There has been a slow but steady accretion of findings on doctoral assessment and examination processes over the past decade and a half. The study of Australian PhD examination reported here draws on the written reports on 301 theses across all discipline areas. Text categories identified in the reports are linked to other data including the recommendation examiners give the thesis and the final report of the committee. The assessment discourse of examiners is explored in depth with reference to high- and low-quality theses. The questions addressed are: (1) What qualities, attributes and characteristics of the thesis are examiners emphasising in their reports? (2) What form does their evaluative comment take? (3) What can the reports indicate about the relative strengths and weaknesses of a thesis and the standards examiners apply in determining a recommendation? and (4) what areas of report content and types of comment most clearly differentiate between the high-and low-quality theses? While it was evident in the reports that examiners weigh and balance many features of the thesis against their expectations to arrive at a recommendation, there were three general criteria that distinguished each of high-quality low-quality theses.
International Journal of Educational Research Vol. 41, Issue 2, p. 98-120