Report on thesis submission procedures
Author: Jon Bell Date: 18 August 2005
This is a collection of notes arising from the author’s study of the rules for submission of research theses at both Aberystwyth and Swansea. As both are subject to the rules of the University of Wales, the procedures are not dissimilar. The flowcharts that illustrate the procedures, together with rather tentative illustrations of possible approaches to including electronic copies of theses, are at the end of the report, as they are whole page diagrams.
The flowcharts have been drawn with the emphasis on what happens to the thesis itself. Therefore parts of the process that happen before the actual submission, such as ensuring the student is not in debt to the university, have been omitted, as have some of the administrative communications that do not involve movement of the thesis.
UWA’s submission procedure
The flowchart that illustrates the research thesis submission procedure at Aberystwyth omits all stages before the actual submission. Therefore the diagram starts at Section B of the student’s guide to Procedures for submission of PhD / MPhil theses . This is because the project’s
chief interest is what happens to the thesis itself (whether viewed as a physical object or a bundle of data) rather than the degree. For the same reason, the contacts between the Registry and the University of Wales Registry (UWR) in Cardiff have been simplified.
Arguably, the main point of interest is that the department is (apparently) responsible for depositing the two copies of the thesis in the two libraries (though the student is responsible for getting them re-bound) and the deposits seem to be done entirely separately, so each library undertakes its own cataloguing of the thesis.
The UWA library does not classify theses; they are all shelved together, apparently in chronological order. The cataloguing system allows any non-book materials to be added to the record and these are shelved separately. The software uses tagged fields (so, for example, fields in the 6xx range are subject fields), this appears not to be followed by the UK ETD metadata scheme. If necessary, they could presumably be mapped to the corresponding Qualified Dublin Core field name in the scheme. The DSpace registry field IDs do not correspond to these tags either.
The UWA library receives some dissertations in electronic format (apparently Adobe pdf). There is no experience of how such dissertations that incorporate additional (non book) material, so there is more than one file, would be handled.
UWS submission procedure
The regulations published on Swansea’s website suggest that the submission procedure is virtually identical to that at UWA. This is unsurprising as they are actually the University of Wales regulations . They do not make clear the role of the Swansea registry in the process, nor that of the University of Wales Registry (UWR). The flowcharts are therefore similar. According to Penny Bassett-Jones of the UWS registry, the main differences between Swansea’s procedure and Aberystwyth’s appear to be that the UWS registry does not confirm the result (though the ceremonies people will contact the student) and the registry seems never
to handle the actual thesis, which is sent to the examiners by the department, who are also responsible for deposit of the thesis in the two libraries.
The University of Wales rules specify that it is the role of the examination board’s Convenor & Secretary (the head of the department concerned or a suitable delegate) to deposit the thesis in both the university library and the NLW. Enquiries have been made concerning cataloguing of theses at Swansea, but it is supposed that the procedure will differ little from that at Aberystwyth. The only substantial variation might be if they classify theses by subject, which seems unlikely.
Theses at the NLW
The National library currently receives the theses and they are catalogued from the information on the theses themselves. Cataloguing is relatively simple, the Library does not classify theses and they are shelved in date order. They have the same difficulty with titles that was identified by Dorothy Hartley at UWA, in that they (should) put the title before any colon in the title field and if there is a colon, put the part of the title after the colon in a “title remainder” field. This
has the problem that the descriptive part of a long title is lost to a search of the title field. They include the following information.
; Language (both encoded as a three letter abbreviation and in full)
; Title (and title remainder)
; Description – number of volumes, note if thesis includes CD, tape, video.
; “Dissertation note” – that it is a thesis, level (PhD), University, year (on copy, not date
; Sublocation (department of Library)
; Shelf location
; Terms – is it restricted, if so date applicable
; Copyright declaration available or not
; Source – typically the University of Wales.
Apparently they used to get a card from the University of Wales registry with some of these details on them, but they don’t now. There is no apparent difference between treatment of theses from different sources.
Possible modified submission procedures
Two alternative approaches to thesis submission, in which electronic copies are required for deposit in the libraries (but not for the examination process itself), are illustrated in the third and fourth flow charts. These suggestions are tentative, being intended to start and to focus discussion on this subject. The fourth flow chart (which was actually arrived at earlier) is not dissimilar to the procedure used by Cranfield . The third (which it is suggested is preferable) was drawn following comments and suggestions from Dorothy Hartley, who felt that it would be easier actually getting the electronic copy if it was submitted during the process rather than at its end, and earlier submission of the electronic copy would tend to ensure its content was identical with the paper copy. In both cases, the more substantial changes from the current Aberystwyth procedure are highlighted in thick lined boxes. Both are based on the Aberystwyth process, but will, it is suggested, be easily adaptable to the Swansea one.
The process in the third flowchart moves towards the idea that the electronic copy is treated as the master copy, both for deposit and examination. This is preferable from the library point of
view in that it is easier to get paper copies from an electronic original than to get electronic copies from a paper original. Ideally, arrangements would be made to ensure that the loose bound paper copies for examination are taken from the electronic copy as submitted. This could in theory be done by having the department manage the printing and loose binding but a more workable approach might be to have the department supervise the printing, which is actually done by the student (who also arranges the binding). As there is little motive for presenting copies with different content this might be felt unnecessary, and a signed affidavit that the two copies match presented by the student on submission might be felt to be sufficient. A more secure version might have the registry request a declaration signed by the “convenor” (as the University of Wales regulations have it), that is the head of department or representative, to the effect that the department is satisfied that the electronic copies and the paper copies match.
In that flow chart it is suggested that the submission (of the electronic copy) be into DSpace. It is supposed that at this stage the thesis will not be placed in an open access collection and it will be made accessible after the examination process has been successfully completed, analogously to the deposit of paper copies at present. Unfortunately DSpace might not support the actual moving of items from one collection to another, which would otherwise be a tidy way of handling this. Naturally, if corrections are needed (or the thesis is resubmitted) the original version in DSpace will be replaced by the corrected version, with similar steps taken to demonstrate that the electronic and any new paper copies match as were taken at the original submission. It is, of course, not impossible that in cases where the external examiner does not need to see the corrected version, then the internal examiner might agree to check the minor corrections have been made on an electronic copy. Then, of course, if electronic deposit was to replace paper deposit in the libraries, there would be no need for further paper copies and there would be no need to worry about them not matching. Of course, if no paper copies are to be deposited in the libraries, the later steps in submission of the electronic thesis will replace the library deposit steps for the paper thesis rather than taking place alongside them.
The final flow chart tentatively suggests an approach to deposit of electronic copies that involves minimal (?) changes to the current procedure. The approach taken is to minimise changes to the procedure for those contributors to the process that gain least from the additional electronic copy, essentially the registries of the university and of the University of Wales, though the “electronic master copy” approach in the third flowchart has little, if any, greater effect on the registries. There are several additional actions, but these have been described in more detail than the rest of the process which does perhaps over stress the additional work. This is similar to the approach taken by Cranfield , who also require an electronic copy (on CD-ROM) to be submitted after completion of the examination process, which uses paper copies. This electronic copy will also require a declaration that it matches the final paper version. It is suggested that in both versions of the procedure, the electronic deposit be undertaken directly into DSpace, though this does rely on the workflow of DSpace so that the submission is accepted (on completion of the examination process) by an administrator, assumed to be a librarian given that theses will be in the library’s collection rather than the
departments’ ones. If paper copies are also being deposited, this acceptance can be done together with additional cataloguing necessary for the paper copy. This reliance on DSpace’s
workflow means there is a danger of the process being reliant on the tool used, which is problematic if the tool is dropped or becomes unavailable. For this reason it might be preferred to have the initial submission of the electronic copy on CD-ROM and have the library handle the whole of the deposit into the digital repository.
In both cases, the registry’s notification to a candidate should include a notice that an
electronic copy of the thesis be deposited, together with a requirement that its content must match that of the final version of the paper thesis. In addition, the submission of an electronic thesis will require a new rights declaration from the student. This should be introduced before submission, but it might be possible in the near future to invite (as distinct from require) a candidate on submission to provide an electronic copy. This invitation would be accompanied by the correct form of the rights declaration for the candidate to study and sign if s/he is satisfied with it, in which case an electronic copy could be provided. This would be especially important if the thesis includes any third party material.
The advantages of one process over the other can be summarised by suggesting that the “electronic master” version is more forwards compatible in that fewer changes to the procedure would be needed if it was later decided to drop the deposit of paper copies in the libraries or to change the regulations to allow the electronic deposit of e-theses (by which is meant theses written so as to be delivered electronically, avoiding a book-like structure and allowing inclusion and integration of a greater variety of audio-visual materials, as defined in ). That approach also is better for ensuring that the electronic copy matches the paper copies, being submitted at the same time, so there is less danger of the versions of the thesis getting “out of
step” over time. On the other hand, the other approach is more backward compatible, being (arguably) closer to the current procedure. One advantage of this is that it is, perhaps, easier to fit in the idea of inviting rather than requiring electronic deposit of theses in the short term as this will only be done at the end of the process.
It could be argued that these processes are not mutually incompatible, given that the requirement is the deposit of an electronic copy of a thesis, together with some way of ensuring (as far as is practicable) that the electronic copy’s content is identical to that of the final, passed version of the paper thesis and given suitable safeguards either process should deliver that. It is suggested that the “electronic master” might do so more reliably because of the earlier
submission of the electronic copy, and is perhaps to be preferred for that reason.
It seems worth noting that as the registries of either university do relatively little handling of the thesis, it might well be the case that electronic submission need make little change to the registries’ procedures. However, Penny Bassett-Jones suggested in response to my enquiry that
electronic submission would “have to be controlled by the Academic Registry acting as a
gateway” which would lead to a change in how the deposit was done. Provided procedures are in place to enforce the need for the paper and electronic copies to be identical, it is suggested that this need not be the case, but it is appreciated that changing to electronic submission for examination will involve more changes in procedure than are suggested here.
Non book materials
The current regulations (, appendix 1 para. 6) allow for a thesis to include “non book”
materials if they advance the argument of the thesis. These might, it is suggested, include artwork (including photography), sound recordings, film (video) footage, executables (software).
It is supposed that if an electronic copy of a theses is to be deposited, then any such accompanying materials should also be submitted digitally. This is, of course, straightforward for executables as they are intrinsically digital. Any artwork can be scanned and presented in some file format with no compression (such as TIFF). I imagine that any artwork too large for scanning will also be too big for the original to be submitted with the thesis and a photograph
of the artwork would be substituted. This is simple if the original photograph is digital, if not it too can be scanned. One question that arises from this is that if the work on a theses includes photography (or other electronic media) should the it be specified that the submission include uncompressed file formats (such as TIFF or a digital camera’s RAW files) for such media
rather than compressed files, such as JPEG? This would be preferable for the archiving point of view, but possibly not for dissemination. It might be required that JPEGs (or whatever) are generated for easier distribution and access. Maybe Fedora can simply include the TIFF and the disseminator can convert to a suitable format for distribution on the fly.
The main difficulty here might be materials that were not produced digitally and cannot simply be scanned. Analogue sound recording (such as cassette tape) and video (VHS – does anyone
still use that!?) are cases in point. The nature of this problem might well be affected by what is acceptable for examination. It is not impossible that all additional materials be provided on a CD-ROM (say) in a computer readable format (so the examiners don’t need to find a VHS
video player or whatever).
One difficulty that crops up where non book materials are scanned is that the non electronic copy would naturally be the master copy, while this might well not be the case for the thesis itself if that is born digital. Clearly, where the non book material is also produced digitally, the same policy as to which is treated as the master copy can be applied as is to the thesis itself. References
 University of Wales Aberystwyth Procedures for Submission of PhD and MPhil Theses.
This is apparently made available to postgraduate students, but does not appear to be published on the Web. The same description of the procedure appears in the Handbook for Supervisors of
Research Postgraduates section 6.8.
 University of Wales Enabling Regulations for the Submission and Examination of Research Theses. Available from the Swansea website at
 Cranfield University Research thesis submission and examination process available
online at http://www2.rgu.ac.uk/library/etds/workflow.html
 Bell, Jon Categories of e-thesis Unpublished report. Available on the (private)
document store at http://www.inf.aber.ac.uk/bridge/private/ or email firstname.lastname@example.org