The award of a PhD degree is based on a rigorous examination process which is unique in that examiners can recommend that the degree is awarded subject to minor or major amendments to the thesis. In their examiner reports, examiners also include formative feedback that is intended to help the doctoral researchers improve their work. Using data from examiner reports from two faculties at the University of Malta (Arts and Science) for the years 2017-2018, the study looks at the formative feedback comments provided by doctoral examiners. Results suggest that the feedback comments provided can be described as editorial, instructional and reflective, with the most common type of feedback comments being editorial and instructional. This indicates that the focus of doctoral examiner reports is on giving advice to doctoral researchers so that it reaches the expected doctoral standards. This study points to: the need for a rethinking of the way in which feedback is provided in doctoral examiner reports so that the focus is shifted to reflective comments that lead to in-depth learning; and for more professional development for doctoral examiners to that they can make this shift in their provision of formative feedback.
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