Research to date on the examination process for postgraduate research theses has focused largely on the deconstruction of examiners' reports. This article reports on a study of the processes that experienced examiners go through, and the judgements they make before writing their reports. A sample of 30 experienced examiners (defined as having examined the equivalent of at least five research theses over the last five years), from a range of disciplines in five universities was interviewed. Clear trends emerged with regard to: the criteria used by examiners and the levels of student performance expected by them; critical judgement points in the examination process; the examiners' perceptions of their own role in the process; the influence on examiners of previously published work, the views of the other examiner(s) and their knowledge of the student's supervisor and/or department, and the level of perceived responsibility between student and supervisor.
Mullins, G., & Kiley, M. (2002). "It's a PhD, not a Nobel Prize": How experienced examiners assess research thesis. Studies in Higher Education, 27, 369-386. https://doi.org/10.1080/0307507022000011507