Thesis submission and examination | Law

Thesis submission and examination

The Graduate Research School has produced a document entitled "Thesis Format Guide" All research candidates should obtain a copy of this document from:

The University of New South Wales website features the Thesis Examination Management system.  This system is used to manage the submission and examination of research theses at UNSW.  Research candidates and staff are able to interact with the system via myUNSW to submit forms and track the progress of thesis examination processes.  Please visit the following website for information on this system:

Important Dates Prior to Submission

Restricted Access and Confidentiality:

It is University policy that a thesis produced from a research degree should be publicly available.  A program of advanced study should only be undertaken if these conditions can be fulfilled.  The University does however recognise that there are certain circumstances in which immediate public availability of a thesis in the library may not be desirable.  If this is the case with your thesis then you to need to apply for restricted access for a thesis.  A copy of the Restricted Access of Thesis Form is available at the following website: under the heading of Candidature and Thesis.  This form must be lodged six months prior to submission.

Notification of Intention to Submit Thesis:

Two months prior to the submission of a thesis, candidates are required to lodge a Notification of Intention to Submit form on the Thesis Examination Management system.  To access this page log-on to myUNSW and click on the “My Student Profile” tab, then click on the “Thesis Examination Management” link on the left hand side of the page, then on the “Submit Notification” button on the main menu page.

Eight weeks notice is required to allow sufficient time for examiners to be contacted and appointed and ensure that the thesis is sent for examination as soon as it is submitted.

Early Submission:

A candidate may not present a PhD thesis for examination earlier than the end of the sixth semester of candidature (full-time equivalent), a SJD thesis earlier than the end of the fourth semester of candidature (full-time equivalent) and a Master by Research thesis three semesters (full-time equivalent).  The minimum number of semesters includes credit granted towards the degree from work performed prior to enrolment at UNSW.

Under special circumstances the University recognises that some candidates may have demonstrated exceptional research performance, completed all requirements for the degree and be ready to make an early submission of a thesis that UNSW is confident will pass examination at a very high standard.  Any such request should be submitted with the support of the supervisor and Head of School to the Faculty Higher Degree Committee (HDC).

Nomination of Examiners:

Once the Notification of Intention to Submit has been lodged, the supervisor and Director of Postgraduate Research will receive notification requesting the nomination of examiners.  It is the responsibility of the supervisor or Director of Postgraduate Research to nominate examiners for the thesis.  It is University policy that the names of examiners appointed are not released to the candidate until the examination process is complete.

Two external examiners and one external reserve examiner are nominated for a PhD, SJD and Masters’ thesis.  The candidate’s supervisor and co-supervisor(s) may not be appointed as examiners.

The candidate has the right to indicate any examiner they would prefer not to examine the thesis and this can be indicated by submitting a written notification to the GRS.

Final approval of the examiners is given by the Faculty Higher Degree Committee.  This Committee ensures that appropriately qualified examiners have been appointed, that the documents candidates may have submitted regarding examiners are considered and that the nominated examiners do not have a potential conflict of interest in assessing the research.

Supervisor’s Certificate:

When a candidate submits a Notice of Intention to Submit, the supervisor is also requested to complete a Supervisor’s Certificate via the notification system.  A thesis that has not been certified for examination by the supervisor is unable to be accepted.  The Supervisor’s Certificate states that the thesis is in the correct format for examination (i.e. binding, layout, abstract, etc).  The certificate does not comment on the academic merit of the thesis and is not an endorsement that the thesis will pass examination.

Preparation and Submission:

Every candidate for the degree of Master by Research, Doctor of Philosophy or Doctor of Juridical Science, is required to submit two hard copies and one electronic copy of the thesis for examination.  The hard copies may be submitted in temporary binding, preferably in a spiral bound format. For information on the thesis submission process, please visit the GRS website:

At the completion of the examination and prior to graduation, every candidate who has satisfied requirements for the award of the degree will be required to submit a final digital copy for deposit and preservation in the University Library.


During the course or writing a thesis candidates will often utilise the work and research of others.  The use of other people’s work means the use of their copyright material and candidates should therefore be aware of what they can and cannot do with it.  As the candidate does not own this copyright, it is particularly important to understand the copyright issues involved to avoid infringing someone else’s copyright.

Copyright laws ensure that any text or image created by someone else must be acknowledged, even if the words or images are not part of an official document or publication.  If candidates intend to use other people’s work, then written permission is required before it can be included in the thesis.  Candidates must seek permission for copyright prior to lodging the final hard bound copy of the thesis in the library and digital thesis online.

Candidates need to determine if the copyright material that is being reproduced is a substantial or insubstantial part of the material.  For example, the inclusion of a whole image or diagram would constitute a substantial part of the material.  A short quotation would probably fall under the insubstantial category and therefore be permitted.

Generally the person who creates or makes the material will own the copyright in it.  This lasts for a certain period of time usually 70 years from the death of the author or creator.
Further information can be found at the following websites: and

For researchers:

Candidates should also consult the Copyright Act 1968 which can be found at

Content and Structure Rules for Theses


A PhD thesis should not normally exceed 100,000 words, a SJD should not normally exceed 70,000 words and a LLM by Research should not normally exceed 60,000 words.


The referencing style that is recommended is the Australian Guide to Legal Citation, Third Edition.

UNSW provides research candidates with free access to EndNote – EndNote is bibliographic software that allows the storage, organisation and management of references in a database.  These references are linked to word processing documents to instantly create in-text citations and bibliographies in the referencing style that is required.  To download a free copy of EndNote please visit:

The UNSW Library provides additional information and an online tutorial in the use of Endnote X:

PhD by Publication

Faculty of Law Guidelines on Submission of PhD Thesis by Publication
(Adopted: June 2011)

  1. Students intending to submit their doctoral thesis as a series of publications must discuss the suitability of this option with their supervisors as early as possible in their candidature.
  2. Students must declare their intention to submit their thesis in this format no later than the time of the confirmation of candidature review.
  3. The Chair of the confirmation panel should make a record of the student’s intention to submit the thesis in this format, and advise the Director of Postgraduate Research accordingly.
  4. The thesis as submitted should contain a minimum of four sole-authored publications (published, in press or submitted for publication), the total length of which should not exceed the length specified for a PhD submitted in the ordinary fashion.
  5. In addition to peer-reviewed journal articles and conference papers, one or more of the publications may take the form of a book chapter. 
  6. The thesis should be presented as a coherent whole with an overarching argument or theme that flows through the individual chapters.
  7. In addition to the pagination used for the individual chapters, the whole thesis should be consecutively paginated.
  8. A consolidated bibliography should be included at the end of the thesis covering all references made in the Introductory/Literature Review Chapter and the Conclusions/Recommendations Chapter, as well as the references in the other chapters.
  9. The Declarations page must be signed and should include a specific declaration regarding the publication status of each publication as at the time of submission of the thesis.
  10. Evidence that copyright holder agreement has either been waived or received must be provided by the student.

Examination Process:

Once examiners have been approved, the candidate has submitted to the GRS two hard copies and an electronic copy of their thesis and the Supervisor’s Certificate has been lodged, copies of the thesis are sent to examiners with a request to examine the thesis within six weeks. 

Examiners are provided with the following information: Conditions of the award of the degree PhD: and LLM by Research:  Further information on the Thesis Examination Procedure is available at:

Two weeks before the due date for the thesis reports the GRS sends a reminder to the examiner that the report is due.  If any of the reports are not received by the deadline details of the overdue report(s) are sent to the Director of Postgraduate Research who contacts the examiner(s) concerned.

Candidates may obtain information about the progress of the examination from the GRS by phone or email.  Candidates should not contact the GRS until at least 10 weeks after the thesis has been submitted.  In view of the confidential nature of the examination only certain information can be provided prior to Faculty consideration of the case.  In addition the Thesis Examination Management system contains an enquiry page that can be used to track the progress of most processes concerning the examination of the thesis.  To access this page log-on to myUNSW and click on the “My Student Profile” tab.  Then click on the “Thesis Examination Management” link on the left hand side of the page.  To access the enquiry screen, click on the “Examination Status Enquiry” button.  The enquiry page will show all of the events that have occurred so far and dates on which they took place.  The information on this screen is in accordance with the Policy on Examination of Research Degrees.

Notes for Examiners:

To make a recommendation on whether the candidate’s thesis merits the award of the degree the examiners are provided with Notes for Examiners and asked to consider whether the submitted work:

  1. Demonstrates that the candidate can conduct research, is capable of independent and critical thought, and can see the work in relation to the work of others;
  2. Demonstrates that the candidate has an awareness and understanding of the literature directly relevant to the topic as well as in related areas of significance, and demonstrates the capacity to make considered judgements;
  3. Contains a satisfactory degree of originality and makes a significant contribution to knowledge; the expectation is that the candidate’s work would be publishable.

In examining a thesis there are five possible recommendations that an examiner can make.  These include:

   A. The thesis merits the award of the degree.

   B. The thesis merits the award of the degree subject to minor corrections as listed being made to the satisfaction of the Head of School (HOS).

   C. The thesis requires further work on matters detailed in my report.  Should performance in this further work be to the satisfaction of the Faculty Higher Degree Committee, the thesis would merit the award of the degree.

   D. The thesis does not merit the award in its present form and further work as described my report is required.  The revised thesis should be subject to re-examination.

   E.  The thesis does not merit the award of the degree and does not demonstrate sufficient ability by the candidate for a re-submitted thesis to achieve this merit.

Further information on the above recommendations is available at:

When the GRS have received all of the examiners’ reports they forward them to the Director of Postgraduate Research.  The DPGR reviews the examiners’ recommendations and reports and depending on whether or not the candidate has received any recommendations other than a 1, decides whether the student is required to make the suggested recommendations to the satisfaction of the HOS or to the HDC.  The DPGR then communicates this decision to the candidate’s supervisor/s and forwards them a copy of the examiners’ reports.  The candidate is also forwarded a copy of the examiners’ reports with the names of the examiners removed and if required, advised of the work that needs to be completed. 

It is important to note that the examiners do not decide whether a thesis merits the award of the degree. They provide advice to the HDC, which is the body that has the delegated responsibility to make academic recommendations regarding research candidatures including the award of the degree.  In arriving at a decision, the HDC takes into account feedback from all examiners plus any other relevant information.

The HDC does not have a set of hard and fast rules that can be applied for every case.  Indeed this is why the Committee exists – to discuss the reports on a case by case basis, use their collective expert experience in assessing theses and reviewing examiners’ comments and to apply their expert knowledge regarding the standard of work required for a research degree in the discipline in making academic decisions.