About this Resource
Productive reading
Writing effectively
Who are you trying to convince?
Putting yourself in your assessor’s place
Identifying explicit criteria underlying audience feedback
Looking for feedback on what you are doing well and what needs improving
Feedback prompt list: reinforcing the good and avoiding the weak
Identifying the implicit criteria underlying audience feedback
Expanding what you learn from audience feedback
Familiarising yourself with the official criteria for assessment
Learning systematically from audience feedback
Learning from your writing for formative and summative assessment
Formative and summative assessment in writing for academic presentation
Criteria for academic presentation and developing a convincing argument
Comparing criteria for academic publication and assessing students’ work
Who needs convincing if your work is to get published in an academic journal?
Inside an academic journal editor’s world
Getting to grips with academic journal criteria for acceptance
Building your sense of audience: an interview with a journal editor
Top tips for postgraduate and doctoral research students who aspire to get published
Arguing convincingly
Mapping your field
Literature reviewing
Reviewing the literature systematically
Developing proposals

Familiarising yourself with the official criteria for assessment

Do you know what the official criteria are for assessing your written work? The official criteria for assessment are typically made public to students, and students’ attention is drawn to them. They may be posted on the website for your programme of study or listed in your student handbook. Or they may be found on the website for your higher education institution setting out the regulations for the different postgraduate and doctoral degree programmes. The official criteria for assessment tend to be general in scope in order to keep the list simple and to make it applicable to a wide range of academic writing tasks.

Here is an indicative list of official criteria for assessing postgraduate written work. Students must demonstrate that they have:

1.       Engaged critically with literature in the field

2.       Understood current theories and applied them to their experience

3.       Demonstrated clarity of thought and quality of argument

4.       Designed and undertaken a small research study

These criteria are quite abstract, and do not explain what is to count as, say, engaging critically with literature rather than merely describing what the literature contains. But you can help yourself to develop your own understanding of what all the criteria mean and how you can meet them. One way of doing this is by attending to the feedback comments you receive from your tutor when she or he is assessing your written work according to these criteria. You will find that the more detailed and specific criteria of good practice underlying the feedback relate to one or more of these very general official criteria.

Can you work out which of the four official criteria above the detailed criterion of good practice below relates to most closely? 

  • a critical review of research should be balanced in seeking to identify ideas with sufficient research backing to be worth taking seriously, as well as showing how limited this research backing may be
  • we see this criterion as very directly relating to official criterion 1: students must demonstrate that they have engaged critically with literature in the field. So part of what ‘engaging critically’ means, in more detail, is that:
  • a balance is expected between looking for ideas to accept because they are sufficiently backed by research evidence
  • while at the same time pointing to the limitations of whatever research evidence there is to back these idea

Here is an indicative list of official criteria for assessing a doctoral dissertation or thesis: Candidates must demonstrate that they have:

1.       Made an original contribution to knowledge

2.       Produced material worthy of peer-reviewed publication

3.       Related the results of original research to the wider body of knowledge

4.       Understood research techniques and carried out a research project

The criteria are even more abstract than those for assessing postgraduate work. It is even less immediately clear what each criterion may mean in detail. Take the official criterion 1: candidates must demonstrate that they have made an original contribution to knowledge.

Try asking yourself:

  • What is to count as making a contribution to knowledge that is original?
  • How original must the contribution be if it is to be judged as meeting this criterion?
  • How much of the dissertation or thesis must be original?

How exact a set of answers were you able to give? You may not have been fully clear if you are still near the beginning or in the middle of your academic apprenticeship. You will probably become clearer with experience as you receive more detailed feedback on your written work from your supervisor, who will be working to the official criteria.

Examiners are likely to have a clear idea of what the official criteria mean because it is likely that they will be much more experienced as management researchers. They will have completed their academic apprenticeship long ago.

Build up your expertise! You can accelerate your learning about the meaning of the official criteria for your doctoral studies if you consciously try to relate the criteria of good practice underlying your supervisor’s feedback to the official criteria that a dissertation or thesis is required to meet.

One way of being systematic is for you to familiarise yourself with the official criteria for assessment and keep them in mind as you write. If you don’t already know what these criteria are, locate them and then go through the list carefully. Think about how you could meet each criterion in your written work.