Swansea University

Guide to Submission and Presentation of the Thesis

Guide to Submission and Presentation of the Thesis

What is a Thesis?

A thesis presents a student’s research results, describing the research with reference to relevant work in the field.  It will include a description of the methods of research considered, and those actually employed, and present the student’s conclusions.  It is essential that any use of another author's work is properly acknowledged. The thesis is the student’s own work and must be written by the student.

It is essential that the student discusses general layout and referencing conventions with his/her supervisors to ensure that subject or discipline-specific requirements or rules are followed right from the start. Supervisors are expected to provide constructive criticism and feedback on the thesis during candidature; however, supervisors should not be requested to provide English language training or undertake proof-reading.

In assessing a thesis, the examiners will bear in mind the standard and scope of work which it is reasonable to expect a capable and diligent student to present after a period of time equivalent to the minimum candidature period for the degree being examined.

The University’s academic regulations for research master’s level degrees state:

The qualification shall be awarded to candidates who:

  1. have demonstrated knowledge and understanding that is founded upon and extends and/or enhances that typically associated with Bachelor’s level, and that provides a basis or opportunity for originality in developing and/or applying ideas, often within a research context;
  2. can apply their knowledge, understanding, and problem solving abilities in new or unfamiliar environments within broader (or multidisciplinary) contexts related to their field of study;
  3. have the ability to integrate knowledge and handle complexity, and formulate judgements on a body of information, and to reflect on social and ethical responsibilities linked to the application of their knowledge and judgements;
  4. can communicate their conclusions, and the knowledge and rationale underpinning these, to specialist and non-specialist audiences clearly and unambiguously;
  5. have the learning skills to allow them to continue to study in a manner that may be largely self-directed or autonomous.

The University’s academic regulations for doctoral level degrees state:

The qualification shall be awarded to candidates who:

  1. have demonstrated a systematic understanding of a field of study and mastery of the skills and methods of research associated with that field;
  2. have demonstrated the ability to conceive, design, implement and adapt a substantial process of research with scholarly integrity;
  3. have made a contribution through original research that extends the frontier of knowledge by developing a substantial body of work, some of which would merit national or international refereed publication;
  4. are capable of critical analysis, evaluation and synthesis of new and complex ideas;
  5. can communicate with their peers, the larger scholarly community and with society in general about their areas of expertise;
  6. can be expected to be able to promote, within academic and professional contexts, intellectual, technological, social or cultural advancements.

Maximum Word Limits for Each Degree


The word limit is 40,000 for the main text.  The word limit does not include appendices (if any), essential footnotes, introductory parts and statements or the bibliography and index.

MA by Research / MSc by Research

The word limit is 40,000 for the main text. The word limit does not include appendices (if any), essential footnotes, introductory parts and statements or the bibliography and index.


The word limit is 60,000 for the main text.  The word limit does not include appendices (if any), essential footnotes, introductory parts and statements or the bibliography and index.

Professional Doctorates and MD

The word limit is 80,000 for the main text.  The word limit does not include appendices (if any), essential footnotes, introductory parts and statements or the bibliography and index. 


The word limit is 100,000 for the main text. The word limit does not include appendices (if any), essential footnotes, introductory parts and statements or the bibliography and index.

Minimum Word Limits

There are no set minimum word limits for each degree, however, the maximum word limit of the preceding degree may be taken as a guide.

Note: Ultimately, whether the thesis is too long or too short is a decision for the examiners. The word limit is therefore guidance rather than requirement.  A supervisor may record reservations regarding the length of a student’s thesis on the Notice of Intention to Submit form (see the section Notice of Intention to Submit below). If a thesis is clearly above the indicated word limit, then the student should discuss editorial action with his/her supervisors before submission. 

Students should be aware that examiners can decide that an overly-long thesis does not meet the degree’s standards, and students will not be awarded the degree or lower award without proceeding to the viva stage. A student can also be required to resubmit a thesis if there are serious grammatical or spelling errors - use of a spellchecker is very strongly recommended.

Practice-based research degree thesis

The practice-based research degree (either doctoral level or research master's level) is distinguished from the standard research degree in that a major element of the submission is an original creative work, which has been created by the candidate specifically for the submission of the award. Apart from the inclusion of such materials, the practice-based thesis must conform to the same standards expected for a standard research degree thesis.

A request to submit a practice-based research degree thesis must be submitted to the Postgraduate Research Academic Board for approval prior to confirmation of candidature. The student and the supervisor should produce a written request, counter-signed by the Head of College, explaining why the practice-based format is more appropriate for the research project and demonstrating how the project will take full advantage of the creative and/or practical element. The request should also clearly indicate the proposed balance of written and practical components to be submitted. The request must identify any issues about specific needs for supporting the student due to the nature of the research etc – impact on skills training requirements, supervisory requirements etc. The supervisors should provide detailed information about how the practical component will be supervised.

The major element of the submission is an original creative work which has been created by the candidate specifically for the submission. The practical element should be accompanied by a written commentary. The length of the written element should be determined by the nature of the research, but should be no more than 40,000 words for doctoral level and 20,000 words for research master's level.

Bar on Access

Sometimes the results of research are commercially valuable or sensitive in other ways, for example in the use of material that is restricted by agreements or other contracts.  To protect this confidentiality the University permits a bar on access to be placed on the thesis and this will mean that it will not be available to the general reader for up to three years (the period can be extended in special circumstances).

The intention to request a bar on access should be indicated as early as possible in a student’s candidature and must be noted on the Notice of Intention to Submit form (see Notice of Intention to Submit below). The College must submit a request for a bar on access to the Postgraduate Research Academic Board. The request must state the title of the work, and the reasons for a bar being placed.

If the bar on access is approved, the National Library of Wales and Swansea University Library are advised so that the work is not made available until the agreed time has passed.

Binding Conventions

Temporary binding

Temporary binding is usual for examination purposes.

Perfect binding is the recommended type of temporary binding.  It provides a soft-back book, with the pages secured by glue to a black tape-like spine.

Permanent Hard-back Binding

When the thesis has been approved by the examiners, and the student has made any changes or corrections required, two permanently bound copies must be handed to your College for despatch to the Libraries (one in the case of the MRes/MA by Research/MSc by Research).

The colour of the cover is not specified by the University but is usually black, dark green or red.

The spine of your thesis (permanent binding only) must show:

  • The student’s surname and initials;
  • Swansea University;
  • The full or abbreviated title of the work;
  • The year of submission;
  • The degree for which the work is submitted.

Note: If two volumes are needed, Vol.1 and Vol.2 should be added, as appropriate, to the spine text.

Example: Spine

Tugandhow, G. Swansea University 2011
Self-Criticism and Self-Determination [Vol. 1] PhD

One copy of the approved thesis is held in the Swansea University Library, and, for degrees other than the MRes, the second is sent to the National Library of Wales at Aberystwyth. Your degree cannot be awarded until the hard-back copies have been submitted.

The Internal Layout of the Thesis

If a thesis is submitted as a single volume, the layout will generally follow the following pattern, but the student must check with his/her supervisors to see whether there are any particular conventions applicable to the specific subject area:

  • Title page;
  • Summary (Abstract);
  • Declarations and Statements
  • Contents page;
  • Acknowledgements;
  • List of tables, illustrations, etc;
  • Definitions or Abbreviations;
  • TEXT: Appropriately divided and with chapters and sections continuously paginated.(The layout of the text is an important aspect of thesis design. The division of material can be by Parts, Chapters, Sections, etc. - the supervisor’s advice is essential);
  • Appendices  (Where these are substantial, a separate volume should be considered);
  • Glossary;
  • Bibliography;

Title Page

The title page must contain the following information:

  • The approved title and any subtitle;
  • The total number of volumes if more than one, and the number of the particular volume;
  • The full name of the student followed, if desired, by any qualifications and distinction;
  • The text "Submitted to Swansea University in fulfilment of the requirements for the Degree of" followed by the name of the degree programme (Doctor of Philosophy/Master of Philosophy/Doctor of Engineering etc;
  • The text "Swansea University";
  • Year of Submission.
Summary (Abstract)

A brief description of the work: its aims, methods and conclusions.  Not more than three hundred words, using single line spacing.

A copy of the summary of the thesis will be used in the publication by ASLIB of theses presented for higher degrees in British Universities. It is essential that the summary should be typed in single spacing and be accommodated on one side of the sheet provided.

Students should bear in mind, when writing the summary, that this may be the only part of the thesis that is read by other research workers. It should be written in such a way as to help researchers in the same field decide whether to read the thesis. The summary should consist of a piece of connected prose and should not be more than 300 words in length. It may be much shorter.  Abbreviations should be avoided.

Declarations and Statements

Information about the standard declarations and statements, which must be made when a student submits his/her thesis, is provided with the Submission Pack issued to candidates who have completed their “Notice of Intention to Submit” form and are preparing to submit a thesis.  In summary these comprise of:

  1. A declaration that the work has not previously been accepted in substance for any degree and is not being concurrently submitted in candidature for any degree.
  2. A statement that the thesis is the result of your own investigations, except where otherwise stated and that other sources are acknowledged by footnotes giving explicit references and that a bibliography is appended.
  3. A statement that the student gives consent for the thesis, if accepted, to be available for photocopying and for inter-library loan, and for the title and summary to be made available to outside organisations.

If a bar on access has been approved by the Postgraduate Research Academic Board, the student should use an amended version of this statement, giving consent for the thesis to be available for photocopying and for inter-library loans after expiry of the bar on access.   

Contents Page

Details of the division of the thesis, with page numbers.


If the student wishes to include a dedication or acknowledgement in the thesis this should be inserted on a page following the Contents Page.

List of tables, illustrations, etc.

Titles of all tables and illustrations in the thesis, with page numbers.

Definitions or Abbreviations

All abbreviations used in the thesis should be clearly defined.

The Main Text - appropriately divided into parts, chapters and sections

The student should seek the advice of his/her supervisors about the appropriate form of division to be used in the main text. The main text should be a self-supporting document in its own right and not require the reader to refer to the appendices.


The appendices are not included in the word count of the thesis. The appendices allow the student to further illuminate the main text and can act as a repository of raw data. It should be noted that examiners are not obliged to read the appendices when examining a thesis.


The glossary should comprise a list of specialised terms used in the thesis with which a reader is not expected to be familiar, each with its definition as understood in the text.


The bibliography should list all works referred to in the thesis and should also include works that have informed the thesis even if not directly referred to.

Physical Appearance of the Thesis


White, A4-size, with sufficient opacity to prevent any show-through: to achieve this paper with a weight of 70 to 100 gsm should be used.  Standard 80gsm copying paper is acceptable.


The main text must be printed in black ink, and may be printed on both sides of the page.

Font Character or Print Height

Print or character size should not be less than 8 point (2.50mm) but, normally, the text-size would be equivalent to 12pt Times New Roman. 


Margins should be 4cm (1½ inches) wide on the left-hand side and at least 2cm (¾ inch) on the right-hand side, although 1 inch (2.5cm) on the right-hand side is preferable.

Line Spacing

One-and-a-half line spacing should be used in the main text.  However, single spacing should be used in the Summary and in any indented quotations and footnotes.

Page Numbering

Pages in the thesis should be numbered sequentially. 

Referencing and the Bibliography

The first requirement for a thesis submitted in candidature for a degree is that it presents the results of the student’s own work.  Clearly, this demand does not exclude quotations or the representation of the views or results of other scholars in the field.  Indeed, another expectation in any thesis is that the student will relate his or her own work to that of other researchers. 

What is of the first importance is that in writing the thesis the student must clearly and unambiguously distinguish between his/her own thoughts, conclusions and results and those of other scholars.  The standard mechanism for ensuring that a plain distinction is made is by means of quotation marks, for direct quotations from the work of other scholars, and references to acknowledge direct and indirect use of the work of other scholars.  References must be sufficiently precise to enable the reader to obtain and consider the original work. Paraphrasing without attribution is considered to be unfair practice.

The aim of a reference is to enable the reader to locate and consult the work the student has cited in your thesis.

References are used to indicate the works mentioned in the text but the bibliography, placed at the end of the thesis, will not only provide the necessary details of cited work but also other works that have been useful in the student’s study, even if they are not explicitly cited in the text.

Building a thesis begins with surveying the relevant literature in the field of study and it is important to adopt, at the beginning, a useful method for recording the student’s reading. Endnote software for managing bibliographic references is available on all open access PCs across campus, and training is offered by the Library.  A personal copy of the Endnote software for home use can be bought at a reduced price.  Information on how to obtain this software is available from the IT Support office in the Library and Information Centre.

It is very important that in the earliest stages of study the student talks to his/her supervisors about which referencing system is most appropriate for the thesis.  Incorrect referencing is often viewed by examiners as a failure to fully meet the necessary standards for a research degree. The internationally-recognised “Harvard System” is the most common system used, but some subjects or disciplines have other conventions of which the student should be aware.  If the College does not recommend a particular convention, basic guidance on referencing styles is available on the Library and Information Centre website, or from the LIS information desk. 

Any reference to a web-based source must include the web address (full path) and the date of last access.

Notice of Intention to Submit

A Notice of Intention to Submit (NITS) form must be completed by all research students who intend to submit a thesis for examination by viva voce. Completed forms should be forwarded to the designated member of staff in the College not less than THREE MONTHS before the expected submission date of the thesis.

After a NITS form has been completed the student will normally no longer be able to apply for an extension of candidature.

A NITS form will automatically be sent to students after the student successfully moves into the Continuation phase of candidature (with the formal notification from the Progression Board). A NITS form will then be sent after each Progression Board until the student completes the form and submits it. Students are required to complete the NITS form no later than 3 months prior to the end of their maximum candidature period, giving a proposed submission date no later than their maximum submission date.

  1. The student obtains and completes a NITS form three months prior to the expected submission date;
  2. The student records whether approval has been granted if the thesis is to be submitted prior to the student’s minimum candidature date (see Guide to Research Degree Candidature for details on early submission);
  3. The student records whether a request for a bar on access will be or has been requested;
  4. The student indicates whether he/she will require any special provision for the oral examination;
  5. The student indicates whether the thesis will be submitted in Welsh and whether the oral examination will be in Welsh;
  6. The student indicates whether the thesis will be submitted in a language other than English/Welsh (permission to do so should be obtained at the time of confirmation of candidature, see Guide to Progress Monitoring of Research Students) and whether the oral examination will be in a language other than English/Welsh;
  7. The student’s supervisor countersigns the completed NITS form - if the supervisor has any comments/concerns about the student’s intention to submit, these should be noted on the NITS form in the appropriate box – if the student is submitting prior to the minimum candidature date (see 2 above), the supervisor should include a specific comment on this;
  8. The student submits the completed NITS form to the designated member of staff in the College;
  9. The College should forward a copy of the NITS form to the Academic Office for Postgraduate Research;
  10. When a NITS form has been completed the College should begin the process of nominating the Examining Board (see Guide to Examination of Research Degrees for guidance on nominating examiners).

Submission of the Thesis

After completing the “Notice of Intention to Submit” form the student will be issued with a “Submission Pack”. The pack consists of:

  • A cover letter;
  • A checklist for candidates;
  • Notes and guidance for candidates;
  • Suggested layouts for declarations and statements;
  • The “Notice of Candidature” form;
  • A thesis summary sheet.

Once the student has written his/her thesis, the supervisors should see the final draft copy for comment. The student will then make the final revisions to the thesis.

All research students are required to bind into the thesis a summary of the thesis and the relevant declarations and statements (see Internal Layout of a Thesis above).

When a student is ready to submit his/her thesis the required statements and declarations should be signed and two copies of the thesis should be bound in accordance with the College’s policy on submission in temporary binding for examination (see Binding Conventions above). The student will also need to prepare an electronic copy of the thesis on a CD-ROM to be submitted directly to the Academic Office for Postgraduate Research.

Each College has a designated member of staff who is responsible for formally accepting submission of theses. The student should hand the two bound copies of the thesis to the designated member of staff.

The following procedures then occur:

  1. The student’s matriculation status and financial status will be checked. If the student is in debt to the University, the examination of the thesis will not take place.
  2. The student will be asked to confirm the address to which he/she requires the formal notification to be sent - this will normally be the student’s “Home Address”.
  3. The student will be given a receipt for his/her thesis, and other documents. This receipt will record the date of submission.
  4. Once the Examining Board's appointment has been confirmed by the Academic Office for Postgraduate Research, examination of the thesis can commence. Note: examination/viva dates should not be arranged until the Examining Board has been approved.

Continued Access to Facilities after Submission

All students will be granted access to the Library and to IT facilities until the end of the examination process (as indicated in the formal notification from the Academic Registry).

Resubmission Arrangements

If a student is required to resubmit his/her thesis (rather than make corrections and amendments), the re-submission arrangements are exactly as outlined above for the first submission. The Examining Board should be re-nominated and examination of the resubmitted thesis cannot commence until the re-appointment of both examiners has been confirmed by the Academic Office for Postgraduate Research.

After the oral examination the student will be formally informed by the University of the recommendation of the Examining Board. The student will be provided with detailed feedback on the points which must be addressed in the resubmission, normally through the student’s supervisors or the internal examiner of the thesis. The student should also receive a copy of the Result and Report Forms prepared by the examiners before and after the oral examination. The same examiners will examine the resubmitted thesis to see whether the points raised in the reports from the first examination have been addressed. A resubmitted thesis must be examined by a second oral examination. In very exceptional cases the requirement for a second oral examination may be waived – the Chair of the Examining Board will inform the student that the requirement for a second oral examination has been waived at the conclusion of the first oral examination (see the Guide to Examination of Research Students).

Within a few days of being formally informed of the outcome by the University, the student’s intranet record card will indicate that the candidature end date has changed to the date notified as the last resubmission date.  After the intranet record card has been updated, the student will be able to access the University electronic facilities and the Library services until the new end of candidature date.

The student must resubmit his/her thesis on or before the deadline as advised by the University, and pay the resubmission fee at or before the time of re-submission. This can be by cash or credit card to the Finance Department, or by Sterling cheque drawn on a UK bank (payable to “Swansea University”). 

Submission of Final Hard Bound Thesis

After the student has had the corrections and amendments required by the Examining Board approved by one or both of the examiners (as indicated on the Result Form), he/she is required to submit two permanently bound copies of the thesis (one in the case of the MRes/MA by Research/MSc by Research) and a loose thesis summary sheet  to the designated member of staff, and one electronic copy in Portable Document Format (pdf) on a compact disc (CD-ROM) to the Academic Office for Postgraduate Research before the degree can be awarded (see Permanent Hardback Binding above).

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