Responding to Examiners
Your thesis will be examined by two experts who have given considerable time (voluntarily) to the examination process. Examiners should not be viewed as antagonists, even if you disagree with some of their comments and even if their report is considered to have an aggressive tone.
Your approach should always be one of calm professionalism. You should take every opportunity to improve your thesis based on examiner comments, on the assumption that they are well-meant suggestions, and considering that your thesis will be a permanent record of your skills, acumen and attitude as a scientist. Your response should take the form of a rebuttal document that clearly outlines your response to each of the examiners points, and a revised thesis in which these changes have been enacted.
Planning your response:
1. Make a copy of your examiners reports that you can write on, leaving the originals as a backup.
2. Mark (underline/highlight) every comment, suggestion or specific request that you consider requires some sort of action. Bear in mind that a question is typically a request for clarification of a point in the thesis and not an idle musing or something that the examiner just wants to see if you know the answer to. You will not have the opportunity to answer the examiners directly, so clarification in the thesis is the implied request.
3. Number these points if they are not already numbered by each examiner (eg. A1, A2, B1.1, B1.2, B1.3).
4. Decide on your line of action for each point, typically one of the following:
- Additional experiment.
- Change to wording or figure.
- Additional explanation in thesis.
- No change.
5. In general, the last approach (No change) should be avoided because:
- The examiner has stated or implied that there is a deficiency in the thesis.
- You have an opportunity to make the thesis better than it was before, for posterity.
- Sometimes a request for more data can be addressed simply by rewording the thesis.
6. Discuss your plan of approach with your Principal Advisor.
7. Make the corrections and/or additions.
Preparing your response:
Your rebuttal and revised thesis will be considered by your Chair of Examiners (CoE), who will need to check that you have complied with the letter and spirit of the examiners reports. The quicker and easier you make the task for the CoE, the sooner you will have a PhD.
1. Write a list of what was done to address each point (numbered as in #2/3 above).
- Be as concise as possible and state where the amended text can be found (page, lines or page, para).
- Do not paste large blocks of amended text, although it is convenient to specify word changes in the rebuttal.
- Do not state your view on the examiners comment unless you have chosen “No change” as your response (see below).
- Do not answer examiners questions in the rebuttal as the CoE may not have the expertise to understand the subtleties of the question or your response. It is more effective to address the concerns in the thesis itself (for example, comments on alternative interpretations of the data, limitations of the experimental design or statistical power, reasons for omission of certain samples or controls, or mention of time constraints on further work).
- Do provide a justification for not making any change to an examiners point, irrespective of whether the query or request is stated or implied.
- Any justification should be short, neutral and based on published fact, and should have the backing of your Principal Advisor.
2. Have your Principal Advisor check your rebuttal and revised thesis.
3. Submit a copy of the examiners reports with the points numbered as in #2 above.
4. Submit a copy of the rebuttal.
5. Submit a copy of your revised thesis with changes flagged and/or marked according to the numbering system used in #2 above. The CoE will request a copy of the original thesis if required.
UQ Graduate School Requirements
If you are required to make changes to your thesis after its initial review, upload a copy of your corrected thesis to the UQ eSpace along with a list of the changes made. The UQ Graduate School will forward these documents to IMB for review by the CoE, the Principal Advisor and the IMB Postgraduate Coordinator. These documents are also sent to any examiner who recommended major changes and indicated that they wished to review the corrected thesis. When the thesis has been reviewed and the revisions assessed as satisfactory, the IMB Postgraduate Office will prepare and forward a completed Recommendation to Confer Degree form to the Graduate School.
If you are required to revise and resubmit your thesis, repeat the thesis submission process. Once resubmitted, the thesis is sent out for re-examination, usually to the original examiners who made the initial recommendation of ‘revise and resubmit’, along with a copy of all reports from the initial examination and the list of changes made to the thesis. If the original examiners are not available then two new examiners will be appointed.
If you anticipate a delay in preparing a response you may be required to submit a Timetable for completing thesis corrections to the UQ Graduate School via the IMB Postgraduate Office.