Candidates may wish to undertake project work relevant to the Part 2 examination before passing the Part 1. Proposals for dissertations or casebooks may therefore be submitted for approval before passing the Part 1 examination.
However, the finished project may only be submitted to the College after success in the Part 1 examination and at least four months before the closing date for the Part 2 examination for which the candidate wishes to enter. The finished project should be submitted with a completed ‘Part 2 written project’ application form, available from the website (www.rcpath.org) or from the Examinations Department.
Applications for the compulsory oral component (or practical and oral, where appropriate) of the Part 2 examination will not be accepted until the written option has been awarded a pass mark by the Examinations Committee.
A dissertation is an option for the Part 2 examination in clinical biochemistry, genetics, histocompatibility and immunogenetics, immunology, medical microbiology, toxicology, veterinary clinical pathology, veterinary pathology and virology.
The purpose of the dissertation is to allow assessment of the practical ability of candidates, based on work performed in the department in which they are employed, and of their ability to report and assess the significance of their findings. It is a test of the ability to analyse, criticise and present raw data.
It follows that the project should arise from the normal work and interests of the department in which the candidate is employed. Medical candidates may wish to choose a topic that relates laboratory data to the investigation and management of patients, whilst non-medical candidates may wish to choose a topic oriented towards analytical work. In either case, there should be a considerable input of practical work; the use of results obtained in the course of the ordinary work of the candidate’s laboratory is not excluded.
The overall standard of the project should be such that it is suitable for publication in a professional scientific journal.
A typewritten proposal describing the background to, and the object of the intended study, together with details of the proposed experimental work and the name and address of the proposed supervisor, must be submitted to the College for approval, prior to commencing the project. Acceptance of the project by the College at this stage will prevent time being wasted on a project that is not acceptable.
The College currently asks for modifications to a substantial number of projects, so approval is advisable prior to performing any practical work.
Projects that are not relevant to the specialty, lack an adequate element of practical work or are so ambitious as to be unrealistic will not be approved. A copy of the approved proposal will be sent to the assessors with the dissertation.
The project and the writing of the dissertation should normally be carried out under the supervision of a Fellow or Member of the College. Where this is not possible, the candidate should give the name of the head of department for consideration by the Chairman of the Panel of Examiners. Supervisors are required to certify that the candidate has personally carried out the investigative work. This requirement should not be taken to exclude the possibility of using or including results of tests produced in the course of the normal work of the laboratory, provided this is acknowledged in the dissertation.
The dissertation must be written in English and should usually be between 4000 and 6000 words in length (excluding bibliography), with relevant illustrations and tables interleaved appropriately with the text. It must be typed in double-spacing (except for the references) and must be bound, preferably with a plastic spine, to allow for removal of individual sheets in case alteration is required. For the same reason, the use of a word processor is strongly recommended. Two copies of the dissertation must be submitted to the College.
The dissertation should be prefaced by a short abstract of the contents and a declaration stating what part, if any, of the work has been submitted in support of an application for another qualification and the personal contribution of the candidate to the practical work presented. It should normally state the problem that has been investigated, indicate the scope of the enquiry, include a relevant history of the subject, describe the methods used for exploring the problem, set out the data collected, include an analysis of the findings and attempt to deduce conclusions.
A dissertation may include published material or be based on work done for a higher degree, provided that the work was done during the candidate’s period of training and he/she made a major contribution to it. Findings from publications or theses must not be reported verbatim, but presented in a different way and augmented by further work. Reprints of the relevant publications must be appended. The examiners attach great importance to the quality of presentation and dissertations containing more than occasional typographical errors will be returned for correction.
The dissertation is marked by assigning to it one of three grades:
A = pass
B = modification or additional work is required
C = unacceptable.
Candidates will be informed of the grade awarded following approval by the Examiners’ Sub-committee. A candidate awarded a grade C will be contacted by the Chairmen of the Panel of Examiners and required to seek the advice of the Regional Adviser, who will receive a report indicating the reasons why the dissertation is unacceptable.
The following notes are designed to help candidates avoid common pitfalls in the design of dissertation projects and in the finished document.
a) Candidates are strongly advised to consult their supervisor at all stages of the project to ensure that time is not lost on projects turned down by a Research Ethics Committee or the College because of inadequate submission or poor design.
b) Candidates are strongly advised to have their dissertation read through by their supervisor or another experienced scientist, to ensure that errors are corrected and the dissertation is of an appropriate quality for submission.
a) Candidates should note that the dissertation proposal is an essential element of preparing the work for the dissertation. It should provide at least as much information as would be required for a research proposal for a grant.
b) Proposals including laboratory work for the dissertation should include reasonable detail of methods, especially if these are new. These should be referenced where possible.
c) Proposals including the use of patient samples should give details of the patient groups selected, inclusion and exclusion criteria, and details of clinical assessments that will be undertaken on the patients.
d) Candidates are advised that research involving patients will require the approval of an Ethics Committee. Candidates are strongly advised to take advice from the local Ethics Committee on this before submitting dissertation proposals.
e) Where methods are being compared, each of the samples need to be subjected to all methods being compared without prior selection to ensure there is no bias through sample selection.
f) Where the utility of a test for diagnosis or to guide treatment is being assessed in relation to a gold standard, ideally all patients should be submitted to both the gold standard assessment and the test under investigation. Selecting only patients for the gold standard test who prove positive by the candidate test assumes 100% sensitivity for the test, which is usually an unwarranted assumption.
g) Candidates are reminded that although previously published work can be included within a dissertation, this publication should not be repeated verbatim but presented in a different way and accompanied by additional work that the candidate has undertaken.
Submission of the dissertation
a) Candidates should note that the most common reason for rejection of dissertations is poor quality of the written work.
b) Candidates should check that their dissertation complies with the recommendations on format contained in these guidelines.
c) Dissertations with anything more than the occasional spelling mistake, misplaced word or other errors of presentation will be returned for correction.
d) Candidates should take care to ensure that, in the finished document, figures are not divorced from their legends, titles of sections do not appear at the bottom of pages and the size of figures and tables renders them legible.
e) Candidates are especially advised to check very carefully all references in the text, to ensure that the numbers refer to the correct reference listed at the end.
f) Candidates are reminded that where they have used a new method or adapted an existing method, sufficient details should be included for the method to be followed exactly by a scientist in another laboratory.
A casebook may be presented as an option for the Part 2 examination in genetics, histocompatibility and immunogenetics, immunology and veterinary pathology, and is compulsory in forensic pathology and transfusion medicine, but candidates should read carefully the specific instructions in the relevant specialty section (below) for the number of cases required.
An outline plan of the proposed work must be submitted to the College for approval by the Chairman of the Panel of Examiners at least 12 months before submission of the casebook itself. The casebook may be submitted at any time after the candidate has passed the Part 1 examination.
The standard of writing should be equivalent to that expected for publication as a case report in a professional scientific journal. Two copies must be presented. It must be typed in English on A4 paper, on one side only, double spaced apart from the references. The total length expected, excluding the references, is in the range of 10 000 to 20 000 words and would not normally exceed 20 000 words. Relevant photographs, illustrations and tables should be interleaved appropriately with the text. It should be presented in a strong binder, allowing the removal of individual sheets if alterations are required.
Supervisors are required to confirm that the candidate has made a major contribution to the cases and candidates will be expected to make clear their personal involvement in each case.
References must be included, and listed, preferably in the Vancouver style, (see Lancet or British Medical Journal for details). Any scientific or technical help should be acknowledged.
The casebook should include discussion of the significance of various findings and a survey of the relevant literature.
The College appreciates that it may be desirable to publish work before it is submitted to the College. There is no objection to this, provided that:
· a statement is included in the casebook indicating which parts of the work have been published and giving appropriate references
· the major part of the work has been carried out by the candidate during the training period
· the casebook does not simply reproduce the published work, but incorporates the published material in a revised, amplified or extended form
· the candidate is the major contributor to the relevant publications (this usually means that the candidate is the first named author).
The casebook is marked by assigning to it one of three grades:
A = pass
B = modification or additional work is required
C = unacceptable.
Candidates will be informed of the grade awarded following approval by the Examiners’ Sub-committee. A candidate awarded a grade C will be contacted by the Chairman of the Panel of Examiners and required to seek the advice of the Regional Adviser, who will receive a report indicating the reasons why the work is unacceptable.
3 Published papers
Published papers may be submitted as an option for the Part 2 examination in clinical biochemistry, cytopathology, genetics, histocompatibility and immunogenetics, histopathology, neuropathology, immunology, medical microbiology, veterinary clinical pathology, veterinary pathology and virology. Papers in press may be accepted.
As a general guide, a minimum of three papers is expected. Three publications by the candidate as sole author might be sufficient, but proportionately more multi-author papers will be required. Papers will be judged on their quality and on the candidate’s contribution and, in cases of multi-author papers, the extent and nature of the candidate’s contribution should be clearly indicated and certified by the sponsor.
Published papers submitted for the Part 2 examination in any specialty must be in English, and must demonstrate original research by the candidate, reflecting a theme or themes. They should be linked by a critical commentary, written by the candidate. A collection of unrelated case reports is not acceptable.
The bulk of the work should normally have been undertaken during the five-year training period in pathology. When multi-author papers are submitted, the sponsor is required to comment specifically on the contribution by the candidate to each paper. Two copies of all publications must be submitted, with a full list in chronological order of the publications. The reprints should be numbered to correspond with the list.
4 PhD/MD thesis
A PhD/MD thesis or equivalent may be submitted, together with confirmation of the award from the relevant university, as an option for the Part 2 examination in clinical biochemistry, cytopathology, genetics, histocompatibility and immunogenetics, histopathology, neuropathology, immunology, medical microbiology, veterinary clinical pathology, veterinary pathology and virology.
A thesis submitted as part of the Part 2 examination in any specialty must be relevant to the specialty chosen for the examination and the bulk of the work should normally have been undertaken during the period of pathology training.
The following notes apply.
a) Candidates are strongly advised that, before commencing a course leading to a PhD/MD thesis, they should submit the title and summary of the project to the College for approval as to its suitability as an option for the Part 2 examination. The completed project must be submitted as in (b) below.
b) Candidates who have already completed their thesis should submit one copy, together with confirmation of the award from the relevant university, to the Examinations Department so that it may be considered by the Chairman of the appropriate Panel of Examiners at the College for approval as to its suitability as an option for the Part 2.