Annex B: Integrated theses: guidance for divisional boards

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In the past an Oxford DPhil thesis has been submitted in monograph format, as a series of chapters presented in the style of a book.

It is increasingly common, however, for theses to include published papers, or papers written intended for future publication, within the main body of the text; this type of work is known as an ‘integrated thesis’. An integrated thesis may either be a hybrid of conventional chapters and papers, or be fully article-based. Regardless of the format, the content of the thesis should reflect the amount, originality and level of work expected for a conventional thesis.

Where a divisional board wishes to permit submission of an integrated thesis, this must be governed by Special Regulations.

To ensure the format of the thesis constitutes a thematically coherent whole, an integrated thesis must include an introduction, a literature survey, and a conclusion. There should also be clarity about how the chapters are integrated as a complete text.

Any included papers should relate directly to the candidate’s approved field of study, and should have been written whilst holding the status of PRS or a student for the MSc (by Research), MLitt or DPhil.

As noted above, an integrated thesis will include a minimum of one or more papers which have been written for publication, submitted for publication and/or published. Special regulations may specify a required minimum (or maximum) number of papers written for publication, submitted for publication or published. Care should be taken when considering whether or not to specify any minimum, however, as if the student cannot meet this requirement, they would need to revert to a conventional style thesis and they would not be permitted to include any papers in the main body of the thesis (although these could be included as an appendix).

The special regulations should specify the stage by which a student must apply to submit an integrated thesis; for example, this might be during Transfer or Confirmation of Status[1]. The special regulations should also define the process for a student to apply to revert to a conventional thesis. Where integrated theses are permitted, boards should also consider whether the requirements for milestone assessments need to be amended.

When submitting a conventional thesis, students are required to confirm that the thesis is wholly their own work, or to acknowledge any parts of the thesis which are not their own work.

For an integrated thesis where candidates may wish to include papers written in collaboration, which is more common in some subject areas, boards should consider the extent to which this may be permitted. It would normally be considered that papers written in collaboration should not be included unless the greater part of the work is directly attributed to the candidate themselves, and the supervisor so certifies. Should a board permit papers with multiple authorship to be included, it must be made clear within special regulations the level of contribution required by the student. It is important that the extent of the student’s contribution to the collaborative work is clear and all co-authors should certify in writing to the responsible body what part of the work represents that of the candidate. Additionally, the student must be able to defend all papers written in collaboration in their entirety. If the responsible body is not satisfied that the greater part of the work included in the thesis is the student’s own, it should not proceed to appoint examiners. If relevant it may be acceptable to include in an appendix paper(s) written in collaboration where the greater part has not been undertaken by the candidate, but the paper(s) should not contribute to any specified minimum or maximum number of papers required.

When writing an integrated thesis, candidate should ensure that the papers are incorporated in accordance with the general regulations for the “Preparation and submission of theses for the Degrees of M.Litt., M.Sc. by Research, and D.Phil.” available on the Examination Regulations website. Special regulations might specify that the published version of any papers should also be included as an appendix to the thesis (i.e. the typeset version prepared by the journal) in addition to either the verbatim copy or the more substantive working of the paper within the main body of the thesis. This would be subject to resolution of any issues of copyright (if necessary, the student might need to apply for dispensation from consultation of the relevant appendix of the hard copy/electronic copy of the thesis).

Candidates should be made aware that the inclusion of one or more papers which have been accepted for publication or published, does not in itself constitute proof that the work is of sufficient quality or significance to merit the award of the degree concerned. This remains a judgement of the relevant board on the recommendation of its examiners.

Boards should also ensure that guidance is provided to examiners to assist with the examining of theses of this type. This should include direction as to the types of corrections an examiner may recommend, particularly in relation to included papers that have been submitted for publication or published. Boards should also ensure that consideration is given to potential conflicts of interest whereby an appointed examiner may have reviewed the papers submitted within the thesis prior to their publication.

Departments and faculties wishing to introduce special regulations to permit the submission of an integrated thesis should seek approval from the relevant divisional board.

Special regulations should include information on the structure of the integrated thesis, ensuring that candidates are aware that the thesis needs to form a coherent whole with any papers embedded within the text, whether there is any variance from the normal word limits for the thesis, whether there is a minimum or maximum number of papers required (and whether there are any prerequisites e.g. whether submitted for publication or published), any requirements regarding co-authorship and collaborative arrangements, and the procedures for seeking approval to submit an integrated thesis.

[1] The timing for permission might also vary where boards admit students direct to DPhil status having completed an MPhil at Oxford, and the DPhil thesis is in the same subject area.

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