I had always wondered how a dissertation is evaluated, based on what set of criteria. It’s common to hear from peers and supervisors that the best we could hope for our dissertations is getting a pass with minor corrections. After getting mine, I went further to search for some guidelines, maybe a bit too late for me but at least I know how well I did.
Here is the examiner’s recommendation guidelines for mixed-mode Master program in my university:
DISTINCTION for Dissertation
Attained sufficient academic merit for recommendation of the degree with Distinction if the dissertation:
1. Does not require correction;
2. Does not require additional experiments, collections of new data or extensive revision; and
3. Is completed and submitted for examination not more than 4 semesters from the date of initial registration.
*Okay, I didn’t know these. Taking only 4 semesters to complete is only possible for full-time students, I guess. I took 6 semesters to complete but I have never aimed for distinction.
Pass WITHOUT corrections
Attained sufficient academic merit for recommendation of the degree without corrections if the dissertation:
1. Does not require correction; and
2. Does not require additional experiments, collections of new data or extensive revision
*Seriously, I have never met a peer who achieve this. I wonder if this is achievable. If so, should have gotten distinction instead of pass. Just by a merely 4 semesters criteria.
Pass with MINOR corrections
Attained sufficient academic merit for the recommendation of the degree of Master subject to MINOR corrections if the dissertation:
1. Requires minor text editing, formatting of tables and/or figures, corrections of grammar, spelling, or typos;
2. Requires a little addition of relevant information;
3. Requires explanations pertaining to several short sections in the text;
4. Ends with a conclusion that does not differ much when revised;
5. Requires addition of relevant information which requires less than 3 months to revise.
*Consider myself lucky to be in this category but sadly my dissertation requires most of the items above. On the positive note, the examiner’s feedback is always a great opportunity for improving my dissertation.
Required to undertake further work/major corrections and submit the dissertation for RE-EXAMINATION within a period of 3 to 6 months if the dissertation:
1. Has major weakness(es) that will affect the conclusion of the dissertation
2. Has major weakness(es) that can be addressed and improved upon, with additional work
3. Requires additional experiments, statistical analysis, revision of a large body of text and expansion of the literature review.
*Good news is so far I have not heard any peers in this category and I don’t think this should happen if the supervisor always keep the candidate in check of the work.
Failed to attain academic merit and has failed in the dissertation examination if the dissertation:
1. Has substantial weaknesses making the dissertation to be below acceptable standards which cannot be addressed even with additional work or corrections;
2. Has weaknesses that cannot be corrected;
3. Is based on inadequate research; or
4. Has plagiarized work or text.
*I guess no examiner or supervisor could easily decide on a fail unless there is not other way to salvage the candidate’s dissertation. I have heard of peers who were too headstrong in their own research direction by ignoring the supervisor’s recommendation, hence paving their own failed roads.
I’m not sure how similar is this guideline to other universities but I hope this will give you some idea…