One would expect a BSc dissertation to demonstrate an idea and give a clear, concise and complete grasp of its subject matter. Therefore, the first element that a dissertation relies upon is correct and sufficient information. It is not difficult to find sources of trustworthy information for science. Science students know how to use peer-reviewed journals and other sources to gather the required information. The second condition, which is again commonly satisfied by most of the reasonably done dissertations is coherence of the argument. An article in which the idea doesn’t flow easily is not normally acceptable. The third crucial requirement is conciseness. Extra information which is never used in the article makes it unreadable and indeed is not a good practice.
Almost everyone knows about these requirements and, rather unfortunately, a dissertation which satisfies the conditions above normally gets a first class grade. Nevertheless, I believe that the aforementioned conditions are far from being sufficient and in the educational system that I would be happy to be part of, it hardly gets a pass.
The author of a bachelor’s degree dissertation needs to have a good grasp of her writing and the material around the core facts which she includes in the article. This fluency cannot be measured solely by the observation of the coherence of an article that is only a concatenation of previously formulated facts. While I accept the premiss that a BSc dissertation does not have to contain original work, the student must demonstrate her knowledge of the subject by producing examples, in case of natural science, which have never appeared in print. This is certainly not too much to ask. It is quite simple to produce examples about the main theories, to give a clear picture of the arguments in a dissertation. Because while the length of the article supports, those examples are hardly used in the original papers, unless the papers contain very controversial and counter-intuitive arguments. In the same way author of a science textbook normally gives a problem set at the end of each chapter, independent examples could be formulated by a student to demonstrate the validity of the argument and also increase the coherence of the article. This is an element of originality which is very important, but normally absent in a dissertation.
Another factor which, alongside with the original examples, must be used to evaluate a dissertation is the section for open problems. One occasionally sees such sections in BSc dissertations. Nonetheless, the importance is almost universally ignored. Open problem section gives the student the chance to ask good questions. Asking good questions is almost as difficult as solving a problem, and it is as important as finding solutions. Clever questions lead off in different directions and are crucial points to start to look for inspirations. Having this section not only helps the students to find her future paths, but also helps the assessor to do the job more accurately. One who hasn’t grasped a theory would either ask simple-minded questions about that theory or just copy the well-known open problems one can find on the internet by spending only a few hours.
The last two criteria are normally not considered to grant a first class grade (%70 in the British scaling system) to a dissertation. Even worse, the British educational system does not give the student sufficient amount of time to fulfil the requirement. An adequate educational system requires to provide enough support for the student to carry out the work needed to reach at that level and also needs to consider that as a measure to evaluate the quality of the dissertation. Any grade above %70 must only be awarded to the one who does excellencies in the article, for instance original problem solving, theorising or hypothesising.