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Thesis Examination Criteria

What do examiners look for in a PhD / Research Doctorate thesis?

Examiners are asked to consider eight questions, where appropriate. These are:

  • does the candidate show sufficient familiarity with, and understanding and critical appraisal of, the relevant literature?
  • does the thesis provide a sufficiently comprehensive investigation of the topic?
  • are the methods and techniques adopted appropriate to the subject matter and are they properly justified and applied?
  • are the results suitably set out and accompanied by adequate exposition and interpretation?
  • are conclusions and implications appropriately developed and clearly linked to the nature and content of the research framework and findings?
  • has/have the research question(s) been tested or explored according to disciplinary norms?
  • is the literary quality and general presentation of the thesis of a suitably high standard?
  • does the thesis as a whole constitute a substantive original contribution to knowledge in the subject area with which it deals?

Examiners are also asked to consider the following attributes.

  • demonstrates authority in the student's field and show evidence of command of knowledge in relevant fields
  • demonstrate a thorough grasp of the appropriate methodological techniques and an awareness of their limitations
  • make a contribution to knowledge that rests on originality of approach and/or interpretation of the findings and, in some cases, the discovery of new facts
  • demonstrate the candidate's ability to communicate research findings effectively in the professional arena and in an international context
  • demonstrate an understanding of, and commitment to, research ethics and integrity
  • be a careful, rigorous and sustained piece of work demonstrating that a research apprenticeship is complete and the holder is admitted to the community of scholars in the discipline.

Examiners are asked to consider each thesis solely on its own merits as an independent piece of supervised research, irrespective of whether or not the thesis adopts an approach which may be considered as not falling within the mainstream or established research paradigms, and irrespective of whether or not the approach to the research is the same that the examiner might have used in such a study themselves.