As a Director of Studies working mainly with part time Doctorate in Business Studies (DBA) students, I look at a lot of thesis drafts and my mode of working is to use the reviewer’s tool and make a comment on the draft that way. I tend to have a particular pattern of comment. Firstly I notice the English and the typographical errors. I get so irritated at these that I have to make a comment, then I can concentrate on the actual content of what the doctoral student is saying. (I tell myself it is a useful set of comments as it is teaching the student that a lot of examiners are also like me in this way…).
Then I look at the way the paragraph is crafted in light of the argument coming through. Depending on how my day is going I can be super-kind and supportive or sometimes I can be quite direct. Here is an example:
‘This is an important section of the thesis, [student], and it needs really good crafting to rhetorically demonstrate the implications you are suggesting are right. It reads as though it was written in a rushed way. Several of the sentences are too long, as are the paragraphs. Go through the whole of section one here, address the clumsy writing and re-craft the text to bring out the goodness. This includes ensuring each paragraph is a good size and contains the main elements of the part of the argument you are putting here’.
I often wonder how the student feels when they read this. I can imagine it also depends on where they are psychologically in their doctoral journey, how well it is going, what the doctorate means to them in identity terms, if they are resilient in taking criticism, even if it is well meant and is designed to help them get their thesis draft to a level which will attract a pass.