Research Degrees in the Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences Division


Applicants who are admitted to undertake research under the supervision of the Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences Divisional Board may, exceptionally, be permitted by the divisional board to undertake their research in a well-found laboratory outside the University. Such candidates shall be dispensed from the residence requirements, but shall be required to attend the University for such instruction as the division and department concerned shall require. Before admitting a candidate on this basis, the department concerned shall be required to satisfy itself and the divisional board that appropriate arrangements are in place for approving all aspects of the student's academic work, including the following:

  • (i) the availability of the equipment and facilities necessary for the project in the agency concerned;

  • (ii) the existence of a wider collaboration between the department and the agency in which the student is based;

  • (iii) the subject of their doctoral studies;

  • (iv) satisfactory induction procedures;

  • (v) satisfactory health and safety arrangements;

  • (vi) satisfactory supervision arrangements, to include specification of a minimum number of contact hours between student and supervisor, which shall include not less than two face-to-face meetings between student and supervisor, for a total of at least 8 hours, each term;

  • (vii) satisfactory arrangements for monitoring the student's progress within the department;

  • (viii) provision for the student to attend the University for such instruction as the division and department shall require.

Dispensation from these rules shall be sought from the Director of the Graduate School through the departmental Director of Graduate Studies.

2. Examination by integrated thesis

An integrated thesis may constitute an acceptable thesis for students registered on the following programmes: DPhil and MSc by Research Physical & Theoretical Chemistry, DPhil and MSc by Research Earth Sciences, DPhil and MSc by Research Plant Sciences, DPhil and MSc by Research Engineering Science, DPhil and MSc by Research Statistics, DPhil and MSc by Research Zoology.

An integrated thesis may either be a hybrid of conventional chapters and high-quality scientific papers, or be fully paper-based. Regardless of the format, the content of the thesis should reflect the amount, originality and level of work expected for a conventional thesis. It should not be assumed that the act of publication (in whatever form) means the work is of suitable academic quality and content for inclusion in a thesis, and students should discuss all papers in detail with their supervisor before including. It would be anticipated that the candidate would be a lead contributor, rather than a minor author, on at least some of the papers in order to consider this format. There is no minimum, or maximum, number of papers a candidate is expected/allowed to include as part of such a thesis and it will remain a matter for the examiners to conclude whether the contributions are equivalent to that which would be expected of a standard DPhil.

Any papers utilised must concern a common subject, constitute a continuous theme and conform to the following guidelines:

  • (i) If a candidate for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy wishes to be examined through an integrated thesis, they should apply for permission to be examined in this way when they apply for confirmation of status, as detailed in the relevant departmental handbook. A candidate for the Degree of Master of Science by Research should normally apply for permission to be examined in this way six months before submitting their papers for examination. To revert to being examined by a conventional thesis rather than an integrated thesis, the candidate must inform their department of the change as detailed in the relevant departmental handbook.

  • (ii) Work can be included regardless of its acceptance status for publication but candidates may be questioned on the publication status of their work by the examiners.

  • (iii) Any submitted/published papers should relate directly to the candidate’s approved field of study, and should have been written whilst holding the status of PRS or a student for the MSc (by Research), or DPhil.

  • (iv) The collection of papers must include a separate introduction, a full literature review, discussion and a conclusion, so that the integrated thesis can be read as a single, coherent document.

  • (v) The candidate must ensure all matters of copyright are addressed before a paper’s inclusion. A pre-print version of any published papers should be included as standard.

  • (vi) Joint/multi-authored papers are common in science based subjects and thus acceptable if the candidate can both defend the paper in full and provide a written statement of authorship, agreed by all authors, that certifies the extent of the candidate’s own contribution. A standard template is available for this purpose.

The length and scope of theses, including word limits for each subject area in the Division are set out in Departmental guidelines.