Guidelines for Marking of Dissertations for Postgraduate (MSc) Programmes
Below are guidelines for first and second markers of dissertations. It is important that you are familiar with these.
The guidelines are in three parts. The first part sets out the procedures that must be followed by first and second markers, and includes a section on borderline marks. Please note that for dissertations, Distinction, Merit, and Pass borderlines are all relevant.
The second part sets out guidelines for interpreting Turnitin reports. It is the responsibility of the first marker to check these, and these guidelines are intended to help determine if there is a potential plagiarism issue.
The final part is an assessment guideline. Please note that these guidelines are intended to be that – to help guide decisions – and not as an absolute measure. They can be helpful in determining marks to be awarded and also in helping markers and second markers decide an agreed mark.
Please also note that University regulations require that dissertations should be assessed by two markers, and so are separate from recent changes to the moderation of exams and coursework.
1. First Marker
The first marker provides the larger part of feedback on the MSc Dissertation Feedback Form and under headings which have been designed to reflect the intended learning outcomes of the dissertation
Feedback should be full and detailed enough for students learn from it.
No mark should be entered on the feedback form, but instead entered a mark on the MSc Dissertation Mark Record Sheet
Checking for Plagiarism
There are guidelines later on how to read a Turnitin report. If, following your own assessment of the Turnitin report, you believe there is cause for concern, please first discuss this with your dissertation coordinator. Likewise, if you have good cause to suspect plagiarism but it does not show on the Turnitin report (possibly purchased), please first discuss this with your dissertation coordinator. Any suspected cases of plagiarism should then be forwarded to Humphrey Bourne together with as much evidence as can be found
2. Second Marker
The second marker should also mark the dissertation in the normal way, but is not expected to write detailed feedback to the student. Instead, the second marker should write a brief overall summary of the dissertation’s strengths and weaknesses to be added to the Feedback Form.
The marker should then add their mark to the Mark Record Sheet.
3. Agreeing final marks
Markers need to agree a final mark. It is imperative that once the mark has been agreed and recorded on the mark record sheet that a brief explanation of the mark is given. Where the initial mark of the two markers differs by more than five marks, a fuller explanation of how an agreed mark has been reached needs to be given.The reason for this is because it is the primary means by which external examiners can see that the process has been followed correctly and with consideration. External examiners raised concerns about the lack of transparency in the agreeing of marks for dissertations, and a clear trail is important in demonstrating that we are carrying out marking responsibilities properly.
4. Borderline marks for Dissertation pass and permission to resubmitTwo important points to note with regard to grade boundaries in the marking of dissertations:
How to interpret a Turnitin similarity report: Guidance for Dissertation Markers.
The University uses the text comparison software Turnitin to help us to identify plagiarism. The report that Turnitin generates includes a number referred to as a ‘similarity index’. If there is a suspicion of plagiarism, the Chair of the school board of examiners will decide, in consultation with the Faculty plagiarism officers, and using the criteria listed in section 8 of the examination regulations, whether the case appears minor and can be handled at school level or is more significant, requiring involvement from the Faculty. The % similarity index indicates the amount of matching text, but this is not necessarily plagiarism. Turnitin does not itself identify plagiarism but highlights matching text. Reports are interpreted and any plagiarism determined by academic judgement.
There are a few points to note when considering Turnitin reports.
The following points can be helpful when looking at Turnitin reports:
|Criteria||Distinction 70% plus||Merit 60-69%||Pass 50-59%||Fail 45-49%||Bad Fail below 45%|
|Framing a research topic and question(s)||Well argued, imaginative choice of problem/area of study Clear and considered central research question and supplementary questions / hypotheses where appropriate Excellent knowledge of related concepts Importance and relevance of research discussed Clear and relevant statement of purpose and research outcomes||Suitable choice of problem / area of study Relevant and clear central question identified, and supplementary questions / hypotheses where appropriate Good knowledge of related concepts Importance of research discussed with limitations Clear statement of purpose and intended research outcomes||Mainly coherent identification of problem / area of study, development of the central research question and of supplementary questions / hypotheses where appropriate Useful knowledge of related concepts Some discussion of relevance and/or importance of research||Weakness in the choice of problem / area of study Research question too broad, or too vaguely articulated, or inappropriate Little or no knowledge of related concepts Little or no discussion of relevance of the research||Unsuitable choice of problem / area of study Little or no attempt at framing the research topic or question Little or no knowledge of related concepts evident No discussion of the relevance of the research|
|Understanding and use of literature||Wide-ranging, independent reading evident Excellent knowledge and understanding Critical appraisal strongly evident Development of original thinking and insights Excellent organisation of literature allowing for well-reasoned arguments, High degree of coherence||Evidence of independent reading, although range of issues limited in scope Good knowledge and understanding Developing critical appraisal evident Good organisation of literature allowing for logical development of arguments Good level of coherence||Some evidence of independent reading although may rely too much on recommended reading Satisfactory knowledge and understanding Some emerging evidence of critical thinking Organisation of literature satisfactory Key concepts addressed Satisfactorily coheren||Little or no evidence of independent reading Limited level of knowledge and understanding of key concepts and ideas There is little or no evidence of critical thinking Organisation of literature is poor and does not allow development of arguments Significant gaps in the literature Little coherence||Scant evidence of familiarity with literature relevant to topic Insufficient knowledge and understanding of key concepts and ideas There is no evidence of critical thinking Organisation of ideas is very weak or non-existent|
|Methodology||A clear and deep knowledge of methodology used and of underpinning theories Understanding of alternative approaches Fully justified choice of research methods Clear indication of strengths and limitations of approach||Well-justified methodology and useful considerations of underpinning theories Awareness of alternative approaches Choice of research methods well justified Indication of strengths and limitations of approach||Methodology adequately justified and chosen methods satisfactorily explained Some awareness of wider research methodologies Choice of research methods largely suitable and justified Strengths and limitations of methodology considered||Methodology mot adequately justified and/or not clear what kind of study was undertaken Choice of methods inappropriate or poorly executed Underpinning theories not considered at a satisfactory level Strengths and limitations inadequately considered||Not clear what kind of study was undertaken. Choice of methods inappropriate and poorly executed No consideration of underpinning theories|
|Analysis, discussion and conclusions||Analysis carried out accurately and with high degree of competence in line with methodological and theoretical premises Selection, interpretation, comparison, evaluation, and integration of material from empirical or library sources are extremely effective Significant insight achieved Judgments strongly based on critical appraisal Discussion highly relevant to research question and literature Appropriate discussion of limitations Logically developed and pertinent conclusions||Good analysis of data / concepts or theoretical ideas in line with methodological and theoretical premises Selection, interpretation, comparison, evaluation and integration of material from empirical or library sources are effective, perhaps with some omissions Useful insight achieved Judgements are based on critical appraisal Discussion relevant to research question and literature Some discussion of limitations Conclusion summarises issues and considers implications||Satisfactory analysis of data, concepts or theoretical ideas perhaps with some deviation from theoretical premises Satisfactory selection, interpretation, comparison, evaluation and integration of material from empirical or library sources, with limitations Some insights achieved Judgements show some but limited critical appraisal Discussion of relevance but not comprehensive Conclusion provides summary||Analysis of data, concepts or theoretical ideas is uncertain and/or overly descriptive or anecdotal and/or incorrect Inadequate selection, interpretation, comparison, evaluation and integration of material from empirical or library sources Little or no insights achieved Judgements show lack of critical appraisal Little or no discussion of relevance Conclusions may lack any insight due to inadequate analysis||Little or no analysis of data, concepts or theoretical ideas; descriptive, simplistic and anecdotal and/or incorrect Negligible ability to select, interpret, compare, evaluate and/or integrate material from empirical or library sources No adequate evidence of: insight achieved; critical appraisal; and/or discussion of relevance No conclusions made|
|Style and Presentation||Introduction is tightly focused with a clear rationale High degree of internal consistency overall and within each chapter Well-chosen subheadings Highly readable style; ideas communicated clearly Careful editing and proof-reading; few errors Length within stipulations Referencing accurate, appropriate, and conforms exactly to conventions Presentation meets required expectations fully||Introduction is focused and provides useful guidance to rationale Good internal coherence overall and within each chapter Subheadings summarise content effectively Readable; ideas generally communicated clearly Well edited with few errors Length consistent with expectations Referencing is accurate, appropriate and conforms to conventions Presentation meets required expectations fully||Introduction describes the central concerns Overall structure and organisation is satisfactory Internal coherence of the whole, and each chapter, is satisfactory. Subheadings broadly effective Ideas are generally communicated clearly but language used may present some comprehension difficulties Length is acceptable Referencing generally conforms to expectations with occasional inaccuracies Presentation meets most expectations||Introduction may not reflect focus of study Structure and organisation may not be satisfactory leading to weakness in internal coherence overall and within chapters Subheadings not effective Ideas may not be presented clearly and language may present comprehension difficulties Length may not be consistent with expectations Referencing may contain inaccuracies in citation and attribution Presentation may fail to meet expectations||Ineffective introduction Poor structure so that arguments that may be present fail to develop logically Incoherence within and between chapters evident throughout Language used presents significant comprehension difficulties There may be significant typological errors The length may be unacceptable Referencing may contain substantial inaccuracies in citation and attribution Presentation may fail to meet expectations|