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Research and writing looking at the doctoral examination process has tended to focus on the perceptions and experiences of students, the practicalities of the viva situation, or on the ways in which examiners read doctoral theses and come to decisions about what recommendation (e.g. Pass, Minor Amendments, Resubmission, Fail etc.) to make. The proposed project would, rather, concentrate on the perceptions and experiences of examiners faced with what they consider to be difficult and/or problematic situations that may arise at any stage of the examination process, from the initial approach to be an examiner, through to signing off the thesis and beyond. The aim is to investigate what examiners themselves experience as being problematic and the study will essentially be qualitative in that examiners will be asked to describe and give narrative accounts of what they have found to be difficult. The proposed study would involve:
• A questionnaire survey to gain some sense of how many people had experienced problems and what the nature of those problems was. It would collect demographic information and would also invite extended written accounts of problematic situations. People who were prepared to be interviewed would be asked to provide contact details.
• Narrative unstructured interviews with people who consider themselves to have experienced problematic examination situations. The questionnaire would (in the first instance) be distributed to all academic staff working at the University of Sheffield. Delegates attending the Discourse Power Resistance (DPR) conference (April 13-15) would also be invited to take part. Interviewees would be self selecting from the questionnaire survey.
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