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 under the procedure for dealing with plagiarism as 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

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 dissertation may be submitted at any time between three months before the end of the minimum period of study and the end of the maximum period of study (unless stated otherwise in the regulations for the specific degree). It must be submitted within the maximum period of study or the student will be deemed to have withdrawn due to lapse of time.

Where the end of the maximum period of study 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 submission point at the end of the maximum period of study, a request may be made to the Faculty PGR Director for an emergency extension (see Section 6.4).

A candidate whose period of study has been extended must submit their dissertation by the end of the extended maximum period of study.

Dissertations submitted after the end of the maximum period of study (taking into account any approved period of suspension or extension) will not be examined.

The minimum and maximum periods of study for the degree are listed in Section 4.3. If a suspension or extension is granted this will extend the period of study (see Section 6.4).

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 the end of the period of study.

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.

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.

 9.2.3 Method of submission

The candidate must submit a hard copy of their dissertation for each of their examiners, in temporary bindings, to the Academic Quality and Policy Office.  For most candidates, the required number of copies will be two but in cases where there are more than two examiners, further copies will be required.

The receipt of the hard copies at a formal University submission location (see http://www.bristol.ac.uk/directory/exams/research-degree/your-dissertation/) forms the submission date in the student record, as these copies are required for examination. The submission date must be before the end of the maximum period of study (see Section 9.2.2).

The candidate must also submit an electronic copy of their dissertation for text comparison checking through Turnitin to meet the pre-examination requirement for an academic integrity and plagiarism review (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 hard copies have been submitted.

Examiners will be posted a hard copy of the dissertation and they may also request an electronic copy from the Academic Quality and Policy Office.

The dissertation, in hard or electronic copy, 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

Plagiarism is claiming the work of others, intentionally or by omission, as one’s own. See Section 2.3 on academic integrity and Section 9.2.1 on proofreading the dissertation.

If a candidate re-uses their own work from an earlier award, assignment or publication without acknowledgement this is deemed to be academic misconduct (and is sometimes called ‘self-plagiarism’). In order to avoid this issue research students are recommended to follow the guidance below:

a)    It is NOT permitted to submit the same work for two separate awards, whether the awards are both at the University of Bristol and/or elsewhere. If a candidate wishes to include, in whole or in part, work that has previously been submitted at the University of Bristol or elsewhere, for an award for which they are currently registered, then it is essential that this is clearly cited and referenced correctly with the previous award identified. It is important that candidates realise that Higher Education Institutions cannot award credit multiple times for the same piece of work, so it is recommended that the inclusion of previously submitted work is only done sparingly and following discussion and guidance from the supervisory team.

b)    Research students are strongly encouraged to publish their work, including prior to submission and examination. However, it is essential that they include appropriate referencing of such published work in their dissertation. A summary of authors’ contributions to any publications resulting from the dissertation should be included within the dissertation to provide clarity on each author’s contribution. 

c)    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

d)    Individual faculties and schools may have additional policies and guidelines regarding the inclusion of published work in a dissertation.  Students should consult their supervisors to determine if there are any additional considerations that pertain to them.

The University reserves the right to use all legitimate means at its disposal to detect instances of plagiarism. Submitted work is therefore checked in accordance with the procedure set out in Annex 8. Plagiarism may also be detected by examiners as part of the examination process.

If plagiarism is detected through electronic text checking (or in exceptional cases through a manual check – see section 9.2.3) or by the examiners, the matter will be dealt with in accordance with the procedure set out in Annex 8.

 9.2.5 Deferred access to the dissertation

At any time before the submission of the final dissertation, the candidate or the main supervisor may request deferred 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. Details of the procedure to be followed, and the corresponding application form, are available at http://www.bristol.ac.uk/directory/exams/research-degree/deferred-access/.  

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 available at http://www.bristol.ac.uk/directory/exams/research-degree/deferred-access/.