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Department of History and Philosophy of Science


Part III students are required to submit four essays and a dissertation, as follows:

  • Two Research Papers, each of not more than 5,000 words, on topics chosen in discussion with a supervisor and approved by the HPS Board. Each Research Paper must fall into a different one of the ten designated subject areas. Research Paper 1 is due on the Monday of Week 7 in Michaelmas Term, and Research Paper 2 is due on the Monday of Week 7 in Lent Term.
  • Two Set Essays, each of not more than 2,500 words, covering topics treated in the Part III/MPhil lectures. The list of questions will be issued at the end of Week 7 of Lent Term, and the essays will be due a week later. Choose two questions from a list of 14.
  • A Dissertation, of not more than 12,000 words, on a topic chosen in discussion with the supervisor and approved by the HPS Board. The Dissertation is due at the beginning of Week 5 of Easter Term.

All word counts include footnotes but exclude the bibliography and prefatory matter.

The two Research Papers must be in different subject areas. The Dissertation may be written in the same subject area as one of the Research Papers, but it must address a different question and it must show evidence of a substantial new research effort. Any use of the Research Papers or Set Essays in the Dissertation has to be appropriately referenced, just like any other primary or secondary source.


Senior members and associates of the Department supervise work for the Research Papers and Dissertation. Supervisions are not available for the Set Essays but are offered for the seminars on which the Set Essays are based.

The Department publishes a list of members of the Department and associates who are willing to supervise Part III work, together with the topics on which they are prepared to supervise.

Dissertation and essay supervisors

If you would like to work with an external supervisor – someone who is not a member of the Department – you must obtain permission from the Part III Manager.

Your supervisors will see you on a very regular basis, but it is up to you to schedule those meetings according to your needs. As a rule of thumb, you can expect the following supervisions:

  • 3 for each Research Paper;
  • 4 for the topics in the Part III/MPhil lectures, in groups of 2–3, but none for the two Set Essays themselves;
  • 4 for the Dissertation.

Supervisions are designed to provide you with the opportunity to set your own agenda for your studies. The supervisor's job is to support your research, not to grade your work; your submitted work will be examined by others. Your supervisor for any one piece of work is never allowed to examine it too.

You are not permitted to work with the same supervisor for more than two pieces of coursework.

Topic forms

Online topic forms for the Research Papers and Dissertation will be available on Moodle.

You should complete each form by stating the topic, selecting one of the ten subject areas, and entering the name of your supervisor.

The deadline for completeing each form is shown on key dates and deadlines.

Changing the topic

To change the topic, subject area or supervisor of a Research Paper or the Dissertation after you have submitted the topic form you must apply for permission; permission is not automatically granted. See key dates and deadlines for the last dates for changing topics.

To change the topic, subject area or supervisor, you should complete the request form. The request must be approved by the Part III Manager.


The University and the Department of History and Philosophy of Science take plagiarism very seriously. Please read our advice about what plagiarism is and how to avoid it.

Plagiarism guidelines

The Department uses the text-matching software Turnitin UK to blanket screen all student work submitted in Moodle.

Use of Turnitin UK


For guidance about using correct and consistent referencing, see this page:


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


Examined work should be uploaded to the 'HPS Part III Coursework' site on Moodle before 12noon on the day of the deadline. Paper copies are not required.

Please note:

  • The work should have numbered pages, footnotes and a bibliography.
  • You cannot upload more than one file for each submission.
  • The following file formats are accepted: DOC, DOCX, PDF, RTF.

All work will be marked anonymously, so it is important that your name does not appear anywhere on it.

For the Research Papers and Dissertation, please give the following information on the first page:

  • Title
  • Subject area (the same as the one you selected on your topic form)
  • Supervisor
  • Word count

For the Set Essays, you should give the question number, title and word count.

You are advised to check your email the day after you have submitted to ensure there are no queries about your work.

Please note that the Department will retain a copy of your work and may make it available to future students unless you make a written request to the contrary to the Departmental Administrator.

Word limit

The word limit is 5,000 for each Research Paper, 2,500 for each Set Essay, and 12,000 for the Dissertation.

All word limits include footnotes but exclude the bibliography and prefatory matter.

Figures may be included in the work and should contribute to the argument. They should be captioned only so as to specify the source; such captions are excluded from the word count. Formulae may be used where appropriate and are also excluded from the word count.

The word limit is strictly enforced. Each piece of work will be inspected to ensure that the word limit has been respected. If work is over the limit, a mark will be placed at the point where the word limit has been reached. Examiners reserve the right to stop reading when they get to that point.

The Department uses Microsoft Word to check word counts. If you use coding software, such as LaTeX, you should be aware that this software may give a different word count. You may find it helpful to use TeXcount, an online tool that analyses LaTeX code to provide an accurate count of words, formulae, captions and footnotes. If using software other than Microsoft Word you should submit a screenshot to demonstrate the word count from the software used.

Extension of submission dates

All requests for an extension to the submission date for coursework must have a good reason and must be supported by a College Tutor or Director of Studies, otherwise a zero mark will be awarded. Extensions for the Set Essays are not generally permitted; in unusual circumstances students may apply to the department for an extension to a single Set Essay.

Where an extension is granted, the deadline is 12noon on the new date.

For an extension of up to seven days for a Research Paper or the Dissertation the student should complete the coursework extension self-certification form.

For an extension of up to seven days for one Set Essay the student should download and complete the extension form. The form must then be signed by the College Tutor and the Course Manager.

For an extension longer than seven days the College Tutor/DoS must make a case to the Examination Access and Mitigation Committee.

Students are reminded that extensions are not cost free: they reduce the amount of time you can devote to subsequent pieces of work, limit opportunities for you to receive feedback and participate in other aspects of the course, and may delay the approval of your degree. A granted extension does not mean that your supervisor will be available beyond term time.

Policy on data, editions, translations and bibliographies

An essay or dissertation should be self-contained, including or citing all information needed for an examiner to follow its argument.

The word limit normally includes text and footnotes but not the bibliography. However, in certain cases permission may be obtained for materials relevant to the argument of the essay or dissertation to be submitted for the information of the examiners in the form of an appendix, with such materials excluded from the word count. Materials falling into this category may include primary source materials (texts and images) that are not readily accessible, transcriptions, translations, questionnaire responses, statistical tables, formal proofs, technical descriptions of objects, analytical bibliographies and other data produced by the candidate that they wish to make accessible.

Conversely, material contributing to the word count should normally consist of the candidate's own discussion and analysis of such materials. Exceptionally, when a critical edition or translation, a formal proof, an analytical bibliography, or a technical description of objects and their provenances is based on substantial original scholarship and cannot be easily separated from the argument of an essay or dissertation, permission may be obtained for it to be included within the body of the essay or dissertation, hence contributing to the word count. No more than one third of an essay or dissertation should consist of such material.

Applications for such permissions should be sought, in consultation with the supervisor, from the Senior Examiner via the Part III Manager.

Feedback to Part III students

During the course of their studies, students receive feedback in person from their supervisors, and from the Course Manager, as well as from termly online supervision reports. Research Paper 1, which is the first piece of work, is examined prior to the end of the Michaelmas Term in order to provide students with early feedback on their performance so they can gauge the level of achievement which the course requires, and so they have reliable pointers as to future applications for the PhD, whose deadlines are often early in the academic year. The Set Essays and Research Paper 2 are examined together at the end of Lent Term. At this meeting provisional marks are agreed for both Research Papers and the Set Essays, and feedback on this component of the course is available shortly afterwards.

After each Examiners' Meeting, the Part III Manager meets with students, reports the provisional agreed class and provides copies of the non-confidential parts of the examiners' reports. At these meetings the work is discussed and examiners' remarks are put in context for future work. Students may contact their supervisor after this meeting if they want to discuss the reports in more detail.

Marks are subject to moderation up until the final Board of Examiners meeting in mid/late June. At the end of the course the Department provides students with an informal transcript with details of each of their individual marks. Formal transcripts can be downloaded from CamSIS.

Feedback on the overall performance of each year is provided by Senior and External Examiners' Reports which are submitted at the end of the year. Students may find it useful to see examiners' comments on the previous year's work, particularly mark distributions and recommendations.

Request form

Request form (for changing the topic, subject area or supervisor, or adding an appendix)