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Thesis Preparation and Examination

This section provides an introduction to thesis requirements, submission and research degree examinations (viva voce). Information about the online repository for theses and copyright guidelines are included.


Presentation and Submission of Research Degree Theses

English Cymraeg

Procedures for the Conduct of Research Degree Examinations

English Cymraeg

Procedures for Examinations Away From Cardiff or by Electronic Means


Section contents:


225. Students should be made aware of the regulatory requirements for their research degree thesis from an early stage of their studies (e.g. at induction), and reminded at appropriate intervals (e.g. progression points; workshops that explore the viva). These regulatory requirements include those for formatting and presentation, maximum word limits, criteria for the award, and declarations required of the candidate regarding ownership of the work and ideas, and that the work has not been submitted for any other award.

226. Supervisors are responsible for advising their students on the conventions of thesis structure, content and referencing for their particular discipline, and for providing feedback on drafts.

227. Regulations for degrees in creative and practice-based research stipulate special criteria for submission, whereby the outcomes of the research programme are embodied in a format that is distinctive from a traditional thesis. Some professional doctorate programmes require the submission of a research portfolio in lieu of a single dissertation.

228. Students in many discipline areas submit for publication some or all of their research outcomes, often as academic papers, during the course of their programmes and prior to thesis submission. This is encouraged and regarded as a valuable element of researcher development and knowledge transfer.

229. The University considers that a series of academic papers without being adapted, in lieu of a conventional format, is not generally acceptable for submission as a research degree thesis. The reasons for this include:

.1 a research degree thesis should present a cohesive narrative, that is stylistically coherent and avoids repetition;

.2 a thesis should include sufficiently detailed descriptions and evaluations of relevant methodologies, research protocols, theoretical approaches, method development, experiments, etc., to allow the examiners to assess the work against the criteria for the award;

.3 many academic papers are multi-authored, and the candidate’s individual contribution is not readily apparent.

230. However, where appropriate to the structure of the research project and to that of the resulting research outcomes, the modification of work that has been presented for the purpose of publication may render it suitable for inclusion as core thesis chapter(s), so long as the narrative flow of the thesis is not compromised, there is no ambiguity about the contribution of other parties, and an adequate description of the research process is included.

231. The exception to the provisions above is the ‘PhD by Published Works’, which provides a different route to a PhD award for eligible non-student candidates. Information about this route can be found in the Senate Regulations for the Award of the Degree of PhD by Published Works.

232. In rare and special circumstances, a School may make application to the Pro Vice-Chancellor for Academic Standards and Student Experience for acceptance of a non-standard format research thesis, including the incorporation of academic papers. The application must be made well in advance of the student’s thesis submission date. 


233. Copying third party material for the purpose of an examination falls within one of the permitted acts allowed for in the Copyright, Design and Patents Act 1988 as amended and hereinafter referred to as ‘the Act’).  Copying done for an examination purpose is permitted provided it is fully referenced.

[For further details, please see the University's copyright guidance.]

234. However, after the thesis has been examined and the work is subsequently made available to other users (by being placed in the library or published in print or on the web), permission from the copyright owner may be required to continue to include this material.

.1 Where extracts are insubstantial short quotations from a published work it may not be necessary to seek permission from the copyright owner provided these are accurately cited.  This is permitted under ‘fair dealing’ exemptions in the Act for non-commercial private research or criticism and review.

[Guidance on whether quotations are 'insubstantial' can be sought by email from]

.2 For more extensive sections of text or other types of material, such as poems, images, photographs and music extracts, permission from the copyright owner must be obtained.

235. Where permission is denied or cannot be obtained from the copyright owner, the extracts should be removed from the thesis and replaced with a bibliographic reference following the examination. 


236. In line with the basic goals of research, results and methods should be open to scrutiny, discussion and debate. Therefore, as far as confidentiality and protection of intellectual property rights will allow, a research degree thesis when submitted and successful is normally then openly available and subject to no security or restriction of access.

237. Where there is a legitimate reason for a temporary bar on access to the thesis – on grounds of commercial, clinical or other sensitivity, or to allow the student to prepare the outcomes of their research for publication – approval must be sought from the Pro Vice-Chancellor for Academic Standards and Student Experience.

238. Requests should be made using the Bar on Access to Research Degree Thesis application form. The bar on access should not normally exceed 2 years unless there are especially compelling circumstances.

239. The abstract of the thesis will be made available to enquirers and to the publishers of abstracts of theses.

240. From 2012, research degree theses (or equivalent portfolios of work where Senate Regulations provide), once examined and successful, are lodged in the University’s electronic repository, Online Research @ Cardiff: ‘ORCA‘.

241. When a student deposits their thesis in ORCA, they are granting Cardiff University a licence to store a copy of their work, but they remain the copyright owner and are free to publish the thesis elsewhere.

242. Once a thesis is deposited in ORCA, access to it will be freely available worldwide via the internet to promote the research to the widest possible audience. Access to the thesis can be restricted for a period during which time the work can be adapted for publication (see 238, above).


243. Cardiff University Procedures for the Conduct of Research Degree Examinations accompanies this Code of Practice for Research Degrees.

244. It is intended to provide comprehensive guidance to those involved in the arrangements for and the conduct of the examination, including students, Convenors and Examining Board members. It covers, inter alia: appointment criteria, roles and responsibilities; operation; and outcomes; and points to key University Regulations and Procedures, e.g. in relation to Academic Integrity in Research Degree Study and Appeals against Examining Board Decision.