Presenting your thesis

 Formatting your thesis

Please refer to Regulation 7.4.2 for important information on how to format your thesis.

The Library Services guide 'Presenting your thesis' has been written as the standard for all theses presented for research degrees in the University of Birmingham. 

It offers guidance on the practicalities of producing your thesis in a format that is acceptable for examination and for deposit in the library. This guide does not deal with the content and academic standard required of a thesis and on these matters you are advised to consult University Regulations, your supervisor and guidance issued by your School.

Please also see the Getting your thesis ready workshop webpage.

 Thesis word limit

On submitting your thesis for examination you are required to complete a declaration form confirming the word length of your thesis. You should therefore be aware of the maximum word length for your thesis. See Regulation 7.4.2 (d).

The stated maximum number of words excludes tables, diagrams (including associated legends), appendices, list of references, footnotes and endnotes, the bibliography and any bound published material. For information on referencing styles see the iCite – referencing at the University of Birmingham webpages.

A thesis that exceeds the maximum number of words will not be accepted for examination unless permission to exceed the stated word count has been granted by the Research Progress & Awards Sub Panel. Permission to exceed the stated word count is only granted in exceptional circumstances. If you consider that you will not be able to meet the stated word limited, you are advised to discuss this with your supervisor at an early stage.

 Language of your thesis

Your thesis must be written in English, unless you have been granted exemption by the University’s Research Progress and Awards Sub Panel to submit in another language. See Regulation 7.4.2 (a).

 Acknowledging collaborative work

If any material is included in your thesis which is a result of collaborative working, you must include details of how much of the work is your own and how much is that of other people. See Regulation 7.4.1 (h).

It is also important to seek the prior agreement of those other people to make your thesis available in the University eTheses Repository. 

 Previously published or submitted work

You may include work that has already been published providing the work is properly integrated, either in the thesis or as an appendix to which reference is made - see Regulation 7.4.1 (g). It must be adequately referenced and you are advised to consult with your supervisor if you are unsure about the inclusion of any previously published work in your thesis. 

For additional information please refer to the Copyright for Researchers web page

You may not include material for assessment which has already been submitted for another degree awarded at this or any other University, unless all of the conditions set out in Regulation 7.4.1 (f) are satisfied.

If you are considering including published papers in your thesis, please read the alternative format thesis guide (Word - 22KB).


Plagiarism is a form of cheating and is a serious academic offence. It arises where work submitted is not the student's own and has been taken from another source. The original material is then hidden from the marker, either by not referencing it properly, by paraphrasing it or by not mentioning it at all.

For further information see the University’s Guidance on plagiarism for students.

All theses submitted for examination are checked through plagiarism detection software.

 Editorial help for PGR theses

A thesis submitted for examination at the University of Birmingham must be solely the postgraduate researcher’s own work (except where University Regulations permit the inclusion of appropriately referenced collaborative research or work – see Regulation 7.4.1. A postgraduate researcher must not employ a ‘ghost writer’ to write parts or all of the thesis, whether in draft or as a final version, on his/her behalf.

Editors, whether they are formal supervisors, informal mentors, family or friends or professional, need to be clear about the extent and nature of help they offer in the editing of University of Birmingham PGRs theses and dissertations. Supervisors of PGRs also need to be clear about the role of the third party editors as well as their own editorial role.

PGRs may use third party editorial assistance (paid or voluntary) from an outside source.  This must be with the knowledge and support of supervisors and the use of third party editorial assistance must be stated in the thesis acknowledgement page.

A ‘third party’ editor cannot be used:

  • To change the text of the thesis so as to clarify and/or develop the ideas and arguments;
  • To reduce the length of the thesis so it falls within the specified word limit;
  • To correct information within the thesis;
  • To change ideas and arguments put forward within the thesis; and/or
  • To translate the thesis into English.

A ‘third party’ editor can be used to offer advice on:

  • Spelling and punctuation;
  • Formatting and sorting of footnotes and endnotes for consistency and order;
  • Ensuring the thesis follows the conventions of grammar and syntax in written English;
  • Shortening long sentences and editing long paragraphs;
  • Changing passives and impersonal usages into actives, vice versa as may be appropriate;
  • Improving the positioning of tables and illustrations and the clarity, grammar, spelling and punctuation of any text in or under tables and illustrations; and
  • Ensuring consistency of page numbers, headers and footers.

Where a third party editor is used it is the PGR’s responsibility to provide the third party editor with a copy of this statement (Word - 20KB) and ensure they complete the Third Party Editor Declaration Form (Word - 32KB) confirming their compliance with this statement.

When submitting the thesis the PGR must record in the Acknowledgements page the form of contribution the ‘third party’ editor has made, by stating for example, “this thesis was copy edited for conventions of language, spelling and grammar by ABC Editing Ltd”.

Please also see the Code of Practice on Academic Integrity.

 Intellectual property rights

These rights generally belong to the student, but if your work is considered to be commercially significant students may be required to assign their rights to the University. 

For further information please see:

 Can't find what you're looking for?

To contact the Research Administration Team with general enquiries relating to the presentation of your thesis please submit an online enquiry



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