UCL Doctorate In Clinical Psychology


Guidelines for Writing and Presenting the Thesis

The DClinPsy thesis has two volumes. The major research project forms Volume 1; Volume 2 contains the four case reports and the service-related research report. These guidelines describe what goes into each part of the thesis and how it all fits together. They mostly focus on Volume 1, which is covered in the following section; the later section on layout and formatting covers both volumes.

What goes in Volume 1

Volume 1, the research component of the thesis, has a three-part structure, consisting of a literature review paper, an empirical paper and a critical appraisal. In addition, from June 2018 onwards, UCL regulations stipulate that the thesis should contain a brief (≤500 words) Impact Statement, explaining how the work in the thesis could be put to beneficial use inside and outside of academia.

The first two parts (the literature review and the empirical paper) are in the form of papers that might be submitted to a peer-reviewed journal; the third part (the critical appraisal) is not intended for publication, but aims to give you an opportunity to reflect critically on the research that you carried out. Each part is described below.

There will inevitably be some overlap between each of the three parts: for example, the introduction section of the empirical paper may partly be condensed from the literature review paper, and the critical appraisal may address in greater detail some of the issues raised in the discussion section of the empirical paper. However, overlap should generally be minimal, and the same sentences should not normally be repeated in different parts of the thesis.

The regulations state that the length of the research thesis shall be approximately 25,000 words, with a maximum of 40,000 words; there is no minimum word count. We suggest that you aim for about 20,000 to 25,000 words. Conciseness of expression is greatly valued by the examiners, who may require overly wordy theses to be shortened.

We strongly encourage you to start writing drafts of your thesis early on, as this is an essential way to clarify your thoughts. It is a bad idea to leave a lot of the writing until late in the project, since this usually leads to a rushed, poor quality thesis.

Part 1. Review paper

The review paper (of approximately 8,000 words not including tables and references) is a focused review of a body of literature relevant to the research topic. It is not necessary to address the literature for every aspect of your empirical study (the introduction section of your empirical paper will provide the necessary background). The review paper should either be a stand-alone paper in its own right, which should pose a question and then systematically examine the empirical literature that addresses that question OR a Conceptual Introduction which reviews the evidence in a more narrative fashion. Guidance for both formats is avaiable on this website.

The structure that follows is for the stand alone paper - for a conceptual introduction you are free to organise it how you wish (see suggestions in the more detailed guidance in the Literature Review section of the website here: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/clinical-psychology-doctorate/guidance-conceptual-...):

  • A structured Abstract (of about 200 words), with headings of Aims, Method, Results, Conclusions. It should specify the number of papers reviewed.
  • The Introduction gives the background to the topic and ends with a clearly specified question that the review will address.
  • The Method section specifies the inclusion and exclusion criteria for the studies to be reviewed and the search strategy for locating them. The latter should indicate which databases you used, with which search terms, and specify other search limits, e.g. date or publication type. You should also describe how you narrowed down the studies from the initial (usually large) number of hits generated by the search to the final set of studies that you focus on. The steps in the narrowing down process are usually illustrated by a flowchart.
  • The Results section reviews the assembled studies. It is usually helpful to include a table listing their important characteristics and findings. The review should not be simply descriptive; it should weigh up the evidence, taking into account the methodological soundness of the studies, and take a critical perspective on the evidence base as a whole. It is often helpful to use a structured critical appraisal checklist -- there are several in the literature (see the list on Moodle).
  • The Discussion section addresses what can be concluded from the body of studies reviewed. It should draw on the methodological critique of the studies in order to evaluate the quality of the evidence. It should also address the limitations of the review, draw any clinical implications and make suggestions for further research (that may, by remarkable coincidence, bear considerable similarity to the empirical project reported in the second part of the thesis).
  • The References.
  • Any appendices are placed at the end of Volume 1 (see section below on layout).

One model for the stand-alone paper style of this part of the thesis is articles in Clinical Psychology Review. You could also look at any theoretical or review article in other clinical psychology journals. However, these published review papers, particularly those in prestigious journals, are usually much more ambitious in terms of quantity, scope and method than is possible within the constraints of the DClinPsy.

Part 2. Empirical paper

The empirical paper (of approximately 8,000 words not including tables and references) reports on your study. Its structure follows the usual research article format, although the length of each section will vary according to the nature of the project, and additional detail may need to be provided in the Method or Results sections (or in an Appendix). You can model it on papers in any mainstream peer-reviewed clinical psychology journal, e.g. the British Journal of Clinical Psychology or the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, or a specialist journal in your particular research area. As a rough guide, each of the four main sections is usually in the range of about 1,500 to 2,500 words, with the Results section usually being longer than the other three. The structure is as follows:

  • A structured Abstract (of about 200 words), with headings of Aims, Method, Results, Conclusions.
  • Introduction. A brief review of the literature, which shows the flow of ideas leading to your research questions. The rationale for the study should be clearly articulated. The Introduction ends with your research questions or hypotheses.
  • Method. A description of participants, procedures, design and measures. The methods should be described in sufficient detail to enable the reader to understand what was done and potentially to be able to replicate the study. For quantitative studies, the statistical power analysis should normally be reported. Descriptions of measures need to include sample items, response options, scoring methods and psychometric properties. There will also be a section on ethics, saying where approval was obtained and discussing any ethical issues in the study. For confidentiality reasons, no names of services where participants were recruited should be given.
  • Results. The findings and any statistical analyses should be presented with the aid of tables and, if necessary, figures. It should be possible for the reader to evaluate the data from which your conclusions are drawn. Qualitative papers will include quotes to illustrate each of the themes.
  • Discussion. An examination of the research questions in the light of the results obtained and the methods used. It will interpret the findings in the context of the research questions and the wider theoretical context in which the work was carried out, including a consideration of alternative explanations, methodological limitations and reasons for unexpected results. It will conclude with a discussion of the scientific and professional implications of the findings.
  • References. A list of all references cited.

Part 3. Critical appraisal

The final part of the thesis (of approximately 3,000 to 5,000 words not including tables and references) is intended to encourage critical reflection on the whole process of doing the research. Its structure and content are more flexible than those of the other two parts. You could, for example, discuss how your previous experiences or theoretical orientation might have influenced how you set about the study, how the process of doing the research might have modified your views (it is often helpful to draw on your research journal here), how you dealt with any dilemmas or methodological choices that arose during the course of the study, and what you might have done differently and why. You could also include an expanded discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of the study, its clinical and scientific implications, and future directions for research (depending on how extensively each of these areas is covered in the discussion section of the empirical paper). It is essential, however, to ensure that all important points are mentioned in your empirical paper first – this is not the place to introduce significant limitations of the study or different ways of interpreting the findings. Whilst it is less formal than the other two parts, the critical appraisal should not be overly personal; it should ideally be addressed to an audience of fellow researchers who might benefit from your considered thoughts about conducting the research.


All appendices are placed at the end of Volume 1. Include here any additional material related to the empirical study, or to the other two parts if needed. Essential material to append includes: the official letter giving ethical approval, sample letters to participants, participant information sheet, informed consent form, instruction sheets, questionnaires, interview schedules and any measures not in common use. Measures that are sensitive or copyrighted will eventually need to be removed. Raw data and computer printouts are not normally needed. However, for qualitative studies, examples of the procedures of analysis should be included.

Confidentiality and privacy

Once your thesis is completed it will effectively become a public document, available on the internet via the UCL's e-thesis repository (UCL Discovery). Therefore it is essential when presenting your work that your participants' right to confidentiality and privacy be upheld. In particular, students writing up small-N and qualitative studies should be especially careful to ensure that no participants are identifiable from the thesis.

Layout and formatting


The text should be double-spaced on plain, white A4 paper. Both sides of the paper may be used - you can choose whether to print the thesis single-sided or double-sided. Margins at the binding edge should be 4cm. The other margins (i.e. top, bottom and unbound side) should be 2.5cm. Remember, if you include a table or figure that uses a landscape page setup then the margins need to be adjusted accordingly, i.e. 4cm becomes the top margin.

Number pages on the bottom right or bottom centre of the page. Page 1 is the title page (although it looks tidier if you suppress the page numbering for that page only).

For general guidance on formatting, follow APA style, as set out in the APA Publication Manual (7th edition). It is essential to use APA citation and referencing style (see the course document on Moodle), and also to lay out tables in APA format. Heading formats can depart slightly from APA style (e.g. you can use italicised headings, or adopt a numbering system if you wish): what is important is to adopt a systematic hierarchy of headings within each part of the thesis. Look at recent theses for models of layout and formatting (ask your UCL supervisor to recommend one or two). Pay meticulous attention to spelling, grammar, punctuation and format: poorly presented theses give an impression of carelessness and will be referred for revision.

The thesis is more easily readable if you left justify the text and use a standard font. We recommend Times New Roman 12 point or Arial 11 point for the main body of the text, although tables and figures can be set in a smaller font size if necessary, as long as they are readable. In accordance with APA style, the best way to indicate a new paragraph in double-spaced text is to indent its first word; there is then no need to leave a blank line between paragraphs.

Tables and figures are numbered (Table 1 etc.) and usually placed on their own separate pages, although smaller ones can be embedded in the text, usually just below the paragraph that first refers to them (in contrast to APA format for submitted journal articles, where the tables and figures are at the end of the paper).

Volume 1

Volume 1 is laid out in the following order:

  • the Title Page gives the title (usually the same as that of the empirical paper), your name, and lower down on the page, the words "DClinPsy thesis (Volume 1), [year of submission]" and on the line below "University College London". The title page is justified as centred. You can use a slightly larger font if you wish.
  • Signed Declaration that the work presented is your own. The professional doctorate regulations specify that this be inserted right after the title page of the thesis There is a declaration form on the course website.
  • an Overview (up to 250 words), giving a summary of the contents of all three parts of the thesis. (Note that this will ultimately be used by the library to catalogue your thesis, and it will form part of the meta-data that will be seen first by people searching for your thesis.)
  • an Impact Statement that describes, in no more than 500 words, how the expertise, knowledge, analysis, discovery or insight presented in your thesis could be put to a beneficial use. Please see guidance from the UCL Doctoral School on this.
  • the Table of Contents covers all three parts of Volume 1, including the appendices, and gives a separate list of tables and figures.
  • the Acknowledgements page mentions everyone whose contribution to the work you wish to recognise.
  • Part 1 (the literature review) with a title page and abstract (both on separate pages) and references. The title page should say “Part 1: Literature Review” and then give the title of the review paper on a separate line.
  • Part 2 (the empirical paper) with a title page and abstract (both on separate pages) and references. The title page should say “Part 2: Empirical Paper” and then give the title of the empirical paper on a separate line. The text of the main body of the paper should run continuously: the main sections (Methods, Results, Discussion) should not start on new pages. Tables and figures should be numbered afresh for the empirical paper, so the first table in the empirical paper is Table 1, even if there is also a Table 1 in the literature review.
  • Part 3 (the critical appraisal) with a title page (just saying “Part 3: Critical Appraisal”), and references.
  • the Appendices, each with their own title page. (There’s no need to number the pages within the appendices if this is fiddly.) There is only one set of appendices for all of Volume 1, placed at the end of the volume. They are numbered in the order in which they appear in the thesis. (If there is only one appendix, just call it Appendix, with no number.)

If your research is part of a joint project (e.g. with another trainee or with a PhD student), you must state this in the Overview and in the Method section of your empirical paper, and include an Appendix setting out each person’s contribution to the project. Please see the course document on submission of joint theses.

Volume 2 (no longer submitted but you should assemble it as a document as follows)

Volume 2 begins with a title page, which says "Case Reports and Service-Related Research Project", then lists on separate lines your name, "D.Clin.Psy. thesis (Volume 2), [year of submission]" and "University College London". On the next page there is the table of contents, giving the full title, as below; there is no need to list tables and appendices. Then follows each of the four case reports and the service-related research report, in the order in which each was submitted. For case reports, the title page gives the submission number, your own title and the type of case report, e.g., Case report 4: "An angry young man" (Completed Clinical Intervention). For the service-related research it has the words "Service Related Research Report (submitted as Case Report x)"; the title of the report is then listed on a new line. Word counts and trainee code numbers should be omitted. After the title page comes the body of the report, its references, and then any appendices pertaining to that report. Each case report is a stand-alone entity, so tables and appendices are numbered afresh (i.e. each report could have a Table 1, etc.). As described above, Volume 2 is separately paginated.

Handing in before the viva

Electronic Submission

You need to submit an electronic version of Volume 1 in pdf format. Send it to the Research Administrator at pals.rfsupport@ucl.ac.uk via the Moodle submission link with a file name of Thesis_submission_volume1_[yourlastname] (e.g. Thesis_submission_volume1_Smith).

NOTE - Volume 2 does not need to be submitted at this point but must be made available on request.

Running Volume 1 through Turnitin

In addition to the procedures outlined above for submission of the thesis, we require that Volume 1 of the thesis be submitted via Turnitin, a plagiarism-detection programme.

As with case reports, submission of Volume 1 of the thesis to Turnitin is done via Moodle. The link for thesis submission on your Moodle homepage is called ‘Thesis Volume 1 Submission’.

When uploading Volume 1 please call the file ‘Volume 1 [First name] [Family name]’. For example, ‘Volume 1 Ed Miliband’ or ‘Volume 1 Nicola Sturgeon’. You should upload your full Volume 1 (as outlined in the section above called ‘Volume 1’) as a word document.

Turnitin is being used to promote good academic practice, not to catch students out. For this reason the system has been configured so that you can submit your Volume 1, look at the Turnitin report to identify any sections where there may be potential plagiarism, delete the submission and submit a revised report.

Resubmissions can be made up to 14.00 on the day on which theses are due, although in practice it is strongly recommended that Turnitin submissions are made well before then: it will be important to leave yourself time to submit to Turnitin before you submit your final version of Volume 1. Also, please note that Turnitin can take upto 24 hours to generate a similarity report for each submission, so you will need to factor this in to any plans for checking and resubmission. 

How to judge the Turnitin report to decide whether the thesis needs to be amended?

Turnitin will give your Volume 1 an originality score, but this tells you very little about whether there are any problems with plagiarism in your thesis. That is because theses contain copies of measures, participant information sheets, references and so on, which inflate the Turnitin originality score.

Trainees need to use their own judgement to decide whether they should amend their thesis because of inadvertent plagiarism. The key principle is that ideas and quotations are appropriately referenced.  Please look at the guidance about plagiarism on the UCL website, which is also reproduced in Section 23 of the Training Handbook.

If you have any queries about using Turnitin as part of the thesis submission, please contact Priya Dey, the Research Administrator, in the first instance. 

After the viva

Ongoing access to UCL library resources

All DClinPsy students continue to have access to UCL library resources after the viva, whilst they work on any required thesis revisions. Once you have have completed any revisions, had them approved and submitted your thesis, your access to the library as a UCL student will come to an end. However, the good news is that UCL alumni are entitled to library access after they complete their studies. You just need to re-register, following the instructions given on the UCL library website.   

Electronic Submission

You need to submit two electronic copies of Volume 1 in pdf format:

1. One e-copy to the Research Administrator with a filename of Thesis_final_volume1_[yourlastname] 

2. One e-copy to UCL's e-thesis repository (UCL Discovery) via the Research Publication Service. The library have produced a useful document (available on the Project Support Moodle site) outlining the e-thesis submission procedure.

Once the Research Administrator can confirm that you have completed all other components of the course, they will inform the HCPC that you have satisfied all the course requirements. However, before the Research Administrator can report to UCL that you have completed the course, you also need to have submitted the e-thesis copy to UCL Discovery. Once this is done, you will get a letter from the Course Directors confirming that you have passed the DClinPsy.