Research Degrees in History

  • 1. First year course work

    Research students in History (which includes [For students starting before MT 2018: medieval history, ]economic and social history, history of science and medicine, and history of art) are admitted as Probationer D.Phil students, and are required to undertake the following work in their probationary period:

    • (a) attend such lectures, seminars and master’s classes as their supervisor shall determine; and

      (b) present one seminar paper during the first year. Such paper shall normally be assessed by two assessors. Such assessors should not include the candidate’s supervisor. The work done for the seminar paper may form the basis of the essay required under (2) below.

  • Applications for admission/transfer to full M.Litt. or D.Phil. status shall be accompanied by:

    • (1) two copies of a statement (of 500 to 1,000 words) of the subject of the thesis and the manner in which the candidate proposes to treat it; such a statement will also normally include a descriptive title for the research project, an indication of identified or envisaged primary sources, an outline of the time table for background reading, archival or field work, and writing-up; also an account of how the research project relates to work done for any relevant master’s dissertation;

      (2) two copies of a piece of written work, between [Until MT 2018: 5,000 and 8,000 ][From MT 2018: 3,000 and 5,000 ]words long, being on the topic of the proposed thesis (usually an early draft of a chapter of the thesis); if the submitted work is not a draft chapter, then the candidate should provide an explanation of the written work’s relationship to the thesis;

      (3) two copies of a confidential report from the supervisor(s), which should be sent direct to the Faculty’s Graduate Office.

  • Successful completion of the work prescribed above is not in itself sufficient qualification for students to advance to M.Litt. or D.Phil. status.

    2. Transfer to full M.Litt. or D.Phil. status

    • (i) The application form, endorsed by the candidate’s society and supervisor, and the supporting material as outlined under 1. above shall normally be presented to the Faculty’s Graduate Office not later than Friday of eighth week in the candidate’s first Hilary Term (or Friday of eighth week in the candidate's second Hilary Term in the case of part-time students). In exceptional cases the Graduate Studies Committee may permit the candidate to postpone submission: candidates seeking such postponement should apply for deferral of transfer of status well in advance.

      (ii) The Graduate Office shall send both copies of the written work and the confidential report to the candidate’s interviewer who will pass on one copy to the second assessor nominated as below.

      (iii) The interviewer shall then, together with a second assessor appointed in conjunction with the Director of Graduate Studies, examine the candidate orally. The interviewer shall be entitled, after consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies, to appoint a deputy to act instead. When the interviewer is also the supervisor, the Director of Graduate Studies shall act as if he or she were the interviewer and shall have power to appoint a deputy and the second assessor.

      (iv) The assessors shall report to the Graduate Studies Committee in writing whether the candidate’s subject is satisfactory for the degree in question and whether he or she is competent to tackle it.2 If they think this is not the case, they may recommend resubmission after a set period of further probation; such resubmission will constitute the second attempt at Transfer of Status provided for in the General Regulations for the degree. If the assessors disagree, the Graduate Studies Committee shall decide what should be done.

      (v) Candidates holding the status of M.Litt. student may apply for transfer to D. Phil. status at any time, within the statutory limit of nine terms. Their Transfer of Status application will be considered according to the procedure laid down for confirmation of D. Phil. status (see below). The interviewer appointed by the Faculty Board shall follow that procedure, except that the interviewer will be asked to state explicitly whether in addition to this procedure a subsequent formal confirmation of D. Phil. status would be desirable, or not.

  • 3. Confirmation of D.Phil. status

    • (i) Application for confirmation of D. Phil. status, with endorsements by the candidate’s society and supervisor, shall normally be presented to the Faculty’s Graduate Office not later than [Until MT 2018: Monday ][From MT 2018: Friday ]of third week in the eighth term after admission to the D. Phil. programme (or, in the case of part-time students, in the candidate's twelfth term after admission to the D. Phil. Programme, or, if switching from full-time to part-time while on-course, an equivalent number of terms). In exceptional cases the Graduate Studies Committee may permit the candidate to postpone submission by up to one term: candidates seeking such postponement should apply to the Committee through the Director of Graduate Studies well in advance.

      (ii) Application for confirmation of D.Phil status shall be accompanied by: (1) a full outline of chapters (1-2 pages), summarising the scope of individual chapters and their state of completion, including a timetable for completion of the work which remains to be done before submission of the thesis; (2) a draft abstract of the thesis as a whole, of between 1,000 and 2,000 words; (3) a sample chapter, of between 6,000 and 10,000 words; (4) a confidential report from the supervisor(s) which should be sent direct to the Faculty’s Graduate Office. The Graduate Office shall send the written work and the confidential report to the interviewer appointed by the Faculty Board.

      (iii) The interviewer shall then examine the candidate orally. If the interviewer considers it necessary, a second assessor may be appointed in conjunction with the Director of Graduate Studies. In cases where the interviewer is also the supervisor, the Director of Graduate Studies shall act as if they were the interviewer and shall have power to appoint a deputy and, if necessary, a second assessor.

      (iv) The interviewer shall report to the Graduate Studies Committee in writing whether the candidate’s subject is satisfactory and whether he or she is competent to tackle it. If confirmation is not recommended the interviewer may recommend reapplication after a further period of study (within the timeframe provided for in the General Regulations) or alternatively transfer to M.Litt. status, subject to the general regulations governing confirmation of status.

  • 4. Theses

    Theses submitted for the Degree of M.Litt. should not exceed 50,000 words and those submitted for the Degree of D.Phil. should not exceed 100,000 words, including all notes, appendices, any source material being edited, and all other parts of the thesis whatsoever, excluding only the bibliography[From MT 2018: and abstract]; any thesis exceeding these limits is liable to be rejected on that ground. Any application for permission to exceed the limit should be submitted with a detailed explanation and statement of the amount of excess length requested, and with a covering letter from the supervisor. Applications should be made as soon as possible and may not be made later than the last day of the fifth week of the term before that in which application is made for appointment of examiners. The presentation and footnotes should comply with the requirements specified in the Regulations of the Education Committee for the degrees of M.Litt. and D.Phil. and follow the Conventions for the presentation of essays, dissertations and theses of the Faculty of History.

    All candidates must submit with their thesis two printed or typewritten copies of an abstract of the thesis, which shall not normally exceed 1,500 words for the M.Litt. or 2,500 words for the D. Phil., prepared by the student. This is in addition to the requirement to submit an abstract of not more than 300 words in length required by the Education Committee's regulations. Copies of both abstracts shall be bound into the copy of the thesis which shall be deposited in the Bodleian Library. One loose copy of the 300 words abstract, printed on a single page, must be submitted together with the Library copy to the Examination Schools.

1 It should be noted that admission or change to study on a part-time basis in History is reviewed on an annual basis, and is subject to decisions by the University on the availability of doctoral research by means of part-time study.

2 Assessors are asked to note the important distinction in the criteria for the two degrees. In the case of the M.Litt. candidates are required to have made ‘a worthwhile contribution to knowledge or understanding in the field of learning within which the subject of the thesis falls’, while for the D.Phil. it is necessary to have made ‘a significant and substantial contribution in the particular field of learning within which the subject of the thesis falls’. The phrase ‘a significant and substantial contribution’, in the case of doctoral theses, is interpreted as work that displays stature, judgement, and persuasiveness in historical exposition and the shaping of conclusions. But examiners are explicitly requested to bear in mind that their judgement of the significance of the work submitted should be based on what may reasonably be expected of a capable and diligent graduate student after three or, at most, four years of full-time study. Similarly, the requirement that candidates for the M.Litt. should make ‘a worthwhile contribution to knowledge or understanding’ in their chosen field is qualified by the request that examiners should take into account what may be expected after two years of full-time study.