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Doctoral Dissertation S

That could be because students are analysing more complex questions, performing longer literature reviews and using increasingly complicated methods that require lengthier explanations (see 'The expanding thesis').“It's unnecessary to have such a long thesis,” says Farrar, who recently assessed one such tome.“It almost feels like a rite of passage,” she says.Ph Ds are assessed in very different ways around the world.But many feel that the system could be improved — by making the thesis shorter, for one.Data from Pro Quest, which stores 4 million theses, show that the average length of biology, chemistry and physics Ph Ds soared to nearly 200 pages between 19.“My preference is to assess the researcher,” she says, “but we haven't developed the tools and curriculum to do that.” It's difficult to find figures on how many students fail their Ph D if they get to the point of submitting a thesis but, anecdotally, scientists say that few flunk it outright.More often, students are sent away with minor or major corrections that have to be completed before the Ph D is awarded.

Doctoral Dissertation S-39Doctoral Dissertation S-89

“You need to look at the Ph D in the context of those four years of research, not just as revision for one big test.” Mewburn stresses that whatever form the assessment takes, it should focus more on the individual than on their work.Examiners have to find time to review theses in between research, teaching, grant-writing and many other demands.“Something has to give, and what gives is the amount of time spent on any of those individual tasks,” says Farrar.The accompanying oral examination — also called a viva voce or defence — can be a public lecture, a private discussion or not happen at all.There is wide variation across disciplines and from one institution to the next. One format does not fit all,” says Maresi Nerad, founding director of the Center for Innovation and Research in Graduate Education at the University of Washington in Seattle.“Two or three examiners come together to go through the thesis in a perfunctory way.They tick the boxes, everyone is happy, and then a Ph D walks away,” says Jeremy Farrar, director of the biomedical research charity the Wellcome Trust in London.Almost all involve a written thesis, but those come in many forms.In the United Kingdom, they are usually monographs, long explanations of a student's work; in Scandinavia, science students typically top-and-tail a series of their publications.A lot was at stake: this oral examination would determine whether he passed or failed.“At the one-hour mark someone came in, banged a stick on the floor and said 'hora est',” says Marshall — the ceremonial call that his time was up. I had enjoyed the whole experience far too much, and ended up talking for a few extra minutes.” Marshall's elaborate, public Ph D assessment is very different from that faced by Kelsie Long, an Earth-sciences Ph D candidate at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra.


  1. A doctoral dissertation is an independent, new research project necessary for a Ph. D. that displays a candidate's proficiency in their field of.

  2. The thesis is a project that marks the end of a master's program, while the dissertation occurs during doctoral study. The two are actually quite different in their.

  3. Marshall's elaborate, public PhD assessment is very different from that faced by Kelsie Long, an Earth-sciences PhD candidate at the Australian.

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