My Examiner Criteria

A long time ago, my supervisor asked me to think about who could be a good external examiner for my PhD. He suggested initially that I go to conferences and look for people who did the same sort of work as me.

I did that and found no-one.

I decided to think about what I really wanted in an examiner. What would a good examiner look like to me?

First, they would have to have experience. I wanted my external to be someone who had been an academic for a long time. I wanted to know that they had had time to consider what made a good piece of research; they would have seen lots of things and have an idea of what “enough” looked like for a thesis!

Second, I wanted someone with a good reputation. I wanted it to be someone that other people spoke highly of. If my supervisor and others who I respected thought the person was good then chances are they were.

Finally, I wanted someone who was nice! I was fortunate to go to lots of conferences, but unfortunate to meet several academics who were rude. I met people who belittled postgraduate students. I met people who were critical to the point of being offensive.

If someone behaves that way in public, why would I want to be examined by them in private?

I was fortunate to meet some nice people though. I had a hunch they would be fair.

I combined all of these criteria – experience, reputation and niceness(!) – and came up with a shortlist. My criteria worked for me: my supervisor listened and my suggestions matched some of his.

If you’re asked to share ideas for possible examiners then I think my criteria are good – they may not be what matters most to you though.

Consider your criteria. Consider what you would value and why. Then explore names that come to mind. Talk with your supervisor and see what happens.

You can’t go too wrong by thinking about nice, decent people though.