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2013 Three Minute Thesis Winner - Sharon Savage

Referencing styles vary significantly from discipline to discipline. UNSW gives research candidates free access to EndNote — bibliographic software that allows the storage, organisation and management of references in a database.

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Preparing for Submission. This is to ensure enough time for examiners to be contacted, determine their availability based on the projected submission date, and if they agree, nominated to examine your thesis. Apply for early submission It is expected that candidates will submit their thesis in no less than three years full time for a PhD or one and a half years full time for Masters program.

However, in exceptional circumstances a candidate who demonstrates outstanding research skills may request submission of the thesis earlier than these times. Nomination of examiners Once your Notification of Intention to Submit has been lodged, your Supervisor and your Postgraduate Coordinator will be asked to nominate two external examiners. It is University policy that the names of appointed examiners are not released to any candidate until the examination process is complete.

However, if you would like to specify any potential examiner who you would prefer not to examine your thesis, you are welcome to discuss your concerns with either your supervisor or Postgraduate Coordinator prior to the nomination process. It is important to understand that contact with the examiners during the examination process is prohibited. Your abstract should be no more than words.

If your supervisor does not support submission of your thesis and you decide to submit against their recommendation, your supervisor must notify both you and your Postgraduate Coordinator in writing of their concerns. The Faculty Higher Degree Committee HDC will consider submissions from both yourself and your supervisor to determine whether or not your thesis will be submitted for examination.

If the HDC believes that your thesis is not ready for submission, they will determine what remedial action needs to be taken. Inclusion of Publications. UNSW is supportive of candidates publishing their research results during their candidature. Candidates must use the Inclusion of Publications Statement to indicate whether publications have resulted from the research.

If candidates include such publications in the thesis in lieu of a Chapter, they must provide full details of these publications and state their contribution to the work through the use of the Inclusion of Publications Statement. This time is required to prepare for the submission, as well as selecting and approving examiners. While a student may submit their notification later than this, doing so may delay the sending of their thesis to their examiners.

The form is available electronically within this system. As soon as you have submitted your form notifications will be sent all relevant recipients to start preparations for the submission. If you are a Supervisor you will receive a notification that you need to complete a Supervisor's Certificate. Information on that form is also contained within this section of Help.

Follow the navigation instructions in section 1 Gateways and Enquiries of the Help pages. Once you are on the main menu page click on the button marked "Submit Notification". Once you are on the Notification form page most of the fields should be pre-filled by the data currently held in the student system. Moreover, postponing the oral until after revisions and resubmission tends to suggest that the institution considers the oral component as an additional process to the original examination.

In England, it appears that, in the majority of cases, the candidate does not see the reports prior to the Viva, whereas, in NZ, the opposite is generally the case. Colleagues report that in some cases the reports were given to the candidate up to ten days in advance of the oral in order to allow them to prepare. Again, there are implications related to these practices. It might be argued that where the candidate does not know the issues to be raised from examination of the written work, the institution considers it more of an examination whereas, with an opportunity to prepare, it might be seen as more of a rebuttal, a practice that is in keeping with academic practice when applying for research grants and similar competitive processes.

Of course, whether the candidates are able to see the reports on the written thesis prior to the oral component assumes that the reports have been received, and in a timely manner.

Thesis and examinations

There are also many organisational issues in relation to the reports. For example, if a date is set for the oral, travel organised for candidate and examiners, rooms booked and so on, and then one of the reports does not arrive, what happens? Alternatively, it might be argued that examiners could be more likely to return reports on time if they are aware of such related issues. Another consideration related to an oral component concerns the audience. Wellington p.

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As suggested above, the European public defence has a rich history of public engagement, whereas the UK Viva is more of a private affair with the candidate, internal and external examiners and, when invited by the candidate, the supervisor. In some cases, universities in the UK are now including a chairperson but where this is not the case the internal examiner takes on the role of chairing the event.

The NZ model most frequently includes the candidate, at least one examiner, a neutral chairperson, and the main supervisor. The role of the supervisor in the oral component is one of the most debated issues, and the focus is primarily on the nature of their contribution and impact on proceedings. In a similar vein what is the relevance and impact of others who might be included, particularly related to cultural diversity and health? In some situations, for example in various NZ universities, the candidate can invite a friend to attend, but this is as an observer only.

An example, which might illuminate this issue, comes from Chen where she describes the process in one Canadian university which is a semi-public event wherein the candidate can invite a small number of colleagues, family and friends to attend as observers, with a total number of participants being about persons. Decisions regarding the participants in the oral component highlight issues related to the purpose of this component of the doctoral examination.

In other words, could a candidate be required to re-sit the oral component only? This is where there is considerable discussion as to whether it is the thesis or candidate that is being examined and extends to consideration of different, if possibly overlapping, sets of criteria.

The Australian Qualifications Framework Council requires that, at the PhD level, each thesis be examined by at least two examiners external to the institution and who have an international reputation in the relevant field. At the same time, this requirement allows for a third examiner who could be internal to the university in question. Hence lingering questions include: What are the advantages and disadvantages of having an internal examiner?

If there is an internal examiner, what is their role? For example, in many English universities the internal examiner chairs the oral examination process, whereas in some NZ universities the internal examiner ensures that all the required changes are suitably addressed. In other cases the internal is seen as someone who can explain the institutional circumstances, anomalies and policies. Related to the involvement of an internal examiner, the NZ system faced a particular issue whereby there was considerable pressure to maintain the international nature of the doctoral examination process and yet introduce a practical and financially viable oral system.

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Therefore, as a minimum the written thesis is generally sent to an examiner at one of the other NZ or if need be Australian institutions, as well as to an international examiner. For the oral component, it is often the NZ examiner who attends the oral, not the international examiner, although with technology it is not uncommon for the international examiner to be involved by Skype or similar.

In addressing the various issues above one is confronted by the considerations of the cost involved: cost for examiners and candidates to attend, cost of organising, the workload cost of the time involved for all participants and administrators along with the emotional cost, as outlined in much of the literature on the Viva. Considerations relevant to the process of conducting the oral component. A number of issues are deserving of consideration in the conduct of the oral component, for example: Is there a structure or agenda for the event and, if so, who manages it?

Does the candidate give a presentation at the commencement of the oral session? Is there an ideal length of the oral component? Does the questioning cover the thesis topic only or range more broadly across related disciplinary areas? Finally, what does it mean for all concerned when the examiners and candidate come face-to-face? The literature shows that it is not uncommon for the examiners to meet together prior to the oral session in order to determine an agenda or order of questions that lead from the simple, introductory style of question to more complex levels of analysis and synthesis see for example Carter, S.

This tends to lead to a more coherent and unified session. Another form of structure in the pre-Viva meeting reported by Trafford , p. At the other end of the spectrum, examples were found of beginning with Examiner 1 who worked their way through the thesis, asking questions and airing concerns, and then handing over to Examiner 2 for the same process.

Having a neutral chairperson who has had some training, as in some NZ universities, can ensure that a coherent agenda is developed. In NZ, in many cases, the chairperson is often from a different discipline from that of the candidate and is quite explicitly not one of the examiners. While in the UK it is still not common to have a neutral chair, there is research to suggest that this situation, along with the private nature of the Viva, could lead to the unprofessional behaviour by some examiners.

For example, Pearce provides four scenarios based on her research and experience. Wallace , p. Particularly in Australia, given geographic distance from much of the locus of Western scholarship, the role that technology might play is an important issue. While many see the possibilities of using Skype or equivalent in order to enable the overseas examiner to participate, there are a number of issues to be considered. One is the simple issue of time differences, particularly for Australian candidates where an examiner is in Europe, the UK or North America with time differences of anything up to 12 hours.


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Could it be that the candidate has returned home or moved to undertake work and so is using Skype or equivalent to respond to examiners who are located at the other end of the connection in the university where they undertook their degree? Or, might be it best practice to ensure that the candidate is present with the chairperson, at least, even if the other examiners and supervisors are the ones who are connecting from outside the university through technology?

When the process of examination involves the written thesis only, the examiners are confined to the content of that document. A further issue for consideration concerns the personality of the examiners. While in the Australian system the examiners do not meet with the candidate, or with one another, and where examiners can request that their names not be divulged to the candidate, might there be different expectations of behaviour if the examiner is face to face even via Skype , rather than participating only as the author of a written report?

How examiners differ in behaviours between an oral and a purely written scenario is unknown. Considerations relevant to the actions following the oral examination. Two issues that would benefit from consideration regarding the conclusion and follow-up to the oral examination are: how, and with whom, is the final decision reached and, who should write the final report? From the literature, the candidate and the supervisor if present are usually asked to leave the room once they have addressed the agreed questions.

In some cases, however, the supervisor can be invited to remain in the room while the examiners deliberate. Whatever the process, the role of the supervisor would need to be thought through clearly. Once an agreement has been reached, usually the candidate, with the supervisor, is invited to return, after which the examiners report the recommendation that they are going to make to the university and, where it is a positive outcome, generally congratulate and share in initial celebrations.

It is clear from the literature that in the UK and NZ the final report from the oral examination is forwarded to the relevant institutional office for various administrative and educational purposes.

Questions arise concerning the actual report. For example, should it be: a combination of a final summative report written by the chair and signed off by the panel, with the initial individual reports appended?

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Or, should the report be comprised of edited comments from the reports of the written thesis integrated into the report arising from the oral? Or, might there be other alternatives that meet the needs of candidates, examiners and the institution and would these practices vary if the candidate has seen the reports on the written thesis prior to the oral component and has had the opportunity to respond, as is generally the case in NZ?

This paper has built on earlier research by the author team Lovat et al and literature that has identified a range of issues, inconsistencies and problems with doctoral examination processes within and between systems in Australia, England and New Zealand. Among some of the foci of more recent research arose the issue of the need for, or desirability of, an oral component to examination, a practice that is common in the UK, a growing trend in New Zealand but almost entirely absent from the Australian system.

The spectrum of considerations span the preparation for, conduct, and aftermath, of the oral component in thesis examination and address such issues as nomenclature, student preparation, sequence, access to examiner comments, who attends, participant roles, costs, organisation and reporting. Margaret Kiley has worked in the areas of doctoral education for many years and is an adjunct at the Australian National University and holds a conjoint position at the University of Newcastle, Australia. ACGR Australian Qualifications Framework Council. Australian Qualifications Framework.

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