Research examinations | University of Oxford
Research examinations
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Research examinations

Please be aware that the submission desk will be closed for the Easter Break from Thursday 18 April 2019 to Tuesday 23 April 2019.

The information provided below provides a summary of key regulations applicable to all examinations. It is your responsibility to read and adhere to the Examination Regulations.

The procedures for the submission and examination of theses are detailed in the Examination Regulations, as well as the progression form Notes of Guidance for the Examination of Research Degrees (GSO.20a).

Submission and examination process

Having transferred to DPhil status (or MSc by Research, MLitt, MPhil or MSt in Law) within your first six terms and then, secondly (if holding DPhil status), confirmed your DPhil status in your ninth term, you are permitted to submit a thesis for examination.

Appointment of examiners

  • Liaise with your supervisor regarding the appointment of examiners.
  • Complete the progression form GSO.3 for the examination of research degrees for the Appointment of Examiners and read the accompanying Notes of Guidance.
  • Your form should be submitted, signed by all required parties, four to six weeks prior to submitting your thesis.

Presentation of theses and abstracts - style and format

Theses which are deemed not to meet the following requirements may not be accepted.

  • Your thesis must be submitted in English, apart from quotations and recognised technical formulae, or where the Divisional or Faculty Board has determined otherwise.
  • Pages of the thesis must be numbered.
  • Include an abstract with each copy of your thesis (generally bound in with the thesis).
  • Include a title page with each copy of your thesis, giving your full name, college, thesis title and your degree.
  • The main body of your thesis should be in double spacing with quotations and footnotes in single spacing.
  • Your thesis should be presented on A4 (or equivalent) paper, ensuring a heavier grade of paper if your thesis is double-sided.
  • Portrait would usually be expected, landscape may be permitted by agreement with the relevant board.
  • Select an easily readable font, such as Times New Roman or Arial.
  • Font size 12pt is preferred, but a minimum font size 11pt is recommended for text and 10pt for footnotes.
  • You should allow a margin of 3 to 3.5cms on the left-hand edge of each page (or on the inner edge, whether left hand or right hand side, in the case of a thesis which is printed on both sides of the paper).
  • 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.
  • Your thesis must be securely bound in either hard or soft covers. Loose-leaf or spiral binding is not acceptable.
  • 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.

Submission of examiners’ copies of your thesis

  • You must submit your examiners’ copies no later than the last day of the vacation immediately following the term in which your application for the appointment of examiners was made.
  • You may submit the examiners’ copies of your thesis at the same time as applying for the appointment of examiners, but note that your work will not be examined until form GSO.3 has been approved and your examiners have confirmed their appointment.
  • If your thesis title has changed, it is your responsibility to request approval of the new title on your GSO.3 form. The GSO.3 form should be completed by yourself, your supervisor and your college and submitted to your Graduate Studies Assistant. Hand the form in prior (by four to six weeks) to the submission of the thesis to the Examination Schools, where possible. The examiners have to be approved by the relevant board and the examiners’ formal acceptance received before a thesis can be sent out.
  • Copies of your thesis should be packed in separate, unsealed, padded envelopes, one copy per examiner. Please do not write anything on these envelopes.
  • Submit two copies of your thesis to the Submissions and Research Degrees Team, Examination Schools, High Street, Oxford OX1 4BG. You are not permitted to submit a copy of your thesis direct to the examiners. The submissions desk at the Examination Schools is open between 08.30-17:00, Monday to Friday.
  • You are also strongly encouraged to submit a digital copy of your thesis via the Research Theses Digital Submission (RTDS) application. Your examiners will be sent a link to download the thesis, once they have been sent the hard copy of your thesis.
  • While submitting a digital copy of your thesis by RTDS is optional, please note that it is the only permitted mechanism for providing a digital copy of your thesis to examiners. No other mechanisms (eg email, file sharing, USB stick, CD, DVD) are permitted.
  • Use of RTDS to upload a thesis digitally does not change the formal requirement to submit a printed copy to the Examination Schools as detailed above, and this remains the official copy. The minimum time between both examiners receiving the official copy of the thesis and a viva date remains at four weeks (as referred to under ‘the oral examination or viva’ section below).
  • You can access RTDS via the Research Theses Digital Submission website. Full guidance on the functionality and instructions on how to submit your thesis using RTDS can be found in the Quick Reference Guide for Students.
  • Examiners are required to return the examiners’ joint report within one month of the date of the candidate's viva or the receipt of the completed minor corrections.

Extenuating circumstances and viva adjustments

If you have a disability that may affect your thesis, this needs to be considered at the time that you are writing your thesis. There are a number of measures that can be put in place to support you whilst writing your thesis and these can be discussed with the Disability Advisory Service and your department / college disability advisors. These measures could include extensions of time for milestones, assistive technology, use of a proof reader etc.

By the time you submit your thesis no further consideration of the disability for the written work is appropriate, as you will have been given sufficient support so that that your thesis can be examined under the same academic criteria as those theses submitted by students without a disability.

However, if you wish to make the examiners aware of any illness, disability, or personal circumstance which may affect your performance in the viva, you can make an application for Adjustments to Assessment Arrangements using form GSO.19, outlining the requested adjustments and reasons. Adjustments can be requested at any point from offer of a place to submission, at the point of applying for Transfer of Status, at the point of applying for Confirmation of Status or at the point of applying for final viva/appointment of examiners.  The form and related guidance can be found here. Please contact your GSA or departmental graduate administrator if you require more information.

The oral examination or viva

  • Your internal examiner is responsible for making all the arrangements for your viva examination and will contact you to arrange a date (usually within a month of receiving your thesis).
  • You must not contact your examiners yourself, except when you have to agree a date for the viva. If your examiners do not contact you within a month of receiving your thesis, the Research Degrees team will contact them on your behalf to enquire about a viva date.
  • If you wish to ask for an early viva (one to two months following submission), the application setting out the reasons for your request must be made using section 8a of form GSO.3. You may not request an early viva to take place within a month of submitting your thesis.
  • Your thesis will only be dispatched to the examiners once both the completed GSO.3 form and their formal acceptance to act as an examiner have been received. Delays often occur by the GSO.3 not arriving promptly with the Research Degrees Team or a failure to elicit a response from the examiners to their invitation.
  • The regulations stipulate that examiners must have the thesis a minimum of four weeks before the date of the viva. In exceptional circumstances the Proctors may permit a viva to be held earlier but this is not guaranteed.
  • You must present for a viva in academic dress; sub fusc and a gown. The gown should be that of your present status (i.e. Student for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy), the gown and hood of the degree held from your own university, or, if you are a University of Oxford graduate, the gown and hood of your University of Oxford degree. Special dispensation may be granted in certain circumstances, for example, health reasons, religious orders and members of the armed services. Please contact the Research Degrees Team for further information on how to apply.
  • Bring a copy of your thesis with you to the viva.

Minor corrections

Your examiners may recommend that you complete minor corrections before they recommend award of the degree. 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 Graduate Studies Assistant for your subject area.

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 Completion of Minor or Major 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.

Major corrections and referral

A ‘major corrections’ option for DPhil examination outcomes give the examiners of research degrees an outcome option mid-way between minor corrections and referral. Corrections must be made and submitted within six months of the letter confirming the major corrections, although Examination Boards may grant an extension of up to three months on receipt of a GSO.18 form. Major corrections theses should be submitted to the Examination Schools. It is not permitted for a thesis to be submitted directly to the examiners.

Candidates whose thesis is referred will be required to provide at resubmission a separate report indicating the specific changes made to the revised thesis; the word limit of which has been stipulated by divisional boards. The report will act as a guide to how the candidate has addressed examiners’ comments, and will direct examiners to the appropriate sections. 

The outcome types, time limits for changes and report lengths for each of the research degrees are summarised in the tables below.

Doctor of Philosophy

OutcomeTime limitReport of changes with resubmission
Minor correctionsone month (with possible one month extension)N/A
Major correctionssix months (with possible three month extension)N/A
Referral backsix termsMPLS – 2000 words
Others – 1000 words

Master of Letters/Master of Science by Research

OutcomeTime limitReport of changes with resubmission
Minor correctionsone month (with possible one month extension)N/A
Referral backthree termsMPLS – 2000 words
Others – 1000 words

In all cases, the time limit applies from the date you receive the list of corrections/revisions required.

Examiners do not have the option of recommending an outcome of outright fail on the first attempt for MLitt / MSc(Res) examinations. Students not passing the examination at the first attempt will be entitled to a second attempt.

Maximum number of terms’ extension permitted

The maximum number of terms’ extension permitted for DPhil students is six terms. Applications for extensions which would take you beyond six terms of extension will not be granted without both the full support of your supervisor(s), college and department/faculty, and in addition, special dispensation from the Examination Regulations agreed by the University Education Committee. Such applications should be made through your Graduate Studies Assistant.

The maximum number of terms’ extension permitted for Master of Letters and Master of Science by research students is three terms.

Re-submitting a thesis

  • If you are re-submitting your thesis, you are required to pay the re-submission fee (for the 2018/19 academic year the fee is: £437 for DPhil/MSc/MLitt; £176 for MPhil/MSt) when you apply for the appointment of examiners. This fee does not apply to students submitting their thesis for the Review of Major Corrections.

  • Your resubmission fee should be paid via the Research Degrees section of the University's online shop.

  • Although you may propose new examiners at the time of re-submission, it is usual for your previous examiners to be proposed.

  • 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 revisions that you have made. If you wish to make a case for this not to happen, permission must be sought from the Proctors. You will need to apply in writing via your Graduate Studies Assistant, stating your reasons, before or at the same time as re-applying for the appointment of examiners.
  • Candidates whose thesis is referred will be required to provide at resubmission a separate report indicating the specific changes made to the revised thesis; the word limit of which has been stipulated by divisional boards. The report will act as a guide to how the candidate has addressed examiners’ comments, and will direct examiners to the appropriate sections.

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.

Candidates for the degrees of DPhil, MLitt and MSc by Research are also required to deposit a copy of their thesis with the Oxford Research Archive (ORA). Information regarding this process can be found on the Bodleian website and will be sent with your result letter. Deposit of a copy with the archive is optional for candidates for the degrees of DClinPsych, MPhil, Master of Studies in Legal Research (MSt) or Bachelor of Philosophy (BPhil) in Philosophy.

If required, you may apply for dispensation from consultation of thesis using form GSO.3c.

If either of these submissions remain outstanding, shortly before your degree ceremony you will receive emails reminding you to complete these submissions at least five days in advance of your ceremony. If these submissions are not completed by this time, your name may be removed from the ceremony list.

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