Rating scheme for DMP’s level of distinction

Guidelines from UGARC presented to and accepted by the faculty on November 14, 2007

Rating scheme for DMP’s level of distinction (guidelines, not rules)

The benefit of having a guideline for making recommendations for level of distinction include:

  1. uniformity of outcome from year to year as UGARC membership changes;
  2. clarification of expectations regarding level of distinction as students contemplate undertaking the DMP; and
  3. consistency of expectations for all DMP students and their advisors.

The total points determine the level of distinction. A 9-point scoring system is used:

7-9 – Highest Distinction

4-6 – High Distinction

1-3 – Distinction

0 – No distinction awarded

Three components of consideration contribute to the final score.

1) Based on overall grades (cumulative GPA), students are assigned the following points:

3.800-4.000 – 6 points

3.600-3.799 – 4 points

3.400-3.599 – 2 points

2) These scores are adjusted by the UGARC based on the “quality” of the student’s record according to

Typical EVSC major: 0 points (no adjustment)

Ambitious selection of EVSC and related science/math courses: plus 1 point

For example, the B.S. student with 50 credits in the major who took 3 graduate classes could get plus 1 point; the B.A. student with exactly 30 credits selected from tools courses (GIS, for example), policy courses, and seminars who took the minimum required allied science and math courses would get minus 1 point. Most students would not be adjusted (zero).

3) The research project and communication of findings in the thesis and the presentation are evaluated as follows:

Poor thesis, flawed throughout: minus 2 points

Fair overall, but significant flaw or flaws: minus 1 point

Acceptable thesis (“good”): 0 points (no adjustment)

Excellent thesis: plus 1 point

Publishable research with only minor revisions: plus 2 points

Elements of a high-end research project and thesis (excellent or publishable) and presentation include

1) a research question of significant scientific merit or plans for innovative application of somewhat mundane findings.

2) thorough coverage of the literature and the current state of knowledge; identified the major papers

3) appropriate use of the scientific method in the conduct of the research project

4) significant scope of results; meaty data set

5) rigorous data analysis

6) significance of the work expressed in the context of the literature

7) careful preparation of the document for effective and stylish communication

8) informative oral presentation

9) effective and knowledgeable response to questions at the defense

Indications of a low-end research project and thesis (poor or minimally acceptable) and presentation include but are not limited to

1) poorly formed question or lack of question

2) lack of knowledge of the literature

3) trivial scope of work; amount of work involved not commensurate with a year-long project

4) blatant mistakes in methods, calling validity of data into serious question

5) illogical approach to data analysis

6) inadequate interpretation of the findings; results not discussed in context of current literature

7) written style so bad as to obscure communication of the nature of the study and the results

8) clear and complete lack of independent thought in carrying out the research project, preparing the thesis, making the presentation, and answering questions

In application to making a recommendation about level of distinction, the rating scheme seems to work as desired. We tested a few hypothetical extreme cases:

Scenario 1: A student with 4.0 cumulative GPA (6 pts.) from a double major in sociology with 30 credits in EVSC and the minimum allied sciences and math (no adjustment, 0 pt.) who does a poor thesis (minus 2 pts.) can end of with 3 points and Distinction only. That student would have been awarded Distinction by the university anyway. The lack of challenging coursework and the disappointing research results lead to no change on what such a high GPA alone would have earned.

Scenario 2: A student with 3.400 cumulative GPA (2 pts.) with extensive and challenging EVSC, science, and math classes (plus 1 pt.) and a publishable thesis that was well presented and defended (plus 2 pts.) can reach High Distinction (6 pts.). Without a higher GPA, however, this student cannot achieve Highest Distinction.

Executive Summary: Most students would stay in the same category for distinction that their GPAs cause them to start in. It takes an exceptional thesis to earn Highest Distinction, even with excellent grades.