Guidelines for Theses 

All MA, MSc and MEconSc students are required to complete a thesis (or ‘dissertation’). The thesis is a core feature of the degree programme.  As a result, no student can be awarded a masters degree without achieving a passing grade for the thesis.

The topic of the thesis is first proposed by the student, and then discussed and approved by the supervisor assigned by the school. The student is then responsible for arranging to meet with the supervisor regularly during the preparation and writing of the thesis, culminating in a final meeting no later than the end of July.  The student may also submit one draft of the thesis for feedback from the supervisor during this period. During the month of August, any technical questions about the thesis or submissions process should be directed to the school office.

In the end, the student is fully responsible for the topic, structure and content of the thesis that s/he submits. In the event that a student submits a thesis that lacks sufficient academic merit to earn a passing grade, s/he will be invited to resubmit.  The student is responsible for any consequent examination and continuation fees. Cases of plagiarism are handled differently; see policy in this handbook.


Show/hide contentOpenClose All

The first required step is to submit a clear and focused proposal of about one page including your name, student number, programme name, working title or question, and brief presentation of the topic you want to address, which must be emailed as an attachment to with “Thesis Proposal student number ______” in the email’s subject line by 4:00 pm on Wednesday,  25 January 2017. Unless you later provide good reasons for a change, the school will expect your actual thesis to reflect the topic indicated in the proposal. If you have any questions, please contact your programme coordinator before submitting the proposal.

The deadline for thesis submission this academic year is 4:00 pm on Wednesday, 23 August 2017. Three hard copies of the thesis must be submitted to the SPIRe admin office (G314) and one identical electronic copy in PDF (not Word) format must be submitted via SafeAssign on the Blackboard page for Pol 40190. Hard copies must be printed on one side of good quality, A4 size paper in legible form, with a clear cover and card back (of the sort provided by Copi-Print). One signed "Declaration of Authorship" (see Appendix here) should accompany the hard copies of all theses.

Failure to submit by this deadline may result in the automatic exclusion of the thesis from the examining process. Extensions may only be granted by the Graduate Studies Director, based on a written request from the supervisor including clear evidence of extenuating circumstances. Late submissions will be subject to a grade penalty. The maximum grade that can be awarded for a late submission is B-. For further details on the UCD Policy of Extenuating Circumstances, see:

Theses shall be 10,000-12,000 words in length (including literature, footnotes, tables etc.). Before submitting a thesis that departs from this rule by more than 500 words in either direction, students must receive formal authorization from their supervisor.

You must make sure that your referencing and bibliography reflect the highest academic standards. Thesis with poor referencing and bibliography will lose marks unnecessarily. Please see the information on the UCD Library website at:

The School has a preference for the Harvard referencing system (author, date, page), though supervisors may advise otherwise in individual cases. Whichever system you use, it must be fully adhered to and consistently implemented with appropriate typography.

For full details on the Harvard system:


Theses may be presented in double or one-and-a-half spacing, except for indented quotations, references and footnotes, where single spacing should be used. Only one standard typeface may be used throughout the thesis. Italics may be used for book titles, foreign terms and other cases that are appropriate in conjunction with the standard face used in the text. Italics are not recommended as a standard typeface. Text that is entirely in upper case is not acceptable. Symbols or special characters not found on computer keyboards should be drawn with a mechanical guide or stencil.

Margins should be 40mm at the binding edge and other margins should be not less than 20mm. Page numbers are placed without punctuation at the bottom centre of the page within the margin. Preliminary pages are numbered in consecutive lower case roman numerals. The Title page number does not appear but the page is counted (as page 'i'). Pages appearing before the Table of Contents are numbered and counted but are not listed on the Table of Contents. The first page of the Introduction or first chapter of your thesis is numbered page 1; the rest of the Text and reference materials is numbered consecutively in Arabic numerals.

The thesis preliminaries consist of the Title Page, Dedication (optional), Acknowledgements (optional), Table of Contents, List of Tables (optional), List of Figures (optional), Lists of Symbols, Abbreviations, Nomenclature (if these appear in the thesis); Glossary (optional) and Summary. These preliminaries should be numbered in consecutive lower case roman numerals. If there is more than one volume in the thesis, each volume shall carry its own pagination.

 Title Page (required)

  • The full title of the thesis (including a subtitle, if any) which should describe the thesis contents concisely and accurately. The Title Page should not be numbered.
  • The full name of the author, followed (if desired) by any prior qualifications
  • The name of the school and university: School of Politics and International Relations, University College Dublin
  • The following phrase: “This thesis is submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of _________.” (Degree name should be fully spelled out -- e.g. Master of Arts in Politics, Master of Science in International Relations, etc.)
  • The month and year of submission

Dedication and Acknowledgements

Most theses include a brief statement of appreciation or recognition of special assistance, and some include a dedication, but both are optional. Neither is listed in the Table of Contents. If a dedication is included it should be centred on the page and no heading is necessary on the page on which it appears. The Dedication is not listed in the Table of Contents. The Heading ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS, in capital letters, is centred without punctuation at the top of the page.

Table of Contents (required)

The Table of Contents page should follow the Title page unless a Dedication and/or Acknowledgements page has been included. The Page is headed TABLE OF CONTENTS (without punctuation) and all material following the Table of Contents is listed in it. The titles of parts, sections, chapters and their principal subdivisions should be listed in the Table of Contents and must be worded exactly as they appear in the body of the thesis.

List of Tables

This is optional and if included follows the Table of Contents. The title LIST OF TABLES appears centred at the top of the page without punctuation. The List of Tables should use exactly the same numbers and captions as appear above the tables in the text or in the Appendices.

List of Figures

This is optional and follows the List of Tables. The title LIST OF FIGURES appears centred at the top of the page without punctuation. The List of Figures should use exactly the same numbers and captions as appear below the figures in the text or in the Appendices.

Lists of Symbols, Abbreviations, Nomenclature; Glossary

If needed in your thesis, these lists appear after the Lists of Tables and Figures in the Preliminaries. Examples of such lists can be found in textbooks.

Summary (required)

A summary of the thesis should be included and is typically of approximately 300 words. The title SUMMARY appears centred at the top of the page without punctuation. The summary should give a statement of the thesis problem, a brief exposition of the research, and a condensed summary of the findings. Mathematical formulas, diagrams etc. are not recommended for the summary. The Summary page should be numbered in lower case roman numerals.

The Text

The first chapter of the thesis may be the Introduction. Alternatively, an Introduction may precede the first chapter. Whichever option you choose, the first page of the introduction should be numbered as page 1 of the thesis. The introduction describes the thesis problem and usually outlines the structure of the thesis: i.e. how the problem will be addressed and where the problem will be addressed.

The Body of the Thesis is the substance of the dissertation, the detailed written statement of your research. The internal organisation of this material into chapters, sections and subsections is up to you and your supervisor.

The Summary and Conclusions are usually treated as the last major division of the Text. If all of the Notes have been deferred to the end of the thesis, their placement here constitutes the last major division of the Text.

Reference Material

The reference material consists of Bibliography or List of References and Appendices.

Bibliography or List of References

Any thesis that makes use of other works, either in direct quotation or by reference, must contain a bibliography listing these sources. Pertinent works that have been consulted but not specifically cited should be listed under the subheading General References.  Do not list those works under the general Bibliography.


This section, if needed, is usually added to contain supplementary illustrative material, original data, and quotations too long for inclusion in the Text or not immediately essential to an understanding of the subject. This section of the thesis is separated from the preceding material by a cover sheet with the heading APPENDICES, in capital letters (or APPENDIX if there is only one), centred and without punctuation. This sheet is neither counted nor numbered. The Appendices may be divided into Appendix A, Appendix B etc., depending on the kinds and amounts of material used. The letter and title for each Appendix should be shown at the top of the first page of the individual Appendix. Each Appendix with its title should be listed separately in the Table of Contents as a first order subdivision under the heading APPENDICES. Tables and figures in the Appendices must be numbered and captioned and also listed in the List of Tables and Figures in the Preliminaries.