How long is a PhD Thesis?

Your PhD thesis should normally be no more than 60,000 words, this includes figure legends and footnotes but excludes bibliography and appendices.

What should it contain?

The scope of your thesis should be what might reasonably be expected after 3, or at most 4 years of full-time study.

It must:

  • Be written in English to a satisfactory literary standard and bound in accordance with RVC regulations
  • Consist of the candidate’s own account of their investigations, the greater proportion of which shall have been undertaken during the period of registration under supervision for the degree.
  • The part played by the candidate in any work done jointly with the supervisor(s) and/or fellow researcher workers must be clearly stated by the candidate and certified by the supervisor
  • Form a distinct contribution to knowledge in the field and afford evidence of originality shown by the discovery of new facts and/or the exercise of independent critical power.
  • Indicate in what respect the described studies have advanced the subject.
  • Not contain work already submitted for another degree but may contain data obtained in conjunction with a Supervisor or fellow researchers, provided that the student clearly states their personal role in the investigation and the statement is testified by the Supervisor.
  • Work already published, including work published in joint names, may be included only if it is adapted to form an integral part of the thesis and thereby makes a relevant contribution to the main theme of the thesis. A series of publications alone is not acceptable as a thesis. Publications may be bound at the back of the thesis as supplementary material.
  • Give a critical assessment of the literature, describe the method of research and its findings, include discussion of those findings and indicate in what respects they appear to the candidate to advance the study of the subject. In so doing the candidate will demonstrate a deep and synoptic understanding of their field of study by placing their work in a wider context, objectivity and the capacity for judgement of complex situations.
  • Demonstrate research skills relevant to the work presented.
  • Not exceed the prescribed word limit.
  • Include a full bibliography and references.
  • Be of a standard to merit publication in whole or in part or in a revised form (for example as a monograph or a number of articles in peer-reviewed journals).

How is it examined?

Your thesis will be read read and evaluated by two examiners - one internal (to the University of London) and one external.

You will also be asked to attend an oral examination (viva). This is normally held within 3 months of submission of the thesis.

What happens next?

There are a number of options open to examiners:

  • The award of a PhD
  • Re-submission once revisions and amendments have been made; another oral examination may be required.
  • Invitation to be considered for an MPhil
  • Failure to satisfy the examiners and not permitted to re-submit

You will usually be told the examiners' recommendation immediately after the oral examination. This is followed by official notification, along with a copy of the examiners' report. Once you have successfully completed your PhD your degree certificate will be sent to you within three months.

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