INTENTION TO SUBMIT
Remember that you need to submit an intention to submit form to the postgraduate office at least three months before you actually intend submitting. Full details are available here. This is because experience has shown that identifying six potential examiners who are prepared to except the University’s invitation to examine is often difficult and time-consuming.
PREPARATION OF THE THESIS
Meanwhile you can finish the writing and revising of your thesis. Full information on how to prepare your thesis is available on the CHS Doctoral Academy and Postgraduate Research Support Centre website.
First you need to convert your documents into PDF format. This can be tricky and it is important that you check the outputted PDF document carefully, ensuring that all pages are present and that page order and numbering, text formatting, graphs, diagrams and images are all as you expect.
You must include the declaration page in the preface to your thesis. It must be signed by both you and your supervisor. Either add an electronic signature or print the declaration page, sign it, scan it and then reinsert it into the PDF document. You will need PDF editing software to allow this.
Once you are informed that your examiners have been appointed, you may submit your thesis. The process is summarised in a flowchart at the foot of this page. Submit your thesis in PDF format electronically via email. It is not necessary to provide the Postgraduate Office with a hard copy. This is the end of your involvement until such time as all three examiners’ reports have been received.
It is absolutely forbidden for either the student or the supervisor to attempt to make contact with an examiner. Evidence that this has happened is sufficient for the thesis to be failed (without possibility of redemption) and for severe disciplinary action to be taken against those involved.
Doctoral examination is the responsibility of the College and not the School. The process which is followed until such time as you hear your results is as follows. The Postgraduate Office will forward the thesis to the College Research Office who will in turn send the PDF file to the three examiners by email. They are requested to return their reports to the College Research Office within four weeks. Their reports include both general comments as well as specific recommendations for corrections, and a final recommendation which has to be one of the following:
Accept without corrections. The examiner is happy that the thesis should pass, and furthermore, that it is acceptable as is without any corrections.
Accept with corrections to the satisfaction of the supervisor and College Dean of Research. The examiner is happy with the standard of the thesis, but believes that it could be improved in line with their recommendations. They do not believe that they need to re-examine the thesis to ensure that the changes have been made, but are content to rely on the integrity of the student, supervisor and University to ensure that this is done.
Requires major corrections and should be re-examined. If an examiner finds major cause for concern with the thesis, they will recommend that it is corrected and then returned to be examined again. This may sometimes be as a result of extremely poor presentation (in terms of layout, formatting and use of English) but usually means that the examiner believes that there is a fundamental problem with the scientific or academic reasoning projected by the thesis, such as a poor understanding of the project in terms of the research question, aims, objectives and methodology, or serious deficiencies in the reasoning employed in interpreting results and drawing conclusions.
Fails. The examiner believes that the thesis is without redeeming features and should fail outright, without the opportunity for corrections or re-examination. This is a rare outcome and usually has one of two causes:
• it does not look as though the project and the writing of the thesis were taken seriously
• the underlying science or data are so defective that the results and conclusions are useless, and cannot be corrected by a reanalysis of data.
The reports are forwarded to the School Postgraduate Office by the College Research Office and are scrutinised by the Academic Leader of Research. Given that there are three reports, which may not agree with each other, it is necessary that an overall decision is made after careful consideration of the three reports. This process is known as coordination, and may be undertaken by the Academic Leader or a senior academic. The coordinator then writes a coordination report which summarises the examiners’ recommendations and recommends which of the four categories above appears most appropriate to the thesis. This recommendation is considered by the College Dean of Research, who may accept the recommendation, but may request reconsideration if, in their opinion, the recommendation is inappropriate.
LEARNING THE INITIAL OUTCOME
The College Research Office will inform the School Postgraduate Office of the College Dean of Research’s decision, and the Postgraduate Office will communicate with the student and supervisor as soon as possible, conveying the CDR’s decision and providing them with both the coordination report and the three examiners reports. All reports are however anonymized with names and identifying material removed.
CORRECTIONS AND RE-EXAMINATION
If the decision is Pass, then no further action is needed. The College Dean of Research will declare that you are now “degree complete” (DC) which enables the school postgraduate office to indicate on your academic record that you have completed the degree, and are ready for graduation.
If the decision is for Corrections to the satisfaction of the supervisor and CDR, then you and your supervisor will discuss what needs to be done. You need to make all the required corrections in the thesis, and must compile a list which describes what has been done, correction by correction. Where you and your supervisor disagree (on solid grounds) with a correction requested by an examiner, you need to state this in your list or in a rebuttal letter and explain your reasoning carefully. Once all corrections have been made, and with your supervisor’s approval, resubmit the thesis and a letter containing the list of corrections made by email to the Postgraduate Office. Your supervisor will separately email the Academic Leader of Research indicating that they are satisfied with the corrections made. The Academic Leader of Research will review the corrections and, if they too are satisfied, will write to the College Dean of Research recommending that the corrected thesis is accepted. The College Dean of Research will review this decision and, if satisfied, will declare the student Degree Complete.
If the decision is for Major corrections and re-examination, then you and your supervisor will discuss what needs to be done. You should regard yourself as being under caution: the revised thesis will be returned to the same examiner who recommended re-examination for their decision. Take their recommendations extremely seriously and attend to them diligently. Once you have finished your corrections and your supervisor is satisfied, resubmit the thesis along with a letter containing a list of all corrections made to the School Postgraduate Office. They will forwarded your documents to the College Research Office who will send it out to the examiner or examiners who requested re-examination. The examiners’ second reports, once received, are reviewed and coordinated as described above. You are only allowed to resubmit the thesis once for further examination. If an examiner requests a re-examination on an already re-examined thesis, this is regarded as a fail.
A failed thesis has very serious consequences for the student. There is no opportunity to rewrite the thesis, or to repeat or extend the work of the project. In effect both the project and the thesis have to be thrown away and a whole new PhD commenced.
Appointment of a fourth examiner
Occasionally the college may appoint a fourth examiner, either to replace one of the initial examiners who find themselves unable to mark the thesis or who is unacceptably slow in doing so, or occasionally to resolve a deadlocked decision.