Postgraduate Research Essentials: finishing your research degree
Updated on 23 April 2022
How to declare your intention to submit, how thesis submission and examination work, and finishing up all the final bits before graduation
Planning the end of your degree: Intention to Submit
As you write up your thesis and plan the process of finishing your degree, you should use the PGR Submission Checklist to keep track of everything you need to do.
Please be aware that your main supervisor will need to send off a form notifying the University of your intention to submit your thesis for examination at least three months prior to the planned date of your viva. Your main supervisor will do this by completing the Intention to Submit form (also known as ITS form).
The Intention to Submit form tells Registry the proposed date of your viva and who your proposed examiners are. It is your supervisory team’s exclusive responsibility to approach potential examiners; under no circumstances may you approach potential examiners yourself.
You will need to sign this form to indicate your consent. Your main supervisor will then gain authorisation from the Head of Discipline/Programme and the Dean of School, before finally sending it to Registry or to your School’s PGR Office.
Once approved, your Intention to Submit form will be valid for 6 months. If your viva cannot be held within this period of validity, a new form will need to be submitted.
Downloads for candidate
Documents for supervisors and other members of staff are available from your school PGR Administrator as these should not be completed by the candidate.
Your Examining Committee
Your Examining Committee will be decided in conjunction with your supervisors and School as you approach the end of your research degree.
Your Examining Committee will normally have three members:
- Convenor: an internal examiner who acts as a lead for the committee. This examiner has the responsibility for making all the necessary arrangements for your examination.
- Internal examiner: an examiner from the University of Dundee, an expert in your field
- External examiner: an examiner from outside the University of Dundee, an expert in your field
You will have an additional external examiner if you are also a member of academic staff of the University (other than a research assistant or research fellow on a short-term contract, or if you have teaching, tutoring or demonstrating duties ancillary to your studies), for a total of four Examining Committee members.
Your supervisors will not be on your Examining Committee.
For full details of the regulations surrounding appointment of examiners, please see Section 6.3 of the Research Degrees Quality Code.
Early on, your School should provide you with clear instructions on the required format of your thesis to be submitted for examination purposes, either via your main supervisor or via the Convenor of your Examining Committee.
You must collect together all the items on the PGR Submission Checklist for submission alongside your thesis, including the Higher Degree Schedule form.
Postgraduate researchers should submit their thesis electronically, normally in PDF format, to Registry and to the Convenor of the Examining Committee (or another member of staff nominated by the School).
If an examiner wishes to have a printed copy, they should liaise with the Research Records Office in Registry in the first instance to request this. Registry will contact you to inform you and assist with arrangements for this (which may, for example, involve using the University’s Print Unit).
If you have any questions about your thesis submission, please contact your School’s PGR Office or the Research Records Office in Registry.
Your thesis will be regarded as formally submitted once Registry receives their copy of your thesis with all the completed paperwork. At this stage, they will send an email to you, your main supervisor and the Convenor of your Examining Committee to confirm receipt.
If you would like to notify the examining committee of any significant changes you had to make to your research methodology or the scope or data volume of your research in light of the pandemic, you may submit a notification in a separate document alongside your thesis. Your statement should not exceed 500 words, must include information on any extra time you have been given to finish your research, and it must be endorsed by your lead supervisor.
This notification does not fall into the remit of any mitigation process. The purpose is solely to provide members of the examination committee with additional context information. Mitigation processes for any other reasons remain in place.
This policy will be in effect initially from 1 October 2020 to 31 August 2022.
For further guidance on thesis submission, please see Section 6.2 of the Research Degrees Quality Code.
All research degrees are examined by viva voce (oral) examination, unless this requirement is waived in special circumstances with the approval of the School Board.
The viva examination is a verbal defence of your thesis, during which you will explain your thesis to the Examining Committee and answer their questions. It is designed to:
- allow the examiners to question you on aspects of your thesis
- allow you to demonstrate your understanding of your field of research and your broader knowledge
- give you chance to clarify any points of your work that are not clear from your written thesis
- highlight any areas of your thesis where corrections need to be made before it is finalised
- demonstrate your ability to participate in academic discussion
- show whether your thesis is of sufficiently high standard to merit the award of your degree
- check that you understand what you have written and that you are the author of the work,
- (for degrees other than MSc by Research) confirm that your work is an original contribution to knowledge.
The Convenor of your Examining Committee will make the practical arrangements for your exam, including setting a date, time and place. They should give you at least four weeks’ notice of the arrangements. If the committee approves, your supervisor(s) may be in attendance for the viva, but they are not allowed to contribute to the examination unless specifically requested to do so by your Examining Committee.
Viva voce examinations may be held online subject to the following conditions:
- All parties must agree in writing with the arrangements prior to the examination.
- The technology and facilities used during the examination must be secure and reliable.
- The Examination must not be recorded.
- The Examination arrangements must be approved by the Dean on behalf of the School Board.
The following tips might help you prepare for an online viva:
- If you’re not familiar with the video call software you’ll be using, practice with it until you feel confident.
- Make sure that the space where you’ll be working is as comfortable as possible. You may have to sit in one place for a few hours, so try to make sure that your set-up isn’t going to hurt your back and that everything you might need (pens, paper, copy of your thesis, water) is close by.
- Make sure that your chosen space will be free of interruptions – you’ll need to appear on the screen alone and won’t want any family members, friends or pets bursting in to distract you.
- If you have any concerns about feasibility (finding an appropriate space/good internet connection etc), please raise these with your supervisor and School ahead of time so that you can be offered any practical support possible.
- Agree contingency plans in the event of technical issues prior to the examination so that you know what to do in the event that something doesn’t work on the day.
- If you do experience technical issues during the viva that make things difficult for you, raise this with your examiners immediately.
The UK Council for Graduate Education offers further advice for candidates, examiners and institutions on holding a viva remotely: 'Conducting Vivas Online (external resource)'.
Before your viva, your examiners will each read your thesis thoroughly and submit an independent preliminary report to the Convenor.
During your viva, your examiners will discuss the strengths and weaknesses of your thesis, and ask you questions. Your examiners may ask you to:
- tell them about the main research questions you were hoping to address
- describe what you think the main strengths and weaknesses of your thesis are
- show why you structured your thesis as you did
- explain why you included or excluded some material
- justify why you used a particular research method or technique
- clarify any points of ambiguity in your thesis
- demonstrate your depth of knowledge of the contextual background of your subject
- defend the originality of your work
When your examiners discuss the weaknesses of your thesis, try not to let this make you feel too nervous. All theses have weaknesses and your examiners are required to find and discuss them, so the existence of weaknesses in your thesis is not a sign that your examination is not going well. You can view any negative feedback as an opportunity to strengthen your thesis and demonstrate your skills at discussion and critical appraisal.
After your viva, the Convenor will tell you the result of your examination. They may inform you verbally on the day of the viva, or they may let you know by a specified date.
The possible outcomes of your viva are:
- Your thesis is accepted unconditionally;
- Your thesis is accepted on the condition that minor editorial corrections are completed within one month;
- Your thesis is accepted on the condition that minor revisions are completed within two months;
- Your thesis is not accepted but you may rectify substantial deficiencies during a further period of supervised research, after which you will resubmit in a revised form within the stated period;
- Your thesis does not meet the requirements for your degree, but may meet the requirements for the award of a lower degree;
- Your thesis is not accepted, and resubmission is not allowed.
You may request a copy of the final report from your Examining Committee, and you may be able to appeal again the decision of your Examining Committee with the Postgraduate Appeals Procedure.
Corrections and resubmission
If your Examining Committee determines that minor corrections or revisions are necessary as a condition of your thesis being accepted, the Convenor will provide you with a written list of the corrections/revisions you need to make, as well as the deadline for your corrections or revisions (one month from the date of your viva for minor corrections, or two months for minor revisions).
Once you have completed these corrections/revisions, the Convenor will consult the members of your Examining Committee as to whether you have completed the tasks to their satisfaction and whether you will be required to have a second viva voce examination.
If your Examining Committee did not accept your thesis and required substantial corrections and resubmission, you will receive a written report from your Convenor within seven days of your viva, confirming the areas that require revision and the time period you have to complete these revisions. Registry will confirm the requirements for the format of your resubmission. Please be aware that you may be required to take a second viva voce examination when you resubmit, although your Examining Committee may decide to waive this. There is also an administrative fee for resubmission, which you can find on the University’s fees page.
Depositing/archiving your final thesis
Once you have completed your final examination and any corrections have been completed to the satisfaction of the Examining Committee, they will confirm their approval with Registry, who will in turn submit the results of your examination to the Senatus. The Senatus has the formal responsibility of authorising the granting of degrees.
Once this process has been completed you will receive notification from Registry, and the last step in your degree is submitting the final copy of your thesis to the University. You must do this by submitting your thesis electronically to the University’s institutional repository Discovery. You will receive full instructions on how to do this by email from the Research Records Office in Registry, and you must not upload your final thesis before receiving this email.
To prepare for the thesis deposit, please read this thesis depositing guide from the Library and Learning Centre. Depositing your thesis will normally involve making it public, and the guide contains important information that you and your main supervisor should consider before deciding on how to publish your thesis, including restricting access to your thesis (embargos), Freedom of Information requests, potential exemptions from disclosure, and third party copyright. Bear in mind that your funding body may have rules about when your thesis is made openly available.
If you need to obtain permission to use copyright protected work, please see the Library and Learning Centre guidance on this topic.
Before depositing your thesis you will be asked to submit your Thesis Deposit Agreement (TDA) in consultation with your main supervisor, during which you will instruct the Library and Learning Centre on any embargos required or third party copyright issues.
After depositing your thesis, your submission will go through a validation process with the Library and Learning Centre. This process may take up to three days.
Congratulations on completing your research degree! Once all the requirements of your degree have been completed and confirmed by Registry, you will receive an email from the Graduation Office inviting you to register for graduation. You will find more information about the graduation process on the Graduation web pages, including how to register for graduation and, if you are attending in person, how to hire your robes and what happens on the day.
If you don’t wish to attend your graduation ceremony or aren’t able to, you can choose to graduate ‘in absentia’, and your degree certificate will be sent to you in the post after the graduation ceremony has taken place. Note that even if you are not attending your graduate ceremony in person, you will need to respond to emails from the Graduation Office to confirm the arrangements for your ‘in absentia’ graduation and degree certificate posting.
Please be aware that it is your responsibility to register for graduation, and that you must do this by the registration deadline. You should also be aware that owing money to the University may have implications for graduation.