How to examine the article-format master and doctorate (5): Part 1

Title: How to examine the article-format master and doctorate (5): Part 1

Gabriel P Louw

iD orcid.org/0000-0002-6190-8093

Extraordinary Professor, Focus Area Social Transformation, Faculty of Humanities, Potchefstroom Campus, North-West University, South Africa (Author/Researcher: Higher Education, Healthcare, History and Politics).

Corresponding Author:

Prof. Dr GP Louw; MA (UNISA), PhD (PUCHE), DPhil (PUCHE), PhD (NWU)

Email: profgplouw@gmail.com

Keywords: Article-format, doctorate, examine, guideline, masters

Ensovoort, volume 42 (2021), number 4: 3

1. Background

The initial research of the previous two intertwined articles (Numbers 3 and 4) of the series of seven articles: “How to write and supervise the article-format masters and-doctorate: Part 1”and “How to write and supervise the article-format masters and doctorate: Part 2”,  showed that there did not exist a comprehensive guideline on how to write the article-thesis and -dissertation.1-25 A “streamlined” guideline: “How to write and supervise the article-format masters and -doctorate”, could assist the aspirant and novice student on how to  start his/her research inside a clear framework, compiling  data, and to finally proceed with  writing the article-format dissertation or thesis, was structured according to the guidelines of fourteen universities and institutions of learning that describe how to write and supervise the article-thesis and dissertation.1-25 This has further led in Article Two to two other focussed research-exercises: “How to write a research proposal and “How to write a journal article”, that stand in close association with the main guideline.1-50

In Article Two a lacuna was identified regarding the absence of a comprehensive and streamlined guideline on how to perform the examination of the article-thesis and dissertation. The lack of a trustworthy guideline on how to examine the article-format masters and doctorate is a serious problem that further complicates the introduction and establishment of the article-dissertation and thesis.1-34

Although there is some guidance offered by many universities on the examination of the traditional thesis and dissertation to the aspirant and novice examiner, it is clear that much of the examination is done in terms of the traditions and customs coming from the past in which, as said, the traditional thesis occupied a central position. In most of these cases the examination process and its complicated conclusions and decisions were left to the examiner’s sole discretion, experience, skills and abilities (and many times extreme empowerment), enabling him to decide on what was acceptable/unacceptable, good/bad, standard/substandard, etc., as to the contents of a thesis or dissertation. In addition hereto stood the examiner’s sole power to recommend its acceptance and  awarding or not, and to independently make a final-examination call of a pass or a fail. Many of these final-examination outcomes were controversial, because examiners’ inabilities, inexperience, incapacity and subjectivity, as well as the deficient basis of examination in the traditional thesis model, led to unjustified failures and the need to have many so-called “failed” theses re-examined by arbiter examiners. Such an unjustified failure negatively stigmatised the abilities of the candidate as well as the supervisor; even if the arbiter examiner later on dishonoured the first examiner’s poor/faulty mark with a pass (which seems to be the outcome in many cases where there is a dispute).

The lack of a uniformed, comprehensive guideline subscribed to by all universities on how the article-thesis and dissertation must be written, provided the motivation for this article to develop a more uniform guideline on how the article-thesis should be examined. The dilemma around its examination is immense, essentially because it lacks the examination history and traditions of the traditional thesis and a contingent of well-experienced, able and trained examiners to ensure examination integrity. Very few universities make it their focus to train and educate their academics specifically on the examination of the article-thesis. (Indeed, very few universities, as pointed out earlier in the previous articles in the series, make constructive efforts to train and educate their staff in-depth and comprehensively on how to write the research proposal, the journal article or the article-thesis, thus forgetting about the training of their staff to examine it.) The final outcome is mostly the allocation of the article-thesis to unable examiners who see themselves fit or are seen by their universities to be fit, to examine unquestioned article-theses. The main aim of this article is to address and rectify the matter through the development of a trustworthy guideline for examining the article-thesis and -dissertation in a rapid and uncomplicated fashion.

  • Example of a substandard examination of the article-thesis

The above unwise and inappropriate method of the selecting of examiners, specifically for the article-thesis, has often led to chaotic results characterised by unjustified failures. A good example detected by my research of such a chaotic result and where an unjustified failure was subsequently overturned for a PhD, was the appointment (on his/her request) of a dean to examine a doctoral student’s thesis in his/her own faculty. This is clearly an example of unethical, even delinquent, behaviour that should have cancelled the examination status of the specific dean and should indeed have led to punitive actions against him/her. In this context it must be noted: 1) The dean should, as head of his/her faculty, stay un-associated and objective regarding academic matters and should only get involved to act as arbiter on conflicting matters and not ever get directly involved in the examination or supervision of students in his/her faculty.  2) From information received directly from staff members, the dean was in a serious personal conflict with both the supervisor and the student of the failed PhD before his/her self-requested and imposed examination of the thesis; this reflected a possible revenge motive and extreme subjectivity in the dean’s examination behaviour. Further negativities emerged: 3) the dean’s academic and research record showed he/she had only previously worked in academic and school administration, thereby lacking any academic experience on all levels before his/her appointment as dean; 4) the dean had never acted as a supervisor or examiner for a traditional thesis or dissertation, neither for an article-thesis nor dissertation before; 5) he/she had never published an accredited article. 6) An analysis of the dean’s report on the student’s thesis reflected extreme incompetence and a lack of basic knowhow on the examination of an article-format thesis: it lacked sound arguments to support his failed mark, reflected an attack on the construction and contents of the thesis and his/her inappropriate use of the traditional-thesis examination approach to evaluate the article-thesis to make up for his lack of knowhow. 7) The two other examiners (external) of the article-thesis were both  well-experienced and -trained in the supervision and examination of traditional as well as article-theses and dissertations and had sound records of authorship for accredited journals: they both passed the student with a mark of cum laude and congratulated him/her with the presentation of the first article-thesis in the faculty. 8) It  further seemed, around the already serious academic and research delinquency committed by the dean, that the head of the campus prolonged the arbiter’s re-examination of the thesis for months in seemingly an effort to safeguard the dean from criticism and punitive action, and only after the direct intervention of the principal of the university who demanded an immediate re-examination, was an arbiter appointed, who passed the student with flying colours and dishonoured the dean’s mark. But serious damage was done to the academic and research integrity of the student as well as the supervisor who was a seasoned academic with a track record of accredited articles, the supervision and examination of theses and dissertations, including article-theses.

From the above it follows that the examination process of the article-thesis and dissertation demands absolute academic competence, experience and academic wisdom, free from an examiner’s academic revenge, subjectivity and delinquency. It requires an objective approach and trustworthy evaluation of the  data collected, including a guarantee of the ongoing strength and soundness of the examination process with respect to neutrality, consistency and applicability.

1.1. Introduction

To make the article-thesis and -dissertation acceptable as an effective, trustworthy  and respected research tool — one that will benefit our total research environment and will increase dramatically the research output of universities and contribute to extra revenue for universities through the publication of accredited articles and most of all lead to the avoidance of the negativity and falsity associated with a troubled research entity which spells mostly failure for the article-thesis student — it is an absolute prerequisite that we implement an entirely honourable, justified and correct examination model for the article-thesis; one totally separate and distinguishable from the classical one for the traditional theses.

The hard fact so far is that the proponents of the article thesis themselves have often failed the test of promoting its excellence. A prominent feature of such failure  has been the lack of developing proper and unique research tools for it, such as the examination guide to test the integrity of the article-thesis. A co-culprit to this research delinquency is the passivity of universities to get dynamically involved with the article thesis’ various components, such as the offering of learning and education programs to staff and students on how to write the article-thesis, and now, as indicated in this article, specifically on how to examine it. Indeed, a large section of young and older academics and researchers are awaiting such a step and are hungry for research challenges such as the writing, supervision and examination of the article-thesis, but these academics and researchers are looking urgently for assistance from their universities to develop their skills and knowhow to overcome their research inexperience and insecurity. As a short-term remedy for their shortcomings they can easily be helped by their universities through offering them yearly workshops on how to perform the examination of the article-format dissertation and thesis.

  • A dynamic and far-sighted university of the 1980s

My own experience of how adaptable, dynamic and far-sighted a university can be dates back to the early 1980s when a university where I at times acted as an examiner, started to slowly introduce the article-thesis and -dissertation, offering me on the side a short informative guide on the writing and examination of it. Shortly after this I was asked by them to examine a mini-dissertation (counting 50% of the value of the professional masters: essentially, an article-dissertation with one manuscript). But of great importance in this examination invitation was that together with the dissertation I received from the university also a clear guideline on how the dissertation should be examined in terms of their prescriptions and that there should be no deviation from it. (If deviated, my examination report would summerly be nullified).  This guideline steered the examination constructively from the start until the last sentence by specifically moving away from the autocratic evaluation of the traditional thesis, but still giving me more than enough freedom to do an independent evaluation. What made it unique, was that this mini-dissertation: 1) consisted of one article/manuscript of 30 pages totally in its original article-presentation-form; 2) that the article/manuscript had not already been presented to the intended journal for publication but approved by the candidate’s supervisor and the Academic Committee of the responsible Faculty of the university. In line with my training through the earlier stipulations, and with the clear guidance of the university and the journal’s rules, I could successfully examine the mini-dissertation (as said, without being manipulated) and awarded it 80%. (My later enquiry with his supervisor confirmed that the two other examiners’ marks were above 80%.) Note: this university is still a leader today in the delivery of article-theses and -dissertations based on excellent training guidelines.

The essence of the story here is that if examiners constantly receive good guidance on the process of examination of the article-thesis and -dissertation and become skilled examiners, justified examination conclusions and recommendations may be trusted to be made on the quality of article-theses thar are far removed from the contaminated report of the above-mentioned incompetent dean (See above subsection: Example of a substandard and corrupted examination of the article-thesis).

1.2. Aims of article (Continued in Article 6)

The purpose of this article, titled: “How to examine the article-format masters and doctorate: Part 1”, as part one of two intertwined articles, is to provide a framework with the primary aim to assist examiners in their assessment of the article-thesis and dissertation. This Part (1) will describe the examination structuring and process of the article-thesis and -dissertation. The next intertwined article, entitled: “How to examine the article-format masters and doctorate: Part 2”, will continue to provide a general understanding and grounding for the examiner as to the examination structuring and process of the article-thesis and -dissertation. In Part 2 will be discussed the following three sections: 3.3.: A hypothetical case study (this includes an example of the writing of the examination report); 3.4.: The shortcut-examination model for the article-thesis and -dissertation; and 3.5. : The Master’s degree.

This article, entitled: “How to examine the article-format masters and doctorate: Part 1”, is the fifth part of a series of seven articles under the project headed: “How to write, supervise and examine the article-format master and doctorate: A South African perspective.”

1.2.1. Scope of article (Continues in Article 6)

The information applies to aspirant students, supervisors and examiners for article-masters and -doctorates, presented as a collection of essays or articles.

2. Method (Continues in Article 6)

The research was done by means of a literature review. This method aims to construct a viewpoint from the available evidence as the research develops. This approach is being used in modern research where there is often not an established body of research, as is the case regarding the writing and publishing of the article-format dissertation and thesis. By this method the focus is on being informative as to the various local and global approaches to the delivery of article-format theses or dissertations. The sources consulted cover the period 2006 to 2021.1-47

The research findings are being presented in narrative format.

3. Results and discussion (Continues in Article 6)

3.1. The examination of the article-thesis and -dissertation

3.1. Perspective

In my examination of the article-thesis I used two approaches: the one, the Full approach or Full-examination model of the article-thesis, comprehensively evaluates the quality of the thesis through the use of seven evaluation tools. This approach is described in-depth in this article. It is meant for the aspirant and less-experienced examiner. The second one, the Shortcut approach or the Shortcut-examination model of the article-thesis, only uses one evaluation tool and is meant for use by the well-experienced examiner. It will only briefly be discussed at the closing of the article. (I find the Shortcut approach very applicable for the examination of the article-dissertation: See later subsections 3.4. Shortcut-examination model of the article-thesis and 3.5. The position of the Master Dissertation).

3.1.1. Repeating of data from Articles One and Two

Some of the data and illustrations offered in this article, were already presented in the articles 1 to 4 of the Series. This representing of data was unavoidable but was needed to make this article’s information understandable and easily readable. There will be referred to this data, without quoting it and with the use of descriptions. The reader must refer back him/herself to Articles One and Two for data and guidance where needed and applicable.

3.1.2. Calculating of performance values and examination marks

The outcome passed versus failed occupies a central and precise position in the examination of the article-thesis, accompanied by the use of a less rigid and broader qualitative classification of results. This approach gives a comprehensive overview of the thesis’s quality as an academic and research document, and makes the reaching of the final examination mark much easier. Such a transformed qualitative examination mark ensures an objective and trustworthy evaluation of the  data collected, and guarantees the ongoing strength and soundness of the examination process with respect to neutrality, consistency and applicability. However, the fact that the examination marks of the theses are offered mostly in the qualitative form, makes the statistical deriving of  averages of examination marks and the comparison of the examination marks of different evaluation tools very difficult, problematic and many times vague. To overcome this negativity in this research, it was decided also to transform the qualitative values of findings of the evaluation tools to match quantitative values, giving qualitative descriptions such as “Inadequate, Exceptional, etc.,” corresponding  to quantitative percentage values like “49% and under, 50%-60%, etc.”51-53

For the evaluation and description of the data obtained by the seven evaluation tools used in this research, the NJMH-Transformer51:96 was used as a combined qualitative/quantitative descriptive measurement tool, compiled to transform data. (See under Table 1: NJMH-Transformer). ● The NJMH-Transformer is derived from the Assessment of Postgraduate Work Rubric developed by professors H. Friedrich-Nel, L de Jager, J MacKinnon and D Hay. to classify and to award qualitative performance levels to the results obtained by the evaluation tools from the article-thesis under examination. The designation NJMH is the abbreviations for Nel, Jager, Mackinnon and Hay).51:96

Through the NJMH-transformer51 the evaluation counts obtained through each of the evaluation tools are transformed to uniform performance levels offered in the four combined qualitative and quantitative descriptions: 1. Inadequate: Under 50%; 2. Meets the standard; 50% -60%; 3. Exceeds the standard: 61% -70%; and 4. Exceptional: 71% and above. (See Table 1 underneath for a description).

The above device allows for the making of comparisons between the findings of the evaluation tools and to provide a final examination mark at the end.

To be able to make a direct comparison and adding up the examination marks of the different evaluation tools in the examination of an article-thesis, a quantity evaluation of the data is done in which the NJMH-Transformer’s51above four quantitative performance percentages, namely “Under-50%, 50% -60%, 61% -70% and 71% and above”, are exclusively used. For  adding up the seven examination marks of the seven evaluation tools, the quantitative percentage classification of “Under-50% or 49% and lower” is used as a single quantity description to include all examination marks of 49% and lower as 49% for counting purposes. The same single quantity description is performed with the quantitative percentage classification of “71% and above” by including under it all percentages of 71% and higher as 71% for counting purposes. For the quantitative percentage classification of “50% -60%” the average of 55%  was used as a single quantity description for all the percentage counts of between 50% and 60%. The same approach was used for the quantitative percentage classification of “61% to 70%” by using the average of 65% as a single quantity description for all the quantitative percentage counts of between “60% and 70%”.

The above calculation approach to the transformed quantitative and qualitative performance values obtained from each of the seven evaluation tools used will be applied throughout the research. The description of the examination values, percentages and descriptions regarding the four quantitative and qualitative performance levels of the NJMH-Transformer51 is reflected underneath in Table 1.

Table 1: NJMH-Transformer:51:96

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  1. Inadequate: Under 50%. Evaluation description: Simple and obvious connections are made, but the significance is not grasped.
  2. Meets the standard: 50%-60%. Evaluation description: A number of connections are made; metacognitions and the holistic significance are missed.
  3. Exceeds the standard: 61%-70%. Evaluation description: Student appreciates the significance of the parts in relation to the whole.
  4. Exceptional: 71% and above. Evaluation description: Student makes connections within the given subject area, beyond it and is able to generalise and transfer the principles and ideas underlying the specific instance.

3.1.3. The obtaining and applying of data through the data-collection evaluation tools

Collecting the data of the article-thesis,  in order to execute its examination process, is performed in a sequence of steps, in whcih the use of seven data-collecting evaluation tools play a central role.

Firstly, to sharpen and to refresh the knowhow of the examiner on how he/she should approach the examination process and to be able to make a fair judgement as to the quality of the article-thesis and the skills of the candidate, it is a priority that the examiner familiarise him/herself with the descriptions and guidelines of the Hay-Thesis-Assessor53:105-106and that of the Lategan-Candidate-Assessor.54:85-86 (These two assessments, consisting of a total of 26 questions, probe the quality of every intention/finding/part of the thesis under examination and the skills of the candidate who had written it and should be applied together with each of the seven evaluation tools used.) The contents of the Hay-Thesis-Assessor53 (nine questions) and Lategan-Candidate-Assessor54 (17 questions) are profiled  in Tables 2 and 3 respectively underneath.

Table 2: Hay-Thesis-Assessor:53:105-106     

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  1. Does the thesis comprise a coherent investigation of the chosen topic?
  2. Does the thesis deal with a topic of sufficient range and depth to meet the requirements of the degree?
  3. Does the thesis make an original contribution to knowledge in its field and does it contain material suitable for publication in an appropriate academic journal?
  4. Does the thesis meet internationally recognised standards for the conduct and presentation of research in the field?
  5. Does the thesis demonstrate a thorough knowledge of the literature relevant to its subject and general field, as well as the candidate’s ability to exercise critical and analytical judgement of that literature?
  6. Does the thesis display mastery of appropriate methodology and/or theoretical material?
  7. Is it clearly, accurately and cogently written and suitably documented?
  8. Does the thesis indicate clearly which work has actually been performed by the candidate and which results have been obtained and analysed by any other person?
  9. Is there an appropriate balance between the different parts of the thesis – in particular, is the original contribution to knowledge clearly distinguishable from the introductory material and the survey of literature?

Table 3: Lategan-Candidate-Assessor:54:85-86 

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  1. Does the candidate have a research problem?
  2. Does the candidate have a hypothesis formulated on the basis of the research problem and preliminary study?
  3. Does the candidate have an identified research paradigm?
  4. Has the candidate used qualitative research techniques?
  5. Has the candidate used quantitative research techniques?
  6. Has the candidate integrated the literature studies and results of the qualitative and quantitative research into a meaningful unit?
  7. Has the candidate conceptualised all leading concepts?
  8. Has the candidate answered the research problem?
  9. Has the candidate argued the research point?
  10. Has the candidate provided sufficient evidence for the arguments?
  11. Has the candidate provided sufficient logical reasoning for the arguments?
  12. Has the candidate made statements without arguments and evidence?
  13. Does the candidate validate arguments?
  14. Does the candidate counteract, through the arguments and evidence, views that might differ from his/her own?
  15. Has the candidate reflected on the work of the latest authorities on the topic?
  16. Has the candidate added new knowledge to a particular topic?
  17. Does the candidate provide sufficient evidence that the literature study and research techniques have been mastered?
  18. Does the candidate contribute to the existing debate on the research topic?
  19. Has the candidate addressed all the ethical issues associated with the execution of the research project?

Enclosed with the above guidance is Muller’s description concerning the purpose and characteristics of the doctoral degree that the examiner should also have branded permanently on his mind. It reads:55:45

A doctoral degree requires a candidate to undertake research at the most advanced academic levels culminating in the submission, assessment and acceptance of a thesis. Course work may be required as preparation or value addition to the research, but it does not contribute to the credit value of the qualification. The defining characteristics of this qualification is that the candidate is required to demonstrate high-level research capability and make a significant and original academic contribution at the frontiers of a discipline or field. The work must be of a quality to satisfy peer review and merit publication. The degree may be earned through pure discipline-based or multidisciplinary research or applied research. The degree requires a minimum of two years’ full-time study, usually after completing a Master’s Degree. A graduate must be able to supervise and evaluate the research of others in the area of specialisation concerned.

The next step in the examination process is the reading of the article-thesis twice by the examiner to assure him/her about the subject researched, the study’s primary and secondary objects, the compiled contents, the references, the structuring of the document, etc. Only after such reading, may the process of examination begin, in steps, by consecutively applying the various selected data-collection evaluation tools.

The examination process is started by applying the three frontline-evaluation tools to the contents of the article-thesis. Here the aim is to decide if the thesis under examination is truly an article-thesis. Nothing else outside this mandate should be read and interpreted from the three evaluation tools may contaminate the findings of each of the other subsequent evaluation tools. This evaluation is followed up by the application of the mid-level tools and finally by applying the advanced evaluation tool.

The data generated by each of these evaluation tools will be incorporated and intertwined at the end of the examination process, to make a final recommendation on the article-thesis as either pass or fail. A uniform description of the final mark will be offered in terms of one of the four qualitative and qualitative performance descriptions:” Inadequate: Under 50%”; “Meets the standard: 50% -60%”; “Exceeds the standard: 61% -70%”; and “Exceptional: 71% and above”. (See Table1: NJMH-Transformer51 above).

3.2. Structuring and executing of the examination process

The examination process is done in two steps:

  1. Description of the data-collecting evaluation tools; and
  2. Description of the execution of the examination process of an article-thesis, which includes an example of the writing of its examination report .

3.2.1. Description of the data-collecting evaluation tools

Referring back to this article’s main intention: the aim is to put in place a guide to examine in an elementary and applicable way, effectively, fast and objectively an article-thesis or dissertation, it must be acknowledged that similar approaches in the form of advice and guidelines have been offered over the years to improve our system of  examination of theses and dissertations, but exclusively with the focus on the examination of the traditional thesis.45-47

A prominent work, guiding the examination of the traditional thesis, was the book entitled: “An Introduction to Postgraduate Supervision”, by Professor LOK Lategan (editor)52 and nine senior academics. This book, published in 2008, is a pioneer work on how to do the examination of the traditional thesis and dissertation and still stands strong today in the examination process of theses. Much of this article’s data as well as some of the data-collecting evaluation tools used in this research, were adapted, derived and developed from the Lategan work.52

Seven data-collection evaluation tools were compiled, designed and developed to examine the article-thesis. These tools are classed in three basic groups in terms of their data-collection and valuation abilities. These three groups, including the seven data-collection-evaluation tools and the two guiding tools, are listed here:

  1. Frontline evaluation tools

1.1. Richard-guideline for Comparing the Traditional and Article-format theses. (Short-named: Richard-Guide).10:1

1.2. Richard-Uniqueness-Guide.10:1

1.3. SU-Alternative Dissertation Structure for Individual Studies. (Short-named: SU-Alternative-Studies).56:10

1.4. SU-combined-article-chapter-thesis-guide; used as guiding tool. (Short-named: SU-Combined-Thesis).56:6

  1. Mid-level evaluation-tools

2.1. Numbering of General references of a Thesis Checklist. (Short-named: General-References Checklist).

2.2. Numbering  of Reference-types of a Thesis Checklist. (Short-named: Reference-Types Checklist).

2.3. Maximum/Minimum Word-counts Checklist. (Short-named: Word-Counts-Checklist).

2.4. Hay-Uniqueness-Guide.53:105

  1. Advanced-level evaluation tool

3.1. NJMH-28-Performance-Rubric. (Short-named: NJMH-Performance-Rubric).51:94-96

3.2.1.1. Frontline evaluation tools

The first question to ask when examining any thesis os: Is it an article-thesis or is it a traditional thesis? In this context it must be emphasised that the examination processes of the two types of theses differ significantly, while the mixing of the two theses in the research practice is making the individual examination process complicated. This setting forces to the foreground a clear-cut approach on what an article-thesis is and what a traditional thesis is, and thus how the two entities should each be examined.

To identify if an article is specifically from the article-thesis group, three basic frontline valuation tools were used in this research. The tools specifically reflect the differences between the article-thesis and the traditional thesis, such as the prescribed construction and contents unique to the article-thesis, and serve as a basic evaluation model for the article-thesis from which an article-thesis under examination should not present dramatic deviations.

The immediate functions of these three frontline-evaluation tools are to determine if the article-thesis under examination fulfils the requirements of an article-thesis while each offers  examination marks for the thesis. The three evaluation tools further serve as instruments to determine if the planned examination of the thesis may continue, and/or if there are serious shortcomings and/or mistakes that may hinder and even block the examination process.

The three frontline-evaluation tools used, are:

  1. Richard-Guide.10
  2. Richard-Uniqueness-Guide.10
  3. SU-Alternative-Studies.56

Hereto the fourth frontline tool, the SU-combined-Thesis, 56 serves as a guiding and informative tool, without doing any direct examination.

  1. Richard-Guide10:1

The contents of the Richard-Guide10 are structured around ten classifications of which three seem to be  unique to the article-thesis and seven seem to be unique to the traditional thesis. (The comparison using the Richard-Guide10 of the traditional thesis with the article-thesis is reflected underneath in Figure 1.) The three unique classifications of the Richard-Guide10 that describe the article-thesis’s structure, are: 1. Introduction to the Overall Topic, 2. Three separate, publishable papers of normal journal article length related to the overall theme and 3. Appendices.

Figure 1: Richard-guideline for comparing the Traditional and Article-format theses: 10:1

STANDARD THREE PAPERS
1 Introduction and Outline of the Problem Short overview, descriptions fully in three papers: see also 4-7
2 Introduction to the Overall Topic Include the logical link between the three papers
3 Conceptual or Theoretical Framework
4 Literature Review Included in three papers
5 Methodology Included in three papers
6 Results (Research Findings) Included in three papers
7 Three separate, publishable papers of normal journal article length related to the overall theme

• First Paper

• Second Paper

• Third Paper

8 Summary, Interpretations, Conclusions, Recommendations for Policy and/or Further Research Concluding scholarly discussion of the implications of the integrated findings
9 Resources  Included in three papers
10 Appendices Optional; where applicable: on overall thesis Optional ; where applicable: mostly limited to papers only

Although the ten classifications go some way in distinguishing between either an article thesis or a traditional thesis, in their present descriptions they lack a comprehensive evaluation capacity. This is basically because the article-thesis’s structure and contents are much more comprehensive and unique than the classifications of the  Richard-Guide reflect, and because the intertwining of the article-thesis and the traditional thesis goes far deeper than what the Richard-Guide’s comparison of the traditional thesis and article-format thesis apparently reflects. An in-depth analysis of the ten classifications of the Richard-Guide reflects much more the presence of ten characteristics which are unique to the article-thesis and which make it clearly distinguishable from the traditional thesis. These ten characteristics are compiled into an evaluation tool (the Richard-Uniqueness-Guide) which may determine if a thesis under examination is truly an article thesis and if its contents fulfil the standards of an article thesis.  These ten characteristics are reflected and described underneath in Table 4.

Table 4: Richard-Uniqueness-Guide:10:1

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  1. A short description and a full overview as an introduction and as an outline of the problem in each of the articles of the article-thesis are offered.
  2. An introduction to the overall topic and the existence of a logical link between the articles are offered.
  3. The article-thesis offers a conceptual or theoretical framework.
  4. There are literature reviews included in all the articles.
  5. A specific methodology is followed in each of the articles.
  6. The results are based on research findings in every article.
  7. The various articles of the article-thesis stand out as clear research entities, are of normal journal-article length and are related to the overall theme of the research.
  8. The Summary, Interpretations, Conclusions, Recommendations for Policy and/or Further Research fulfils the basic requirements prescribed for an article-thesis.
  9. The resources included in the various articles are comprehensive and supportive of each other as well as of the total study.
  10. There are applicable Appendices included with each of the articles.

The ten assessments/counts obtained from the Richard-Uniqueness-Guide’s10 evaluation descriptions (See Table 4 above), are inscribed into the four columns of Table 5 (or marked with an X), allocating qualitative and quantitative performance values to each one. This inscription is done in terms of the four classifications of the NJMH-transformer51 (Inadequate: Under 50%; Meets the standard: 50% -60%; Exceeds the standard: 61% -70%; Exceptional: 71% and above).

Table 5:  Richard-Uniqueness-Guide:10:1

Performance Levels
Uniqueness Inadequate:  49% and under: Average=49% Meets the standard:

50% – 60%:

Average=55%

Exceeds standard:

61% -70%:

Average= 65%

Exceptional:

71% and Above:

Average=71%

1. A short description and a full overview as an introduction and as an outline of the problem in each of the articles of the article-thesis are offered.           
2. An introduction to the overall topic and the existence of a logical link between the articles are offered.        
3. The article-thesis offers a conceptual or theoretical framework.          
4. There are literature reviews included in all the articles.          
5. A specific methodology is followed in each of the articles.        
6. The results are based on research findings in every article.         
7. The various articles of the article-thesis stand out as clear research entities; are of normal journal-article length and are related to the overall theme of the research.        
8. The Summary, Interpretations, Conclusions, Recommendations for Policy and/or Further Research fulfil the basic requirements prescribed for an article-thesis.        
9. The resources included in the various articles are comprehensive and supportive of each other as well as of the total study.        
10. There are applicable Appendices included with each of the articles.        
A. Sub-counts (Percentages)        
B. Total count (Percentage) =

 

       
C. Average Examination mark (Percentage) =        

 After completing the inscriptions of the evaluation in Table 5, the sub-counts (in percentages) (See A: Table 5) of each of the four classifications of the NJMH-Transformer’s51 qualitative and quantitative performance values, are calculated, from which a total count (in percentage) (See B: Table 5) is derived. The average examination mark is obtained by dividing the total count through 10 (See C: Table 5).  ● Note: For adding up the ten evaluation marks of the Richard-Uniqueness-Guide10, the quantitative percentage-classification of “Under-50% or 49% and lower” is used as a single quantity description to include all the evaluation marks of 49% and lower than 49% for counting purposes. The same single quantity description is done with the quantitative percentage classification of “71% and above” by including under it all percentages of 71% and higher than 71%. For the quantitative percentage classification of “50%-60%” the average of 55% was used as a single quantity description for all the percentage counts of between 50% and 60%. The same approach was used for the quantitative percentage classing of “61% to 70%” by the using the average of 65% as a single quantity description for all the quantitative percentage counts of between “60% and 70%”. The average examination-mark (See C: Table 5) for the Richard-Uniqueness-Guide10 is offered in a single quantity-quality-description.

An examination count of Inadequate or a percentage of under 50% for the Richard-Uniqueness-Guide10 means in terms of the NJMH-Transformer51 a performance value in the class of disqualification of the article-thesis under examination. (See Table 5 above.) To obtain clearance on the thesis status after such a negative outcome, the thesis needs to be evaluated further by the evaluation tool SU-Alternative-Studies.56 (See in this context under Table 6 regarding the prescribed structure and contents of the article-thesis to which the article-thesis under examination must also adhere.)

  • Note: Notwithstanding the presence of a disqualification or a qualification awarded by the Richard-Uniqueness-Guide,10 the examination mark obtained from it forms part of the calculation of the final examination mark of the article-thesis by the seven evaluation tools.
  1. SU-Alternative-Studies56:10

If a disqualification (Inadequate: 49% and under) arrives from the above evaluation of the Richard-Uniqueness-Guide10:1 and of the NJMH-Transformer,51:96 such a negative finding needs to be verified by the examiner to ensure that the thesis is neither unjustifiably promoted nor penalised. To determine a clear differentiation and to decide between a clear classification of  acceptance/unacceptance/rejection of the thesis, the SU-Alternative-Studies 56 is used as the second evaluation tool. This evaluation tool is well-focused on the quality of a thesis, and provides an excellent differentiation between the two types of theses.

To guide the examiner on the process of the examining of the article-thesis as based on the guiding structure (elements) of the SU-Alternative-Studies, 56 it is reproduced here in Table 6.

Table 6. SU-Alternative-Studies: 56:10

—————————————–

  1. Introduction
  • Background Information
  • Purpose of Study, Research Objectives
  • Significance and motivation
  • Thesis, delineation, research questions
  • Definitions, assumptions, limitations
  • Theory base, general literature review
  • Brief Chapter overviews
  1. Individual Study 1
  • Major section: Specific research hypothesis, delineations, etc.
  • Major section: Specific literature review
  • Major section: Method
  • Major section: Findings
  • Major section: Analysis
  • Major section: Sub conclusion
  1. Individual Study 2
  • Major section: Specific research hypothesis, delineations, etc.
  • Major section: Specific literature review
  • Major section: Method
  • Major section: Findings
  • Major section: Analysis
  • Major section: Sub conclusion
  1. Individual Study 3
  • Major section: Specific research hypothesis, delineations, etc.
  • Major section: Specific literature review
  • Major section: Method
  • Major section: Findings
  • Major section: Analysis
  • Major section: Sub conclusion
  1. Conclusion
  • Summary of Findings
  • Conclusions
  • Summary of Contributions
  • Future Research

The SU-Alternative-Studies56 reflects under its five headings (1. Introduction; 2. Individual Study 1; 3. Individual Study 2; 4. Individual Study 3; 5. Conclusion) a total of 29 primary characteristics unique or standard to an article-thesis. The intention with the use of the SU-Alternative-Studies56is to see if the structure of the article-thesis under examination adheres to the prescribed structure of the SU-Alternative-Studies.56 The aim of  the SU-Alternative-Studies 56 must be read together with the aim above of the Richard-Uniqueness-Guide10, namely to determine if an article-thesis under examination fulfils the prescribed guidelines to be an article-thesis. For this reason, the article-thesis under examination must be fully  assessed by the examiner by comparing it step-by-step with the contents of the SU-Alternative-Studies.56 ● Note: Notwithstanding the absence of a disqualification awarded by Richard-Uniqueness-Guide10, the examination mark obtained from it forms part of the calculation of the final examination mark of the article-thesis by the seven evaluation tools.

To activate the examination of the thesis in terms of the prescriptions of the SU-Alternative-Studies,56 the 29 assessments/counts obtained from its evaluation descriptions (See Table 6 above), are inscribed into the four columns (or marked with an X) of Table 7, allocating qualitative and quantitative performance values to each one. This inscription is done in terms of the four classifications of the NJMH-Transformer51 (“Inadequate: Under 50%”; “Meets the standard: 50% -60%”; “Exceeds the standard: 61% -70%”; “Exceptional: 71% and above”).

Table 7: Performance Levels of the SU-Alternative-Guide: 56:10

Structure Elements Performance Levels of  the SU-Alternative-Guide
Inadequate:

Under 50%:

Average=49% and under

Meets
standard:
50%-60%:Average=55%
Exceeds
standard:
61%-70%:Average=65%
Exceptional:

71% and above:

Average=71%

1.Introduction             
1.Background Information                                                               
2. Purpose of Study, Research Objectives

 

          
3. Significance and motivation

 

                  
4. Thesis, delineation, research questions

 

            
5. Definitions, assumptions, limitations

 

            
6. Theory base, general literature review

 

            
7. Brief Chapter overviews

 

            
2. Individual Study 1

 

             
1.Major section: Specific research hypothesis             
2. Major section: Specific literature review                   
3. Major section: Method              
4. Major section: Findings

 

             
5. Major section: Analysis

 

             
6. Major section: Sub conclusion

6.

                  
3. Individual Study 2              
1. Major section: Specific research hypothesis, delineations, etc.

 

            
2. Major section: Specific literature review                   
3. Major section: Method              
4. Major section: Findings              
5. Major section: Analysis              
6. Major section: Sub conclusion.                   
4. Individual Study 3              
1. Major section: Specific research hypothesis, delineations, etc.

 

           
2. Major section: Specific literature review                  
3. Major section: Method

 

            
4. Major section: Findings

 

           
5. Major section: Analysis

 

             
6. Major section: Sub conclusion

 

                  
5. Conclusion

 

       
1. Summary of Findings

 

            
2. Conclusions

 

            
3. Summary of Contributions

 

          
4. Future Research

 

                  
A. Sub-counts (Percentages)              
B. Total count (Percentage)=             
C. Average examination count (Percentage)=             

After completing the recording of the evaluation in Table 7, the sub-counts (in percentages) (See A: Table 7) of each of the four classifications of the NJMH-Transformer’s51 qualitative and quantitative performance values, are calculated, from which a total count (in percentage) (See B: Table 7) is derived. The examination mark is obtained by dividing the total count through 29 (See C: Table 7).  ● Note: For the adding together of the 29 evaluation marks of the SU-Alternative-Studies,56 the quantitative percentage classification of “Under-50% or 49% and lower”, is used as a single quantity description to include all the evaluation marks of 49% and lower as 49% for counting purposes. The same single-quantity description is done with the quantitative percentage classification of “71% and above” by including under it all percentages of 71% and higher as 71%. For the quantitative percentage classification of “50% -60%” the average of 55%  was used as a single-quantity description for all the percentage counts of between 50% and 60%. The same approach was used for the quantitative percentage classification of “61% to 70%” by the use of the average of 65% as a single-quantity description for all the quantitative percentage counts of between “60% and 70%”. The average examination mark (See C: Table 7) for SU-Alternative-Studies56 is offered in a single quantity-quality description.

An examination count of Inadequate or a percentage of under 50% for the SU-Alternative-Studies56 means in terms of the NJMH-Transformer 51 a performance value in the classification of disqualification of the article-thesis under examination. (See Table 7 above.) ● Note: Notwithstanding the presence of a disqualification or a qualification awarded by the Richard-Uniqueness-Guide, its examination mark obtained forms part of the calculation of the final examination mark.

Remark:

The above outcome by the Richard-Uniqueness-Guide10 and the SU-Alternative-Studies56 of a possible performance value of Inadequate (Under 50%) specifically brings to the foreground the reason for the use in combination of the above two frontline evaluation tools, namely to make at an early stage of the examination a conclusion of acceptance/unacceptance/rejection regarding the quality status of the thesis. Also to provide guidance on the continuation of the examination. This outcome can, as already indicated, class the article-thesis’s evaluation as rejected/failed by a strict examiner. (In this context it must be noted that to examine a traditional thesis in terms of the examination guidelines of the article-thesis can spell an outright failure, while the same failure can be activated by the examination of an article-thesis in terms of the traditional thesis’s examination guidelines.)

The examination of any thesis, especially the article-thesis, requires the utmost responsibility and a highly experienced examiner, to deal with problems such as the one above with insight and wisdom. (See under subsection 3. SU-Combined-Thesis,56:6 as a way of counter-acting  and avoiding unjustified rejections.) An extreme action/response by an examiner, such as the awarding of an outright failure, must be avoided as far as possible if there emerges any contradictions or opacity from the examination process. Alternative actions for the examiner to the above kind of negative examination outcome, is to classify it as unacceptable (without rejection) through the following interventions: to refer the “traditional thesis” or “substandard thesis” back to the student and his/her supervisor so as to correct it and to hand it in later for re-examination, or that the “traditional thesis” is further strictly examined in terms of the article-thesis guidelines, that may also trigger a rejection.

Regarding the two front-line tools’ possible awarding of an average examination mark  of “Meets the standard: 50% -60%” in terms of the NJMH-Transformer51 the process of the examination of the article-thesis should be continued. A “50% to 60%” performance value awarded in terms of the NJMH-Transformer51 should serve as a warning to the examiner to be aware of possible problems to come as his/her examination of the article-thesis continues.

  1. SU-Combined-Thesis56:6

Referring to the comments above in the subsection Remark, it must be noted that the rigid and exclusive use of the classification acceptance/unacceptance/rejection regarding the quality status of a thesis in terms of the Richard-Guide10, the Richard-Uniqueness-Guide10 and of the SU-Alternative-Studies,56can in some cases be problematic, and can even be inapplicable and erroneous to use for specific theses at specific universities. It should be cautioned here concerning the presence of some theses (although by far in the minority at this stage) that are not outright article-theses or traditional theses, but are the so-called mixed or hybrid article-chapter theses that are acceptable in the research community. Here, as an example, the most prominent is the so-called SUCombined-Article-Chapter-Thesis56 of the Stellenbosch University (SU), as reflected underneath in Table 8.

This specific type of thesis, characterised by its specific in-house offering and supervising at the SU, can be a problem for the inexperienced and poorly-informed examiner that is unknown with and outside the SU’s specific and specialised offering and awarding of their Combined-Article-Chapter-Type-Thesis56 or combination-articles-chapters-thesis. Because this type of thesis needs a special-examination approach, should its’ examination only be done by selected seasoned and well-experienced academics and researchers. The strict and/or inappropriate use of the Richard-Guide10, Richard-Uniqueness-Guide10 and the SU-Alternative-Studies56 can create academic and research chaos.

Table 8: SU-Combined-Thesis:56:6

—————————————-

  • Introduction
  • A number of published and/or unpublished articles

or

  • A combination of chapters and published and/or unpublished articles
  • Conclusion – a summary of the research results indicating the scientific contribution to the study.

 

If the examiner accepts the combination-article-chapter-thesis presented to him/her as “acceptable/correct”, and if he/she is well-experienced and undertakes to examine it strictly inside the specifically prescribed guidelines of a combination-article-chapter-thesis without prejudice or subjectivity, the examination process should continue. In this case an assessment (performance) value of one of the following three values must be awarded in terms of the NJMH-transformer,10 namely: “Meets the standard, Exceeds the standard, or Exceptional”, but not one of Inadequate.

3.1.1.2. Mid-level evaluation tools

The next four data-collection evaluation tools used in this article that may construct a guide for the examination of the article-thesis, are focused on the identification and collecting of certain elements of the contents of the thesis, like the references used in the thesis, its word counts as well as a certain uniqueness or characteristics that demarcates the article-thesis. These technical characteristics in the examination of the article-thesis are many times ignored, notwithstanding their primary importance in the determining of the quality of a thesis. The four data-collection evaluation tools used, are:

  1. Numbering of General References of a Thesis Checklist. (Short-named: General-References-Checklist).
  2. 2. Numbering of Reference Types of a Thesis Checklist. (Short-named: Reference-Types Checklist).
  3. Maximum/Minimum Word-counts Checklist. (Short-named: Word-Counts-Checklist).
  4. Hay-Uniqueness-Guide.53
  1. General-References Checklist

The numbers of the general references of an article-thesis serve as a valuable evaluation count to examine the quality of an article-thesis. In this context it must be emphasised that there exists no specific guideline to determine the “acceptable/correct” total number of general references that should be consulted and referred to in an article-format thesis. For the performance of such an examination evaluation of an article-thesis’s general-reference counts, it must be compared with an acceptable criterium of prescribed averages (the so-called guided counts). From the literature it seems that the criterium of an average of 60 general references per journal article is the general average for article-theses of good standing. Further, the acceptable criterium for the average reference counts of the Introduction and Synthesis of the thesis are 25 references each, totalling an extra 50 general references for the thesis in whole.

In terms of above criterium, the total average guided (prescribed) general-reference counts calculated, are as follows: for the three-article-thesis 230 references, for the four-article-thesis 290 references, for the five-article-thesis 350 references, for the six-article-thesis 410 references, for the seven-article-thesis 470 references and for the eight-article-thesis 530 references. Negative and positive deviations of 30% from the above various average general reference counts, are also found. A negative deviation of 30% from these above average general reference counts reflects an average reference count as follows: for the three-article-thesis 160 references, for the four-article-thesis 200 references, for the five-article-thesis 240 references, for the six-article-thesis 290 references, for the seven-article-thesis 330 references and for the eight-article-thesis 370 references. A positive deviation of 30% from these above average general reference counts may lead to an average reference count as follows: for the three-article-thesis 300 references, for the four-article-thesis 380 references, for the five-article-thesis 450 references, for the six-article-thesis 530 references, for the seven-article-thesis  610 references and for the eight-article-thesis 690 references. The above prescribed or guided general references are profiled in Table 9 underneath.

Table 9: Minimum, average and maximum guided general references:

Types of article-thesis Minimum Average Maximum
Three-article-thesis 160 230 300
Four-article-thesis 200 290 380
Five-article-thesis 240 350 450
Six-article-thesis 290 410 530
Seven-article-thesis 330 470 610
Eight-article-thesis 390 530 690

To compare the above prescribed numbers of guided general references (minimum, averages and maximum) that should be used in an article-thesis with the number of general references used in the thesis under examination, a rubric was compiled to record the collected number of general references of the thesis under examination. (See underneath Table 10). Note: Chapter 1 is the Introduction and Chapter 6 the Synopsis.

Table 10: Rubric for inscribing of collected general-reference of an article-thesis:

References Chapter

1

Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter

6

TOTAL:

General-reference

(numbers)

TOTAL:

General- references

(numbers)

         

To award in terms of the General-References Checklist a single evaluation count (examination mark) for an article-thesis under examination (See Table 10 above), the count (in quantitative form) is transformed to one of the four quantitative and qualitative performance values of the NJMH-Transformer51. [See for guidance the following quantitative and qualitative descriptions of the transformed values: Inadequate (Under 50%), Meets the standard (50% -60%), Exceeds the standard (61% -70%), or  Exceptional (71% and above)].

The transformed performance value as an examination mark for the General-References Checklist is profiled underneath in Table 11. This transformed quantitative and qualitative performance value/ examination mark depends on the type of article-thesis under examination.

Table 11: General-References-Checklist:

                                   Performance levels
Types of article-thesis Inadequate:  49% and under Meets the standard:

50% – 60%

Exceeds standard:

61% -70%

Exceptional:

71% and

above

Three-article-thesis 160< 161 – 230 231 – 300 301>
Four-article-thesis 200< 201 – 290 291 – 380 381>
Five-article-thesis 250< 251 – 350 351 – 450 451>
Six-article-thesis 290< 291 – 410 411 – 530 531>
Seven-article-thesis 330< 331- 470 471 – 610 611>
Eight-article-thesis 370< 371- 530 531- 690 691>

 From the evaluation data obtained through the General-References Checklist (See above Table 11) the examiner can read directly the average examination mark (offered in quantitative and qualitative values) for the article-thesis under examination.

  1. Reference-Types Checklist

It must also be noted that there exists no guideline to determine the “acceptable/correct” balance between various types of references (books, journals, newspaper and website sources) that should be consulted and referred to in an article-format thesis. Although an imbalance between reference types used in an article-thesis does not really mean a disqualification, the over-use of one or two reference types in an article-thesis may lead to a shallowing of information and a contamination of arguments. But on the other hand the lack of information reporting on a research subject by for instance newspaper and website sources, may force a researcher to overuse for instance books and journals.

My experience over many years reflects the ideal is that an article-thesis should reflects for each reference-type a 20 % (minimum) presence to evidence a well-balanced use. (The modern approach of the comprehensive use of articles of newspapers and website publishers to supplement the “traditional” sources of books and journals, led some times to an imbalance in the reference-composition, but should not, as said, be seen as a disqualification). As a criterium for the data-collected for an article-thesis, the average of 20 % (minimum) of books, journals, newspaper and website sources in terms of the total number of reference-types used, was accepted for the article-thesis examination.

For the compiling and listing the numbers of the different types of references used in the article-thesis, the under-mentioned rubric (blank form to be filled-in) was designed (See under Table 12). Table 12 shows out to the examiner how to collect, to class and to inscribe into it separately the various reference-types (into the four classes of either books, journals, newspaper or website sources), as well as the total number of reference-types. The separate counts of each type (books, journals, newspaper or website sources) must be reworked to percentages, calculated in terms of the total number of reference-types for each type.

Table 12:  Reference-Types-Checklist:

REFERENCE-

TYPES

Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 TOTAL:

Reference per type (numbers and  percentages)

Books
Journals
Newspapers
Internet
TOTAL:

Reference per type (numbers and percentages)

     — —-

 To can transform the findings (counts of various reference-types) obtained from above Table 12 into the quantitative and qualitative performance values  of the NJMH-Transformer,51is used as a criterium the minimum presence of 20% for each of the reference-types:  a reference-type of under 20% is classed as inadequate (49%), while the percentages of 25%, 30%, and 35% reflect respectively evaluation values of meets the standard (50% – 60%), exceeds the standard (61% – 70%) and exceptional (71% and above).

The performance values of each of the reference-types of an article-thesis (books, journals, newspaper or website sources), obtained through the transformation of the evaluation-counts of the reference-types of an article-thesis by the use of the NJMH-Transformer,51 are reflected in Table 13 under. For examination-evaluation the examiner can read the examination-mark (in quantitative and qualitative values) allocated separately for books, journals, newspaper or website sources, direct from it.

Table 13: Reference-Types-Checklist:

Performance levels
Reference-Types-Checklist Inadequate:  49% and under Meets the standard:

50% – 60%

Exceeds standard:

61% -70%

Exceptional:

71% and

above

Percentages 20%< 21% – 25% 26% -30% 30%>
  1. Word-Counts Checklist

The next evaluation-tool used to examine the quality of the article-thesis, the Word-Counts Checklist, evaluates the maximum and minimum word counts of the article-thesis under examination.

  • Seeing that there exists no prescription on the number of articles to be included in the article-thesis (besides less than three is not very acceptable), no examination-evaluation is done in this context. It must be noted that in this context strong opposition to the frequent and overwhelming use of the three-article-thesis is recorded. Also, the page counts of theses are excluded from examination, given that it is determined by the number of articles, making it an insignificant criterion to be used for examination. In this context it must be noted that the use of page counts to describe a thesis length, is extremely misleading and must be avoided: depending on the typing style used, 100 pages may easily be stretched to 150 pages and more to give false credibility to a thesis.

It must further be noted that there does not exist a clear and acceptable description (criterion) on the prescribed maximum and minimum word counts (the so-called guided-word-counts) of the articles that are forming article-theses, or of the correct prescribed maximum and minimum word counts of the article-thesis itself. To put in place a criterion to determine the most acceptable (guided) total word counts of the article-thesis and that of its various articles, it was decided to take Article Two’s suggested criterion, namely that the maximum and minimum word count of each of the articles that form the contents of the article-thesis, should be between 12 000 and 8 000 words (with an average of 10 000 words for an article). In addition hereto are the word counts of each article’s Introduction (2 700 words), Synthesis (2 000 words) and Bridging (300 words), adding an extra 5 000 words to each article-thesis.

The above calculation approach, when applied broadly to all the sizes of article-theses,  would mean for example that the calculated total maximum and minimum guided (criterion) word counts are respectively for the three-article-thesis 41 000 and 29 000 words (average 35 000 words), for the four-article thesis 53 000 and 37 000 words (average 45 000 words), for the five-article thesis 65 000 and 45 000 words (average 55 000 words), for the six-article thesis 77 000 and 53 000 words (average 65 000 words), for the seven-article thesis 89 000 and 61 000 words (average 75 000 words)  and for the eight-article thesis 101 000 and 69 000 words (average 85 000 words).

Firstly, to enlighten the examiner on the process of calculating and compiling the word counts of article-theses under examination (see the above paragraph’s description and information on the matter), the structuring of the guided (prescribed) maximum/minimum word counts of the four-article thesis as an example, is illustrated underneath in Table 14.23-24,41-44

Table 14: Structuring of guided maximum/minimum word counts of four-article thesis:

Sections/Structure Minimum Maximum
Introduction 2 700 2 700
Chapters (Four)  32 000

(8,000 x 4)

48 000

(12,000 x 4)

Synthesis 2 000 2 000
Bridging 300 300
Total 37 000 53 000

From Table 14 is it clear that the four-article thesis’ word counts should be varying between 37 000 and 53 000 words (with an average word count of 45.000).

The illustration and profiling in Table 14 above of the structuring of the four-article thesis, are taken further in Table 15 underneath by offering the examiner guidance on how the guided (prescribed) maximum and minimum word counts of a four-article thesis (six-chapter thesis) should compare with the maximum and minimum word counts of a four-article thesis (six-chapter thesis) under examination. For examination insight and guiding, the article-thesis’s maximum and minimum word counts under examination can be written down in Table 15 to determine and illustrate how the word counts of an article-thesis under examination differs from that of the guided word counts of a similar article-thesis.

Table 15: Comparison of the guided maximum/minimum word counts with the maximum/minimum word counts of a four-article thesis:

Maximum/Minimum Word-Counts
Components/

Structure of article-thesis

Maximum Words Minimum Words
Guided word-counts Candidate

Word-counts

Guided word-counts Candidate

Word-counts

Abstract       —– —–  
Chapter 1
(Introduction)
 2 700 2 700  
Chapter 2
(Article 1)
12 000 8 000  
Chapter 3
(Article 2)
    12 000 8 000  
Chapter 4
(Article 3)
12 000 8 000  
Chapter 5
(Article 4)
12 000 8 000  
Chapter 6
(Synopsis)
 2 300 2 300  
 TOTAL 53 000 35 000  

To illustrate further, firstly, how the maximum and minimum word counts of an article-thesis under examination (varying from a three-article thesis to an eight-article thesis) compares with the corresponding  maximum and minimum word counts of the guided (prescribed) article-thesis (varying from a three-article thesis to an eight-article thesis); and secondly, to determine the quantitative and qualitative performance value (examination mark) of the maximum and minimum word count of an article-thesis through the use of the NJMH-Transformer’s51 four performance values,  Table 16 was compiled. The design of Table 16 is such, that after inscribing the evaluation value (word count) obtained through evaluation of the Word-Counts Checklist of the article-thesis under examination, its corresponding transformed  quantitative and qualitative performance performance value (examination value) presented by the NJMH-Transformer,51 can be read by the examiner directly from it.

The transformed quantitative and qualitative performance values (examination values) of the three-article thesis up to an eight-article thesis are reflected in Table 16.

Table 16:  Maximum/Minimum Word Counts of Types of Article-theses: 

                                          Performance levels                               
Types of article-thesis Inadequate:  49% and under Meets the standard:

50% – 60%

Exceeds standard:

61% -70%

Exceptional:

71% and

above

Three-article-thesis 29 000< 29 000 -35 000 35 001 -41 000 41 001>
Four-article-thesis 37 000< 37 000-      45 000 45 001- 53 000 53 001>
Five-article-thesis 45 000< 45 000-55 000 55 001-65 000 65 000>
Six-article-thesis 53 000< 53 000-65 000 63 001-77 000 72 000>
Seven-article-thesis 61 000< 61 000-  75 000 75 001-89 000 89 000>
Eight-article-thesis 69 000< 69 000-85 000 85 00-101 000 101 000>

 

  1. Hay-Uniqueness-Guide53:105

The Hay-Uniqueness-Guide evaluates seven classifications or criteria characteristic of an article-thesis. The contents of the Hay-uniqueness are reflected underneath in Table 17.

Table 17. Hay-Uniqueness-Guide:53:105

—————————————————————————-

  1. The candidate said something nobody has said before.
  2. The candidate carried out empirical work that hasn’t been done before.
  3. The candidate made a synthesis that hasn’t been made before.
  4. The candidate tried out something that has been done before – but in a new situation.
  5. The candidate used already known material but with a new interpretation.
  6. The candidate took a particular technique and applied it in a new area.
  7. The candidate brought new evidence to bear on an old issue.

To activate the examination of the thesis in terms of the prescriptions of the Hay-Uniqueness-Guide,53 the seven assessments/counts obtained  from its evaluation descriptions (See Table 17 above), are inscribed underneath into Table 18’s four columns (or marked with an X), allocating qualitative and quantitative performance values to each one. This inscribing is done in terms of the four classifications of the NJMH-Transformer51 (Inadequate: Under 50%; Meets the standard: 50% -60%; Exceeds the standard: 61% -70%; Exceptional: 71% and above).

Table 18:  Hay-Uniqueness-Guide: 53:105

Uniqueness Performance Levels
   Inadequate:

Under 50%:

Average=49% and under

Meets
standard:
50%-60%:Average=55%
Exceeds
standard:
    61%-70%:Average=65%
Exceptional:

71% and above:

Average=71%

1.  The candidate said something nobody has said before.  
2.  The candidate carried out empirical work that hasn’t been done before.
3. The candidate made a synthesis that hasn’t been made before.  
4. The candidate tried out something that has been done before – but in a new situation.

 

 
5. The candidate used already known material but with a new interpretation.
6. The candidate took a particular technique and applied it in a new area.  
7. The candidate brought new evidence to bear on an old issue.  
A. Sub-counts (Percentages)   
B. Total count (Percentage)=  
C. Final examination count (Percentage)=  

After completing the inscribing of the evaluation into Table 18, the sub-counts (in percentages) (See A: Table 18) of each of the four classifications of the NJMH-Transformer’s51qualitative and quantitative performance values, are calculated, from which a total count (in percentage) (See B: Table 18) is derived. The examination mark is obtained by dividing the total count through 7 (See C: Table 18).  ● Note: For  adding up the 7 evaluation  marks of the SU-Alternative-Studies,56 the quantitative percentage classification of “Under 50% or 49% and lower” is used as a single-quantity description to include all the evaluation marks of 49% and lower as 49% for counting purposes. The same single-quantity description is done with the quantitative percentage classification of “71% and above” by including under it all percentages of 71% and higher than 71%. For the quantitative percentage classification of “50% -60%” the average of 55% was used as a single-quantity description for all the percentage counts of between 50% and 60%. The same approach was used for the quantitative percentage classification of “61% to 70%” by using the average of 65% as a single-quantity description for all the quantitative percentage counts of between “60% and 70%”. The examination mark (See C: Table 18) for the Hay-Uniqueness-Guide53 is offered in a single quantity-quality description.

3.2.1.3. Advanced-level evaluation-tool

  1. NJMH-Performance-Rubric51:94-96

The last data-collection evaluation tool used in the data collecting and  evaluation of article-theses, is the NJMH-Performance-Rubric51 (This rubric is derived from the Rubric for the Assessment of Postgraduate Work51:94-96 developed by Professors Nel, de Jager, MacKinnon and Hay).

The NJMH-Performance-Rubric51 identifies a total of 28 quality and performance classifications or types which are uniquely and exclusively intertwined in the contents of every article-thesis. The contents of the NJMH-Performance-Rubric51 are reflected underneath in Table 19.

To activate the examination of the thesis in terms of the prescriptions of the NJMH-Performance-Rubric,51 the 28 assessments/counts obtained from its evaluation descriptions (See underneath in Table 19), are inscribed into Table 19’s four columns (or marked with an X), allocating qualitative and quantitative performance values to each one. This inscribing is done in terms of the four classifications of the NJMH-Transformer51 (“Inadequate: Under 50%”; “Meets the standard: 50% -60%”; “Exceeds the standard: 61% -70%”; “Exceptional: 71% and above”).

After the examiner has made his/her decisions on the quality of the article-thesis in terms of the 28 performance values evaluated through the NJMH-Performance-Rubric,51 and after doing the inscriptions of the evaluations in Table 19 underneath, the quantitative sub-counts (in percentages) [See Table 19: A. Sub-counts (Percentages)] of each of the four classifications of the NJMH-Transformer’s51 qualitative and quantitative performancevalues are calculated. From this a total quantitative count (in percentage) is derived. [See Table 19: B. Total count (Percentage)]. The average examination mark is obtained by dividing the total quantitative count through 28. [See Table 19: C. Average examination count (Percentage)].  ● Note: For  adding up the 28 evaluation marks of the NJMH-Performance-Rubric,51 the quantitative percentage classification of “Under-50%” or “49% and lower” is used as a single-quantity description to include all the evaluation marks of 49% and lower as 49% for counting purposes. The same single quantity description is done with the quantitative percentage classification of “71% and above” by including under it all percentages of 71% and higher than 71%. For the quantitative percentage classification of “50%-60%” the average of 55%  was used as a single-quantity description for all the percentage counts of between 50% and 60%. The same approach was used for the quantitative percentage classification of “61% to 70%” by the use of the average of 65% as a single-quantity description for all the quantitative percentage counts of between “60% and 70%”.

Table 19: NJMH-Performance-Rubric: 51:94-96

Criteria Performance levels
Inadequate:

Under 50%:

Average=49%

Meets
standard:
50% – 60%:Average=55%
Exceeds
standard: 61%-70%:
Average=65%
Exceptional:

71% and above:

Average=71%

A. Topic/Title

 1. Appropriate/well formulated

 
B. Formulation of research issues / problems

2. Justification included

C. Research goal / hypothesis/ 3. Stated, grounded and motivated  
D. Aims / objectives
4. formulated
5. Focused
E. Literature study
6. Recent / relevant work  
7. Authoritative sources  
8. Interpretation corrected  
9. Critical engagement with material  
F. Research design and methods
10. Logical progression from objectives  
11. Appropriate choice  
12. Relevant and well-founded data sourcing  
13. Data relevant and interpreted accurately  
14. Data thoroughly discussed  
G. Summary and conclusions
15. Clear and logical
16. Substantiated
H. Recommendations
17. Substantiated  
18. Of value  
19. Related to conclusions of study  
I. Structure of dissertation/thesis
20. Logical  
21. Coherent  
22. Substantial line of development  
J. Content

23. Length, range, chapters, knowledge of field, problem solving, depth, creativity, originality, responsibility for statements

 
K. Scientific substance

 24. Theoretical foundation, clarify concepts, independence, logical sequence, essential and non-essential, systematic, critical responsibility, quality of arguments, scientific interpretation and reporting

 
L. /25.Language and style

 

 

 

 

 

 

M. /26. Technical structure and care  
N. Publishable

27. Meets requirements

 
O. Contribution to knowledge

28. Doctoral study

 
A. Sub-counts (Percentages)   
B. Total count (Percentage) =  
C. Average examination-count (Percentage) =  

 The average examination mark [See above Table 19: C. Average examination-count (Percentage)] for the NJMH-Performance-Rubric51 is offered in a quantity-quality description.

3.2.1.4. Compiling and calculation of the final examination mark

In this subsection the final examination mark, based on the average examination marks of the seven evaluation tools and obtained through the 77 performance/uniqueness values they tested, and evaluated, is calculated. These seven evaluation tools (with the number of performance/uniqueness values they evaluate indicated in brackets),  are:

4.1. Richard-Uniqueness-Guide (10).10

4.2. SU-Alternative-Studies (29).56

4.3. Reference-Types-Checklist (1).

4.4. General-References-Checklist (1).

4.5. Word-Counts-Checklist (1).

4.6. Hay-Uniqueness-Guide (7).53

4.7. NJMH-Performance-Rubric (28).51

To make a direct comparison and aggregation of the seven average examination marks, a quantity evaluation is done whereby the NJMH-transformer’s51 four performance percentages, namely “Under 50%”, “50% -60%”, “61% -70%” and “71% and above”, are used.    For adding up the seven average examination marks, the percentage classification of “Under 50%” or “49% and lower” is used as a single-quantity description to include all examination marks of 49% and lower than 49%. The same single-quantity description is done with the percentage classification of “71% and above” by including under it all percentages of 71% and higher than 71%. For the percentage classification of “50% -60%” the average of 55%  was used as a single-quantity description for all the percentage counts of between 50% and 60%. The same approach was used for the percentage classification of “61% to 70%” by using the average of 65% as a single-quantity description for all the percentage counts between 60% and 70%.

To initiate the final examination mark of the thesis, the seven average examination marks of the seven evaluation tools are inscribed underneath in Table 20’s four columns (or marked with an X). This inscribing is done in terms of  the four classifications (qualitative and quantitative performancevalues) of the NJMH-Transformer51 (“Inadequate: Under 50%”; “Meets the standard: 50%-60%”; “Exceeds the standard: 61%-70%”;  “Exceptional: 71% and above”). These uniform performance values/examination marks make a direct comparison between the seven evaluation tools’ findings possible, as well as deriving a quantitative-qualitative final performance value/examination mark (See C: Table 20) calculated from the total average examination marks (See B: Table 20) for the article-thesis under examination.

Table 20: Final Examination mark:

Evaluation-tools

 

                 Performance values
Inadequate: Under50%: average 49% Meets
standard:
50%-60%: average55%
Exceeds
standard:
61% -70%: average 65%
Exceptional:

71% and above: average 71%   

1. Richard-Uniqueness-Guide                                    
2. SU-Alternative-Studies                                    
3. General-Reference-Checklist                                      
4.  Reference-Types-Checklist                                         
5. Word-Counts-Checklist                                     
6. Hay-uniqueness-Guide                                       
7. NJMH-Performance-Rubric                                     
A. Subtotal examination-marks, calculated in percentages =

 

 

 

 

                                         
B. Average-examination-mark, calculated in percentage =

 

                                         
C. Final examination-mark, calculated in percentage =

 

 

                                         

 3.2.1.4.1. Examination conclusion:

The evaluation of the article-thesis is done by answering 77 performance/evaluation questions, unique to seven evaluation tools, which are comprehensively testing the thesis’s academic and research quality. This examination process assured objectivity, honesty as well as academic and research integrity.

By awarding the final examination mark (in quantitative and qualitative descriptions) on the quality of the article-thesis under examination, the examination process is completed with the issuing of the finding of either pass or fail. Seeing that most of the universities do not make use of a quantitative final examination mark, but of a qualitative description, the final examination mark is mostly issued in one of the following categories: Inadequate (Failed); Meets the standard (Passed); Exceeds the standard (Passed); or  Exceptional (Passed).

But no-one stops an examiner from allocating a more comprehensive description (a combined quantitative and qualitative description) chosen from one of the following: “Inadequate: Under 50%”; “Meets the standard: 50%-60%”; “Exceeds the standard: 61% -70%”; or “Exceptional: 71% and above”. Personally, I think this is the correct way to close an examination.

  • The following intertwined article, entitled: “How to examine the article-format masters and doctorate: Part 2”, will continue to provide a general understanding and grounding for the examiner regarding the examination structuring and process of the article-thesis and -dissertation. In Part 2 will be discussed the following three sections: 3.3.: A hypothetical case study (this includes an example of the writing of the examination report); 3.4.: The Shortcut-examination model for the article-thesis and –dissertation; and 3.5. : The Master’s degree.
  1. Conclusion

The intention of this article was to give the aspirant examiner of the article-thesis and -dissertation some guidance on the skills, knowhow and experiences needed by him/her to do this kind of examination. In 2008 Nel et al., 51 write on the assessment of the traditional thesis and dissertation51:93: “There seem to be variations in the focus and expectations amongst different assessors, at specific universities and even at different sections within a university. Thus, the need exists to propose a system addressing uniformity in the summative assessment of theses and dissertations.” On the writing of the examiner’s report in the same context Nel et al., 51 state 51:92: “It is often assumed that all academics know how to write an examiner’s report. Although universities have guidelines regarding the typical aspects to cover in report, these could be rather vague.” Now, twelve year onwards, the situation has not improved; it even seems to worsen inside BAREE. Central to countering this chaos should be the maintenance of the correct examination of the article-thesis and-dissertation, intertwined with the correct execution of the article-thesis and -dissertation: meaning the upkeep of academic and research quality and integrity.51-66

Research shows much of the examination process of the article-thesis and -dissertation is still caught in the subjective and unfettered empowerment of the examiner; a system lacking scientific evidence and integrity held over from the early days of learning. It just cannot go on this way. There is no room anymore in our academic and research culture for autocratic and unskilled examiners to rule the research waves; it is time to waive their rules.52-65

Examiners of the article-thesis need special training and skills. This can only be obtained through the offering of ongoing broad internal training by universities dispensed to their staff. The ideal should be to licence article-thesis examiners with a Code of Practice after passing an examination of competence.52

The correct examination of the article-thesis and -dissertation — to assure objectiveness, justice and integrity to the outcome — requires immense discipline and caring inputs by examiners; a process which many of them see as unnecessarily time-consuming and digressive. But there is no shortcut. It must be remembered that for the examination of article-theses and -dissertations examiners are well-paid by universities: so why the lack so of diligent examination in so many instances?

In the next intertwined article (Number 6), entitled: “How to examine the article-format masters and doctorate: Part 2”, we will continue to provide a general understanding and grounding for the examiner about the examination structuring and process of the article-thesis and -dissertation. In Part 2 will be discussed the following three sections: 3.3.: A hypothetical case-study (This includes an example of the writing of the examination report); 3.4.: The Shortcut-examination model for the article-thesis and -dissertation; and 3.5. : The Master’s degree.

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