Writing and submitting your thesis is (almost) the final stage of completing your PhD. It can be the most stressful and unpleasant part of the process… but it can also be rewarding to see the story of your last three years’ work fall into place.
This post is a miscellaneous collection of advice and resources about the submission process, most of which have been passed down from the very first members of OPIG. Hopefully it will be useful to have it all in the same place for present and future members. Feel free to comment here if you have any tips I have missed!
All information and links that I’ve included are correct at the time of writing (for Oxford University Statistics students) but you should always use the university’s guidelines as your primary resource.
The very beginning: the plan
Don’t spend too long on this! But you should have an idea of your planned chapter titles and an overall story for your book. Also useful is a timeline for when you will finish drafts of chapters by. Try to be realistic with this. If you decide to change your thesis title you should fill out an application for change of thesis title form (GSO.6). Make sure you look up any restrictions (word/page limits etc.) which may apply, and confirm your hand-in date.
It’s a good idea to decide what you will use to write your thesis. Most OPIG members use LaTeX. There are some great thesis templates out there but the one most people tend to use is one from Cambridge’s Engineering department. You can do a fair bit of customisation within that template… changing fonts, headers, titles and more, but it’s a great starting point.
When the finish line’s in sight: choosing examiners
A couple of months before you are planning to submit your thesis you should discuss with your supervisor(s) potential examiners. Your supervisor can informally check with them if they are happy to examine you and then you should fill out an appointment of examiners form (GSO.3). You can also change your thesis title on this form without filling in GSO.6.
Your final document is likely to be over 100 pages with thousands of words (or potential typos as you might come to call them). A great LaTeX spell checker is aspell which should already be installed on your work machine. To spell check a .tex file (ignoring all TeX notation… apart from multiple citations I found!) using a British dictionary simply type:
aspell --lang=en_GB -t -c filename.tex
You’re absolutely guaranteed to still have typos floating around but it’s a decent start. You (and others if you can get them) should manually proof-read as well!
Your thesis should be set out on numbered, portrait A4 pages. It should be double spaced and the inner (bound) margin should be 3-3.5cm. For more details on the formatting required check out the university’s regulations.
Printing and binding
When you’re happy with your proof-reading (you’re still almost guaranteed to have remaining typos) you’ll have to print and bind your finished book! To comply with university guidelines you will need to submit two copies, for each of your examiners, to the exam schools. You may also like to print a copy for yourself (you will need one to take with you into your viva). Before you start, if you are printing in colour at the department make sure you have enough printer credit by emailing IT (let them know the printer and your Bod card number and they will top you up if necessary).
If you are planning to print your copies double sided you may want to buy your own paper of higher quality than that provided by the department (at least 100gsm). As of October 2014, the Oxford Print Centre was selling the cheapest packs of 100gsm paper we could find but sold out close to deadline day! Also check out WHSmiths or Ryman’s.
You might want to do a test run of a few colour pages of your thesis before you send the whole file to be printed. Printing at 1200dpi (instead of the default 600dpi) can improve the appearance of your figures considerably. You may want to stay late at the office to print so you are not disturbed by other print jobs during office hours.
Your thesis should be securely bound in either hard or soft cover. Loose-leaf or spiral binding won’t be accepted. There are several binding facilities through Oxford but I used the Oxford Print Centre just down the road, which also guarantees a one hour service for soft binding even on submission days.
Submit your completed copies to the exam schools, noting their opening hours (08.30-17:00, Monday to Friday), take the traditional photo, and bask in your newly found FREEDOM (try to forget about the viva!).