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Thesis Preparation

|  Definition and Content  |  Relationship Between MRes thesis and PhD   |  Presentation and Formatting  | Thesis Length  |  Binding  |

Definition and Content of a "Higher Degree Thesis"

A higher degree thesis embodies the results of original research and investigations by a candidate for a higher degree which satisfies the requirements of a specific higher degree award. For example, a Doctor of Philosophy thesis must "form a distinct contribution to the knowledge of the subject and afford evidence of coherence and of originality shown either by the discovery of new facts or by the exercise of independent critical power" (HDR Thesis Preparation, Submission and Examination Policy).

That "distinct contribution" must be made during candidature for the degree. While relevant background material completed before the current enrolment may be included in the thesis (e.g. relevant material from a preceding Honours or other thesis or previous publications), this material is background to the "distinct contribution" which the substantive part of the thesis makes, which is the focus of the examination. This material must be clearly identified for the examiners as background material completed before candidature.

Further, the doctoral degree rules specify that in the "thesis embodying the results of the candidate's workat least half shall have been completed whilst a candidate for a research degree in Macquarie University."   This work must also not have "formed part of another degree successfully completed at this university or elsewhere" (HDR Thesis Preparation, submission and Examination Policy).

The University recognises that theses or parts of theses may be presented in a variety of formats and media, but would normally incorporate a written component. Non-written thesis formats and media must be approved by the Executive Dean of the Faculty as part of the project proposal process in the Faculty Commencement Program.

Theses may include relevant papers (including conference presentations) published or accepted for publication during the period of candidature, together with a comprehensive and critical introduction and an integrative conclusion. A candidate may only include published work which is part of the distinct contribution to knowledge of the thesis if the research and publication of the work occurred during the candidature for the degree. These papers should form a coherent and integrated body of work, which should be focused on a single project or set of related questions or propositions; however, it is not necessary to reformat published works in the thesis. These papers may be single authored or co-authored in the case of co-authored papers the candidate must specify his/her specific contribution.

In some cases joint papers are based on joint research and joint drafts to which the authors have contributed in a collaborative way which doesn't enable specific differentiation of respective contributions, though the candidate will have made a substantive contribution to the paper(s) which the co-author(s) acknowledge. Generally the contribution of others to the preparation of the thesis or to individual parts of the thesis should be specified in the thesis Acknowledgments and/or in relevant footnotes/endnotes. (Additional advice to candidates on the preparation of a research thesis by publications is contained in thesis by publications guideline)

Where there is a creative component in a thesis, the size of the creative component should be specified in relation to the critical component, and will vary according to the candidate's academic area and medium. Examples of creative components are: in music - a written score; a compositional folio containing a number of pieces which might be in different forms; software; video; audio recordings; in writing - a novel, a collection of shorter creative pieces, a volume of poems. Creative components must be submitted in a form which enables further examination or re-examination to be undertaken (e.g. a DVD/CD-ROM of an exhibition or performance), and allows for deposit in the Library. Candidates may also choose to integrate creative and critical components, as e.g. in ficto-critical writing or essay films; but explicit critical analysis in written form will also be required (with a normal minimum of 25,000 words for an MPhil thesis and 50,000 words for a doctoral thesis depending on Faculty expectations).

When writing a thesis within what a candidate claims to be a paradigm appropriate to the topic and his or her treatment of it, the onus lies with the author to establish to the satisfaction of the examiners that the paradigm is indeed appropriate. This must include demonstration that it is properly constructed, used in a way which is self-consistent and meets any further conditions required by the examiners as necessary in their professional judgements. In other words, the candidate may not, of his or her own volition and immune from challenge, set a framework within which the thesis is to be read and require the examiners to conduct their examination within that framework. Paradigm and text are integral, and the examiners' competent academic judgement must be applied to both either implicitly or explicitly.

The Postgraduate Rules of the University state that the thesis must be written in English and reach a satisfactory standard of literary presentation. The Higher Degree Research Committee may permit a thesis, or part thereof, to be submitted in a language other than English and approval for the thesis submission must be sought as soon as possible by the Supervisor. Candidates on a joint enrolment contract will not require separate approval for submission of the thesis in a language other than English.

Where Examiner reports are written in a language other than English, a translation of the report will be required.  This translation should be managed by the Faculty and may be undertaken within the University, but not by a supervisor registered for the HDR candidate.

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Relationship Between MRes thesis and PhD

The research project undertaken in the Master of Research (MRes) is intended to be the pilot study or preliminary work for a PhD or MPhil project. However, since it is not acceptable to be awarded two degrees for a single piece of work, it is not possible for any part of the MRes thesis to be included as an examinable part of the MPhil or PhD thesis.

It is inevitable in all academic research that a researcher's work may draw on similar background materials, and apply similar methodology, so some consistency between the two theses is to be expected. However, the PhD or MPhil thesis should be a significant development on the MRes thesis and demonstrate much more advanced knowledge and analysis.

Where the topic of a subsequent PhD or MPhil thesis is related to the topic of the MRes thesis, the candidate should include in the PhD or MPhil thesis a clear statement outlining the work undertaken and the data collected for the MRes. It is acceptable for background literature discussed in the MRes thesis to be discussed again in the PhD. However, this cannot be merely copied over from one thesis to the other. The literature must be reconsidered in the light of the way the PhD project has developed on from the MRes to more advanced conclusions.

Sometimes a candidate will need to include parts of the MRes thesis in the PhD or MPhil thesis, for reasons of clarity or completeness. The Macquarie University Higher Degree Research Thesis Preparation, Submission and Examination Policy states:

"a candidate may not submit as the main content of the thesis any work or material which has been previously submitted for any degree successfully completed at Macquarie or elsewhere, but may incorporate that work or material in the thesis, if the candidate specifies the work or material which has been so incorporated."

This means that any text or data submitted as part of the MRes thesis that is to be incorporated in the PhD thesis must be clearly identified as such and as a non-examinable part of the PhD or MPhil thesis.

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General presentation and formatting (PhD, MPhil and MRes)

The written component of a thesis should be printed in double or one and a half spacing on medium-weight A4 paper. Double-sided printing is recommended. A higher quality printer, e.g. laser, should be used. In exceptional circumstances and with the approval of the Head of the Department other forms of presentation may be permitted. Margins should be not less than 3.5cm on the binding edge, 1.5cm on the opposite edge and 1.5cm at the top and bottom to allow for binding and trimming.

Preliminary pages

A thesis should incorporate in the following order:

  • a title page giving the title of the thesis in full, the names and degrees of the candidate, the name of the organisation, institute or laboratory in which the research was carried out (if applicable), the name of the Department of the University associated with the work and the date when submitted or re-submitted for the degree;
  • a table of contents;
  • a summary of approximately 200 words for a Master degree or 300 words for a Doctorate;
  • a statement signed by the candidate to the effect that the work has not been submitted for a higher degree to any other university or institution. The candidate shall also indicate in the thesis the sources of information used and the extent to which the work of others has been utilised, and specify if Ethics Committee approval has been obtained (and the protocol number);
  • acknowledgments (if applicable);
  • pages will be numbered consecutively.

Diagrams, figures and tables

The following are general suggestions for normal practice but they may be varied in special cases with the approval of the Head of the Department:

  • diagrams and figures should preferably be drawn or photographed on A4 paper (rather than being affixed to A4 paper) and bound in the appropriate place in the text;
  • all figures should preferably be set out on a right-hand page with the legend either at the bottom or, if necessary, on the page facing the figures;
  • tables should be inserted in the appropriate place in the text, except that lengthy or bulky tables should appear as an appendix;
  • diagrams, maps, tables, exceeding A4 size, should be folded so as to read as a right-hand page when open.

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Thesis Length

PhD, MPhil and MRes

The Master Degree by Research Rules and the Doctoral Rules require that a thesis should conform to the requirements regarding length prescribed by the Executive Dean of the Faculty in which the candidate is registered. (Where a candidate is planning to present part of the thesis in non-written format, this should first be discussed with the supervisor). A thesis should be written as concisely as possible. The maximum word length is between 75,000 and 100,000 words for a doctoral thesis, and 50,000 words for an MPhil and 20,000 words for the Masters of Research theses, other than in exceptional circumstances as approved by the Executive Dean of Faculty. Footnotes and references are excluded from this maximum count. Principal Supervisors should be consulted in determining the appropriate thesis length for your discipline area.

Professional Doctoral Degrees

Professional doctoral degrees generally have their own examination and thesis length requirements due to their differing program structure. The Doctor of Psychology has a recommended maximum thesis length of 40,000 words and the other professional doctoral degrees, the Doctor of Applied Linguistics, Doctor of Professional Communication and Doctor of Business Administration, have a recommended 80,000 maximum thesis word length.

Degree Type Maximum Thesis Length  
Doctor of Philosophy 75,000 100,000
Master of Philosophy 50,000
Masters of Research  20,000
Doctor of Psychology  40,000
Doctor of Applied Linguistics  80,000
Doctor of Professional Communication  80,000
Doctor of Business Administration 80,000

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For examination, the thesis should be submitted with a temporary binding of a stitched and glued soft cover or in hard back form (spiral binding or a loose-leaf binder of the spring-type or screw-type is not acceptable). During binding the edges should be trimmed.

Once the thesis has been examined and passed by the Higher Degree Research Committee, three permanently bound copies must be submitted for University purposes to the Higher Degree Research Office. One copy of the written component should be printed on non-recycled paper for retention in the Library.

On the spine of the hardbound copies of the thesis in gold lettering of suitable size, there should be the family name of the candidate and the title of the thesis, abbreviated if necessary, the family name being at the bottom. This thesis spine must also contain the date of submission or re-submission. When published papers are submitted as additional evidence, they should be bound in the back of the thesis as an appendix.  When they form part of the thesis body, they should be bound into the thesis itself in the submitted or published format.

It is recommended that a digital copy of the thesis be submitted to the Higher Degree Research Office following confirmation that the thesis has been passed by Academic Senate.

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