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Department of Social Anthropology


Before submission

Students should refer to the Student Registry website for up-to-date information concerning intention to submit and appointment of examiners: Submitting your Thesis for the Ph.D., M.Sc. and M.Litt. Degrees

Preparing the dissertation for submission

Dissertations are submitted to the Student Registry, 4 Mill Lane, Cambridge and students should refer to the Student Registry website for up-to-date information concerning dissertation submission: Submitting your Thesis for the Ph.D., M.Sc. and M.Litt. Degrees.

Word count

A PhD dissertation must not exceed 80,000 words, and will normally be near that length. The word limit includes all footnotes, text, figures, tables and photographs, but excludes the bibliography, cited references and appendices. Only under exceptional circumstances, and after prior application, will the Degree Committee allow a student to exceed these limits.

Please see also PhD style guidelines

Appointment of Examiners

Two to three months ahead of your planned date of submission, please complete the Appointment of Examiners Form. Before you submit the form, you and your supervisor must discuss who your supervisor will nominate as potential External Examiners: normally two suggested people. You are allowed to specify anyone you do NOT wish to have as your External: you do not need to give reasons for this. Your supervisor is not permitted to suggest potential Internal Examiners.

Once you have completed the Appointment of Examiners Form, please return it the Administration Office with a copy of the abstract of your dissertation. Do not submit this form, or the accompanying abstract, without agreeing them with your supervisor.

Examiners are appointed by the Archaeology, Anthropology and Sociology Degree Committee on the basis of the Department's recommendation, and due account will be taken of the names proposed by supervisors. The relevant committees do not meet during University vacations so you should apply for appointment of your examiners well in advance of the end of term (see University term dates) to avoid delay. It is especially important to bear this in mind if you plan to submit at the end of Easter term, because it may be difficult for your examiners to agree a date for your viva during the summer months, especially if you have failed to submit your application for appointment of examiners at least two months before submission of your thesis. It is vital for you to discuss timing with your supervisor well in advance of your planned submission date. 


When you submit your Appointment of Examiners Form, you must also submit an Abstract of your dissertation, of not more than 500 words in length.”The Abstract must be approved by your supervisor prior to submission.

Please note: The Abstract is an overview of the aims and concerns of your thesis, not merely a summary of the thesis contents. The purpose of the Abstract is similar to that of abstracts in peer-reviewed journal articles: it should be a coherent overview giving prospective Examiners a sense of your project's purpose(s) and key themes by identifying the central problem or question you address and setting out your approach and orientation in regard to existing literature and debates.

If in doubt, consult your supervisor and read the Abstracts submitted with recent dissertations in our Department. Your Abstract may replicate some of the phrasing of your dissertation (e.g. sentences from your introductory chapter) but it should not be thought of as a substitute for, or component element of, your dissertation's Introduction or Conclusion.

Format: your Abstract of no more than 500 words should be in 12-point font. It will form an important part of the text your Examiners evaluate, so its phrasing should be appropriately academic: that means using phrases such as 'this dissertation explores' [or ‘is concerned with’ or ‘focuses on’, etc] instead of casual phrases such as 'this research looks at'. 


The Department requires PhD students to submit their thesis within four years from their date of registration (excluding intermissions). However, as most PhD degrees are unfunded in the 4th year, students should consider 12 months following return from the field the normal time required to complete your thesis.

Your submission deadline (course end date) is given in your CamSIS-service account. If you think this date is incorrect, please contact the Graduate Administrator. If you are unable to make the agreed submission date, you must apply to the Student Registry for permission to defer date of submission. Applications are not agreed automatically and there must be a good academic reason for the request.

The Examination procedure can take several weeks and frequently much longer. If you are expecting to leave the UK after completing your course of research, you must submit your dissertation early enough for your Examiners to have a reasonable time in which to read it and to hold an oral examination before you leave. If you leave before having the oral examination you will need to return to the UK.

If you require a visa to return to the UK, please contact the International Student Office. You must not return for your viva on a general visitor visa. 

Oral examination (viva)

Details of the Oral Examination process is available on the Graduate Examinations pages of the University website.

Some informal advice for the PhD viva (PDF)