Submitting your thesis
Thesis examination and RECS
From 1 September 2022, all examination requests, actions and records are carried out through Research Education Candidature System (RECS). Students are now placed in 2 categories based on whether you completed your Notice of intent to submit before or after 26 August 2022.
If you have submitted your Notice of intent to submit prior to 26 August 2022, HDRAC will continue to manage your thesis outside of RECS, everyone else will be required to use RECS. Find out more about RECS and the changes in examination processes.
Examination under emergency conditions
Students whose work has been severely affected by COVID-19 may be allowed to have their thesis examined under emergency conditions. This means that, if approved, your thesis examination will take into account the impacts of the pandemic on the volume of research in your thesis.
You will need to meet the eligibility requirements to have your thesis examined under emergency conditions. Find out more and check the eligibility criteria.
When it’s time to submit your thesis, the Higher Degree by Research Administration Centre (HDRAC) provides clear advice on how to prepare your thesis for submission, and a helpful checklist on how to successfully submit your thesis.
Thesis word length
Your thesis, depending on the degree, faculty and discipline, has a prescribed word limit. The word limit doesn’t include appendices. If you have exceeded the word limit, you need to request a word-limit extension from your associate dean. An extension of word limit cannot be granted for a PhD thesis that exceeds 100 000 words, or a Master’s thesis that exceeds 60 000 words.
Choice of examiners
When you complete your Notice of intent to submit (at least 3 months before thesis submission), your lead supervisor should discuss with you the selection of possible examiners. You have the right to recommend examiners, as well as to advise on those individuals you prefer to not be appointed as examiner. You should make these recommendations to your lead supervisor in writing. Your lead supervisor is responsible for the final recommendations to the Chair of Examination.
The process of selection and appointment of examiners is rigorous and can take considerable time. If you make a written recommendation, the Chair of Examination must forward it to the faculty committee responsible for examination for approval. The names of examiners will only be disclosed when you receive your examiners’ reports, or in the case of oral or exhibition examination, on your request after the thesis has been submitted.
Would an oral exam be right for you?
Oral examinations (also known as an oral defence or ‘viva’) are less common in Australia than in some other countries. Oral exams appeal to students with strong English oral capability, and generally provide a quicker examination outcome.
You might prefer oral examination as it provides you with real-time insight into how the examiners understand your thesis, and allows you to clarify any examiners’ misunderstandings on the spot. This prevents the frustrations that can arise in thesis-only examinations, when examiners’ reports can reveal critical misunderstandings on the part of the examiners.
When issues arise
Most of the time submitting is trouble-free and a time for (almost) celebration. However, sometimes difficulties arise. Below are some of the stressful and frustrating issues that we hear about, and possible resolutions to assist you.
Your Notice of intent to submit should be lodged at least 3 months before your expected thesis submission date. But if you don’t lodge it in time, don’t panic – it’s not a big problem. HDRAC will notify you when the Notice of Intent to Submit is due, and if it’s late they will enquire if your submission date has changed and work with you to resolve any administrative issues.
What is causing the delay? For personal or family-related issues you might benefit from a short leave of absence to deal with things and get back to the submitting process. You have a right to take leave, but you must notify your lead supervisor and you may need to check your scholarship conditions. This is a critical time so you and your supervisors may have to discuss a possible change to your submission date.
A new submission date could make you liable for tuition fees if your scholarship can’t be extended. In this case, missing the original submission date may be something to try and avoid if at all possible.
Disagreement with your supervisor over mode of examination
Although you have the right to choose your mode of examination – oral, exhibition, or thesis-only examination – your choice must be endorsed by your lead supervisor. Your supervisor might disagree with your desired mode of examination. If this happens, we recommend that you remain open-minded to their reasons. Respect their experience and deep knowledge of the examination process, and their understanding of your capabilities and the thesis you have completed.
Start discussing modes of examination with all of your supervisors as soon as you develop a preference – don’t assume that you and your lead supervisor have the same opinions on this. Early agreement assists you and your supervisors to work towards the best preparation for a successful thesis examination.
If your lead supervisor declines to endorse your choice, the final decision will be made by the postgraduate coordinator.
Your supervisor won’t certify that your thesis is ready for examination
Your thesis must meet a long list of requirements before it’s considered ready for examination. One requirement is for your lead supervisor to certify that in their opinion, the thesis is sufficiently well-presented and does not exceed the word limit (or any approved extended word limit). On the rare occasion that a lead supervisor declines to provide the statement, you may still be able to submit your thesis. In this situation HDRAC will contact the associate dean of your faculty and request that they review the thesis and decide whether to send to examination.
Your thesis is declined examination
If your lead supervisor doesn’t certify your thesis is ready for examination, there is no guarantee that the associate dean will send the thesis to examination. If the associate dean, after reviewing your thesis, declines to send it for examination, they must provide in writing the reasons why, and the changes you are required to complete prior to examination. Such reasons are set out in the Thesis and Examination of Higher Degree by Research Policy 2015.
If this happens you will be either asked to re-enrol or to Show Good Cause. A decision by the associate dean to decline to send your thesis to examination is an academic decision and therefore subject to appeal, in accordance with the Appeals Rule. Submit your appeal to the Student Affairs Unit.
Academic honesty or misconduct allegations
On submission, your thesis is passed through plagiarism detection software. HDRAC will notify your faculty if there is evidence of possible inappropriate academic practice, code breach or research misconduct.
In cases of alleged plagiarism, the associate dean will notify you and your lead supervisor, and you will be required to respond in accordance with the Academic Honesty Procedures 2016. They will usually return a copy of your thesis, marked-up with possible breaches; and ask you to respond in writing to explain these issues. In some faculties an allegation of academic dishonesty in a submitted thesis may instead be addressed by asking you to Show Good Cause.
In cases of alleged code breach or research misconduct you will be notified by either the Research Integrity Office or your faculty, who will manage the investigation in accordance with the Research Code of Conduct 2019. You will be required to provide detailed, written responses.
In certain circumstances it’s possible that one or all of your supervisors may have a level of responsibility in the alleged breach or misconduct. In this situation, it’s very important for you to have independent advice.
If you receive any of these allegations as a result of your thesis submission, contact us for advice immediately.
- Thesis and Examination of Higher Degree by Research Policy 2015 (as amended)
- Thesis and Examination of Higher Degree by Research Procedures 2020
- Research Code of Conduct 2019
- University of Sydney (Student Discipline) Rule 2016
- University of Sydney (Student Appeals against Academic Decisions) Rule 2006 (as amended) (the Appeals Rule).