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Thesis preparation

To meet the requirements of a higher degree by research, you must present your thesis in a scholarly manner with a consistent format. Many theses will eventually be cited as references for subsequent research projects both within and outside of the University, and also as teaching references.

It’s important to follow the standards of your chosen format and referencing style while writing your thesis. You can find the available format methods below, and you should select a referencing style with your supervisor. A thesis that does not comply with the required format may not be accepted.

Guidelines for thesis production

The various guidelines for thesis production are listed below, and found in the section on thesis examination.

For more information please read the thesis examination section.

Thesis formats

The formats your thesis may take are summarised in Rule 10: Degree of Doctor by Research and Rule 11: Degree of Master by Research. Please discuss your proposed format with your supervisor prior to commencing your research program to ensure you understand what is required.

Your thesis can be presented in one of three forms:

  • a typescript (a traditional thesis);
  • a creative or literary work or series of works accompanied by an exegesis or;
  • a published book or series of published papers, accompanied by an introduction, literature review and other supporting material.

Typescript format (traditional thesis format)

The thesis should be presented as typed on good quality bond paper of international A4 size, with margins of not less than four centimetres on the spine side of the page, with 2.50cm on the opposite sides, top and bottom of the page. One-and-a-half line spacing should be used between the lines of text. Text pages shall be numbered sequentially. The candidate is responsible for the correct numbering and collating of the pages.

  • Doctoral thesis – A doctoral thesis submitted in the form of a typescript should not exceed 100,000 words (excluding appendices, tables and illustrative matter).
  • Master thesis – A master (by research) thesis submitted in the form of a typescript should not exceed 60,000 words (excluding appendices, tables and illustrative matter).

The thesis should include a summary or abstract of at least 200 words, summarising the appropriate headings, aims, scope and conclusion of the thesis.

Illustrations, diagrams, tables, maps and other similar examples should be printed within the text or reproduced in a permanent high-quality format (such as ink drawings, photographs and audio visual recordings). They should be clearly numbered and identified, and referred to by these numbers throughout the text.

The sources from which your information is derived, the extent to which the work of others has been used and/or for which the assistance of individuals, associations or institutions has been obtained, shall be acknowledged generally in the preface or introduction, and specifically in notes, references and appendices.

Creative or literary works or a series of works accompanied by an exegesis

Where the thesis takes the form of a creative or literary work or series of works accompanied by an exegesis, the exegesis should conform to the prescribed format of a thesis as typescript but with the following size specifications.

  • Doctoral thesis – A doctoral exegesis forming part of a thesis and accompanying a creative or literary work or series of works should not exceed 40,000 words (excluding appendices, tables and illustrative matter).
  • Master thesis – A master exegesis forming part of a thesis and accompanying a creative or literary work or series of works should not exceed 20,000 words (excluding appendices, tables and illustrative matter).

Where a major part of the thesis takes the form of a creative work such as a performance, construction, installation or exhibition, these activities must be documented in a clear and comprehensive manner as previously agreed on by the Graduate Studies Committee. This documentation may take the form of a photographic record, or an audio visual recording of a performance, which will then accompany the exegesis.

Published book or series of published papers

A thesis submitted in the form of a book or series of published papers should include a full explanatory introduction that links the separate papers and places them in the context of an established body of knowledge.

It should also include a literature review. If detailed data and descriptions of method are not otherwise given, it should also be included as appendices.

Only papers published in refereed scholarly media during the period of enrolment may be included in the thesis. However, papers which have been accepted for publication but have not yet appeared in refereed scholarly media may also be included.

The number of papers submitted should be sufficient for the body of work to constitute a substantial and original contribution to knowledge.

Any published paper of which the candidate is a joint author may only be included in the thesis provided the work done by the candidate is clearly identified. The candidate must provide to the University Graduate Studies Committee at the time of submission of the thesis a written statement from each co-author attesting to the candidate’s contribution to a joint publication as part of a thesis. The written statement(s) can be included in the thesis as an appendix.

What is an exegesis?

The introductory and review section of the thesis is known as an exegesis. The exegesis is a small, stand-alone overview that presents the explanation of the submitted work and/or a description of the linkages between the works. The exegesis must:

  • establish a coherent and logical framework for the entire thesis;
  • explain how cumulatively all the submitted papers:
    • address a particular research problem;
    • examine research questions or test hypotheses; and
    • contribute coherently to a theme or are focused on a particular topic area.
  • identify the impact that the submitted papers have had on the research community in your field of study;
  • identify how your research adds to knowledge or makes an original contribution to knowledge in your field of study.

How should the literature review be compiled?

The literature review section must contain a critical review of the literature you have found associated with your theme or topic area. The literature review must provide evidence that you have thoroughly searched the literature and understood what it means for your research problem in relation to the submitted papers. It must demonstrate that you have been able to distinguish between good and poor research and between relevant and irrelevant research. It also must show what the literature says that is related to your research problem. You need to:

  • give some background to the research problem;
  • analyse what the literature says about the problem;
  • provide any theoretical, conceptual or methodological framework that contextualises your research problem across the submitted papers; and
  • explain the meaning of any important terms.

What should be provided as appendices?

Appendices can be included in the thesis to provide a detailed description of research methods used and the data collected and analysed. In appropriately titled appendices, you must describe how any research was conducted if it is not sufficiently and consistently described in the submitted papers. There should be sufficient detail to enable an examiner of your thesis to judge whether your work is methodologically defensible and has been conducted within a coherent and well-designed research framework.

You need to ensure that evidence is provided that allows aspects of the research such as any sites visited, sample selection and the ways in which data were collected and analysed to be transparent. In some research, substantiating documents may be included.

There may be a need to mention the constraints and limitations that emerged in the conducted research.

Ethical issues should be addressed in an appendix, especially the copyright held on any submitted papers released for publication to journals. Permission must be sought from the relevant professional association or a publisher to reprint any of your published work in your thesis.

For any specific issues on copyright, contact the library copyright team.

How many papers should be submitted as part of the thesis?

The number of papers submitted should be sufficient for the body of work to constitute a substantial and original contribution to knowledge.

It is unlikely that less than four substantial, submitted papers would be acceptable as a thesis by publication.

What do you need to do if you are a joint author of a published paper?

It is necessary for you to obtain permission from any co-author of a paper to use the paper as part of your thesis. It is important for co-authors to provide details of the contribution that they made to the paper. For example, some co-authors may have been significantly involved in the development of the research design of any study reported in a paper or may have been involved in collecting and analysing data which provides a basis for the published paper. Some co-authors may have worked with you to develop the structure of the paper, written part of the paper, or only proof read and edited the paper.

While you may not be the first author of a published paper, your own contribution to the paper should provide evidence to support your exegesis.


Referencing styles can differ in each faculty and you should discuss the appropriate referencing style with your supervisor prior to beginning your research.

There are various formats for the preparation and presentation of your theses, particularly with respect to methods of using and citing references and footnotes. As these formats can differ substantially in each faculty, you should select your format and referencing system in consultation with your supervisor.

Accepted referencing styles include:

  • APA
  • Chicago Author-Date
  • Harvard
  • Vancouver.

Confidentiality of thesis

A thesis that contains material that may reasonably affect the security of persons, nations, industry or commerce may be declared confidential for a specified period of time, normally not in excess of two years. If there are some concerns about the content and confidentiality of a thesis, prior to its submission the Heads of Enrolling Area may recommend the University Graduate Studies Committee that it consider whether the thesis should be declared confidential. When a thesis is declared confidential the University cannot display, copy or circulate the thesis during the period of confidentiality.

If your research is being funded by, or using the resources and facilities of, an external organisation, they may wish to enter into a confidentiality arrangement with the University. In these circumstances, the sponsor and the University will negotiate mutually agreed confidentiality arrangements prior to the submission of the thesis for examination.

On the request of the Head of Enrolling Area, thesis examiners can be required to sign a confidentiality agreement. This will usually occur in circumstances, such as security concerns or commercial arrangements, mentioned above.