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Format of the thesis


Theses will normally be written in English and must conform to proper standards of linguistic presentation. Should the examiners find that the thesis falls short of such standards, they may request that it be corrected before the examination proper is undertaken. Candidates intending to write their thesis in Mäori should contact the Doctoral and Scholarships Office at the Graduate Research School for advice. Candidates wishing to write their thesis in a language other than English or Mäori will need to seek approval, at the time of admission, from the Graduate Research Committee. Such approval will only be given in exceptional circumstances.

Format of the Thesis

The format of the thesis should be agreed to by the Department, supervisor and the student, during the earlier stages of the writing. Any changes which may need to be made later are to be agreed to again by these parties.

Drafts of all chapters should be submitted to the supervisor(s) for comment. Reasonably prompt feedback should be provided on substantive issues. Most supervisors also give feedback on style, grammar, etc, but students are encouraged to get additional feedback from other readers.

There are certain physical requirements to be adhered to which are set out in thesis information pamphlets available from the Central Library or Departments and in the regulations pertaining to the presentation of theses. The following two documents provide further information about the presentation of theses:

PhD theses are limited to 100,000 words of text, excluding appendices, footnotes and bibliographies.

Illustrative materials (such as maps, computer disks and CD’s) may be submitted with the thesis. They must either be bound with the thesis or placed in a pocket inside the cover. Extra large or bulky material may be bound separately as an appendix.

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Citing of References

There are three principal methods of citing references in a text: footnotes, the author-date and the reference-number system. Consult your supervisor as to the method favoured in your subject area. There are particular rules for each, and it is important to be consistent in the application of the method you decide upon.

Footnotes may be used for purposes other than citing references, namely to provide cross-references, to acknowledge indebtedness and to explain or supplement material that is included in the text.

Bibliographic style is important, and considerable time will be saved if all the necessary data for each citation are collected at the time of consulting the works concerned. Various styles are acceptable; the important point again to remember, is that having decided on a particular style, you should retain this style throughout the bibliography. There may be a preferred method within your discipline; check with your supervisor.

The Library contains various authorities for consultation on styles of footnoting and bibliographies.


Plagiarism (including being party to someone else’s plagiarism) is a form of dishonest practice. It is is defined as copying or paraphrasing another's work, whether intentionally or otherwise, and presenting it as one's own.

In practice this means that plagiarism includes:

  • any attempt to present as one's own work the work of another (whether of another student or a published authority);
  • quoting word-for-word, or near to it, from a source and failing to insert quotation marks around the quoted passage(s). In such cases of direct copying, it it not adequate to merely cite the source;
  • using data or interpretative material without acknowledging the sources or the collaborators.

Thesis candidates should note that the Introduction/Literature Review in their thesis must demonstrate evidence of their own scholarly work. In a PhD thesis, the Literature Review goes beyond a mere literature ‘survey’ and candidates should avoid therefore the temptation of merely regurgitating the work of others or of piecing together sections of the work of others into a new whole. Research is not summarising or repeating uncritically the ideas of others.

Candidates should also be extremely cautious about depending heavily on review articles for their Literature Review. While these are often very helpful, they can also lead to undue reliance upon both the ideas and actual words of other workers.
Students have a responsibility to be aware of acceptable academic practice in relation to the use of material prepared by others, and for taking all steps reasonably necessary to ensure that no breach of acceptable practice occurs.

Any student found responsible for plagiarism shall be subject to the University's dishonest practice regulations which may result in various penalties including, in extreme cases, exclusion from the University.

The University’s Dishonest Practice Guidelines are available at

Further information about plagiarism is available at

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Inclusion of Material from Published Papers

The submission of papers for publication during the course of thesis research assists the student’s progress, it clarifies for the student the objectives and discipline-specific requirements for presentation of the research, it contributes to the University’s research effort, and it provides quality assurance that helps the student and the supervisor establish the academic integrity of the research.

When papers based on work completed as part of the PhD thesis are submitted, are in press, or in print, it may be possible to modify and include material from them as chapters in the thesis, providing that the thesis as a whole presents a coherent and integrated account of the research. [Italicised phrases below are from Instructions to Examiners.]

1. The examiners are asked to report on whether the thesis comprises a coherent investigation of the chosen topic. There may be instances where inclusion of published material as chapters is desirable. Normally, however, when published material is included in the thesis, it should be modified in order to remove redundancy and achieve coherence. Inclusion of unmodified manuscripts as chapters in the thesis will not normally meet the coherence criterion and this practice is discouraged by the Graduate Research Committee.

2. The significance of the supervisor’s contribution often justifies co-authorship of submitted or published work. An appropriate level of independence on the part of the student is expected. The examination rules specify that if parts of the thesis are based on published work under joint authorship, the supervisor should provide a statement about the extent to which this is the candidate’s own work.

3. The examiners are asked to report on whether the thesis meets internationally recognized standards for the conduct and presentation of research in the field, and whether it contains material suitable for publication in an appropriate academic journal. The best demonstration is to show that the work is indeed publishable in a leading academic journal. Published papers separate from the material included in the thesis may be presented in an appendix, although this is unnecessary if the papers are already in the public domain.

4. The examiners are asked to report whether the thesis demonstrates both a thorough knowledge of the literature relevant to its subject and general field and on the candidate’s ability to exercise critical and analytical judgement of that literature. The critical review of the literature in the introduction is therefore an important component of the thesis, although it may be dealt with in different ways in different disciplines.

Important Note: When including material from publications in a thesis, students should be aware of the copyright policies of journals. It is recommended that students request journals to vary their normal copyright agreements to allow material from an article to be included in a thesis (as the thesis will be publicly available through the University’s Library). For more information on copyright, please go to the University’s Thesis Information page.

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Proof-Reading of Theses Guidelines

Thesis Masters’ and doctoral candidates may use a third party as a proof-reader at any stage during their candidature provided that certain guidelines are followed. These guidelines are available on the PhD webpage.

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