The thesis

In Australia the thesis is an extended written piece which reports on the results of a three to four year programme of research (in other countries the writing component is called a 'dissertation'). The thesis should incorporate a summary of the research undertaken during the program.

At ANU we do not usually require an oral defence or 'viva'. Your thesis will be sent to at least two examiners for evaluation. For more information about how examiners make a judgement on a thesis, read this paper by Mullins and Kiley called "It's a PhD, not a Nobel Prize".

Types of thesis

There are three common types of thesis documents allowed in the ANU research award rules: a standard thesis of up to 100,000 words in length for a PhD (or 60,000 words for an M.Phil); a thesis by compilation (sometimes called a thesis by publication) and a thesis by creative works.

A thesis by compilation may include works that are solo or joint authored and accepted for publication. The compilation can include works which have been explicitly prepared for publication but not yet accepted, however these should not make up the majority of the text. It is expected that a thesis by compilation has linking text and a foreword to each chapter.

A thesis by creative works can include a multimedia or digital work, a film, an exhibition, a performance, a musical composition, a novel, a play, a series of poems, creative art work or other works as agreed by the candidate and the university. This work can be accompanied by an exegesis (commentary and interpretation of the work) or a dissertation (on a topic related to the work). Any written work accompanying a thesis by creative works must be substantial; between 30,000 and 60,000 words for a PhD and between 15,000 and 30,000 for an M.Phil. The final presentation of the work will be a public presentation; an exhibition, recital, lecture or some other form as agreed with the supervisor and the university.

Preparing the thesis

The Research Training team run a variety of workshops, seminars and courses aimed at helping you prepare your thesis as well as guidance on working with your supervisor to achieve a successful submission.

Writing the thesis

The Academic Skills and Learning Centre offer individual appointments to discuss thesis drafts and other issues such as managing your project. Their site also has a range of resources about writing a thesis to support you during your programme.

Reviewing the thesis

ANU expects the highest standards of integrity in all aspects of research conducted by staff and HDR candidates. Plagiarism is a serious breach of research integrity that poses a potential risk for the reputation of ANU and its research.  
As such, the ANU Academic Board has approved the implementation of a text-matching software called iThenticate. Using iThenticate throughout candidature will help to ensure research practices align with ANU and its vision of academic and research excellence.  
To learn more about how iThenticate should be used in research, see iThenticate for HDR.


Writing about the impact of COVID-19 in your thesis

COVID-19 has changed the course of many research projects in ways that would not have been predicted at the outset you your PhD program. Research can always take unexpected turns and being able to take advantage of opportunities that arise, and be able to switch directions when necessary are useful skills to demonstrate. It is up to you to decide if you want to write about how your research has changed due to COVID-19. You are encouraged to talk with your supervisory panel to seek advice about what might be appropriate for your thesis.


The types of impact you might like to discuss include

  • changes to research sites or populations due to travel or access restrictions,
  • changes to research scope due to inability to access archival material,
  • changes in access to labs, or experimental equipment,
  • including theoretical instead of experimental content,


There is no right place to mention impacts, it will depend on the type of thesis and the type of research. It will also depend on how large the impact has been. For many the impact can be explained in a few sentences. For some projects a whole section of the thesis may be required. Some suggestions include

  • in the introduction when setting the scene for the research that follows
  • in the methodology section if changes to method was made part way through the research.
  • where discussing limitations of the research
  • where discussing ideas for future research


You should not include statements in your thesis that outline the impact of remote working, your physical or mental health or that of your family. While it is acknowledged that we have all been impacted in some way, these are not appropriate statements in your examined thesis and would not be assessed by an examiner.

Submitting the thesis and the examination process

It's good to know the regulations, processes and requirements around thesis submission and examination. Check out the information on finishing your degree for some inspiration!

ANU Thesis library

A great way to get your head around the expectations of a thesis is to read some! Check out the ANU Digital Thesis Library and find past successful theses in your discipline.