MPhil Thesis

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Preparation of the thesis

Candidates are strongly advised to discuss with their supervisor(s) the style of writing to be used in the thesis before writing begins.

In all cases the supervisor should be consulted at the beginning of the work. The stages of investigation and writing are likely to vary according to the nature of the subject and should be worked out in consultation with the supervisor.

The thesis should include a general discussion of the candidate's results and findings, and of their significance in relation to the current state of knowledge in the field.

In some disciplines it will be appropriate to concentrate the review of the literature and extended general discussion in introductory and concluding chapters, in other disciplines the review and discussion should be distributed throughout the thesis.

For research topics in the experimental and theoretical sciences, the laboratory or development phase of the work may require the closest supervision and discussion with the candidate.

In the case of creative arts disciplines where the thesis may take the form of creative works and a dissertation, the candidate should specify the form and presentation of the thesis including the proportion to be presented as creative work and the proportion to be presented as a dissertation. The creative work and dissertation must be presented as an integrated, coherent whole.

At the stage of thesis preparation, the candidate should be able to express themselves with precision, clarity and conciseness.

The candidate's supervisor must be consulted on the general form and the content of the thesis up to the stage of the final draft.

Expected requirements

In order to pass examination, and thus qualify as the basis for the award of the MPhil degree, candidates should be able to:

  • Demonstrate advanced learning in research skills and mastery of appropriate techniques, such as the use of archival or primary evidence, analysis of data, judgement of conflicting evidence
  • Demonstrate specialist knowledge in the area of their research
  • Demonstrate an understanding of, and commitment to, research ethics and integrity.

The format and style of MPhil theses can differ as it is expected that a thesis be written to the convention of that field. Examiners are asked to consider, where appropriate, the following questions:

  • Does the candidate show sufficient familiarity with, and understanding and critical appraisal of, the relevant literature?
  • Does the thesis provide a sufficiently comprehensive investigation of the topic?
  • Are the methods and techniques adopted appropriate to the subject matter and are they properly justified and applied?
  • Are the results suitably set out and accompanied by adequate exposition and interpretation?
  • Are conclusions and implications appropriately developed and clearly linked to the nature and content of the research framework and findings?
  • Has/have the research question/questions been tested or explored according to the disciplinary norms?
  • Is the literary quality and general presentation of the thesis of a suitably high standard?
  • Does the thesis as a whole constitute a substantive original contribution to knowledge in the subject area with which it deals?

Standard of examination of creative work

The creative work and dissertation will be examined as an integrated whole. In order to pass the examination, and thus qualify as part of the basis for the award of the MPhil degree, the creative work must have the following attributes:

  • The creative work demonstrates a professional level of familiarity with and understanding of contemporary work in the field
  • The creative work demonstrates a sufficiently comprehensive investigation of the artistic form and creative content
  • The methods and techniques applied in the execution of the work are appropriate to the subject matter and are original and/or aesthetically effective
  • The creative work is presented in a sufficiently professional manner
  • The creative work demonstrates a sufficiently high standard of literary, visual, digital, musical or performance literacy and quality
  • The research question(s) has/have been identified and tested through the creative work
  • The documentation of the work, (including catalogue/ program material where appropriate) is sufficiently thorough and is of a standard that will ensure the work provides a reference for subsequent researchers
  • The creative work and the dissertation together constitute a substantive original contribution to knowledge in the subject area with which it deals
  • The interface between the creative work and the dissertation is appropriate and substantiated.

Examiners are advised that they may ask for creative works to be represented or re-documented if they do not meet the above criteria.

Editing of theses

Editing in this context is defined as the detailed and extensive correction of problems in writing style (eg ghost writing) as opposed to providing general guidelines about problems with style and accuracy, or proof reading for mechanical inaccuracy.

As early as possible in the candidature the supervisor must assess the candidate's writing abilities. In the case of MPhil candidates this must be an integral component of the formal review process, which requires the candidate to provide a piece of written work. This should be of sufficient length to demonstrate writing proficiency and indicate the standard of the candidate's composition skills.

If the supervisor considers that further work is required in areas such as composition and grammar, for the candidate to be successful in completing the MPhil, the supervisor should then provide advice and assistance as to how an appropriate standard can be achieved. The supervisor should explain the level and extent of support the candidate can expect of them as supervisor. Such advice may include referral to the units such as Academic Skills and the Academic Support Team at the Melbourne School of Graduate Research (MSGR).

The supervisor should continue to monitor the candidate's progress in order to resolve any ongoing difficulties.

Supervisors should advise candidates about structure, style, and general editing issues and should guide their candidates accordingly. It is appropriate for supervisors to undertake some editing tasks, but within limits. A thesis must express the candidate's voice. Any assistance with writing must be conducted as part of the overall learning process. Any additional assistance received by the candidate must be fully supported by continuous feedback from supervisors as part of the integral learning process. The integrity of the work relies on the thesis as demonstrably the candidate's work and must indicate that the candidate has the ability to write and argue with clarity.

Acquiring expertise in writing and editing is often seen as important professional development for graduate researchers. Colleagues may be appropriate readers and editors of a thesis, and candidates should be encouraged to explore alternative avenues for assistance available from within their department and the wider University community.

Only in rare and exceptional circumstances and with the knowledge and support of supervisors, should candidates use paid editorial assistance from an outside source.

The use of third party editorial assistance, either paid or voluntary, must be acknowledged in the Preface and is limited to the guidelines adopted by the University. Refer to the Editing of Research Theses by Professional Editors.

Completion seminar


All candidates are required to make a public presentation of their research findings at the University in the three months prior to submitting their thesis for examination. The public presentation is regarded as an important part of candidature. The seminar should present the objectives, methods, findings and significance of the candidate's thesis research.


The opportunity to take part in a completion seminar gives the candidate the opportunity to receive constructive feedback from informed and experienced researchers. It is timed to enable the candidate to refine the thesis, and if necessary, to further develop the personal skills needed to present their arguments effectively, with a positive contribution to learning. The completion seminar also provides the University the opportunity to verify that the candidate owns and understands the research they are presenting. It illustrates that candidates have the oral presentation and other research attributes expected of graduate researchers from this University, and ensures equity among graduate researchers in procedures for reporting on their research.

Format of the seminar

The seminar will normally be no less than an hour (including time for questions and feedback from the panel and general members of the audience). The panel may require the candidate to remain in closed session for further discussion as necessary. The candidate should present a thesis summary and chapter outline to members of the panel at least one week in advance of the presentation. The materials should not exceed 2 000 words and should provide a brief overview of the aims and scope of the thesis and of the main results. In addition the candidate should provide a brief abstract of no more than 100 words to facilitate publicity of the seminar and provide a hard copy of the presentation to the panel for departmental records.

Attendance at the seminar

The time, thesis title and candidate details should be advertised in appropriate University and/or research institute media within the Melbourne region and relevant regional campuses to encourage attendance by interested persons.

Membership and role of the panel

A panel which consists of a minimum of three members including the thesis supervisors and the head of department or nominee must be present. While many panels may be wholly internal in membership, external membership of the panel is also appropriate, and members may be drawn from any suitable tertiary institution/research organisation. The candidate's advisory committee should act as the panel, but may also include additional members where required.

Panel members should be at least broadly knowledgeable about the field of study, and might be expert in some aspect of the research topic. However, they are not required to be expert in the same sense as the thesis examiners, to be familiar with the written work of the candidate, or to have read a full draft of the thesis in preparation for the seminar. Rather, their role is to provide general feedback on the material as presented to them in the seminar. The panel chair should be a member other than a supervisor. The panel members are expected to complete a report which notes the strengths and weaknesses of the work as presented and may identify to the candidate how particular aspects of the thesis might be enhanced.

Submission of thesis form

Completion of the seminar requirement will be signed off by the supervisors and head of department on the Completion Seminar section of the Submission of Thesis: Statement by Candidate, Supervisor and Chair of Examiners form and will include the date and location of the completion seminar.

The completion seminar is a hurdle requirement for submission of the thesis. Candidates leaving Melbourne earlier than six months prior to completion of their thesis should expect to return to the University to present the completion seminar, or may be given permission to present an equivalent 'progress' seminar prior to departure.

Writing a thesis in a language other than English

All theses should normally be written in English. Should a candidate wish to write a thesis in a language other than English, an application must be made to the Research Higher Degrees (RHD) Committee at an early stage in the candidature. The RHD Committee will consider such an application only if full justification is provided by the department for presenting a thesis in a language other than English.

Where permission is granted, a substantial summary of the thesis (approximately 2 500 – 5 000 words) in English should be bound in the thesis and should include an introduction, brief chapter outline and a conclusion.

Word limit

Candidates should aim to write a thesis of approximately 30 000 – 40 000 words. Candidates should consult their department to determine the appropriate length within this range for a thesis in their discipline. The word limit is exclusive of words in tables, maps, bibliographies and appendices. Footnotes are included as part of the word limit. Appendices must be limited to supporting material genuinely subsidiary to the main argument of the thesis.

Candidates may write up to 50 000 words without seeking special permission from the RHD Committee. In exceptional circumstances, an application can be made to the RHD Committee to submit a thesis that is longer than 50 000 words. The application must be made prior to submission of the thesis. It must include the justification for the request, the expected length of the thesis and be supported by the supervisor and head of department, who must also certify that the proposed examiners do not object to examining a longer thesis.

In the case of creative arts disciplines where the thesis may take the form of creative works and a dissertation, the integrated thesis should normally represent the equivalent of 30 000 – 40 000 words. The creative work component will be determined between the candidate and supervisor and be relevant to the proportion of the thesis submitted as creative work. The length of the dissertation will also depend on what proportion of the thesis it constitutes, but will normally be at least 50% of the integrated thesis, between 15 000 – 20 000 words.

Published material

Candidates are strongly encouraged, where appropriate, to publish work from their MPhil research during candidature. However, the preparation of publications should not impede progress on the thesis, which must remain the candidate's and the supervisor's priority.

While work from the thesis may have been published prior to submission, the thesis must be presented, in both form and content, as a unified whole, and be prepared specifically for submission for examination for the degree. A candidate may not include the actual publications such as reprints or journal articles in their published form as part of the body of the thesis.

Material that has been published may be included, for example as chapters of the thesis, provided that it is suitably acknowledged in the text and the Preface. Actual publications, such as reprints of journal articles, published creative writing and catalogues and documentation of public performances or exhibited work, may be included in an appropriate form in the appendix, including for example a DVD, CD or URL.

Work carried out in collaboration with others, and the nature and proportion of the contribution of others, must be clearly indicated in the Preface and in general terms the portions of the work that the candidate claims as original.

Where multi-author published material is included in the thesis, the candidate must prepare a statement explaining the contributions of all involved. The statement must be signed by all authors and be included with the Submission of Thesis form.

Note: The above advice is subject to any obligations or contractual agreements with a third party that may encumber the publication of a candidate's research but not the inclusion of such work in the candidate's thesis.

It is expected that the thesis will reflect work done during the period of candidature but may include related preliminary material provided that it has not contributed to an award of a previous qualification. If work has been used for the award of another qualification it should be explicitly stated in the body of the text and in the Preface.

Format of the thesis

It is impractical to lay down general regulations on preparation, form and content of theses as the presentation may vary across disciplines. Some departments issue instructions on these matters. A thesis should include the following formatting:

  • International Standard Paper Size A4 (297 x 210mm)
  • 1.5 spacing and presented in a clear and legible font and would normally be expected to be double-sided
  • Left and right margins of no less than 30mm and page numbers that appear inside the margins
  • Pages that are numbered consecutively and clearly
  • Folding diagrams or charts arranged so as to open to the top and right.

Before producing final copies of a thesis for submission, the candidate should ensure that all the spelling, grammar, punctuation and choice of language are correct and the bibliography is complete and exact.

In the case of creative arts disciplines the thesis may take the form of creative work plus dissertation. The creative work may take the form of performance, exhibition, writing (poetry, fiction, script or other written literary forms), design, film, video, multimedia, CD, DVD or other new media technologies and modes of presentation. Where appropriate to the study, the creative work must be comprehensively documented. Either the documentation or the creative work, or both, must be submitted with the dissertation.

The dissertation and the creative work should be considered as complementary, mutually reinforcing parts of a single project. The candidate may argue, however, that the relationship between the two parts contributes to the originality and creativity of the whole.

The dissertation should not simply describe the creative work and how it was undertaken. While it should include information on the materials and methodology used and elucidate the creative work and place it in an artistic, intellectual and/ or cultural context, the dissertation must answer to the requirement of every MPhil research thesis that it makes an independent contribution to existing scholarship in the area of research.

The format of the creative work component of the thesis will be agreed between the candidate and supervisor, and be approved by the head of department at the formal review. The format of the dissertation component will normally meet the guidelines for a written thesis set out above.

Where the creative work component involves a performance (dance, drama, music), a good quality recording of the performance must be included as part of the thesis. Where the creative work component involves exhibited visual art works, good quality photographic reproductions of the work must be included as an appendix to the dissertation.

Order of contents

A thesis follows the following order:

  • Title page
  • Abstract
  • Declaration
  • Preface (if applicable)
  • Acknowledgments
  • Table of Contents
  • List of tables, figures and illustrations (if list items are fewer than 10 in number, this is not necessary)
  • Main text
  • Bibliography or List of References
  • Appendices

A thesis must be preceded by a title page. The title page of the thesis should show the:

  • Title of the thesis
  • Full name of the author (as it appears in the Student Portal)
  • Degree for which submitted (see below)
  • Month and year of submission
  • Name of the department or faculty in which the research was carried out and the words: "Submitted in total fulfilment of the requirements of the degree of Master of Philosophy".

The University logo is not permitted to be used in the thesis.

Example of title page

Title of the thesis
Full name of the author
Submitted in total fulfilment of the requirements of the degree of Master of Philosophy
Month Year
Department or Faculty
The University of Melbourne

Candidates who have submitted a thesis consisting of creative work, where the creative work is not bound together with the dissertation (eg exhibition, performance, poetry, screenplay, novel), shall state: "Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of the degree of Master of Philosophy (by creative work and dissertation)".

Candidates who have submitted a thesis consisting of creative work, where the creative work is bound together with the dissertation (eg poetry, screenplay, novel), shall state:

"Submitted in total fulfilment of the requirements of the degree of Master of Philosophy (by creative work and dissertation)".


The title page must be followed by an abstract of 300–500 words in English (in the case of creative arts the Abstract must include a description of the form and presentation of the creative work).


The following declaration page, signed by the candidate:

This is to certify that:

  1. the thesis comprises only my original work towards the MPhil except where indicated in the Preface,
  2. due acknowledgement has been made in the text to all other material used,
  3. the thesis is less than 50 000 words in length, exclusive of tables, maps, bibliographies and appendices OR the thesis is [number of words] as approved by the Research Higher Degrees Committee.


If applicable, a Preface includes where appropriate, a statement of:

  • Work carried out in collaboration indicating the nature and proportion of the contribution of others and in general terms the portions of the work which the candidate claims as original
  • Work submitted for other qualifications
  • Work carried out prior to MPhil candidature enrolment,
  • Any third party editorial assistance, either paid or voluntary (as limited to the Editing of Research Theses by Professional Editors guidelines) and/or
  • Where a substantially unchanged multi-author paper is included in the thesis a statement prepared by the candidate explaining the contributions of all involved. A signed copy by all authors must be included with the Submission of Thesis form.

Thesis preparation and binding

Theses should normally be bound using thermal binding. Thermal binding must be used with covers strong enough to resist damage by bending or knocking. Twin-ring, spring-back and spiral binders are not acceptable, as theses bound in these ways frequently do not survive travel through the post. Thermally bound theses should not exceed 300 pages (absolute maximum thickness of 35mm per copy).

If there are photographs or charts which need to be included in the thesis, facilities are available for colour laser printing and photocopying in the Graduate Student Association (GSA)and a scanner is available in the Graduate Presentation and Publishing Centre. The GSA also provides a thermal binding and photocopying service.

Notice of intention to submit thesis (80-word summary)

Approximately three months prior to the expected date of submission, the candidate is required to submit an 80-word summary of the thesis argument. Candidates are required to discuss the timeframe for thesis submission with their supervisor prior to submitting an 80-word summary. All candidates are required to have met the minimum period of candidature at the University and must have had their candidature confirmed prior to thesis submission. Refer to Early submission of thesis for further information.

In addition, all candidates are required to have presented their research findings at a public completion seminar in the six months prior to submitting their thesis for examination.

The 80-word summary should be submitted via the online form.

In addition to the 80-word summary the following information is required:

  • Candidate's name
  • Student number
  • Thesis title
  • Degree
  • Department
  • Supervisor(s) (if required a Change of Supervisor(s) form is available in my.unimelbl)
  • Current mailing address
  • Estimated thesis submission date (this is the date that candidate intends to submit their thesis for examination and it may not necessarily be the Expected Thesis Submission Date that appears in my.unimelb).

The summary activates the process of nominating potential examiners for the thesis. The estimated thesis submission date helps examiners in scheduling their workload to accommodate their examination of the thesis.

Candidates are not informed of the names of persons nominated as possible examiners, but are permitted to name individuals whom they believe would make unsuitable examiners. Candidates who wish to name individuals whom they do not wish to act as their examiners should provide a written statement of the names and substantiated reasons for such exclusion, to the Chair of Examiners, through their supervisor, at the time of submission of their 80-word summary.

In the case of creative arts disciplines where a thesis consists of creative works and a dissertation, and where the creative work component includes performance or exhibition of visual art works, candidates are additionally required to submit an extended abstract of 500 – 1 500 words to the Chair of Examiners for forwarding to the examiners at least one week prior to the viewing, unless the dissertation is submitted around the same time as the viewing.

Note: If more than three months lapses between submission of the 80-word summary and the thesis for examination, it is recommended that you notify the Examinations Office two weeks before the thesis is to be submitted to avoid delays with the examination. The Examinations Office can be notified by email.

Thesis submission

Three copies of the thesis should be submitted for examination with the candidate's name clearly marked on the spine, with the family name in capitals. In the case of creative arts disciplines where the creative work component is a performance or exhibition of visual art works, and three examiners are appointed, four copies must be submitted within six months from the time of the viewing. Any additional documentation, eg video of the performance, must be supplied to the examiners with the dissertation. Where a candidate submits the thesis by courier (or mail) MSGR will send a thesis receipt by post.

The Submission of Thesis: Statement by Candidate, Supervisor and Chair of Examiners form, sent by MSGR on receipt of your 80-word summary, certifies that the thesis comprises only the candidate's original work, and that due acknowledgement has been made to all other material used. A supervisor (normally the principal supervisor) and Chair of Examiners (normally the head of department) will be required to certify that the thesis is ready to proceed to examination.

The form also includes a section where the candidate (in consultation with the supervisor) may request that the examiners maintain the confidentiality of the thesis contents. Such a request may be required where there are research contracts with outside organisations or other issues related to intellectual property.

On receipt of an approved Submission of Thesis form, two copies of the thesis will be sent to the examiners and one will be retained for the reference of the Chair of Examiners. Candidates are strongly advised to retain a further copy of the thesis for their own use during the examination. A request for the return of the thesis can be made on the Submission of Thesis form and automatically applies if a confidentiality agreement is in place.

Where the candidate's supervisor considers the thesis to have significant shortcomings but may proceed to examination, or that the thesis should not be sent out for examination, the supervisor must provide a detailed outline of their concerns to the candidate and attach a copy to the Submission of Thesis form. It is in the candidate's interest to carefully consider and to seek advice as appropriate before submitting the thesis for examination without their supervisor's endorsement.

Where the concerns raised relates to deficiencies in the thesis and the candidate elects to proceed to having the thesis examined, MSGR will consider the supervisor's concerns and will seek final consent from the candidate before commencing the examination. The examiners are not informed of any shortcomings while the thesis is under examination.

Where the candidate's supervisor recommends that the thesis should not be sent out for examination, a subcommittee of the RHD Committee will be convened to consider submissions by the candidate and supervisor to determine whether the thesis will be forwarded for examination. If the candidate disagrees with the decision of the subcommittee, the Academic Board appeal process will be available to the candidate.

International candidates on a Student (Postgraduate Research) visa (Subclass 574) may find that their visa expires shortly after they have submitted their thesis. In order to remain lawfully in Australia during the marking of their thesis, they must renew their student visa in Australia by lodging a paper application with a Certificate of Marking of Thesis from International Student Services (ISS).

Once the thesis has been submitted for examination, it may not be withdrawn from examination.

Final form of the thesis

On completion of the examination one copy of the thesis in permanent hard cover binding, incorporating any necessary amendments or revisions, must be submitted to the Chair of Examiners to be approved. Candidates who commenced from January 2007 are also required to submit an electronic copy of the thesis to the University of Melbourne instutional repository (refer to Making your thesis available on the University of Melbourne institutional repository p. 34). Addenda of any length are not accepted. The thesis must be printed on archival quality paper (paper should be approximately 80–100gsm) available from the Co-op Bookshop (in the Baillieu Library Building) or stationery suppliers. The words "Produced on archival quality paper" should be printed on the title page.

The University logo is not permitted to be used in the thesis.

The following must be printed on the spine of the thesis:

  • Full name of the author
  • Title of the thesis (abbreviated if necessary),
  • Degree (ie MPhil)
  • Year of initial submission, or in the case of rewrites, the year of resubmission.

There are no colour restrictions for the thesis cover.

Making your thesis available on the University of Melbourne institutional repository

A digital copy of a completed higher degree thesis must be submitted to the repository (via the Library). Minerva Access is the University's institutional repository that is able to receive and store these digital copies. The thesis must be received by the repository prior to award of the degree. This applies to candidates who commenced from 2007. Candidates who commenced prior to 2007 are encouraged to submit a digital copy but it is not mandatory.

Candidates can elect to have the entirety of their thesis on open access, or only the citation and metadata. Candidates are required to discuss with their supervisor any Intellectual Property implications prior to lodging their thesis online.

When the thesis has been deposited by the candidate using the online deposit form, the repository notifies MSGR that the digital copy of the thesis has been received so that the award can be made. The thesis is not made available for open access at this point. Only the citation and metadata would be available on open access. Candidates may choose to publish their thesis online (available to the world) or allow only the citation and abstract to be available. If the candidate agrees to allow the full text of their thesis to be made available, the necessary permissions for third party copyright material must be dealt with (refer to Copyright section of this handbook and the Copyright Office webpage).

If the candidate has chosen open access, the repository will contact the supervisor or head of department before making the thesis available. If an objection is received, MSGR will facilitate resolution of the situation and notify the repository when the matter is resolved. Depending upon this decision, the thesis is either made available for open access in its entirety, or only the citation and metadata are displayed. An embargo will apply if the candidate has selected open access but the supervisor has requested that the full text not be made available for a specific period of time. This period cannot exceed seven years. If the candidate disagrees with the restriction placed on the thesis, they can appeal through the University Grievance Procedures.

There are advantages to storage in the institutional repository. As far as is practicable, the repository assumes responsibility for preservation of the document in digital format. Theses made available for open access receive greater exposure from an international community of scholars. The repository uses software which is searchable by general search engines, such as Google, as well as 'scholarly' search engines such as Google Scholar and the National Library of Australia's Trove. This raises the profile of both the scholar and the University. However it is important to respect the intellectual property rights of any collaborators involved in the project.

There are clear instructions to guide the uploading process on the Repository.

Resources for thesis preparation

Library services

The University Library provides a range of services and resources to support researchers at the University of Melbourne. The University Library collection contains a variety of publications on the writing of theses. The Literature Reviews guide written by Library staff provides lists of titles that may assist you.

Refer to the Further Reading tab for publications grouped under the headings: General Resources, Specific Disciplines, and Scholarly Publishing.

See the Citing Styles tab for style guides and manuals, and for general referencing information.

Candidates may like to access theses completed by University of Melbourne graduates, or others completed in Australia and overseas. The Finding Theses guide provides links to electronic thesis indexes and provides information about accessing archival copies of theses in the University of Melbourne Thesis Collection. It is also advisable to determine if your department maintains a thesis library.

Other resources

A list of bookbinders and information on the free GSA Print Room pick up and delivery service for permanent binding can be found in the In Detail guide Binding Your Thesis.

IT support for candidates is available through GSA staff (G25 Ground floor). Maps of the building and documents describing all services and facilities in the Graduate Centre are available from GSA Reception (G11 Ground floor) and on their website.