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The writing-up phase following fieldwork is a period of intensive work with your supervisor. Your supervisor will arrange a Return From Fieldwork Interview (with your Faculty Advisor also present if possible). The interview will give you the opportunity to reflect on your fieldwork experience, identify your current learning needs and discuss your timetable for completion and address your supervision and other practical arrangements during your writing up. It is important to discuss in detail with your supervisor your timetable for timely completion of your writing up, to ensure that you complete well in time for your submission deadline.

Writing up takes from one year to a maximum of fifteen months, and includes the process of drafting, revising and finalising your dissertation. It may also include an interim appraisal of your work.

Students writing up are expected to be in residence in Cambridge and participate fully in the writing-up programme; if, with agreement of their supervisor, they wish to reside outside of Cambridge or spend part of their writing-up time elsewhere (e.g. to do something that will contribute directly to their research – see the section on ‘predoctoral fellowships/internships’), they must apply for ‘Permission to Reside Outside University Precincts‘ or ‘Leave to Work Away‘ respectively.

Once you have submitted your thesis, the remainder of your registration period can be used as a valuable post-submission time during which you can prepare for your viva and pursue other valuable career-development activities such as writing conference papers, participating in and/or organising workshops and conferences, producing articles and other work for publication, plus teaching and planning further or new research.

On this page:

Notification of Return

Writing-up Programme

Writing-up Facilities

I.T. Provision

Interim Appraisal of Work

Deadline for Submission

Fourth Year Funding

Pre-doctoral Internships/Postdoctoral Affiliate/Fellowship Schemes


Notification of Return

As soon as you have returned from the field, please complete a Return from Fieldwork Form and return it to the Administration Office. The form will ensure that we have an up-to-date address and other contact details. The Department of Social Anthropology provides desk space for post-fieldwork doctoral research students who are writing up their dissertations in the graduate basement. See the section below on Desk Space for further details.


Writing-up Programme

The writing up seminar

All students returned from the field are expected to attend the writing up seminars, which are held on Wednesday afternoons during term. Presentations are prepared and circulated in advance via the PhD Writing Up Moodle Course so that maximum feedback can be given to the presenter. A senior member of staff chairs the seminar but its liveliness and success depend very much on the quality and collegiality that come from the student participants.

The senior seminar

Held at 4.15 on Friday during term, the seminar is open to all PhD students, including those in the pre-fieldwork year. During your writing up, in particular, you should endeavour to take an active part in the senior seminar. This is an opportunity both to try out your ideas and to acquire professional experience and training in seminar and conference work. As you submit your dissertation you may be asked to give a presentation to the senior seminar.


Writing-up Facilities

The Department’s writing-up room (room B3) is an open space within the Department for Ph.D. students to occupy temporary desks in order to undertake their research and writing. Colleges may also have work rooms available for use, and there are also a limited numbers of places available in the Mond work room, allocated via a yearly call for applications. All Social Anthropology writing-up students can use the work spaces in the basement writing-up room on an open-access, first-come/first-served basis (i.e. no personally-reserved desks) for the period of their registration. Desks should not be used for storage, so that spaces are always readily available to those coming in to work. Books and papers may be left on the bookshelves or in the lockers. Access to the basement is via a swipe card system using your University card. You will need to take your card to the Abby Scott in the Centre for Family Research (the floor above Sociology in the Old Cavendish Building) to have your card programmed for access to the basement.

Lockers are available to writing-up for students to store personal effects. Keys are available from the admin office on payment of a £10 deposit. It is essential that Ph.D. students take responsibility for the basement area by ensuring that any windows they open are carefully closed. Items are left in the building at the owner’s risk, sensible precautions should be taken with valuable or irreplaceable items.

There are also kitchen facilities, including a fridge and microwave, as part of the area which all students are welcome to use. In order to keep the area clean and hygienic for everyone, we would ask you to observe the following house-keeping rules:

  • Don’t leave dirty cutlery or crockery in the writing-up room or kitchen sink; wash up all items or cutlery and crockery immediately after use.
  • Use the spatter cover when heating food in the microwave.
  • The fridge is for in-date food and drink only. Any items that are past their use-by date or have gone off will be removed.

If there are problems with the cleanliness of the kitchen or other areas, please let the Graduate Administrator know.


I.T. Provision

WiFi access

WiFi access (via UniofCam WiFi or Eduroam) is available in both the River Resource Room and the Common Room in the main building for use with your own laptops.

Open-Access computing facilities

In addition to a limited number of networked computers available in the writing-up room, there are a number of Open Access computing rooms (Managed Cluster Services/MCFs) nearby.

Writing-up room (Basement B3)

  • We provide a number of PCs in the basement for use by writing-up students. These will be configured to allow a student to log onto any of the PCs using their CRS ID.
  • Anyone wishing to use the PCs in the SocAnth basement should contact the IT help desk ( to obtain a password.
  • Each login will be allocated a small amount of network storage (1GB). When you log in on one of the B3 PCs, you will have a “Home” drive (drive H: ) which is where you should save files to. This will ensure that if you later use a different PC in B3, your files will still be accessible.
  • The network storage provided is not backed up. It is the student’s responsibility to ensure that they have adequate backups of their files.
  • There are two networked printers in the basement which are available through the PCs.  
  • Printing from personal laptops can be done in one of two ways:
    1. Plug the laptop into the smaller printer using the USB cable attached to the printer
    2. Use Eduroam wireless and set up the laptop to print through the network to one of the printers
  • There are public workstations (PWFs) available in the SPS Library which is next door to SocAnth. These provide access to other software which is not available on the SocAnth PCs. Note that data stored on the PWFs is  only accessible from the SocAnth PCs using DS-files (see below).
  • Any IT enquiries or problems should be forwarded to the helpdesk at, or in the event of an urgent problem, telephone 62842.

File storage

If you regularly use the MCS PCs (formerly PWFs) that are located around the University and colleges, you are also able to access your data remotely through a browser (DS-Files). This means that you do not need to be on an MCS PC (or Mac) to access files and if you use any of the PCs in the SocAnth basement room B3, or your own machine, you will still be able to access any files you use on the MCS.

The link required for  DS-Files is:


Interim Appraisal of Work

In specific cases the PhD Committee may decide to appraise the work in progress of students in the writing up stage. This would happen approximately nine to twelve months after return from the field and is compulsory for ESRC funded students and Gates scholars. See Interim appraisal.


Deadline for Submission

The Department expects students to submit their dissertation within ten terms. The Board of Graduate Studies has an absolute deadline of four years or 12 terms after you began your PhD. Needless to say, you should plan to complete your dissertation within the ten term period and not aim for the final deadline. If you need to go beyond this deadline you may apply for an Extension to Registration date via your self-service account. Applications are granted only for very good reason and must have the full support of your supervisor.

Please note that for 2010 PhD cohort onwards, PhD, MSc and MLitt students will be automatically removed from the Register of Graduate Students at the 4 year point, unless an application to defer is agreed by the Board in advance of the 4 year date being reached.

Adverse circumstances such as illness may temporarily prevent you from working on your thesis and thus provide grounds for extending your submission deadline. In order to so you would need to complete an application for intermission for the relevant period via your self-service account. Such applications cannot be grated retrospectively, therefore you must apply for this as soon as the illness/adverse circumstances occur.

NB: if you intermit after your ninth term, you need to include on the leave to intermit form a request for ‘a new submission date of xx/xx/xxxx’ that takes into account the period when you were unable to continue with your research. Before applying to extend your registration date or intermit, you should consult with both your supervisor and the Graduate Administrator.


Fourth Year Funding

The Department is unable to offer financial assistance to students who have reached the end of the funded period of their PhD. Some Colleges are able to offer bursaries to students in the final stages of writing up, whilst  the University has some limited resources to assist students in the case of financial hardship. See the University's advice on Fees and Funding for further information.

Students who have come to the end of their funding and need to undertake employment in order to support themselves should apply to temporarily withdraw from the University.

Pre-doctoral Internships/Postdoctoral Affiliate/ Fellowship Schemes

Students sometimes wish to do part of their writing up outside Cambridge under funded schemes of the kind usually known as predoctoral internships or predoctoral fellowships, usually once they completed 2 or more terms of the writing-up programme  in Cambridge. These should not be confused with the Junior Research Fellowships offered by Cambridge and Oxford Colleges. Pre-doctoral fellowships/internships such as those offered by various international organisations and public agencies may be a valuable enhancement of a student’s academic experience and may contribute fruitfully to their writing up. Requests are not to be granted automatically, and will only be approved if the PhD Committee are satisfied that such an affiliation will not compromise or delay the writing-up process. Therefore, any student considering applying for such a scheme must consult their supervisor in advance, and if their supervisor approves, must write to the PhD Committee via the Graduate Administrator (graduate-secretary [at], providing details of:

  • The predoctoral scheme (who, what, where etc)
  • An explanation of the academic benefits of the fellowship/internship to their doctoral research
  • A statement of how much of the thesis is currently written (in first/ second etc draft)
  • A specific timeline for completion of the thesis

The PhD Committee will need to consider whether if approved, the student should apply for intermission, or leave to work away, or if another course of action is needed. If approved by the PhD Committee, students will need to formally apply to the Board of Graduate Studies for either Leave to Work Away or Intermission via their self-service account.

Note: Applications to write-up away from Cambridge for financial reasons cannot be granted.

Postdoctoral Affiliation

The Department is able to offer the title and status of Postdoctoral Affiliate to graduate members who have recently completed their PhD. Any PhD student submitting their PhD dissertation within their 4-year registration period (excluding periods of intermission) may apply for a 12-month affiliation to the Department. The period of 12 months begins on the official date of the award of the student's PhD degree. The status of Postdoctoral Affiliate allows for continued access to University computing and library services, plus use of the Social Anthropology graduate writing-up room (space permitting), and, especially valuable: entitlement to be listed as a Postdoctoral Affiliate on the Social Anthropology departmental website, and to use the title on one's CV and letterhead. This can be a significant advantage in the process of applying for jobs, postdoctoral awards and research funding schemes.

The title of Postdoctoral Affiliate is an informal designation without remuneration. But in recognition of its value and as a measure of its significance as an attachment to the Department, it is expected that affiliates will be available to assist with our teaching needs, especially undergraduate supervision (i.e. to be Cambridge-based).  Any student wishing to apply to be a Postdoctoral Affiliate should submit their CV and a covering letter to the Graduate Administrator, Mr Dave Clark, (, for consideration by the Executive Committee. A letter of support from the student's PhD supervisor is also required.

 NB: Please note that an entirely separate and formal arrangement exists for the appointment of 'Affiliated Lecturers' by the Faculty Board. Nominations are made by the Head of Department: this is a scheme applicable to those who have been invited to contribute substantially to our teaching programme by giving courses of lectures or other significant contributions to our teaching programmes. The titles of 'Postdoctoral Affiliate' and 'Affiliated Lecturer' should not be confused. And, of course, only those appointed to be an Affiliated Lecturer by the Faculty Board may use this title.

Course Resources


For additional teaching materials please see the PhD Writing Up Moodle Course.

Please note teaching staff and students enrolled on the PhD will automatically be enrolled on the PhD Writing Up Moodle course and you will find a link to the course in the ‘My Home’ section of Moodle.