Word limit and standard of three years of full-time study

(Guidance for theses examiners in History)

In their requests for corrections, emendations, and any other revisions, examiners need to take account of the overall word limit of a thesis, and recognize that the required standard is determined by what a capable and diligent student may reasonably be expected to have achieved in two years of full-time work on an individual research thesis (for the degree of Master of Letters) or three years of full-time work on an individual research thesis (for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy).
In the case of History these restrictions may cause apparent limitations in the work submitted, for example, candidates may concentrate on a smaller source base than one would for a fullblown monograph on the subject, or they may have limited their argument to a subset of the issues raised by the overall research question. Where the rationale of such decisions is not selfevident candidates need to be given an explicit opportunity to explain and defend their choices. Similarly, candidates should be given the opportunity to explain any apparent neglect of relevant approaches or methodologies. The Faculty’s usual expectation would be that a typical research student spends, after a first year of preparation and assessment of their project, between six and ten months on well-planned data collection (i.e., archival or other research on original sources, interviewing in the case of oral history projects, or a combination of these) and following that some 12 to 18 months on evaluation of the material collected and writing up of their findings. Individual working patterns or the structure of some research projects may lead to a different distribution of these times but their proportional relation will in most cases be similar.
Please note that University and Faculty realise that it is not possible to foresee delays and disruptions of research beyond a student’s control, and that we therefore consider a fourth year as a year of grace for the final submission of a D.Phil. thesis.
Naturally, the time and word limits cannot excuse any other shortfalls within the requirements of a doctoral (or M.Litt.) thesis and a candidate’s competence: a thesis must be presented in a lucid and scholarly manner, contribute something new to our knowledge of the subject of the individual research, and candidates must convince the examiners through both their thesis and their performance in the oral examination that they have a good grasp of the historical and historiographical context of their broader subject area.