So, something wonderful has happened, I have submitted my thesis! At the end of last month, I handed in three soft-bound copies of my thesis to the College of Arts Graduate School. Now I am waiting to hear when my viva examination will take place, a meeting where I will orally defend my work, responding to questions from an internal and external examiner. Like many things in the life of a researcher, submitting my thesis was filled with paperwork and lots of information that I know I should have known but somehow couldn’t quite remember. So this post aims to offer some guidance on the practicalities of submitting your PhD thesis when the time comes.
Obligatory pose with my (huge) bound thesis on submission day
Where to Start
Many of you will submit the thesis after a period of ‘writing-up’ or thesis pending status. Thesis pending status means that you are permitted a further year (or longer if you are a part-time researcher) to complete your thesis, during which time you continue to have access to the library, your study space and more limited support from your supervisors. You generally pay a reduced fee for this arrangement, but the UofG does offer a 50% refund if you submit within the first six months of this period. This isn’t really worth pressuring yourself into finishing too soon and submitting a lower quality thesis than you otherwise could, but it is rather lovely if you do manage it, especially when you have just paid for your thesis to be printed and bound!
No matter what time-frame you take to submit, the first step is to complete the ‘Intention to Submit’ form. This form has to be completed at least three months before your intended submission date and sent to your Graduate School. You need to have it approved by your primary supervisor who, by signing it, confirms that your thesis is your own work. In this form you also have the opportunity to decide whether you would like to have your supervisor attend your viva examination. By ticking the box to say that you would like your supervisor to attend, they will receive an invite, but bear in mind that they will not be allowed to talk to you or the examiners. However, they can take notes, which can be helpful for you after the examination, so it is worth considering whether you would like them to be there and whether they are happy to attend.
Formatting, Printing and Lots of Paperwork
Your college will have specific guidelines on the favoured format and layout of theses, so check their webpages or Moodle sites for these. You can also read the formatting guidelines offered on the Enlighten: Theses pages. Here you can browse lots of useful information, like how to solve problems with Microsoft programmes and how to convert to PDF, taken from a training course run by IT Services: ‘Using Word to Prepare Your Thesis’. IT Services also run drop-in workshops aimed at solving any problems you might be having with your thesis. It is imperative that you make sure that the thesis is formatted properly at an early stage, taking into account the margins needed for binding and whether your college prefers single-sided or double-sided prints. While investigating these issues, it is also worth contacting your Graduate School to confirm your grant number if you are funded researcher, since it is common practice to include this in the preface material. It is also worth reading through the UofG Guidance Notes for submission of a PhD before you begin. This document explains the process from the beginning right through to the examiners’ decision after the viva.
When you are happy that your thesis is ready to go and that you can do no more—trust me there will come a day when you will feel that you can give no more to the thesis—then you should investigate suitable printers. Ask around in your department for recommended local printers and bookbinders since, very often, researchers who have gone before will have found the reputable and the friendly ones. Be prepared for it to cost quite a bit, especially if you have images or data that you need to print in colour. I paid £150 for my printed and bound copies since I submitted a large appendix of manuscripts that I needed to be printed in colour. You will need to submit three soft-bound copies of your thesis to your Graduate School at this stage. These can be PVC or cloth bound, but generally need to be able to withstand transport and delivery to your examiners, so if in doubt confirm with the relevant administration team. And do get yourself a copy too. Not only so that you can appreciate your huge achievement, but because you will want to have a copy in your viva so that you can follow the examiners’ comments.
When it comes to actually handing in your theses, I’m afraid you need to complete more paperwork. First, ensure that you have completed the Declaration of Originality, which ensures that you are aware of the UofG’s plagiarism statement and that you have fully referenced any other person’s work. Additionally, you are required to complete the Thesis Access Declaration. This form offers researchers the chance to request restrictions on who can access their thesis. There are a variety of reasons why you may want restrictions imposed, some of which are discussed on the Enlighten: Theses pages on restricting access. This may be because you intend to publish some or all of the thesis in a book or articles with publishers who don’t accept work freely available elsewhere for example. Please note that if your research was funded by any of the Research Councils UK, any approved embargo will only last for up to 12 months. You should be able to find all the necessary paperwork on your college’s website for current researchers or the Moodle pages for your department. If you have any trouble, then contact the administration team at your Graduate School, who will be happy to help.
Finally, make sure you know where to go to deposit the theses. I am sure most of you know where your Graduate School office is, but email the administration team to check whether there is a specific person that you need to deposit the theses with and whether they work certain hours. I had a specific day in mind for handing my theses in and happily managed to meet that deadline. I chose a Friday so that I could spend the weekend celebrating, but to be honest, it is a bit of an anti-climax when you hand in the theses. It is quite normal to feel a bit flat for a few days afterwards, but slowly you start to realise what you have achieved and that you don’t have to worry about things for a few weeks until you hear about your viva. And then you can really celebrate! Try to take some time off to relax and recuperate from the exhaustion of preparing your thesis. Or spend time seeing friends and family you have neglected over the last few months leading up to submission. Most importantly, give yourself a huge pat on the back for reaching this stage and reward yourself by doing something that you really enjoy without any ‘I should be working’ guilt! For me, the simple pleasure of having a lie-in was most exciting that first weekend after submitting, although I didn’t turn down the offer of champagne from family either!
Let us know how you found the submission process and how you celebrated afterwards over @UofG_PGRblog