9.2 Submission of the dissertation


Once a dissertation has been submitted, it is not permissible to make any alterations prior to the oral examination unless this is required as a result of the academic integrity and plagiarism review set out in Section 9.2.4 and Annex 8.

The dissertation must be submitted in accordance with Section 9.2.3. It is not permissible for the dissertation to be shared with examiners prior to the formal submission process without the consent of the Academic Quality and Policy Office.

9.2.1 Content and format of the dissertation

As set out in Section 5.1.2, responsibility for the content of the dissertation and the decision to submit the work rests with the candidate. Comments from supervisors in this process are advisory.

The dissertation shall be written in English, except for candidates in Modern Languages, who may submit their dissertations in the language of the culture studied. In all other cases, permission to use another language must be granted by the Pro Vice-Chancellor (Education) or nominee at the request of the Faculty PGR Director. Whenever a dissertation is submitted in a language other than English, it must include an extended summary (approximately 5,000 words for a PhD dissertation) in English.

The dissertation must include a signed declaration stating how far the work contained in the dissertation is the candidate’s own work and how far it has been conducted in collaboration with, or with the assistance of, others.

It is permissible to integrate publications as chapters within the dissertation following discussion with supervisors and in line with the guidance set out in Annex 5.

Proofreading and the dissertation

Candidates have authorial responsibility for their dissertation and are encouraged to proofread their own work as this is an essential skill in academic writing. There may however be instances where it is appropriate for a candidate to seek assistance from a third party for proofreading as long as it does not alter the intellectual content of the dissertation. A third party may, for example, be a professional proofreader, another student, a friend or a family member.

Proofreading involves checking text and suggesting corrections for errors in spelling, punctuation, grammar, formatting and presentation.

A third-party proofreader must not add to the content of the dissertation in any way, including through checking, amending or suggesting ideas, arguments, subject matter, or the structure of the dissertation, as this would compromise the authorship of the work.

A third-party proofreader may suggest corrections on the presentation of references that are poorly formatted but must not propose new references.

The candidate remains responsible for the content of the dissertation and must not accept advice from a third-party proofreader beyond the defined parameters. Failure to follow this requirement may constitute plagiarism.

There may however be cases where enhanced proofreading assistance has been approved as a reasonable adjustment for disability.

Guidance on the format of the dissertation, and an example of the declaration which must be included, are available at Annex 4.

A candidate must not submit as their dissertation work which they have already submitted for an academic award of the University of Bristol or of any other degree awarding body.

The dissertation must not exceed the maximum word count stated in the specific regulations for the degree. Unnecessary length of a dissertation may be to a candidate's disadvantage.

9.2.2 Timing of submission

The final submission date is the end of the maximum period of study plus any periods of approved suspension and/or extension and is the last day where a submission will be accepted (see Section 4.3).

The intended submission date is the planned date for submission agreed by the supervisors and the student. It is recommended that the intended submission date is earlier than the final submission date. The candidate should prepare a detailed timetable for final preparation and submission of the dissertation, in consultation with their supervisors, at least six months before their intended submission date.

The dissertation may be submitted at any time between three months before the end of the minimum period of study and the final submission date (unless stated otherwise in the regulations for the specific degree).  Any submissions made more than three months before the end of the minimum period of study require prior approval by the Faculty PGR Director. Early submission will not affect liability for tuition fees.

The dissertation must be submitted on or before the final submission date or the student will be deemed to have withdrawn due to lapse of time. Dissertations submitted after the final submission date will not be examined.

Where the final submission date falls when the University is closed (e.g. weekends, bank holidays and closure days), the submission should be on the next working day.

If there are unforeseen circumstances near the final submission date, a request may be made to the Faculty PGR Director for an emergency extension (see Section 6.4).

9.2.3 Method of submission

Candidates must submit two electronic copies of their dissertation:

1 – The examination copy. An electronic copy of the dissertation must be sent to the Academic Quality and Policy Office (see guidance on how to submit). This copy counts as the formal submission and must be received on or before the candidate’s final submission date (see Section 9.2.2) Where the dissertation incorporates physical material, such as creative works, the candidate must make special arrangements with the Academic Quality and Policy Office for the submission.

2 – The Turnitin copy. An electronic copy of the dissertation must be uploaded to Turnitin so that the pre-examination requirement for an academic integrity and plagiarism review of the text can be completed (see Section 9.2.4).

In exceptional circumstances, where there are contractual, security or safety obligations, the student and/or the main supervisor may make a request for an exemption from the Turnitin requirement, initially to the Faculty PGR Director. The Faculty PGR Director will make a recommendation to the Associate Pro Vice-Chancellor (PGR), via the Academic Quality and Policy Office. Where the Associate Pro Vice-Chancellor (PGR) has approved the request, the supervisors will undertake a manual check on the dissertation in relation to academic integrity and plagiarism.

The dissertation will be sent to approved examiners when the required academic integrity and plagiarism review has been successfully completed and the examination copy has been submitted.

Examiners will be sent an electronic copy of the dissertation and may request a printed copy from the Academic Quality and Policy Office.

The dissertation, in electronic or printed form, must only be sent to the examiners by, or at the specific request of, the Academic Quality and Policy Office.

9.2.4 Checking for plagiarism

An academic integrity and plagiarism review forms part of the submission process for all dissertations. Section 2.3 provides an overview of the University’s approach to academic integrity.

A dissertation must not include:

(1)  Plagiarism, which is claiming the work of others, intentionally or by omission, as one’s own.

(2)  The re-use of one’s own published work without acknowledgement.

Research students are strongly encouraged to publish their work, including prior to submission and examination, but there must be appropriate referencing if this published work is included – in whole or in part – in their dissertation. In some cases, it may be appropriate to integrate publications as chapters within the dissertation, as set out in Annex 5.

(3)  The re-use of one’s own unpublished work from an earlier award or assignment without acknowledgement.

Research students considering the inclusion of previously submitted work in their dissertation must discuss this with their supervisors, as a piece of work must not receive credit multiple times. Any re-use of submitted work must be limited and clearly referenced, including the identification of any previous award. 

All dissertations are subject to an academic integrity and plagiarism review. Annex 8 sets out the procedure for the review, including the steps to take where the nominated reviewer suspects plagiarism or where plagiarism or other transgressions in academic integrity are suspected during or after the assessment process. 

9.2.5 Deferred public access to the dissertation

At any time before the submission of the final dissertation, the candidate or the main supervisor may request deferred public access to their dissertation in whole or in part. The candidate will normally make the initial request; the main supervisor will only take the lead if there are contractual, security or safety obligations that require the supervisor’s direction. A deferral request must specify a reasonable period to meet the specific circumstances, such as preparing for publication, commercial confidentiality or individual sensitivities. Deferrals may be subject to funder and/or sponsor conditions.

A deferral will relate to the content of the dissertation; the metadata (name, title and abstract) will be made available even where a deferral has been granted.

All requests to defer access must specify the reason and include a recommendation by the Faculty PGR Director. There is guidance and a corresponding application form.  

Where a partial deferral has been requested, the request must detail how the candidate, the supervisors and, if relevant, the industrial partner will manage the redaction process. A cover sheet will be required for the redacted dissertation with a statement on the redactions agreed by the candidate, supervisors and any industrial sponsors (see Annex 4).

Any relevant contractual, security or safety obligations (including those that relate to UK export control considerations) should be itemised as part of the request. In exceptional circumstances where there is a clear rationale, a request for the final version of the dissertation to be held on a University server – rather than on Pure, the standard depository platform – for the deferral period may be included.

Deferrals of up to twelve months will be granted on the recommendation of the Faculty PGR Director. For requests for deferrals of over twelve months, the final decision rests with the Associate Pro Vice-Chancellor (PGR).

Even if a request for deferment is granted, copies of the final form of the dissertation must still be submitted as described in Section 9.6.2. Where a partial deferment has been granted, both the redacted and full versions must be submitted.

The candidate, the main supervisor or, if relevant, an industrial partner may make a request for an extension to a deferral period to the Associate Pro Vice-Chancellor (PGR), via the Academic Quality and Policy Office. Extension requests will be made on the appropriate form.