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The Thesis

The thesis
Beginning the thesis
Prior publication
Word limits

The Thesis

All higher degrees require a thesis. A thesis is a carefully written exposition of the candidate's own scholarly research related to the proposal accepted by the Postgraduate Studies Committee.

The thesis* should include:
A section that outlines the 'thesis' or argument that will be defended by the candidate at the oral examination+ This section normally outlines the research questions to be addressed and the theoretical research, contextual or disciplinary basis of the candidate's research, and provides an overview of the remaining chapters of the thesis.
A number of sections that, taken together, systematically develop the argument of the thesis as a whole Although structures, methods and formats may differ between and within disciplines, these sections must include detailed discussion of methodology, critically engage with the relevant literature, develop the argument in a sustained and coherent manner and be brought to a logical and well reasoned conclusion.
It is important for candidates and their supervisors to realize that the written thesis, with careful argument and presentation is a fundamental part of the evidence that the candidate is - or is not - worthy of the award of a research degree. No matter how good the candidate's research may be, it is an essential condition of the award of the degree that the research be presented in a well written thesis that clearly justifies the candidate's research methods and conclusions.
* A doctoral thesis requires a more in-depth theoretical engagement and/or research enquiry than does an MPhil thesis.
+ PhD or EdD candidates only; oral examinations are not normally required for MPhil theses.

Additionally, the candidate's written thesis will normally contain:

  • a statement of intellectual ownership
  • an abstract
  • a table of contents
  • a table of diagrams and illustrations (where applicable)
  • a detailed description of the candidate's research methods, findings and data and the overall conclusions of the thesis
  • a bibliography
  • glossaries of important words and phrases and keys to symbols used, as may be appropriate.

Beginning The Thesis

Candidates are strongly encouraged to begin writing up as early as possible, while still engaged in planning, data gathering and/or data analysis. This reduces the often daunting task facing the student if writing up is delayed until it is the only remaining task. The bibliography should also be prepared and up-dated throughout, not left until the final writing-up of the thesis. Some useful website addresses: - go to PHD Stages then Absolute beginners then Some writing Tips - on this web page are links to thesis formatting using word both for a PC and a Mac

Prior Publication

While it is permissible for parts of the research to have been published prior to submission of the thesis, it is not acceptable for the candidate merely to bind together a number of research papers in a volume that has no sustained thread of argument connecting the various 'sections'. It is not acceptable for a PhD thesis to include papers published prior to enrolment. If the papers are of exceptional quality a DSc or other professional doctorate is the appropriate qualification. Candidates applying for a professional doctorate must be either associated with this university or graduates of a New Zealand university.

Published work/papers may only be included in a thesis if the published work:

  • is entirely the candidate's own
  • fits into the thesis so that it forms part of a coherent whole
  • does not include material which substantially duplicates other parts of the thesis
  • is reproduced so that it can be readily bound into the thesis

Word Limits

Unless the Postgraduate Studies Committee approves otherwise in an individual case, a thesis normally contains no more than 100,000 words for PhD or 60,000 for EdD. An MPhil should contain no more than 50,000 words. These guidelines exclude the bibliography and appendices.

Full information concerning the form and style of theses 'Guide to the Presentation of Dissertations and Theses at the University of Waikato' is provided on the University of Waikato Library website: and is also available in hard copy from the Library or the Postgraduate Studies and Scholarships Office. The University of Waikato Calendar also contains information:


Theses will normally be written in English, but a candidate may request permission to submit a thesis written in Maori. Candidates must give the Postgraduate Studies Office six months notice of intention to submit a thesis in Maori so that arrangements can be made for translation.

Candidates may submit a thesis in a language other than English or Maori only with the special permission of the Postgraduate Studies Committee. Such permission will normally be given only if the use of the language is appropriate to the topic of the thesis and examiners can be appointed who will examine in that language.

Theses submitted in any language other than English must include a translation of the title page and abstract in English.

Theses submitted in any language (including English) are expected to conform to the normal standards of presentation (grammar, spelling, style) of written work in that language.