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Important Information

Thesis/Dissertation/Mini-Dissertation Structure

Thesis/Dissertation/Mini-Dissertation Structure


There is no standard format for the submission of a dissertation or thesis: formatting is at the candidate’s discretion, but using A4 paper is the expected norm. Reasonable width margins (2 – 2.5 cm) are desirable to ensure that binding does not impede reading of the text. However, candidates should consult their supervisor early on in the process. The contents must be printed in either double or one and a half spacing using a common font throughout. Printing on both sides of the page is allowed, but a reasonable weight paper must then be used. Although it is expected that the dissertation/thesis be written in English, it is possible with prior support of the supervisor and prior permission from the Doctoral Degrees Board, to submit a PhD in another language.

It is acceptable for a Masters dissertation or PhD thesis to include published papers, provided that:

  • where published papers are included as separate chapters, the dissertation/thesis must nonetheless show acceptable academic style, constant formatting, scholarly content and coherence as a connected account with a satisfactory general introduction, statement of thesis and a final discussion chapter. The latter should not duplicate material that is already contained in the discussion sections of the various chapters/papers, but integrate the results from the various chapters and place them in a broader context;
  • where multi-authored papers are included, the contribution of the candidate can be distinguished and is clearly stated; and
  • in the case of PhDs the candidate‟s plan to include published papers has had the annual written support of the Dean and the written approval of the Doctoral Degrees Board prior to submission (see DDB rules for further details).

For Masters degrees a candidate must submit either three hard copies (degree by dissertation only) or TWO hard copies (degree by coursework plus dissertation) of the dissertation in temporary binding to the Postgraduate Officer in the Science Faculty Office. Once the dissertation has been finally accepted, one unbound hard copy and one electronic copy (in pdf format on a labelled, read-only CD packed in a hard „jewel‟ case) of the final, corrected dissertation must be lodged with the Faculty Office.

For a PhD, a candidate must submit to the Doctoral Degrees Board Officer THREE hard copies of the thesis in temporary binding for the examiners and one unbound hard copy and one electronic copy (in pdf format on a labelled,read-only CD packed in a hard „jewel‟ case) for the library.


In the case of a PhD, the thesis may not exceed 80,000 words. If it is felt that it is essential to exceed this length, special permission must be obtained from the Dean. It is the expectation that Masters degrees should be substantially shorter than this with a maximum of 50,000 words allowed; on the order of 35,000 words (~100 pages) would be the expected norm.

Title Page

There must be a title page on which should appear the thesis title, name of candidate (plus qualifications if you wish), name of Department, University and the month and year of submission. The following is the recommended wording used after the thesis title and name of the candidate:
Dissertation (or Thesis) presented for the degree of Master of Science (or Doctor of Philosophy)
in the Department of …
University of Cape Town
Month and Year

For a coursework Masters minor dissertation the wording should read „Dissertation presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of…‟.

Plagiarism Declaration

Following the title page there should be a page containing the following signed statement by the candidate:
„I know the meaning of plagiarism and declare that all of the work in the dissertation (or thesis), save for that which is properly acknowledged, is my own‟.


When a candidate submits a thesis he/she shall be deemed to have granted the University free license to publish it in whole or part in any format the University deems fit.


Forms of referencing must be standard for the discipline and must adhere to a recognised international convention, agreed to with the supervisor.

Due Dates and Process of Submission

At the conclusion of research, the candidate must submit a dissertation or thesis for examination. This normally occurs after receiving an indication from the supervisor that the product is in a form which is acceptable for submission. However, a candidate is not prevented from submitting without the supervisor’s approval.

If a candidate intends submitting a Masters dissertation for examination he/she must inform the Head of Department in writing, with a copy to the Dean, of such an intention two weeks in advance of planned submission date. The Head of Department, with input from the supervisor, will then nominate suitable examiners for approval by the Dean. If submitting a PhD thesis, the candidate must inform the Doctoral Degrees Board Officer (New Student Administration Building) in writing of such intention one month prior to planned submission.

The dates for submission of dissertations and theses are:
Third week in February for persons hoping to graduate in June;
Third week in August for persons hoping to graduate in December

Please refer to the University Fees Booklet for submission dates with respect to fee rebates.
Candidates who submit their thesis/dissertation before the beginning of the start of the first term are not required to register. If submitted after the start of the first term a candidate must register for that year, and a pro-rata fee will be charged, depending on the date of submission. Where a student who submitted prior to the start of term is required to revise and resubmit a dissertation/thesis, they must register and pay the academic fee for that year. Further information can be found at