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Information for current students

This page contains all the information you require to prepare for writing and handing in your MIntSt dissertation.

Finding a supervisor

At the start of your first semester, you will be provided with an INTS 590 Dissertation Supervision form. When you fill out the form, you can nominate up to three possible supervisors. You are encouraged to seek advice concerning who to approach from the MIntSt Director. You can also talk directly with any staff member at the University of Otago who shares your interest in research on a topic with a substantial international component. For more information regarding staff research interests, please consult the Politics Department’s webpage, or the webpage of any other department at the University that appears to match your research interests. A final decision on your adviser will be made by the MInSt Director, based on student and staff research interests, and staff workload considerations.

Contact with your supervisor

Like you, your supervisors are busy people. They typically have both teaching, as well as academic supervisory and administrative duties. Since you are post-graduate students, the onus is on you to initiate contact with your supervisor to obtain feedback and guidance. As a general principle, you should remain in regular contact with your dissertation supervisor. The nature of advanced academic research means that it is not possible (nor necessarily desirable) to set a precise rule on how often you should meet your supervisor. It is normal that you will meet more regularly at certain times in the dissertation process. That said, it is the normal expectation that MIntSt students are pro-active in making arrangements to meet with their supervisor on a monthly to six week basis. Some supervisors may also wish to see you more regularly, particularly at the outset. If students are experiencing difficulties in contacting their supervisor, they should draw this to the attention of the MIntSt Director.

You should expect it to take at least a week for your supervisor to give you feedback on work you have submitted.

Formal research proposal

Based on early discussions with your supervisor, you are expected to hand in a formal MIntSt research proposal by Monday 18May. This should be submitted to the MIntSt Director, and to your own supervisor. The workshops in April-May will help you to prepare this proposal.

This research proposal should state (on no more that two A4 pages):

  • Your name!
  • Your research question
  • A statement of why the research matters/is important
  • A preliminary answer(s) to the research (This is your hypothesis/hypotheses)
  • Description of research method(s)
  • Tentative chapter headings
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Submitting draft work to your supervisor

When preparing drafts to submit to your supervisor for comment, please remember the following guidelines:

  1. Size-12 font
  2. Line spacing should be 1.5 or double-spaced
  3. Include page numbers
  4. Sufficiently wide margins (one and a half inches) on left and right of the page for comments, full justified text
  5. Include a cover sheet with your name, date and a title (e.g. Chapter 1: Introduction)
  6. A bibliography of all references used in the draft
  7. Adoption of an internationally recognized citation style (refer to Citation/referencing styles below)

Also, if you wish your supervisor to read the draft and comment on something specific (e.g. the sources used, or the logic of a particular argument) make sure you write this on the cover sheet to avoid confusion.

Citation/referencing styles

For the purposes of citing sources, any of the internationally recognized styles can be used (Harvard, Chicago, ISA etc) on the condition that it is used consistently throughout your dissertation.

View examples:
Chicago style
Harvard style
ISA style

Dissertation workshops

Dissertation workshops run during the first semester. For pedagogical reasons, attendance at these workshops is very important and your supervisors will expect your attendance. In addition, the workshops help you get to know your fellow students and create a supportive and collegial research environment.

During semester two, students will present their research-in-progress to their fellow students and selected staff (date will be advised). This will provide you with important feedback from a wider audience than your supervisor.

Chris Seay is the specialist librarian available to assist you. It is best to email Chris for an appointment but you can also him at the Lending and idesk. Email:, phone: 479 8976

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Ethics approval

MIntSt students, in consultation with their supervisors, need to consider carefully the potential ethical implications of their research in accordance with University Policy. If the intended research involves human participants then ethical approval must be sought. This requirement does not include research that involves simple consultation with academics and other experts. However, ethical approval must be sought for all surveys, interviews and focus groups involving politicians, public officials, the media and members of the community where the information will be employed as part of a student’s research data. It is recommended that interviews be recorded as hand-written notes are unreliable.

University policy makes provision for two types of ethical approval. Category B can be approved at the departmental level and requires the anonymity of the participants. Exceptions can be made for the naming of ‘elites’ including politicians, public officials and the media when they are being interviewed in their official capacity, and are fully aware of that fact. If private persons are to be named, you must seek Category A approval. This is also the case if you intend to conduct any research involving human participants overseas, including Australia. If you are not sure whether you require Category A or B approval, please consult the MIntSt Director.

You should prepare your application in consultation with your supervisor. Students should be assured, however, that this is a relatively simple process and can serve as useful impetus to refine your research agenda. Please note that you must seek approval prior to conducting any research. Under no circumstances will the Committee consider retrospective applications.

Category A application forms go directly to the University Ethics Committee which meets monthly to consider applications that are submitted approximately a fortnight beforehand. Category A applications are quite complicated in comparison to Category B applications so please consult with your supervisor. If you are considering conducting overseas research, you should leave plenty of time to complete this process. Seventeen copies plus the original signed copy need to be submitted to the Academic Committees Office, ground floor, Registry Building.

Forms for both Category A and B are available on the Human Ethics Committee website, along with the committee meeting dates and deadlines.  

Dishonest practice

Dishonest practice in relation to work submitted for assessment (including all course work, tests and examinations) is taken very seriously at the University of Otago.

All students have an obligation to understand the requirements applying to particular assessments and also to understand and follow acceptable academic practice. Any breach of established requirements or of acceptable practice — whether intentional or arising through a failure to take reasonable care — will result in action being taken against those involved.

Plagiarism is one form of dishonest practice. Plagiarism is defined as copying or paraphrasing another person's work and presenting it as one's own – whether intentionally, or through failure to take proper care. Being party to someone else's plagiarism (by allowing them to copy your work or by otherwise helping them plagiarise work for an assessment) is also dishonest practice.

All 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. Part of your study at University is about developing your own thoughts and ideas. Where you use other people's words or ideas in your work it is vital that you reference these correctly. The Student Learning Centre offers a course to assist you with this if you want one.

Any student involved in dishonest practice is liable to be proceeded against under the University's regulations. A range of penalties is established by those regulations, including forfeiture of marks for the piece of work submitted, a zero grade for the paper, or in extreme cases exclusion from the University. At postgraduate level, you are expected to understand fully the rules on plagiarism at the University of Otago and detected cases will be pursued fully.

Further information on dishonest practice is available from:

Your dissertation will be automatically checked for plagiarism using the University’s SafeAssign software.

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Dissertation hand-in

What date is my dissertation due? How long should it be? How many copies are required? Who do I give it to? All these questions and more are answered in our dissertation hand-in document

Thesis declaration form (PDF)

Marking scale

80% or above
Credit pass
70 - 79%
50 - 69%
49% and below

Further information about marking criteria is available in the dissertation evaluation guidelines

Graduation dates

We are unable to guarantee which of the three graduation dates (May, August, or December) you will graduate on.   The advice we have always given to MInSts students, is to allow three months for the internal and external markers to complete their work.   A marked dissertation can reasonably be expected at that point, but not before.

So, if you began studies in Semester 1 of an academic year and submitted your dissertation in the subsequent February, it is best to plan for an August, or (less frequently), a December graduation, rather than a May one.  If you began studies in Semester 2 of an academic year and submitted your dissertation the following July, a December graduation is the likely graduation date.

There may be some exceptions where a dissertation is marked in less then three months.  Therefore, if you choose to, you can apply to graduate at the May ceremony. If your results do not come in by the cut off date for the ceremony, your names will be removed. You will then need to make another application to graduate at a later ceremony. 

Find out more information on graduation ceremony application and application dates

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