Research examinations
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Research examinations

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 Notes of Guidance for the Examination of Research Degrees (GSO.20a).

When to submit a thesis

Students must have the appropriate student status before they are permitted to submit a copy of their thesis: if you are a student for the MSc by Research, MLitt, or MPhil, this means having completed your transfer of status; if you are a student for the DPhil, this means having passed both your transfer and confirmation of status.

You can find the details of your final submission deadline on Student Self Service, at ‘My Student Record’ > ‘Academic Information’. This maximum submission date is different to the expected completion date found on your University Card and Enrolment Certificate, and is the date by which you must have submitted the examination copy of your thesis. If you will not be in a position to submit your thesis by this date you will need to consider submitting an application for an extension.

Appointment of examiners

You should liaise with your supervisor regarding the selection of your proposed examiners. It is usual for supervisors to informally invite the proposed examiners, and confirm their willingness to act, before the submission of the Appointment of Examiners form.

Once you have decided on an appropriate internal and external examiners with your supervisor, you should complete the Application for Appointment of Examiners (GSO.3) form in Student Self Service, and read the accompanying Notes of Guidance. Once you have completed and submitted your section, the application will be sent to your supervisor who will propose examiner names to the relevant board, together with details of any special considerations which either yourself or the supervisor wishes to make known about potential examiners.

If you wish to request an early viva, you will be given the opportunity to do so in the GSO.3 form. This cannot be used to request that a viva happens ‘as soon as possible’, but only where there is a specific date by which the viva must have taken place. If the faculty board accepts your request, your examiners will be invited on the basis that they conduct before a date 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. 

It is strongly recommended that you submit your section of 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 acceptance received before your thesis can be provided to them. If you submit your form and thesis together, your thesis will not be provided to the examiners until these preliminaries have been completed.

Detailed guidance on all sections of the Appointment of Examiners form can be found in the GSO.20a.

Maximum number of terms’ extension permitted

The maximum number of terms’ extension permitted for DPhil students is six terms. Applications for extensions within this limit should be made via Student Self Service. 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.

Submission of examiners’ copies of your thesis 

The examination copies of all research degrees must be digitally submitted via the Research Theses Digital Submission (RTDS) portal before 11:59pm on the student’s maximum submission date. Submissions made via any other method will not be accepted. 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.

You may submit the digital examiners’ copy of your thesis at the same time as applying for the appointment of examiners, but note that your examiners will not be sent a link to download the thesis, until your Appointment of Examiners form has been approved and your examiners have formally confirmed their appointment to the Research Degree Team at the Examination Schools.

Presentation of theses and abstracts - style and format

Information on special regulations for specific subject areas and divisional and faculty boards can be found in the relevant Examination Regulations; you should check the specific requirements for your course of study in the relevant regulations. A set of general advice on the format of the thesis can also be found in the General Regulations Governing Research Degrees, and is replicated in the GSO.20a.


Plagiarism is presenting someone else’s work or ideas as your own, with or without their consent, by incorporating it into your work without full acknowledgement. All published and unpublished material, whether in manuscript, printed or electronic form, is covered under this definition. Plagiarism may be intentional or reckless, or unintentional. Under the regulations for examinations, intentional or reckless plagiarism is a disciplinary offence (sections 4 and 5).

There are different types of plagiarism and you should familiarise yourself with each of them. You may benefit from taking an online course which has been developed to provide a useful overview of the issues surrounding plagiarism and practical ways to avoid it.

If plagiarism is suspected in your thesis, the matter will be referred to the relevant Director of Graduate Studies (DGS). They will thoroughly investigate the claim and may call you for interview. As part of the investigation, text-matching software such as iThenticate or TurnItIn may be used to scan the thesis but the thesis will not be saved to any text-matching software databases. If at this point there is no evidence of a breach of the regulations, no further disciplinary action will be taken although you still may be required to make changes to your thesis. However, if it is concluded that a breach of the regulations may have occurred, the DGS will refer the matter to the Proctors.

Extenuating circumstances

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 your thesis can be examined under the same academic criteria as those theses submitted by students without a disability.

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 you have not heard from your examiner within a month of your thesis being sent, please contact the Research Degrees Team, who will contact your examiners. You must not contact your examiners yourself, except when you have to agree a date for the viva.

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 the ‘request for time specific viva’ section of the GSO.3 (Appointment of Examiners) form. You may not request an early viva to take place within a month of submitting your thesis.

Your thesis will only be available 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 board may permit a viva to be held earlier but this is not guaranteed. Please contact your Graduate Studies Assistant if you wish to enquire about this.

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.

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

Remote vivas

With the permission of the relevant board (given through the Director of Graduate Studies), vivas may be held with any or all of the candidate and examiners attending remotely via video call. A potential reason for this may be that an examiner or the candidate are based outside the UK, and would be travelling to the UK for the sole purpose of attending the viva. All parties must agree to the viva being held in this format, and further guidance can be found in Annex D of the Policy and Guidance on Research Degrees. Where permission is given for a viva to be held remotely, there is no requirement for the candidate or internal examiner to attend in academic dress.

Viva adjustments

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.

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 midway 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. Where a candidate is required to revise and re-submit their thesis, the revised thesis and, where required, a report indicating the specific changes made must also be submitted via the Research Thesis Digital Submission (RTDS) application. 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. 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. The report will act as a guide to how the candidate has addressed examiners’ comments, and will direct examiners to the appropriate sections.

Correction timelines

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


Time limit

Report of changes with resubmission

Minor corrections

one month (with possible one month extension)


Major corrections

six months (with possible three month extension)


Referral back

six terms

MPLS – 2000 words
Others – 1000 words

Master of Letters/Master of Science by Research


Time limit

Report of changes with resubmission

Minor corrections

one month (with possible one month extension)


Referral back

three terms

MPLS – 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.

Re-submitting a thesis

If you are re-submitting your thesis, you are required to pay the re-submission fee (the current fee amounts can be found here) when you apply for the appointment of examiners. This fee does not apply to students submitting their thesis for the Review of Major Corrections. The re-submission fee should be paid via the Research Degrees section of the University's online shop; this will need to be received before the Research Degrees Team is able to officially log your submission and send your thesis to your examiners.

The revised thesis, and the required report indicating the specific changes made, must be submitted via the Research Thesis Digital Submission (RTDS) application. 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. The report will act as a guide to how the candidate has addressed examiners’ comments, and will direct examiners to the appropriate sections.

A fresh Appointment of Examiners form is also required for any resubmission. 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.

Deposit of a Library Copy of the Thesis

Students granted leave to supplicate will no longer need to submit a hardbound copy of their thesis to the Examination Schools in order to graduate. This includes any students granted leave to supplicate in previous academic years who have not yet submitted a hard copy of their thesis.

All candidates for the degrees of DPhil, MLitt, MSc by Research and DClinPsych must submit an electronic version of their finalised thesis, as approved by the examiners, to the Oxford University Research Archive (ORA) following being granted to leave to supplicate. Students for theses degrees must do so a minimum of five working days prior to their graduation date, and will not be able to attend a degree ceremony (even in absentia) without doing so.


Information regarding this process can be found on the Oxford Research Archive website and will be sent with your result letter. Deposit of a copy with the archive is optional for candidates for the degrees of MPhil, Master of Studies in Legal Research (MSt) or Bachelor of Philosophy (BPhil) in Philosophy.

If 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.

Dispensation from Consultation of Thesis

Where there are concerns about the thesis being made publicly available online, candidates can apply for dispensation from consultation for part or all of their thesis using form GSO.3c. Information on this process, and on likely reasons for applying, can be found on the Bodleian website.

Candidates who are granted Dispensation from Consultation on the whole thesis, and on a permanent basis, should, in addition to the finalised copy of the thesis submitted to the Oxford Research Archive, submit a finalised hardbound copy of their thesis for deposit in the relevant university library. This applies to students who have already been granted Dispensation from Consultation, and who have not yet had the opportunity to submit a hard copy of their thesis.

Students whose thesis (or part of the thesis) is in a non-standard format which cannot be submitted electronically (e.g. a 3D artwork, or artefact) should also submit a physical copy for deposit.

Physical copies for those students granted Dispensation from Consultation on a permanent basis should be to submitted to the Bodleian at the North Proscholium, in the Bodleian Library, during library opening hours. More information on this process is available on the Bodleian LibGuide.

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