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Your Thesis


All of the regulations governing the preparation, submission, and examining of your thesis (for MA by Research, MPhil and PhD) can be found in the ‘Doctoral College's Guide to Examinations for Higher Degrees by Research’ via the link below.

You should pay special attention to Part I: ‘Guidance to Students on Submission and Examination of the Thesis’, and No. 4 ‘Presentation of The Thesis’ (pp. 7-9), which contains vital information about the presentation of your dissertation.

Guide to Examinations for Higher Degrees by Research

Viva Examiners

All candidates for doctoral degrees and for the degree of MPhil are required to attend an oral examination after the first submission of the thesis. In the case of MA by Research degrees, an oral examination shall be held where one or both examiners considers this to be necessary to the examination process, at the discretion of the examiners.

As you get closer to the submission of your finished thesis, your Supervisor will discuss with you the appointment of your Examiners. Two Examiners will be appointed, one an Internal Examiner who is usually a member of staff in the Warwick History Department, and an External Examiner, who will be based at another institution. The Internal Examiner may have been involved in your progress during your studies, for example s/he may have been one of the Assessors for your Upgrade in Year 1, but the External Examiner will not normally have had any involvement in your work previously.

The nomination of your Examiners is ultimately the responsibility of your Supervisor, who makes the recommendation to the University’s Doctoral College. It is the University, not the Department that ultimately appoints your Examiners. The viva voce examination normally takes place within 3 months of the submission of your thesis, but not usually in less than 6 weeks following submission (as Examiners need sufficient time to read and asses what you have written).

From the outset of your studies in Year 1, you should have a clear plan for the completion of your thesis, with a submission date that you are working towards. This plan needs to be regularly reviewed and revised, and must always be realistic and practical.

Ethics in research

In most historical research projects there will be no ethical implications, but in cases where your research involves human participants (perhaps involving interviews and the collection of oral histories), or confidential data (perhaps medical records might be among your sources), prior ethical approval will be required. We ask ALL students to complete an Ethics Review Form, to be submitted as part of the Upgrade process in Year 1.

Any concerns you have about the ethics of your research should be discussed with your Supervisor in the first instance, but you may also seek advice from the Director of PGR Studies.


As it is essential that you conform to the presentational requirements set out in the guidelines above when you submit your thesis, it is wise to adopt these practices from the very beginning of your studies. This is particularly important with regard to referencing systems, and the style and order of your bibliography. The choices you make about these presentational issues should be discussed and clarified with your Supervisor. Everything you write while a research student should conform to these guidelines.

Remember, also, that your thesis MUST strictly conform to restrictions on word length. The maximum word-lengths allowed are:

  • MA by Research 40,000 words (excluding appendices, footnotes, tables and bibliography)
  • MPhil 60,000 words (excluding appendices, footnotes, tables and bibliography)
  • PhD 80,000 words (excluding appendices, footnotes, tables and bibliography)

Appendices, if included, should be no more than 5,000 words in total.

Presentation and Referencing Essentials...

Presentation and accurate referencing is an essential part of the historian's craft. An essay that is well written and properly referenced will convey your message efficiently and be more persuasive. Many different formatting conventions are used in scholarly publications and this can be confusing. What we recommend is the best current practice. If you are unsure about any of these guidelines, please ask your essay tutors for clarification.

Why reference?

From reading academic articles and books, you should be familiar with the scholarly practice of making references in the text to other people's work and providing listings of relevant source material at the end of the text.

Why is this done?

To enable someone reading the document to find the material you have referred to or consulted

To demonstrate your width of reading and knowledge about a subject

To support and/or develop points made in the text

To avoid accusations of plagiarism: using somebody else's work without acknowledging the fact

Because you may be required to do so by your department

Academic Referencing

The History department recommends that students follow the MHRA standard for essay writing. MHRA is a footnote style commonly used in the Humanities. Superscript numbers are placed in the body of the text, and corresponding notes are placed at the end of each page to cite the resources used.

MHRA Footnote Style

Examples of good and bad referencing can be found in the Plagiarism section of this handbook:

Examples to avoid plagiarism


The University has clear and strictly enforced regulations governing plagiarism and these apply to all assessed work submitted by students, including research theses. It is important that you read and understand the definition of plagiarism set out in these regulations, which can be found here:

Remember when writing your dissertation that you must always identify your sources for specific information and, where appropriate, the ideas that you use. It is bad academic practice for a student to fail to do so, just as it would be for an author writing a book or learned article. Copying without acknowledgement from a printed source is as unacceptable as plagiarising another student's essay. It is equally wrong to reproduce and present as your own work a passage from another person's writing to which minor changes have been made, e.g., random alteration of words or phrases, omission or rearrangement of occasional sentences or phrases within the passage. This remains plagiarism even if the source is acknowledged in footnotes. Unacknowledged quotation, disguised borrowing, or near- copying will be treated as plagiarism. If you are uncertain about what constitutes plagiarism, please talk it over with your supervisor, or if necessary the Director of PGR Studies.

Department Guidance on Plagiarism