‘You don’t want a smart Alec’: Selecting examiners to assess doctoral dissertations

Margaret Kiley*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    38 Citations (Scopus)


    The use of external examiners in the doctoral assessment process is seen as a quality assurance process in most higher education systems. This article suggests that the selection of examiners is a critical aspect of that process. Interview analysis highlights the professional/academic considerations involved in selecting suitable examiners, as well as the somewhat more difficult to determine personality issues. Most of the findings lead to an appreciation that experienced supervisors see one of their roles in selecting examiners as protecting their doctoral students from the ‘bad and mad’, and looking for those examiners who have empathy and understanding, while at the same time maintaining high standards and integrity. A particular concern raised in the article is that of inexperienced supervisors selecting examiners, given the finding that most experienced supervisors ensure that they know, or at the very least know of, the personality traits of potential examiners.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)889-903
    Number of pages15
    JournalStudies in Higher Education
    Issue number8
    Publication statusPublished - 23 Oct 2009


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