The research by Mullins and Kiley (2002) also found a number of things thesis assessors do and don't like to see.

Assessors don't like to see:

  • "Lack of coherence"
    E.g. they check conclusions match stated intentions in introduction
  • "Lack of understanding of the theory"
  • "Lack of confidence"
  • "Mixed or confused theoretical perspectives"
  • "Work that is not original"
  • "Not being able to explain at the end of the thesis what had actually been argued in the thesis"

Assessors do like to see:

  • The development of a well-structured argument
    This requires that there not only be a well-structured argument, but that this argument structure is made clear to the reader. This requires considerable skill as a writer.
  • Reflection: a critical assessment by the writer of their own work
    This is important because it indicates a capacity to improve through learning from experience. It is also useful for the reader to have the limitations of a piece of work explained to them rather than having to find these out from experience. And finally, a critical self-appraisal also gives the reader the feeling that they have been given an "honest" presentation of the work rather than a "sales pitch".
  • ‘Creativity' and ‘elegance' - more terms which are hard to define precisely, but these are things which make a reader go, "Wow, that's really neat!" or, "What a clever way of doing that!"

In addition, first impressions count. Experienced assessors typically read the abstract, introduction and conclusion first to get an overview and feel for the thesis. If these haven't been written well, then the assessor will be put in a negative frame of mind for reading the rest of the thesis.