n South African Journal of Higher Education - 'Levels' of success in the use of the literature in a doctorate

Volume 21, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1011-3487



This article explores two themes, the first is what examiners look for when judging a doctoral thesis or dissertation, the second is what constitutes an acceptable 'level' of doctoral scholarship. The focus of the analysis will be the literature review, chosen because it is in the presentation and use of the literature that scholarliness will be evident. The article draws together for the first time the findings of two large independent research studies on the doctorate that took place around the same time, one in the USA, the other in Australia. The aim of both studies was to make the expectations for the dissertation more transparent to graduate students. What academics expect of the literature component of the dissertation is examined in relation to 'coverage' and 'use'. The findings indicate that examiners have more modest expectations of a thesis than those generally implied in the notion of academic scholarship.

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