Tuesday, March 27, 2007

jolly japes, whacky wheezes and PhD exams

so on sunday I am examing a PhD at the University of Mulroon, in the Western Hebrides. I read the dissertation yesterday on the train and prepared my report. I forgot this last night so I read the dissertation again on the train today, and prepared another report, and on arriving in the lab, discovered the original report. Imagine my delight to discover that the reports differend completely in their conclusion, viz:

"Report on the dissertation submitted for the degree of PhD at the University of Mulroon, by Shankar McDuibleemott, entitled "towards a better metric for relevance in search engines when searching on the web for material to plagiarise for a thesis without being caught".

Thesis Examiner, Professor G.Hypothese, University de Paris MCXVII, April 1, 2007

I found this thesis incredibly irritating as I was sure I had seen it somewhere before but could simply not place it. It all seemed so confoundingly obvious, and yet it wasn't. I have to recommend that this thesis be awarded the PhD at the very least, and probably £11M venture capital to found a succesful startup too.

The report continues with some rather boring details and suggestins for future work and minor corrections

On the other hand, report 2 starts

"This work is entirely unoriginal in that the algorithm developed to find things on the Internet acn be found on the Internet. While it is true that before the candidate undertook this research, you could not find the algorithm on the Internet, and the candidate put the algorithm on the internet themselves to show that the algorithm worked (it doesn't find itself on the internet, thus showing that it doesn't plagiarise things that can easily be detected), I found a simlar algorithm on the internet that did find this algorithm but doesn't find itself.
This other algorithm is found by the candidates algorithm, thus proving the Hypothesis in the dissertation wrong, ipso facto, the PhD cannot be awarded. Nor can this dissertation be submitted in any other form any more. That is my last word on the matter.


To resolve this matter, I have placed each report in an envelope, one red and one black, and I intend to ask the candidate to choose one or the other at the start of the Viva Voce. I feel that this is only fair.

Of course, in some cases, the envelopes might contain the same report. Or indeed, no report at all. I think this should all be formalized as rule 666 of PhD Viva Voce procedure: the ceremony of the envelopes, accompanied by Hautbois.

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