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Submitting the dissertation

Word limit

The word limit for dissertations is 15-20,000 words. This word limit includes all text except the bibliography; it means that the main text, all data in tables or figures, captions, titles and subtitles, the table of contents, the footnotes or endnotes, and all prefatory material at the start is counted. Statistical tables should be counted as 150 words per table. Maps, illustrations and other pictorial images count as 0 words. Graphs, if they are the only representation of the data being presented, are to be counted as 150 words. However, if graphs are used as an illustration of statistical data that is also presented elsewhere within the essay (as a table for instance), then the graphs count as 0 words.

Exceeding the word count

Students are required to submit a signed statement confirming the word count of their dissertation. The MPhil Administrator will verify the declared word count against the electronic copy if requested to do so by the examiners. As a general rule, any content that the examiners must read in order to assess students’ work should be included in the main body of the dissertation and not in footnotes or in appendices.

An assessed essay that is proven to exceed the stated word limit will not be accepted, but will be handed back to the student for further editing. Any delay in submission caused by the need to reduce the length of a dissertation will be subject to the standard penalty scale for late submissions.

Late submission

The dissertation deadline must be strictly adhered to and is not negotiable – it is equivalent to an examination date. If you fail to submit your dissertation to the Centre of African Studies MPhil Office by the specified date and time on the advertised deadline, it is the same as failing to sit a scheduled examination. Both the hard copies and the electronic copy need to be received for the work to be considered as ‘submitted’. Students are advised to notify the MPhil Office immediately if they fall seriously ill or if they experience serious disruption to their studies. All requests to extend submission deadlines should be made to the MPhil Office as early as possible, and at least a week before the deadline.

Students should also ensure that they allow enough time to print and present their work before the deadline. Problems with computers or printing facilities will not be accepted as reasons for late submission. You are therefore strongly advised to plan to complete your work a couple of days in advance of the deadline in order to avoid such problems, and to back up your work regularly.

A dissertation submitted after the deadline and without prior approval for deferred submission (see below) will be penalised by a reduction of two marks for each day it is late. Work submitted later than one week after the deadline without an authorised extension, or not submitted at all, will receive a mark of 0.

Applying for deferred submission

The due date for the dissertation is a fixed deadline equivalent to an examination. Nevertheless, the CAS Graduate Education Committee is able to grant short extensions in compelling circumstances. If there are grave and convincing reasons why you cannot submit the dissertation on time, the MPhil Office must be informed one week before the deadline. Should you wish to apply for an extension, you must do so in writing (normally via an email headed ‘confidential’ to stating your reasons.

These reasons will normally be either medical, in which case a statement from a College nurse or a GP must be provided, or personal, in which case a supporting letter from your College tutor is needed. As explained above, assessed work submitted late without an authorised extension will be penalised. Deferral will normally only be granted for the actual amount of time lost through ill health or other difficulties. You should be aware that if you require a lengthy deferral, it will likely prove impossible for your work to be examined within the tight deadlines of the June/July examination period. Specifically, your results may not be available in time to be presented to the final meeting of the HSPS Degree Committee in early July. In such cases, confirmation of your degree results will be delayed until early the next academic year (September/October). In serious cases such as this, students will be advised to apply to extend the ‘End of Registration Date'. This process is initiated via CamSIS and students will be requested to submit documentation to support their case, which is then referred to the CAS Graduate Committee and the HSPS Degree Committee for consideration.

The dissertation typescript

An MPhil dissertation should be a connected account of work written by the candidate. Candidates are responsible for the legibility of the dissertation and for ensuring that the correct version appears in the copies submitted for examination. One paragraph in the Student Registry’s guidance on the MPhil degree is particularly important, and worth quoting in full:

"The form in which the thesis is presented, and the care with which it has been prepared and illustrated, are in themselves evidence of the candidate's capabilities, and will receive consideration as such. Candidates are strongly advised to check their thesis carefully, prior to submission, for typing errors, spelling mistakes and poor English. The thesis, apart from quotations and recognised technical formulae, must be written in English."

You should be aware that typing errors, spelling mistakes, inaccurate calculation, poor grammar, and convoluted syntax are not regarded as incidental. On the contrary, effective written expression is a core criterion for the assessment of dissertation.

The following notes give guidance on the preparation of a typescript, on bibliographies and citations. They are not intended to be exhaustive; nor are they compulsory. There are a number of acceptable conventions; the main principle is to be consistent. If you are in any doubt as to which conventions to employ, seek the advice of your dissertation supervisor.

Paper and printing

Print your dissertation on A4 paper, using a laser printer or one of the better inkjet printers.


Leave margins of at least 1.5 inches (3.8cm) at the top, left and the foot, and 1 inch (2.5cm) at the right. The wider margin on the left allows space for binding.


Everything in the main text should be double-spaced, except indented quotations and footnotes (at the foot of the page), which should be single-spaced.


There is no prescribed typeface but it is strongly recommended to use simple classical typefaces (e.g. Times New Roman or Arial), 11pt or 12pt font; word processing software will select a smaller font for footnotes.


Do not use more than three levels of headings/subheadings within a chapter; the more kinds there are, the more difficult it will be for the reader to distinguish one grade from another.


A list of the abbreviations used in the text and the footnotes should be placed at the beginning of the thesis.


Tables may be typed on separate sheets or be pasted in the text. Tables of more than four lines should be numbered and referred to in the text by number rather than ‘as follows’. Check your tables carefully. Are they in the form that the reader will find most helpful? In case of doubt, consult your supervisor.


Short quotations should be enclosed in single inverted commas (except for quotations within quotations which have double inverted commas), and run on with the main text in double-spacing. However, quotations extending to more than five lines of typescript should be distinguished from the rest of the text and do not need inverted commas (except for quotations within quotations). Start each such quotation on a fresh line and indent the whole quotation and type in single-spacing. Take particular care to transcribe quotations accurately. If a quotation includes an obvious error, do not correct it but indicate it by placing the Latin word ‘sic’ (meaning ‘thus’) in round brackets immediately after the error.

Internet citations

Websites: cite author or webmaster (if known), date created or last updated (if known), title of text, heading of page, full url, and date last accessed; eg. Kornberg, N. (13 August 2013), ‘Writing Windwoek’, Africa is a Country Last accessed 2 November 2013.

Bibliographical references and citations

The bibliography must include a bibliography of all (and only) works cited. If applicable, it should be divided into manuscript sources, printed sources, printed secondary works and unpublished dissertations.

We do not give precise instructions about citations in the thesis. The choice between footnotes and author-date or Harvard referencing is a pragmatic one, on which you should take advice from your supervisor, and may reflect the scholarly conventions of the discipline you are working in, particularly the extent to which your dissertation relies upon primary materials. We recommend that you consult one of the Style Guides below, and adopt one style to follow consistently. Since most Style Guides have been through numerous editions, it is always best to consult the most recent edition.

MHRA Style Guide: a Handbook for Authors, Editors, and Writers of Theses (London: Modern Humanities Research Association, 3rd edition, 2013). This guide is available for download:

Kate L. Turabian, A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 8th edition, 2013). Excellent, and good value. This is a scaled down version of The Chicago Manual (see below).

R. M. Ritter, The Oxford Guide to Style (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003). This is a recent re-branding of Hart’s Rules (1893 and subsequent editions), but a bit pricey for those not intending an academic career.

The Chicago Manual of Style (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, various editions). Very comprehensive, but also expensive.

Procedures for submitting the dissertation

  • Submit two bound copies of the dissertation by the advertised deadline, along with an electronic version, to enable the word count to be independently verified. The electronic version should be in MS word format (not pdf) and sent via email to
  • The dissertation may be spiral bound or submitted in a plastic folder, but must be sufficiently secure as to be durable. If you wish to submit it with a more solid binding, there are good services run by the University Reprographics Centre (Old Schools) and the Graduate Union (17 Mill Lane).
  • You must include a title page (bound with the dissertation) showing the title of your dissertation, your name, your college, and the date of submission, as well as your supervisor’s name. You must also include a declaration stating: “This dissertation is submitted for the degree of Master of Philosophy in African Studies” as well as a ‘Statement of Length’, which confirms the word count and states that your dissertation does not exceed the word limit.
  • There should be a further declaration in the Preface stating: ‘This dissertation is the result of my own work and includes nothing which is the outcome of work done in collaboration except where specifically indicated in the text’.
  • The dissertation must include a bibliography of all (and only) works cited.

The following documents should be handed in with the dissertation (but not be bound with it). You can download them below or collect hard copies from the MPhil Office.

Dissertation coversheet (one copy)

Copyright/right of access form (permission to place your dissertation in the CAS library, one signed copy)