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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 thesis for submission

The Department will provide you with information on how to upload your thesis and associated documents for examination.  Following examination Student Registry will provide you with information about submission of the hard-bound and electronic thesis. Theses 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 thesis 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

At least three months ahead of your planned date of submission (and depending on when the relevant Committees meet, sometimes earlier than this), prepare your thesis abstract (see below), discuss the draft abstract with your supervisor, and notify the Postgraduate Administrator of your intention to submit. If your intended submission date is the same as your Submission Deadline as recorded in CamSIS, the Postgraduate Administrator will likely write to your supervisor about the upcoming submission process.  The Postgraduate Administrator will ask your supervisor to complete the ‘Appointment of Examiners’ form and provide information required to ensure consultation with the chair of the department’s Postgraduate Education Committee. Your supervisor will give input into the selection of possible external examiners (but not into the selection of internal examiners). Your supervisor should submit your abstract and the Appointment of Examiners form to the Postgraduate Administrator.

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 any time between the end of Easter term and the end of September 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 remind your supervisor to submit your application for appointment of examiners in good time. It is vital for you to discuss timing with your supervisor well in advance of your planned submission date. 


Along with your Appointment of Examiners Form, you must also submit an Abstract of your thesis, 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 theses in our Department. Your Abstract may replicate some of the phrasing of your thesis (e.g. sentences from your introductory chapter) but it should not be thought of as a substitute for, or component element of, your thesis' 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 thesis 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 Postgraduate 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 thesis 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 Postgraduate Examinations pages of the University website.

Some informal advice for the PhD viva (PDF)