Accessibility Skip to Global Navigation Skip to Local Navigation Skip to Content Skip to Search Skip to Site Map Menu

Writing the Thesis

Students are strongly encouraged to begin writing up while still engaged in planning, data gathering and/or data analysis. This reduces the often daunting task facing the student if writing up is delayed until it is the only remaining task. Target dates should be decided and monitored.

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 seek additional feedback from other readers.

Word processing (with computerised document storage) should be used wherever possible, to allow revisions to be made more easily. Candidates should ensure they have backups of research material.

A Master’s thesis worth 120 points should normally be limited to 40,000 words of text, excluding appendices, footnotes and bibliographies. Theses worth less credits may have lower word limits and candidates are reminded to check the specific regulations for their degree.


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 Māori should contact their Divisional Office for advice. Candidates wishing to write their thesis in a language other than English or Māori will need to seek approval, at the time of admission, from their Divisional Office. Such approval will only be given in exceptional circumstances.

^ Top of Page

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 should be agreed to again by these parties.

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 links provide further information about the presentation of theses:
• Thesis information guide (
• Presentation of theses regulations (

A thesis template is available in the Blackboard support site for Master’s research candidates.

Masters’ theses should normally be limited to 40,000 words of text, excluding appendices, footnotes and bibliographies. Different word limits may apply to Masters’ degrees which involve the preparation of a research report, a project report or a dissertation.

Illustrative materials (such as maps, computer disks and CDs) may be submitted with the thesis. They must either be bound with the thesis or placed in a pocket inside the cover. Extensive or bulky material relevant to the thesis may be bound separately as an appendix.

^ Top of Page


There are three principal methods of citing references in a text: footnotes, the author-date and the reference-number system. Supervisors should be consulted as to the method favoured in the particular subject area. There are particular rules for each, and it is important to be consistent in the application of the method decided 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, particularly if the references are saved using referencing software such as EndNote or Zotero. Various styles are acceptable; the important point again to remember is that, having decided on a particular style, students should retain this style throughout the bibliography. There may be a preferred method within a discipline; students should check with their supervisor(s).

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

^ Top of Page

Academic Integrity and Plagiarism

Academic integrity means being honest in your writing, with appropriate referencing of sources. Plagiarism involves using someone else’s words or ideas without properly acknowledging /referencing them. 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 – quotation marks and a page number should be given;
• 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 Master’s 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 Student Academic Misconduct Procedures, which may result in various penalties including, in extreme cases, exclusion from the University.

The University’s Academic Integrity Policy is found at, while the Student Academic Misconduct Procedures are
Master’s research candidates can submit drafts of their chapters to check for unintentional plagiarism, using SafeAssign, which is available on the Blackboard website ‘GRS_MST Graduate Research Support for Masters Students’ under ‘Assignments’. However, candidates should be aware that the search engines for SafeAssign may not capture all journals that have been used, so could miss detecting passages of text that may be copied.

^ Top of Page

Inclusion of the Candidate's Published Papers in their Thesis

Because of the reasonably short duration of the Master’s thesis, it is unlikely that candidates will publish during their study. However, we do encourage publishing once the thesis is submitted, and providing the thesis has been completed in a timely manner, and if the candidate is on campus and not working more than 10 hours a week, the candidate will be eligible for a Postgraduate Publishing Bursary. In exceptional cases it is possible that candidates may publish during their candidature and any papers could be included as part of the thesis or appended, providing certain guidelines are followed. The guidelines for the inclusion of material from a research candidate’s publications in their thesis are available at

^ Top of Page