Although the process of examining doctoral theses is important both in terms of maintaining standards for this qualification and in terms of its impact on individual candidates, there have been few analyses which have focused on this process. In this article, 51 examiners' reports of doctoral theses are qualitatively analysed for common themes. The analysis demonstrates variations in the format, recommendations and interpretation of recommendations among the reports. The importance which examiners place on the editoral aspects of the theses is also highlighted. The article suggests that examiners approach the task of reading a thesis with needs very similar to readers of any new piece of work. Enthusiasm to be engaged with new ideas in their field quickly dissipates if confronted with work which is not 'reader-friendly'. The article argues the need for more openness in the examination process and for more formal induction of examiners.
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