Submitting a thesis
These guidelines have been developed to help students, supervisors and postgraduate co-ordinators in the preparation of PhD theses for examination, the selection of examiners, and in ensuring the timely examination of the thesis.
They should be read in conjunction with the relevant sections in the current editions of the Postgraduate Student Handbook and the University of Sydney (Higher Degree by Research) Rule 2011.
- Options for thesis submission
- Timing of thesis submission
- Selection of examiners
- Types of thesis examination
- Preparing for submission of the thesis
- The examination process
- Possible examination outcomes
- Deferment of public availability of theses
- Submission of corrected thesis
- Continuation of borrowing privileges after submission of thesis
This is the traditional way in which theses are submitted, and is the method used by most students. Students are strongly advised to read SUPRA Guide produced by SUPRA.
The thesis may be submitted in a temporary binding or in a permanent form. If bound in a temporary form, this should be strong enough to withstand handling and postage. The preferred form of temporary binding is ‘perfect binding’.
A thesis submitted in temporary binding must have a label affixed to the front cover clearly identifying the name of the candidate, the title of the thesis and the year of submission.
Ringback or spiral binding is NOT acceptable.
It is important to remember that the word limit for the thesis, excluding appendices and references, is 80,000 words for Sydney Medical School and the Faculties of Dentistry and Pharmacy, or, with Head of Discipline approval, 100,000 words.
The number of bound copies required varies from degree to degree. The resolutions for the PhD require four copies to be submitted and generally Master’s degrees require 3 copies.
It is possible to submit the thesis electronically for examination, i.e. on CDROM or Flash Drive, but only if the examiners agree to examine the thesis in this manner (see below). If the student wishes to submit the thesis in this manner it should be brought to the attention of the Supervisor and Postgraduate Coordinator at least three months prior to submission of the thesis. Prospective examiners must be advised of the format in which the thesis is available, and must be willing to examine an electronic version of the thesis. It is the responsibility of the Supervisor and Postgraduate Coordinator to advise examiners about the electronic format(s) available and to ascertain whether the examiner can examine the thesis in this format.
The structure of the thesis should be the same as the ultimate printed version and the thesis must be submitted in one PDF document. The title of the thesis, the candidate’s initials and surname, the title of the degree, the year of submission and the name of the University should appear on a label affixed to the CD or on the first page of the PDF document.
Submission by published works:
The policy is available on Policy Online
Approved by: Academic Board on 14/08/2002
Date of effect: 15/08/2002
In some cases most of the work in the thesis will have already been published in recognised peer reviewed form. If a thesis is submitted for examination in this setting, the examiner should assess whether the thesis demonstrates that the candidature has been responsibly planned as an integrated project. The publications should represent elements of a connected whole, as they would, for example, as chapters in a thesis in advance of publication. Verification of this will be evidenced by the postgraduate co-ordinator, who will provide a statement with the thesis certifying the extent of the candidate's contribution and input to the published work. In such cases the examiners are asked to comment on whether the extent of the student's contribution and the stature of the publications are appropriate for the award of the degree. Please note that only published works relating to research undertaken while the candidate is enrolled for the degree can be included in the thesis.
If the candidate is not the sole author, signed statements must be obtained from all the co-authors attesting to the contributions of each co-author to the publication.
If the candidate chooses to include one or more published works in the body of the thesis, the candidate must ensure that the thesis is a consistent and unified whole, prepared specifically for the submission of examination for the degree. The candidate needs to critically place any published works used in the body of the thesis in the context of the appropriate field of study and in the context of the thesis as a whole.
The thesis should have an introductory chapter (which would normally take the form of a literature review) and a concluding chapter, pulling all of the thesis chapters and publications together, discussion of potential limitations of the work, and future directions for research.
Please see our detailed information sheet (PDF) on submitting a thesis containing publications.
It is the responsibility of the student to inform the Postgraduate Student Administration Unit of the estimated date of submission at least three months prior to the intended date, so that the process of examiner selection can take place in a timely manner. It would also be advisable for students to encourage their supervisor to nominate examiners prior to thesis submission so that appropriate approvals can be sought.
It is the responsibility of the head of discipline or postgraduate co-ordinator to make recommendations as to the choice of examiners. The supervisor is usually in the best position to decide who would be appropriate examiners, and should be the person to contact examiners and explore their willingness and availability to examine the thesis. When contacting the potential examiners, the supervisor should ascertain the dates of availability of the examiners, whether they would be prepared to receive the thesis in electronic format for examination, and whether they would be prepared to take part in an oral examination as part of the primary examination process (see below). In making a recommendation, the head of discipline or postgraduate co-ordinator shall take all reasonable steps to ensure that the examiners proposed are free from bias either for or against the candidate or the supervisor.
The nomination of examiners must be made on the appropriate form, available from the PhD Awards subcommittee website.
An examiner for a PhD thesis should themselves have a PhD or have an academic title at least at the level of Associate Professor. In the absence of either of these two criteria, there must be an explanatory statement, and where available supporting documents (eg CV of the examiner, publication record), provided as to why that examiner is an appropriate choice.
The head of discipline or postgraduate co-ordinator shall recommend the appointment of three examiners for PhD (generally two for Master’s), of whom at least two (generally one for Master’s) are external to the university (ie, not a member of the staff of the university or holding a clinical academic title). There is no requirement to include international examiners. If there is no suitably qualified internal examiner, all three examiners may be external.
The supervisor shall not be an examiner. Whilst there is no university resolution forbidding the choice of the associate supervisor as an examiner, this should be strongly discouraged as the examiner must be free from bias, either for or against the candidate or supervisor.
The Supervisor should consult with the student as to potential examiners. In particular, the student may identify individuals who could potentially be hostile examiners and therefore avoided. However, the student MUST NOT know the details of the final set of examiners who do examine the thesis until the examination process has been completed (ie not until after the candidate has been informed by the Board of Postgraduate Studies as to the outcome of the thesis examination). The exception to this would be if examiners have chosen to remain anonymous to the candidate in which case the reports will be de-identified.
Traditional examination process:
The thesis (in bound or electronic format) is submitted to the three examiners, who provide a written report outlining their recommendations.
Candidates may request an oral examination as part of the primary examination process, in which case the examiner would have been notified of this prior to commencing examination of the thesis. The examiner has the option of agreeing to participate in the oral examination process, and if the examiner has agreed to this, the examiner will be provided with more details as to how the examination will proceed (including the possible arrangement of participation via a teleconference or videoconference link).
Most Doctor of Philosophy theses do not include an oral examination as part of the normal examination procedure. In some circumstances an examiner may recommend an oral examination if there are concerns as to the candidate’s grasp of the subject matter or where the examiner seeks clarification on a number of issues.
Details about this option are available from the Postgraduate Student Administration Unit on further request. They are also available to download in PDF from the University.
It is the responsibility of the supervisor to provide a statement that the thesis is in a suitable form for examination. The appropriate form is available from the PhD Awards subcommittee website. If the supervisor does not provide the above statement, the head of discipline, the dean or the chair of the PhD Award Sub-committee will do so as long as the thesis meets all these procedural requirements.
A student cannot be prevented from submitting a thesis, even if his or her supervisor advises against it. In such a case, the supervisor must express his or her concerns to the student in writing, sending a copy to the head of discipline and postgraduate co-ordinator. Even under these circumstances, the postgraduate co-ordinator should provide the names of examiners as is the usual practice. The examination should then proceed as normal.
Assuming examiners have been nominated and given the appropriate approvals prior to submission, the thesis, once submitted, is sent out to examiners for review along with a set of guidelines for the examiners. The examiners are informed that the university requires their reports to be provided within eight weeks of receipt of the thesis.
Six Weeks – Friendly reminder
At six weeks from despatch, the Postgraduate Student Administration Unit will contact examiners, remind them of the deadline and ask if there are any foreseeable reasons for delay in receipt of the report.
Ten Weeks - Reminder
If no report has been furnished by ten weeks, the examiner will be contacted by the Postgraduate Student Administration Unit, reminded of their obligation, and asked to specify a date of completion for the report.
Fourteen Weeks – Replacement examiner reminder
If no report has been provided by fourteen weeks, then under usual circumstances the Postgraduate Student Administration Unit will write to the examiner, advising that it will be necessary to proceed to the appointment of a replacement examiner if the report is not received within a further two weeks. The Postgraduate Student Administration Unit will then ask the postgraduate co-ordinator and supervisor to nominate an alternative examiner.
Sixteen Weeks – Despatch to replacement examiner
Once a replacement examiner has been nominated, the recalcitrant examiner will be asked to return his or her copy of the thesis and another copy will be despatched to the replacement examiner. Any report consequently received from the recalcitrant examiner will not be considered in determining the result of the candidature.
Release of Examiners’ Names and Comments to the Candidate:
The examiners' reports are released to the candidate once the examination is completed. An examiner may request that her/his name not be disclosed to the candidate at that time.
Please note: In some circumstances, the university may also consider it appropriate that the reports of the examiners, together with the comments of the supervisor, be referred to all of the examiners for further comment before a final decision can be reached.
When all of the examiners’ reports have been provided, the head of discipline or postgraduate co-ordinator is required to make a recommendation to the chair of the Board of Postgraduate Studies within two weeks. In determining his/her recommendation, the postgraduate co-ordinator may consult with the supervisor, and if deemed necessary, the associate supervisor, but not the student. The chair or deputy chair of the Board of Postgraduate Studies will then determine whether the degree can be awarded without further examination, subject to correction of typographical errors or subject to emendations and other conditions. The candidate will then be informed of the decision, and is usually given one semester to make the necessary changes.
If one or more examiners recommend revise and resubmit or non-award, all documents relating to the examination will be referred to the next Board of Postgraduate Studies meeting (held monthly) for discussion by the full Board. If the Board recommends award subject to emendations/other conditions, the matter is forwarded on to the PhD Award Sub-committee for further consideration. If the PhD Award Sub-committee agrees with the Board’s determination, the candidate is informed of the decision, and is usually given one semester to make the necessary changes.
If the Board intends to resolve that the student be required to revise and resubmit their thesis for examination or that the degree not be awarded at all, the student will be notified of the Board's intent, and will be offered the opportunity to respond to the examiners' comments. The candidate must inform the Board of his/her intention to comment within four weeks of the date of the notice and must provide his/her comments within eight weeks of the date of the notice. If the candidate does not respond within the given times it will be assumed that the candidate accepts the intention of the Board.
The Board will then reconsider the examiners' recommendations along with any comments from the student, supervisor and postgraduate co-ordinator / head of discipline and finalise its decision. In the case of a PhD student a further step is required before the decision can be finalised. The Board will refer their intent, along with the examiners' reports and any comments from the student, supervisor and the postgraduate coordinator / head of discipline, to the university’s PhD Award Sub-Committee for consideration. Only if this committee agrees with the Board's intent will the decision be finalised. Once the decision has been finalised the candidate will then be notified of the final decision of the Board. If the student is asked to revise and resubmit their thesis, a period of six months is generally given for this revision and the student is required to re-enrol in the next available semester.
If at this point the student does not accept the decision they may lodge an appeal to the university’s Graduate Studies Committee.
A policy document has been developed and approved by the Academic Board. The Dean can automatically recommend a deferment period of six months. Anything beyond that needs to be approved by the Chair of the Graduate Studies Committee. The important point is that the request needs to come from the student, NOT the supervisor or associate dean. For a PhD which is in collaboration with an industry partner, the maximum time for deferment needs to be determined at the start of the candidature not the end, and under usual circumstances would be very unlikely to extend beyond a maximum of two years.
The appropriate form is available from the PhD Awards subcommittee website.
Prior to submitting your corrected thesis you must consult your Postgraduate Co-ordinator to determine if the changes you have made are to his or her satisfaction. You should provide a summary of all the amendments made as this will assist the Postgraduate Co-ordinator in his/her assessment. Gaining this approval from your Supervisor is not sufficient. This important step is not required if you have been notified that you have been awarded without further qualification, that is, if no changes are required to your thesis. Your Postgraduate Co-ordinator must then send his or her approval and recommendation to award the degree to the Postgraduate Student Administration Unit in writing - mail and e-mail are both acceptable.
The final amended thesis should then be submitted as follows.
Please complete and submit the following form Student Lodgement Form along with the final amended electronic copy of your thesis (in one PDF document) and a separate 200 word abstract (in a word document in Arial font 10 point) to student services on
If the thesis is larger than 10MB and cannot be sent via email please mail or deliver a copy of the thesis on a CD or flash drive to Student Services, Room 230, A27 Edward Ford Building, The University of Sydney
Students will need to choose the appropriate level of access, and convert their thesis and any supporting files into the appropriate file format. The digital format for text is PDF (Portable Document Format). Other acceptable formats (e.g. for ancillary materials such as datasets, software, images, audio or video files) will be outlined in the guidelines here Final Submission Guidelines
Once all of the steps above have been completed and the Chair of the Board of Postgraduate Studies has made a recommendation, you will receive a letter explaining that you have been awarded the degree and giving details of the graduation ceremony to which you have been assigned.
If you have submitted a thesis for the completion of your degree, the University may now consider that you are now no longer enrolled as a current student and your Library borrowing privileges may have expired. However, if you still need Library borrowing privileges for the purpose of satisfying the requirements of your degree, you may apply for a temporary library card for a period specified by your University department.
Visit the relevant library website to find out how to apply.