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  • PhD Handbook - Submission and defense (viva) of your thesis
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It is important to remember that what is passed or failed for an MPhil or PhD is the thesis. It does not matter how brilliant the work is, if it is not written up adequately, you will not be awarded the degree.

Postgraduates are encouraged to submit their thesis at the end of their third year. PhD students are enrolled for a period of three years and should aim to finish and write up their research within this time.

Students have an additional year before their final thesis submission deadline (which, for full time students, falls 4 years after registration), during which they can write up their empirical work if necessary (although this is not desirable since studentships are not extendable and many PhD students will need to get paid work). New data should not be acquired beyond the end of the third year. Permission must be obtained from the Chair of Graduate Studies if the student plans to collect any data beyond the period of normal registration. Students in the 4th year should still receive support from their supervisor, particularly with thesis writing, but since they are not conducting new research, they should not expect the same level of supervision as in previous years. The department tries to find desks for PhD students in their 4th year and conducts a survey of desk requests and requirements in the summer, when the number of newly arriving students is known. The department cannot guarantee that these requests will be met – it depends on the space available.

In very exceptional circumstances, a candidate may, on the recommendation of the supervisor and with the permission of the Psychology Graduate School Board and the University Special Cases Committee, be allowed an extension for the period of submission. This will not normally exceed two years in the case of a full-time PhD candidate and three years in the case of a part-time PhD candidate (University Ordinances and Regulations, section 2.5h). For the MPhil, these periods are one and two years respectively (University Ordinances and Regulations section 2.4i).

It is important to note that the Department is subject to sanctions from the Research Councils if theses are submitted beyond the normal deadline, even if an extension has been granted. The only way to stop the Thesis Advisory Panel's clock ticking is to apply for a suspension of registration. Suspension can only be prospective and is only granted if there are good grounds.

MPhil/PhD students who exceed the normal period of registration pay annual fees to retain their names on the University's long-term register, and to retain access to computing and library facilities, if required. Information about research student continuation fees can be found at: https://www.york.ac.uk/students/studying/manage/research-students/continuation/. All students must in any case complete their PhD within four years or the degree will not be awarded.

All students beginning research degree programmes in October 2009 or later will be required to submit for examination softbound printed copies of the thesis or dissertation equal in number to the number of examiners appointed; and the same number of copies of a CD (or other portable data storage unit acceptable to the University) containing an electronic copy (normally in PDF format) of the thesis or dissertation. (Students who began before October 2009 may submit electronic copies in addition to printed copies if they wish, and will be encouraged - but not required - to do so.)

More information about submission of thesis can be found at: https://www.york.ac.uk/students/studying/manage/research-students/theses-dissertations/. Please note that as of the academic year 2013/2014 the exams office allows submission of an alternative PhD thesis format, as specified in the Policy on Research Degrees (11.3). The alternative PhD thesis format allows students, in consultation with their supervisors and the chair of the Graduate School Board, to submit a thesis comprising papers in referred journals with an integrative Introductory chapter summarizing the aims and objectives of the body of work, and a concluding Discussion chapter summarizing the results and conclusions of all work submitted. The Discussion must highlight how the submitted work forms a coherent body of work and makes an original contribution to knowledge. 

The departmental guidelines for submitting a thesis in an alternative format are the following:

  • Any chapters of a thesis can consist of a submitted/in-press/published paper, except for the Introduction and the Discussion.
  • The Introduction and Discussion must consider all the chapters of the thesis and tie them together (as specified in the University Regulations, see Policy on Research degrees, 11.3).
  • The proportion of alternative-format chapters is not specified, but the decision to include such chapters in the thesis must be endorsed by the supervisor.
  • The inclusion of alternative-format chapters should be discussed at TAP meetings.
  • Alternative-format chapters should mention the reference of the paper below the chapter title. The relative contribution of the student must be stated in a footnote.
  • Supervisor must write a supporting statement that is included into the examination copy of the thesis stating that, where they are named as a co-author, this was mostly due to their role of editing and supervision, and the work is primarily that of the student. Where there may have been collaborations, or joint theories/models/ work the student must state this clearly in their author's declaration. 
  • The format of the thesis can show discontinuity across chapters, i.e., the actual papers can be inserted (on A4 paper), as long as copyright laws are respected.
  •  Whether or not the thesis will contain alternative-format chapters should be specified in the Intention to Submit form (which must be handed in at least 8 weeks prior to submission) and approved by the Chair of the Graduate School Board.

Following successful examination, and after satisfactory completion of any minor corrections, all students beginning research degree programmes in October 2009 or later will be required to deposit one printed copy of the thesis or dissertation (hardbound or softbound, as the student chooses) with the Examinations Office, for forwarding to the Library. In addition, the candidate must upload an electronic copy of the thesis or dissertation, normally in PDF format, to an electronic repository (White Rose Theses Online). Instructions on how to do this will be made available later. (Students who began before October 2009 may, if they wish, comply with these requirements, and will be encouraged to do so. Alternatively, they may deposit with the Examinations Office two printed copies - hardbound, if a thesis; hardbound or softbound, if a dissertation.)


All theses and dissertations deposited by research students after examination, in printed or electronic form, shall normally be available for consultation and for reproduction (subject to normal conditions of acknowledgement). However, a student may request that access should be withheld, or reproduction not permitted, for up to two years. (Students will not have to seek University approval for this.) More information about submission of thesis can be found at: https://www.york.ac.uk/students/studying/assessment-and-examination/

The purpose of the viva is for the examiners to satisfy themselves that the work presented is indeed your work, and to discuss any questions or problems they may have with the thesis. A typical viva involves the student, the internal examiner and the external examiner shut up in a room for about 2 hours discussing the thesis. The internal examiner is a member of the Department other than the Supervisor (often a member of the Thesis Advisory Panel): the external examiner is a suitably qualified person from another University who is knowledgeable about the area of the thesis. The BPS discourages examiners from giving any hints at the outset of the viva as to the likely verdict.

The University has ruled that, with effect from October 2008 an audio recording should be made for all vivas.

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