What is a good thesis anyways?

A PhD or an MPhil for that matter takes patience and perseverance. When newbies set off their journey of undertaking a Higher Degree by Research, we are daunted with the phrase “original contribution”. What is your original contribution to the knowledge base?

I for one, when I started, was anxious. Would I be able to do it? Do I have what it takes to make an original contribution to knowledge? I was often plagued with this negative thought that kept on saying “who do you think you are to be professing to be able to make a contribution to knowledge?”

Yes, some of us are pretty confident of our abilities. But not all. And sometimes having less confidence works for our advantage becuase we work so much harder to achieve what we want to achieve, is that not right?

Thesis writing can be challenging, as many of us are told and experienced. As David Evans, Paul Gruba, & Justin Zobel rightly says it is a straight forward task. The earlier students know it the better. The task is to convince the examiners that the student’s work had merit, that the data collection and anlysis was sound, and that the recommendations were based on firm evidence.

“Among the many types of scholarly productions, theses are an oddity: each one is diffent, and there are no standard or generic constructions. Most of those who supervise theses have written just one, and, despite the effor tthey take to produce, the only people who carefully read a given thesis are the project supervisors, the examiners, and an otherwise rather select audience of specialized academics” (p. 1).

Attributes of a successful thesis (p.2):

  • The thesis demonstrates authority in the candidate’s field and shows evidence of command of knowledge in relevant fields.
  • It shows that the candidate has a thorough grasp of the appropriate methodological techniques and an awareness of their limitations.
  • It makes a distinct contribution to knowledge.
  • Its contribution to knowledge rests on originality of approach and/or interpretation of the findings and, in some cases, the discovery of new facts.
  • It demonstrates an ability to communicate research findings effectively in the professional areana and in an international context.
  • It is a careful, rigorous and sustained piece of work demonstrating that a research ‘apprenticeship’ is complete and the holder is admitted to the community of scholars in the discipline.

Guidelines for Examiners (p. 3):

  • Does the candidate show sufficient familiarity with, and understanding and critical appraisal of, the relevant literature?
  • Does the thesis provide a sufficiently comprehensive investigation of the topic?
  • Are the methods and techniques adopted appropriate to the subject matter and are they properly justified and applied?
  • Are the results suitably set out and accompanied by adequate exposition and interpretation?
  • Are conclusions and implications appropriately developed and clearly linked to the nature and content of the research framework and findings?
  • Have the research questions in fact been tested?
  • Is the literary quality and general presentation of the thesis of a suitabliy high standard?
  • Does the thesis as a whole constitute a substantive original contribution to knowledge in the subject area with which it deals?

Verb Tenses (p.41):

  • Us the past tense when you are reporting what you or others did at particular times: ‘Smith and Jones reported the results of their investigation of housing trends in their book published in 1985.’
  • Use the present tense in an introduction to a chapter or a section or a table wher eyou are outlining its contents: ‘Section 2.1 is a review of the state of the houseing industry in the USA after World War II.’ ‘Table 3 shows that in all countries care owqnership increases with GDP per capita.’ Future tense is incorrect.
  • Use present tense when you are discussing the implications of some work of yours or others: ‘Smith and Jones reported that reults of their investigation of housing trends in their book published in 1985. This work reveals that the poorest group in the community find it almost impossible to find adequate housing.’ Note that we are shifting from past to present tense in the same paragraph.
  • Use the future tense when reporting the implications of your or other work. ‘With evidence that discriminiation remians common, it will be necessart to make changes to the legistlation.’