AAUP Dissertation Rubric and Descriptors

Dissertation Rubric

How to Grade a Dissertation: Table 1: The Characteristics of Dissertations- http://www.aaup.org/AAUP/pubsres/academe/2005/ND/Feat/lovisb.htm?PF=1
Below are the criteria the focus group members specified for each level of dissertation quality.
• Is original and significant, ambitious, brilliant, clear, clever, coherent, compelling, concise, creative, elegant, engaging, exciting, interesting, insightful, persuasive, sophisticated, surprising, and thoughtful
• Is very well written and organized
• Is synthetic and interdisciplinary
• Connects components in a seamless way
• Exhibits mature, independent thinking
• Has a point of view and a strong, confident, independent, and authoritative voice
• Asks new questions or addresses an important question or problem
• Clearly states the problem and why it is important
• Displays a deep understanding of a massive amount of complicated literature
• Exhibits command and authority over the material
• Argument is focused, logical, rigorous, and sustained
• Is theoretically sophisticated and shows a deep understanding of theory
• Has a brilliant research design
• Uses or develops new tools, methods, approaches, or types of analyses
• Is thoroughly researched
• Has rich data from multiple sources
• Analysis is comprehensive, complete, sophisticated, and convincing
• Results are significant
• Conclusion ties the whole thing together
• Is publishable in top-tier journals
• Is of interest to a larger community and changes the way people think
• Pushes the discipline’s boundaries and opens new areas for research
Very Good
• Is solid
• Is well written and organized
• Has some original ideas, insights, and observations, but is less original, significant, ambitious, interesting, and exciting than the outstanding category
• Has a good question or problem that tends to be small and traditional
• Is the next step in a research program (good normal science)
• Shows understanding and mastery of the subject matter
• Has a strong, comprehensive, and coherent argument
• Includes well-executed research
• Demonstrates technical competence
• Uses appropriate (standard) theory, methods, and techniques
• Obtains solid, expected results or answers
• Misses opportunities to completely explore interesting issues and connections
• Makes a modest contribution to the field but does not open it up

• Is workmanlike
• Demonstrates technical competence
• Shows the ability to do research
• Is not very original or significant
• Is not interesting, exciting, or surprising
• Displays little creativity, imagination, or insight
• Writing is pedestrian and plodding
• Has a weak structure and organization
• Is narrow in scope
• Has a question or problem that is not exciting—is often highly derivative or an extension of the adviser’s work
• Displays a narrow understanding of the field
• Reviews the literature adequately—knows the literature but is not critical of it or does not discuss what is important
• Can sustain an argument, but the argument is not imaginative, complex, or convincing
• Demonstrates understanding of theory at a simple level, and theory is minimally to competently applied to the problem
• Uses standard methods
• Has an unsophisticated analysis—does not explore all possibilities and misses connections
• Has predictable results that are not exciting
• Makes a small contribution
• Is poorly written
• Has spelling and grammatical errors
• Has a sloppy presentation
• Contains errors or mistakes
• Plagiarizes or deliberately misreads or misuses sources
• Does not understand basic concepts, processes, or conventions of the discipline
• Lacks careful thought
• Looks at a question or problem that is trivial, weak, unoriginal, or already solved
• Does not understand or misses relevant literature
• Has a weak, inconsistent, self-contradictory, unconvincing, or invalid argument
• Does not handle theory well, or theory is missing or wrong
• Relies on inappropriate or incorrect methods
• Has data that are flawed, wrong, false, fudged, or misinterpreted
• Has wrong, inappropriate, incoherent, or confused analysis
• Includes results that are obvious, already known, unexplained, or misinterpreted
• Has unsupported or exaggerated interpretation
• Does not make a contribution
Back to text.

How to Grade a Dissertation:
Table 2: Some Dimensions of the Different Components of the Generic Dissertation
The following dimensions emerged from the analysis of the results of the study described in this article.

Component 1: Introduction
The introduction
• Includes a problem statement
• Makes clear the research question to be addressed
• Describes the motivation for the study
• Describes the context in which the question arises
• Summarizes the dissertation’s findings
• Discusses the importance of the findings
• Provides a roadmap for readers

Component 2: Literature Review
The review
• Is comprehensive and up to date
• Shows a command of the literature
• Contextualizes the problem
• Includes a discussion of the literature that is selective, synthetic, analytical, and thematic

Component 3: Theory
The theory that is applied or developed
• Is appropriate
• Is logically interpreted
• Is well understood
• Aligns with the question at hand

In addition, the author shows comprehension of the theory’s
• Strengths
• Limitations

Component 4: Methods
The methods applied or developed are
• Appropriate
• Described in detail
• In alignment with the question addressed and the theory used In addition, the author demonstrates
• An understanding of the methods’ advantages and disadvantages
• How to use the methods

Component 5: Results or Analysis
The analysis
• Is appropriate
• Aligns with the question and hypotheses raised
• Shows sophistication
• Is iterative
In addition, the amount and quality of data or information is
• Sufficient
• Well presented
• Intelligently interpreted
The author also cogently expresses
• The insights gained from the study
• The study’s limitations

Component 6: Discussion or Conclusion
The conclusion
• Summarizes the findings
• Provides perspective on them
• Refers back to the introduction
• Ties everything together
• Discusses the study’s strengths and weaknesses
• Discusses implications and applications for the discipline
• Discusses future directions for research
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