Centre for the Study of Research Training and Impact

Cross National Viva Study

A cross-national study of the relative impact of an oral component on PhD examination quality, language and practice

An ARC Discovery Project (DP110103007)

Summary and Significance of Program

This study investigates the role of an oral examination in PhD assessment, not commonly used in Australia, but common internationally. The quality of doctoral research is important for national well-being, but assessment studies that verify quality are only beginning to emerge. This study will focus on the oral/no oral assessment models to determine if and to what extent the presence of an oral in the PhD examination process makes a difference in examiner expectations, the discourse, content and language of their reports, and the recommendations they make. The intended outcome is a more robust PhD assessment regime.

This page will be constantly updated as the project unfolds.

Summary of Project Aims

The study will focus on two models of PhD examination (those with and those without an oral component in the final examination) in order to explore if, and to what extent the presence of an oral in the process makes a difference in examiner expectations; the discourse, content and language of their reports; and the recommendations they make. Further it will draw on the comparison to gain deeper insight into the context and culture of examination and formative feedback within the Academy.

Progress to Date

Examiner data has been collect from two institutions and data collection is underway at another two. All, as a general rule, conduct an oral as part of the PhD examination process – the oral assessment model. Two overseas countries are represented. The examination reports from the first two institutions have been scanned and edited and coding completed and entered into QSR N6 for the first of these.

Approximately 30 Interviews with experienced examiners have been carried out, representing three institutions from within and outside Australia. All interviews have now been transcribed and coding in QSR NVivo10 is underway. Further interviews are currently underway and will continue for the first six months of 2013.

Data collection is behind schedule due to unanticipated delays but should be completed in the first half of 2013.

Chief Investigators

Research Academic

          Dr Jennifer StGeorge

Project Officer and Contact

          Hedy Fairbairn
          Phone: +61 2 4968 6712
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