Appendix 2 – grade descriptors

(source: Science Honours Program - Policy, Procedures and Guidelines for Good Practice 2013)

H1 (80 - 100)
Broad features
An ‘upper H1’ (90 - 100) student has strengths in all of the following areas:

  • outstanding command of expression and logical argument in a skilfully structured manuscript;
  • superior evaluation and integration of existing literature;
  • evidence of significant insight and original thought in dealing with the critical issues;
  • sophisticated understanding of research methods, with evidence of careful attention to critical design issues in the execution of the project;
  • thoughtful and appropriate choice of data analysis (where appropriate) and outstanding presentation and reporting of results;
  • clear and coherent interpretation of the thesis data, and/or the results of other studies;
  • comprehensive understanding of the importance of the results in the context of the theoretical framework.

A ‘lower H1’ (80 -90) student displays many of the above strengths but is less well-balanced in overall quality.
Overall: An H1 student (upper or lower) is obviously capable of undertaking postgraduate research and warrants strong scholarship support.

H2A (70 - 79)
Broad features
H2A is characterised by most of the following:

  • the manuscript is well written, logically argued and generally well structured;
  • the evaluation and integration of the existing literature is very sound without being outstanding;
  • reasonable insight and some evidence of original thought in dealing with the critical issues;
  • evidence of a solid understanding of research methods;
  • adequate design of the research project, although possibly containing minor but retrievable errors;
  • choice of data analysis that is appropriate for the design (although less well justified than might be expected of H1 standard), and clear presentation of results;
  • generally sound but pedestrian interpretation of results and their importance to the theoretical context.
  • Overall: An H2A student is capable of undertaking postgraduate/PhD research.

H2B (60 - 69)
Broad features
H2B is characterised by most of the following:

  • generally competently written, although some problems exist in the logical organisation of the text and the way it is expressed;
  • provides an adequate coverage of the literature, although it tends to be more descriptive than evaluative, and arguments are often disjointed;
  • occasional evidence of insight into the issues underlying the thesis or essay, but little evidence of original thinking;
  • basic but somewhat limited understanding of the research methods;
  • the design of the research project is generally adequate but is marred by some errors and oversights;
  • serviceable choice of data analysis, although other approaches may have been more appropriate;
  • the presentation of results lacks clarity;
  • interpretation of results or other studies is adequate but limited.

Overall: An H2B student may be capable of undertaking postgraduate/PhD research but would require close supervision.

H3 (50 - 59)
Broad features
H3 is characterised by most of the following:

  • the work is not well written and shows flaws in the structuring of logical arguments;
  • coverage of the necessary literature is weak, with insufficient information provided to support the arguments made, or conclusions drawn, within the thesis or essay;
  • little evidence of insight and ideas tend to be highly derivative;
  • knowledge of research methods is deficient;
  • serious flaws exist in the design of the research project making it difficult for the research to meet its aims;
  • data analysis techniques are arbitrary or inappropriate;
  • the results are poorly presented;
  • interpretations are superficial, demonstrating a weak understanding of the results and their relevance to the theoretical framework.

Overall: Student would not be able to undertake postgraduate research.

Fail (0 - 50)
Broad features
This is characterised by most of the following:

  • the work is very poorly written and shows a serious inability to structure and present a logical argument;
  • coverage of the necessary literature is inadequate, with little information provided relevant to the claims made, or conclusions drawn, within the thesis;
  • serious misunderstanding of key concepts and issues;
  • knowledge of research methods is lacking;
  • serious flaws exist in the design of the research project making it difficult or impossible for the research to meet its aims;
  • data analysis techniques are inappropriate and the results are presented inadequately;
  • an inability to show how the results of the research project relate to the theoretical framework; serious misinterpretations of results.

Overall: Think carefully before awarding this grade - it casts doubt on the student's admission in the first place.