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The PhD thesis

The doctoral thesis must be entirely your own work and should contain material of sufficient originality to merit publication. This material should be adequate to form the basis of, for example, two articles together amounting to 15,000–20,000 words or a short monograph.

The thesis must be a connected account of your research. It may not consist of a number of disconnected or unrelated papers containing portions of your work which have been published, but it may include published work provided it is part of a connected argument and it is in the same format as the rest of the thesis. The thesis may also include appendices which are relevant to the material contained in the thesis but do not form part of the connected argument. You may also submit with your thesis unconnected or unrelated work which you have published; such work may, at the discretion of the examiners, be taken into consideration.

It is important that you state clearly, in footnotes or a bibliography, the sources from which you have obtained your information and the extent to which you have made use of the work of others. You are required to include a declaration that it is entirely your own work and that it is not substantially the same as any work you have submitted for another degree, diploma or similar qualification. You should also include a declaration of the length of your thesis, which should be no more than 80,000 words, including footnotes but excluding the bibliography. If you need an extension to the word limit, or wish to submit an appendix that does not count towards the word limit, you will need to apply to the Degree Committee for permission, using the form available on CamSIS. An appendix should consist of material strictly relevant to the argument of the thesis, such as primary source materials that are not readily accessible, questionnaire responses, statistical tables, descriptions of objects or analytical bibliographies.

You should write the thesis in English. Quotations from other languages should usually be given in translation with the original text, where appropriate, given in a footnote or appendix.

The thesis should be in typescript on one side only of A4 paper in portrait format. The text should be adequately spaced, with a font size no smaller than 11 point for the main text and 10 point for footnotes. You must include a title page giving your full name, your College, the full title of the thesis and the degree for which it is submitted. A one-page abstract should also be included.

Please note that the form in which your thesis is presented, and the care with which it has been prepared and illustrated, are in themselves evidence of your capabilities and will receive consideration as such. You are strongly advised to check carefully for typing errors, spelling mistakes and poor use of English. Correcting such errors may be a condition of approval for the degree.

In planning your thesis you should take account of the criteria for recommending award of the PhD set out in the Guide to Examiners. In particular, in planning the scope of your thesis you should note that the examiners are instructed to take account of 'what it is reasonable to expect a student to complete within three years of full-time research for the PhD'. Further recommended criteria are:

  • the thesis is clearly written,
  • takes due account of previously published work on the subject,
  • and represents a significant contribution to learning, for example through
  • the discovery of new knowledge;
  • the connection of previously unrelated facts;
  • the development of new theory;
  • or the revision of older views.

Collaborative research

Inclusion in the thesis of work carried out in collaboration is unusual and requires the approval of the Degree Committee and Student Registry. If you have been given leave to work in collaboration with others you should indicate clearly which parts of your thesis relate to this work and should state the names of those with whom you have collaborated and the extent to which they have assisted you.

Human participants

If you are planning to collect data from human participants, or use data collected from human participants, you will need to plan well in advance to ensure that you have obtained ethical approval before starting work on your project and have given consideration to how you are going to handle the information you collect.

Working with human participants: ethical approval and data protection