years of full-time study. The thesis should not exceed 100,000 words. This includes footnotes, but is exclusive of appendices and bibliography.

The thesis shall:

  • consist of the candidate's own account of their investigations, the greater proportion of which shall have been undertaken during the period of registration under supervision for the degree;
  • form a distinct contribution to the knowledge of the subject and afford evidence of originality by the discovery of new facts and/or by the exercise of independent critical power;
  • be an integrated whole and present a coherent argument;
  • give a critical assessment of the relevant literature, describe the method of research and its findings, include discussion on those findings and indicate in what respects they appear to the candidate to advance the study of the subject; and, in so doing, demonstrate a deep and synoptic understanding of the field of study, (the candidate being able to place the thesis in a wider context), objectivity and the capacity for judgment in complex situations and autonomous work in that field;
  • be written in English and the literary presentation shall be satisfactory;
  • include a full bibliography and references;
  • be of a standard to merit publication in whole or in part or in a revised form (for example, as a monograph or as a number of articles in learned journals).

A candidate may submit the results of work done in conjunction with their supervisors and/or fellow research workers provided that the candidate clearly states their own personal share in the investigation and that the statement is verified by the supervisor.

A series of papers, whether published or otherwise, is not acceptable for submission as a thesis.

Work already published, or submitted for publication, at the time of submission of the thesis, either by the candidate alone or jointly with others, may be included in the thesis. The published papers themselves may not be included in the body of the thesis, but may be adapted to form an integral part of the thesis and thereby make a relevant contribution to the main theme of the thesis.

Publications derived from the work in the thesis may be bound as supplementary material at the back of the thesis.

Requirements of an MPhil degree

The scope of the thesis shall be what might reasonably be expected after three or at most four years of full-time study. The thesis should not exceed 60,000 words. This includes footnotes but is exclusive of appendices and bibliography.

The thesis shall:

  • consist of the candidate's own account of their investigations;
  • be either a record of original work or of an ordered and critical exposition of existing knowledge and shall provide evidence that the field has been surveyed thoroughly;
  • be an integrated whole and present a coherent argument;
  • give a critical assessment of the relevant literature, describe the method of research and its findings, include discussion on those findings;
  • be written in English and the literary presentation shall be satisfactory;
  • include a full bibliography and references.

A candidate may submit the results of work done in conjunction with their supervisors and/or fellow research workers provided that the candidate clearly states their own personal share in the investigation and that the statement is verified by the supervisor.

A series of papers, whether published or otherwise, is not acceptable for submission as a thesis.

Work already published, or submitted for publication, at the time of submission of the thesis, either by the candidate alone or jointly with others, may be included in the thesis. The published papers themselves may not be included in the body of the thesis, but may be adapted to form an integral part of the thesis and thereby make a relevant contribution to the main theme of the thesis.

Publications derived from the work in the thesis may be bound as supplementary material at the back of the thesis.

Initial thesis submission

When submitting their thesis for examination the candidate should submit two soft bound copies, an electronic copy, and a Submission of Thesis form to the Research Degrees Office.

A candidate may be required to provide a third copy of their thesis if a third examiner is appointed at any stage in the examination process.

The candidate should bring an additional copy of the thesis to the oral examination.

Presentation

The theses must be robust enough to endure the examination process and needs to be easily identified.

The theses must be presented in a permanent and legible form in typescript or print with the exception of mathematical or similar formulae which may be inserted neatly by hand. Photographic and other illustrations should be permanently mounted on A4 size paper and bound in with the thesis. Under no circumstances should sellotape or similar materials be used for any purpose. You must make every effort to correct errors before submission. It is not the task of examiners to act as editors and/or proof-readers of a thesis.

Paper

Plain white A4 size paper (210 x 297 mm) should be used. It must be of good quality and sufficiently opaque for normal reading. Print only on one side of the paper.

Margins

Margins at the binding edge must be not less than 40 mm (1.5 inches) and other margins not less than 20 mm (.75 inches). Double or one-and-a-half spacing should be used, except for indented quotations or footnotes where single spacing may be used.

Pagination

All pages must be numbered in one continuous sequence, i.e. from the title page of the first volume to the last page of type, in Arabic numerals from 1 onwards. This sequence must include everything bound in the volume, including maps, diagrams, blank pages, etc. Any material which cannot be bound in with the text must be placed in a pocket inside or attached to the back cover or in a rigid container similar in format to the bound thesis.

Title page

The title page must bear the officially-approved title of the thesis, the candidate's full name as registered and the degree for which it is submitted.

Abstract

The title page should be followed by an abstract consisting of no more than 300 words. An extra copy of the abstract - submitted with the thesis and thesis submission form - is required for publication in the ASLIB Abstracts of Theses.

Table of contents

The abstract should be followed by a full table of contents (including any material not bound in) and a list of tables, photographs and any other materials.

Illustrative material

Illustrative material may be submitted in the following forms:

  • Audio recordings: on CD
  • Photographic slides: 35 mm in 2" x 2" frame

Illustrative materials in other forms (including DVD) may be submitted at the discretion of the Chair of the Research Degrees Examinations and Awards Board. Enquiries should be made well in advance of submission of the thesis to the Research Degrees Office.

Any material which cannot be bound in with the text must be placed either in a pocket inside or attached to the back cover or in a rigid container similar in format to the bound thesis. If it is separate from the bound volume it must be clearly labelled with the same information as on the title page. Contact the Research Degrees Office with any queries about additional and illustrative materials.

Each copy of the thesis submitted must be accompanied by a full set of this material.

Binding

Theses must be:

  • covered in medium blue cloth (eg water resistant material);
  • lettered in gold up the spine with Degree, Year, and Name and Initials in the same form as the College records, with letters 16 or 18 point (.25 inch).

Hard-bound theses must have the pages sewn or mechanically fixed in a permanent manner. Softbound theses should have the pages glued in.

Before the degree can be awarded, one hard-bound and one electronic copy of the final thesis must be submitted to the Research Degrees Office.

List of binders [PDF 20 KB]

Panel of examiners

The Panel of Examiners normally comprises two examiners appointed by the Research Degrees Examination and Awards Board:

  • One internal examiner who is a member of the University of London.
  • One external examiner who is external to the University of London.

Exceptionally, where the criteria for an internal examiner cannot be met a second external examiner is appointed. The examiner will be from the broad subject area of the thesis.

In some cases, an independent chair may be appointed to the Panel of Examiners. In such cases, the responsibility of the Chair is to manage the process and ensure adherence to regulations, but not to contribute to the decision whether or not the standards for award have been met.

The supervisor may be in attendance at the examination but must absent themselves when the decision regarding the outcome of the examination is to be made. If the candidate does not wish the supervisor to be present, they should make this clear at the time of examination entry.

Criteria for examiners

Examiners normally fulfil the following criteria:

  • Examiners should be experts in the field of the thesis but not necessarily in all parts of the precise topic. The aim is to appoint two examiners who, between them, cover all aspects of the work to be presented by the candidate.
  • At least one examiner normally has experience of examining for a research degree at the University of London although significant examining experience at other universities may be taken into account.
  • Nominated examiners must have had no direct involvement in the candidate’s research or any close connections with either the candidate or supervisor which might inhibit a completely objective examination. They must not have taken an active role in considering student’s transfer of status from MPhil to PhD.
  • An examiner should not be appointed more than once during a given year by members of the same Department/School/Institute.
  • NHS Consultants or the equivalent in the NHS who are not College or University employees may be appointed as internal or external examiners but they should hold an Honorary Senior Lecturer or above contract with a College or University.
  • Individuals who were previously members of staff, students or other members of the University of London must not be appointed as an external examiner until a period of three years has elapsed.
  • Overseas examiners are appointed as external examiners only in exceptional circumstances and where it is considered that such an appointment is necessary.

Examination entry and nomination of examiners

The candidate completes all sections (except section D) of the Research Degrees Examination Entry form (RD01).

Research Degrees Examination form [DOC 110 KB]

The supervisor completes section D of the Research Degrees Examination Entry form (Examiner nominations). Before completing this section, the supervisor should ascertain that the examiners are willing and able to act at the time when the thesis is expected to be submitted. The supervisor is responsible for nominating examiners who meet the criteria for appointment. The supervisor should obtain the signature of the Director of Graduate Studies where indicated on the form to confirm that they agree that the nominated examiners meet the criteria for appointment.

The completed Research Degrees Examination Entry form should be submitted in hard copy to the Research Degrees Office: this constitutes an entry for the examination. The entry form should be submitted at least four months before the intended date of thesis submission.

The examiner nominations are considered and approved by the Research Degrees Programmes and Examination Board.

Once the examiner nominations have been approved, the Research Degrees Office will issue letters of appointment to the examiners.

Research degree examiners

How to select research degree examiners and other matters around the examination: guidance for supervisors(internal only)

Submission of the thesis

The candidate should submit two soft bound copies and one electronic copy of the thesis to the Research Degrees Office together with the Research Degree Thesis Submission form (RD02).

The thesis should be submitted at least one month before any provisional date set for the oral examination. Failure to do so may result in the examination being delayed.

Research Degrees Thesis Submission form [DOC 41 KB]

The Research Degrees Office dispatches the thesis copies to the examiners. Under no circumstances may a candidate or supervisor send a thesis directly to an examiner.

The supervisor confirms arrangements for the oral examination and notifies the Research Degrees Office.

The examiners are each asked to write an independent preliminary report with initial recommendations. The examiners exchange their preliminary reports with each other before the oral examination.

The Research Degrees Office receives and addresses any queries from the examiners, the candidate and/or the supervisor.

Oral examination

The examiners examine the student orally and at their discretion by written papers or practical examination or by both methods on the subject of the thesis. 

A student is required to present themselves for oral, practical or written examinations at such place and times as the College may direct and to bring with them to the oral examination an additional copy of their thesis.

There are eight options open to examiners in determining the result of the examination. They are as follows:

  • Pass;
  • Pass subject to minor amendments to be completed and checked by one or both examiners within three months;
  • Pass subject to major amendments to be completed and checked by one or both examiners within nine months or within a period specified by the examiners if less than nine months are required;
  • Not pass, but the candidate is allowed to revise the thesis and resubmit it within 18 months (for the PhD and MD(Res) degrees) or 12 months (for the MPhil degree);
  • Not pass, but the candidate is allowed to take a written paper or practical examination;
  • Not pass, but the candidate is allowed to submit to a second oral examination on the same thesis and by the same examiners within 18 months;
  • Fail PhD but the candidate is deemed to have met the requirements for an MPhil (with or without minor amendments) or should be allowed to resubmit a revised thesis for the MPhil degree within 12 months;
  • Fail outright: no re-entry permitted.

If the examiners are unable to reach agreement, their reports shall be referred to the Dean of the Graduate Studies who shall determine the action to be taken.

Following the examination, the examiners complete the Outcome of Research Degree Examination form (RD03) and write a joint report.

Reporting the result of the examination

The examiners send to the Research Degrees Office no later than two weeks after the oral examination:

  • the completed Outcome of Research Degree Examination Form
  • their preliminary reports on the thesis
  • their joint report on the thesis and examination
  • their copies of the thesis (unless returned to the candidate for amendment)

The Research Degrees Office writes to the candidate to provide them with formal confirmation of the outcome of the examination and instructions about any further action to be taken, such as the completion of amendments. A copy of the examiners’ joint report is included.

Completion of amendments

Where the examiners have passed the thesis for the degree - subject to the completion of minor amendments within three months - the examiners indicate on the Outcome of Examination form whether they have given a list of amendments directly to the candidate or whether the Research Degrees Office should pass on the list included with the reports on the examination. They also indicate to whom the amended thesis should be sent for checking. The Research Degrees Office confirms these details in the examination result letter.

The Research Degrees Office requests confirmation from the examiner(s) that the amendments have been completed satisfactorily.

When amendments have been completed to the satisfaction of the examiners the final corrected copies are submitted to the Research Degrees Office.

Where a candidate fails to complete minor amendments specified within three months in order to be awarded the degree they will be required to re-enter for the exam within the usual specified period.

Re-entry following a referral

Where the examiners indicate that the thesis does not satisfy the requirements for the degree in its current form but that the candidate may re-submit a revised version within 18 months the candidate must re-enter for the examination using the Research Degrees Examination Re-entry form (RD04). The same examiners are used so the examiner approval process is not repeated. The candidate submits the re-entry form to the Research Degrees Office at least two weeks before the intended date of thesis re-submission.

Research Degrees Examination Re-entry form [DOC 45 KB]

The Research Degrees Office notifies the examiners of the candidate’s re-entry for the examination.

The candidate submits two appropriately-bound copies and one electronic copy of the revised thesis to the Research Degrees Office together with the Submission of Thesis form.

The Research Degrees Office dispatches the revised thesis copies to the examiners. Under no circumstances may a candidate or supervisor send a thesis directly to an examiner.

The examiners write independent preliminary reports and confirm to the Research Degrees Office whether or not a further oral examination is required (with regard to any statements made at the time of the original examination).

Where a further oral examination is required the Research Degrees Office confirms this to the supervisor who makes the arrangements.

Following the oral examination (if required), the examiners complete the Outcome of Research Degree Examination (Re-entry) form (RD05) and write a joint report.

Where the candidate has been permitted to re-enter the examination for the degree within a specified period (18 or 12 months) but does not do so their registration as a research degree student will be terminated.

Final submission, award and certificate

The candidate submits one hard bound copy and one electronic copy of the final and corrected version of the thesis. The award cannot be conferred until the final copies of the thesis have been submitted to the Research Degrees Office.

The award of the degree is confirmed by the Research Degrees Programmes and Examination Board.

The Research Degrees Office writes to the candidate to confirm the date of the award (which will be the end of the month after the submission of the examiners’ reports and final version of the thesis has been received).

The Research Degrees Office records the award date, generates a pass-list and reports the outcome of examinations to the Research Degrees Programmes and Examination Board.

The Research Degrees Office arranges for the production of the certificate from the University of London which will be dispatched directly to the candidate.

The thesis will be made available in the College Library unless the candidate has restricted access.

The Research Degrees Office processes the payment of examiners' fees and expenses and recharges them to the Institute.

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