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Thesis: when should it be submitted?

The length of time it takes to complete your MSc thesis or MA thesis will vary from student to student. This is because people work at different speeds, projects vary in how difficult they are, and some projects produce more problems than others. To finish in three years means that you will need to work very hard and that you will not have any major problems to overcome.

Obviously, you should submit your MSc thesis or MA thesis when it is finished! Every university will say in its regulations that it is you, as the student, who must decide when it is ready to submit. However, your supervisor will advise you whether your work is ready, and you should take his or her advice on this. If your supervisor says that your work is not ready or still needs more to be done to it, then it is probably unwise to submit it, as you are not very likely to pass. Usually your supervisor will want to read a final draft of your whole thesis and will then indicate that, perhaps after you have made few changes, you should submit your final thesis.

Although you can only submit when you are ready, you will want to set yourself a target for completion. This may be because you only have funding for three years or because you want to be sure you can go to the graduation ceremony at the end of your three years. To identify the target date, work backwards from the final date by which you want to have completed everything and submit your work at least three months and preferably four months before that date. If you must be back home by, say, the beginning of September, then you should aim to submit your thesis no later than the end of May, and preferably by the end of April. If you need to have finished by the end of June to be able to go to a graduation ceremony in July, then you should submit no later than the end of March. You can build this into your project planning at the start of your research project (see Writing a thesis ).

It is important to remember that handing in your thesis is not the end of your postgraduate program. There will be a period of time of at least one month and perhaps as much as three months between the time you submit and the date of your viva. After your viva, if you have passed, you will need to make arrangements for the thesis to be properly bound and resubmitted, which will take a week or two. You may also have minor corrections to make to the work, which could take up to a month or so. This means that you need to allow a period of at least three months between submitting your thesis and the time when your programme will be completely finished. Of course, it is also possible you may be asked after the viva to do more work on your thesis and resubmit it before the examiners will agree to award the degree – so there may be an even longer time period before you have finished.

How do I submit the MA or MSc thesis?

Most universities will have a clear procedure for submitting a thesis. The first stage will probably be that you have to complete a form that is an indication of your ‘Intention to Submit’. This normally has to be completed at least three months before the date on which you think you will be ready to submit. This starts the procedures within the university of making arrangements for an external examiner to be appointed.

When your MA or MSc thesis is ready, you will have to print several copies and have them bound. The number of copies varies between universities, but the university usually requires three – one for each of the examiners and one for your supervisor. However, you will need one more copy – for yourself! These copies must be softbound, not hardbound. The theses you see on the library shelves will be bound in an impressive hardback cover, but you can only get your work bound like this once you have passed. You should submit your thesis for examination in soft paper or card covers, and your university will give you detailed guidance on how it should be bound. They will also recommend places where you can get the work done.

The next stage is to hand in your work, in the way and to the place that is indicated in your university’s regulations. All you can do then is sit and wait for the examination – but submitting your thesis is often a time of great relief and celebration!

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