How to position the article-format master and doctorate in the Modern-day Research culture and environment of South Africa (2): Part 2

Title: How to position the article-format master and doctorate in the Modern-day Research culture and environment of South Africa (2): Part 2

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 and Researcher: Healthcare, History and Politics).

Corresponding Author:

Prof. Dr GP Louw; MA (UNISA), PhD (PU for CHE), DPhil (PU for CHE), PhD (NWU)

Email: profgplouw@gmail.com

Keywords: Article-format-doctorate, article-format-masters, modern-day, position, research culture, research environment, South Africa.

Ensovoort, volume 42 (2021), number 3: 2

1. Background

The current advent of the article-thesis and -dissertation in our research environment, seems to be at the moment in some way in a “research no-man’s-land”. It seems to be sustained at times by a strong independent academic and research movement, but is at the same time not always allowed to enjoy total independence as a research entity, one which needs the maximum support of the well-established academic and research environment to make a dynamic break-through. An historical overview of advanced research worldwide shows that since the 1990s the format and publication mode, together with the dissemination and sharing of collected scientific data, has undergone a significant change with the introduction of the article-format dissertation and thesis. It forces to the foreground a serious rethinking and replanning on how research should be addressed in the future: what is the most appropriate way to write a master (dissertation) and a doctorate (thesis), and what are the pros and cons of the article-format dissertation and -thesis? In this context we find again the positive opinion of Nassi-Calo on the dynamic rise of the alternative formats in present-day academics and research when  she posits1:1: “Scholarly communication undergoes changes and evolves as science itself. The scientific article, its format and publication mode, dissemination and sharing has undergone significant changes since the emergence of the first scientific journals in the seventeenth century. The Internet, in the 1990s, dramatically changed the paradigm of science communication, an event comparable only to the invention of printing by Gutenberg in 1440, which enabled the dissemination of articles and journals to other instances, beyond the academy.”

1.1.  Introduction (Continued from Article 1)

This article, entitled: “How to position the article-format master and doctorate in the Modern-day Research culture and  environment of South Africa: Part 2”, is a continuation of the previous article (Number 1), entitled: “How to position the article-format master and doctorate in the Modern-day Research culture and environment of South Africa: Part 1”. It must be read as a unity.

  • Aims of article (Continued from Article 1)

This article, entitled: “How to position the article-format-master and-doctorate in the Modern-day Research-culture and -environment of South Africa: Part 2”, is a sequence to its intertwined article (Number 1), entitled: “How to position the article-format master and doctorate in the Modern-day Research culture and environment of South Africa: Part 1”. The article, the second part of a series of seven articles under the project titled as: “How to write, supervise and examine the article-format master and doctorate: A South African perspective,” represents a continuation to provide a general understanding and grounding for the aspirant student who is planning to write an article-format master (dissertation) or doctorate (thesis), as well as for the aspirant supervisor who intends to oversee this alternative research format and the aspirant examiner who wants to assess the article-thesis.5-8

1.2.1. Scope of article (Continued from Article 1)

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

  1. Method (Continued from Article 1)

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 regarding the various local and global approaches to the delivery of article-format theses or dissertations. The sources consulted cover the period 2006 to 2021.

The research findings are being presented in narrative format.

3.Results and discussion (Continued from Article 1)

3.1. Prerequisites, rules, discretions and traditions guiding the writing of the article-format thesis

Two approaches can be followed to provide information on how one can and may write an article-format masters and doctorate (or as some universities said in the enforcement of their rules: should instead of can and may) to the aspirant student, to supervise an article-thesis by the aspirant supervisor and how to assess an article-thesis by the examiner. The one is the Open-guide Approach (See under subdivision 3.2.3.1.) and the other is the Closed-guide Approach that will be discussed in depth in the next two following, intertwined articles, entitled: “How to write and supervise the article-masters and –doctorate: Part 1” and “How to write and supervise the article-masters and –doctorate: Part 2”.

In this article the Open-guide Approach reflects a collection of various universities’ expert advice, rules, regulations and stipulations as defined in their writing guidelines for article-theses. A general, broad extraction was done by me for this article from the various frameworks of these universities so as to put together the consecutive steps prescribed by the various universities on how the writing of the article-thesis, as embedded in their guidelines, may, can or should be done.

Regarding specifically the contents of the Open-guide Approach it, as said, reflects various clear prerequisites, rules discretions and traditions that are in place to direct the compiling and the writing of the article-format thesis. These guidelines, mostly focussing on the structure of the contents of the article-format thesis, spells out clearly the various and possible paths to follow specifically for the aspirant student. It includes delineating the differences as well as the similarities between the article-format and traditional thesis.

To apply the Structure of the article-format thesis, the Open-guide Approach is needed to describe an inclusive introduction that offers comprehensive information and guidance..

3.1.1. Open-guide Approach

In this section the manifold prerequisites, rules, discretions and traditions unique to the article-format thesis, as well as the elements and/or concepts associated with it, are comprehensively set out. They are offered under the following ten subdivisions: 1. Formatting; 2. The concepts of recognized international peer-reviewed, accredited or listed journals and the appropriateness and selectiveness of journals; 3. Coherence and sequence-connection of a thesis’ selective articles; 4. Authorship; 5. Approaches to and prerequisites for the examination of a thesis; 6. Enrolment for the thesis program as a prerequisite for title and topics registration and writing outputs; 7.  Number of articles published before final examination; 8. Enrolment deadlines and the formal duration of thesis studies; 9. Word and page length of the article-thesis; and 10. Minimum and maximum number of articles prescribed for the article-thesis. Two of the elements were already discussed in the first article, entitled: “How to position the article-format master’s and doctorate in the Modern-day Research culture and environment of South Africa: Part 1”. They are 1. Formatting and 2. The concepts of recognized international peer-reviewed, accredited or listed journals and the appropriateness and selectiveness of journals.

The following eight elements will be discussed in this article, entitled: “How to position the article-format master and doctorate in the Modern-day Research culture and environment of South Africa: Part 2”. They are 3. Coherence and sequence connection of a thesis’s selective articles; 4. Authorship; 5. Approaches to and prerequisites for the examination of a thesis; 6. Enrolment for the thesis programme as a prerequisite for title and topics registration and writing outputs; 7.  Number of articles published before final examination; 8. Enrolment deadlines and the formal duration of thesis studies; 9. Word and page length of the article-thesis; and 10. Minimum and maximum number of articles prescribed for the article-thesis.

  1. Coherence and sequence connection of a thesis’s selective articles

Emphasising the importance of coherence and the sequence connection of a thesis’s selective articles, both the UA6and the USA7 reflect a fixed view of the compilation of the articles for the PhD thesis, to attain coherence. The UA states6:1: “At the doctoral level, ‘article-style’ dissertations are unified works that include several distinct but closely related studies of research or creative activity, each of which is of publishable quality.” The UA6 guides further6:1-2:

Article-style dissertations must be based on research completed while the student is enrolled at The University of Alabama. For each article used, the student must be the first author, or equivalent, as defined by the discipline.

The dissertation must be the student’s original idea. It must be a unified work and include a sequence of articles of publishable quality around a theme, with a comprehensive review of the literature that demonstrates an in-depth understanding of the unifying framework.

There will be one introductory section to describe the studies, tell how they are related, and explain their significance. There will be connecting language to bridge each study to the next. There also will be a section that serves as a summary making clear the importance of the studies, integrating the major findings, and discussing the implications for the overall topic.

These components do not have to be separate sections or chapters. They may be parts of the manuscripts or may be accomplished in an abstract.

In this context the UJ’s Guidelines on Theses and Dissertations8 offer a very short, but comprehensive description of requirements to which the coherence and sequence connection of the article-format dissertation and thesis must comply. It reads8:210: “A dissertation or thesis by collection of articles or essays consists of a collection of a number of pieces of work which (a) may exhibit some degree of independence or stand-alone viability, while (b) contributing to a central theme, and (c) are presented as a coherent whole in one volume, with introductory, conclusory and connective material as necessary.” Specifically on the compilation of the contents of the article-format thesis or dissertation, the UJ8 states that the article-chapter must consist of selfcontained contributions which are linked thematically. This guideline by UJ 8 implies that essays or articles should thus have a common theme. In practice this theme may be broader than the traditional dissertation or thesis. Per se, each essay or article typically has its own research question. The UJ8, when there appears to be a lack of a sufficient or a comprehensive literature review in the total submission, meaning the literature of the various articles as a whole does not meet the requirements of a dissertation or thesis and fails to describe and illumine in-depth the topic under study, provides the following guideline8:210: “In such a case it may be necessary to draft a separate chapter that constitutes a literature review. In the case of a collection of essays, a body of literature that is common to all the essays could be reviewed and located in the overall introduction”. 

At most universities, it is sometimes allowed that the various essays or articles that form the article-thesis or dissertation, may explore different issues that are only broadly related to the central theme. This broader approach of presentation of the contents allows that the essays or articles can employ different methodologies and can be of different nature, like one theoretical and one econometrically-orientated, etc., while another one can use a different type of empirical methodology (This approach very much overlaps with the traditional thesis’s structuring and functioning).8

3.1. Two examples of the coherence and sequence connection of an article-thesis’s various selective articles

Referring to the above prescription that the selected articles of the article-format thesis should at all time manifest coherence and sequence, the following three guidelines are very descriptive. The prescriptions read as follows6:1,8:210,18:3:

1) At doctoral level, ‘article-style’ dissertations are unified works that include several distinct but closely related studies of research or creative activity. Each of which is of publishable quality (as stated by UA6:1);

2) Reflecting the desire to construct a ‘coherent’ thesis document, the writing style …should reflect as much as is possible the compact writing style associated with journal publications. In no way does this mean that completeness should be compromised for compactness. However, the entire thesis should be a concise, coherent development of an argument (as stated by UBN18:3), and:

3) A dissertation or thesis by collection of articles or essays consists of a collection of a number of pieces of work which (a) may exhibit some degree of independence or stand-alone viability, while (b) contributing to a central theme, and (c) are presented as a coherent whole in one volume” (as stated by UJ)8:210.

The above descriptions fit well with the undermentioned two examples as offered by the analysis of the UNCC on how coherence and sequence should be manifested at all time in an article-format thesis.

A 2017-study at UNCC5 reflects the coherence and sequence connection of a study’s three selective articles with the overall title5:5: “Existing Barriers to Cure for HIV Positive Black MSM Leaving Prison”, because it is specifically emphasised and illustrated by the four key-words5:5: “Barriers (Invisibility, Perceived and Structural)”, “Cure”, “South Carolina”, “Prison” and “Positive HIV”. In this UNCC-research5, with regards to its coherence and sequence connectivity, its Article 1 reads5:5: “The Invisibility [barrier] among HIV Positive BMSMFI in South Carolina”; Article 2 reads5:5: “Perceived Barriers to HIV Care among HIV Positive BMSM in South Carolina”, while Article 3 reads5:5: “Structural Barriers of Public Assistance as a Conduit for Stigma”.

In another 2017-study at UNCC5, with the general title5:5: “Survival. Healthcare Utilization, and Costs Associated with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease [COPD] among Seer-Medicare Beneficiaries with Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer [NSCLC]”, the coherence and sequence connectivity of the three articles are well-illustrated by six key-words, namely5:5: “Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease [COPD]”, “Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer [NSCLC]”, “Survival”, “Healthcare Utilization”, “Seer-Medicare Beneficiaries” and “Costs”. In this UNCC5 article-format thesis, with regards to coherence and sequence, its Article 1 reads5:5: “Survival Associated with COPD among NSCLC”, Article 2 reads5:5: “Cachexia Associated with COPD among NSCLC”; and Article 3 reads5:5: “Healthcare Utilization and Costs Associated with COPD among NSCLC”.

  1. Authorship

Other than the traditional thesis where the student is the sole author, the role of co-authorship of the individual elements (articles) of the article-format thesis, is a prominent issue (and often a problem). UKZN25 requires a clear declaration by the candidate on how the thesis was compiled and the names of any other contributors/authors to it, as well as a history of the data included in it. UKZN’s 25declaration on authorship reads as follows25:4:

I, Dr/Mr Peter John Visagie, declare as follows:

That the work described in this thesis has not been submitted to UKZN or other tertiary institution for purposes of obtaining an academic qualification, whether by myself or any other party. (Where a colleague has indeed prepared a thesis based on related work essentially derived from the same project, this must be stated here, accompanied by the name, the degree for which submitted, the University, the year submitted (or in preparation) and a concise description of the work covered by that thesis such that the examiner can be assured that a single body of work is not being used to justify more than one degree.

On the candidate’s specific contribution to the project, is it required by the UKZN25:4 that the candidate offers in sufficient detail a concise description of the candidate’s personal involvement in and contribution to the project, so that the examiner is in no doubt as to the extent of the candidate’s contribution. Where other persons were involved in the project, a list of these persons who contributed intellectually to the project (each accompanied by a concise description of their contribution), must be included. (Note: This does not include people who ordinarily would be “acknowledged”, as opposed to those considered for authorship.)

Accepting the role of co-authors in the presentation of journal articles, and thus also active as actors in the article-format thesis’s contents, the UNCC5 puts certain prerequisites in place to assure the true writer-ownership of a thesis by the student who is going to graduate. Here, as an absolute prerequisite, the UNCC5 states that the student/graduate has to be the first author as to the entire collection of articles for the thesis. As first authors, students are exclusively responsible for the development and articulation of a concept or idea for research, the development of a proposal to pursue this idea, the development of a research design, the conducting of research and analysis, the writing of major portions of a manuscript, the designing of an intervention or assessment (if relevant), and the interpreting of results.  Secondly, co-authors must be identified and approved at the student’s proposal defence or formal defence. The article(s) and role(s) of the co-authors must be presented to and approved by all members of the dissertation committee. Any changes in co-authorship must be approved by the student’s committee.5

In comparison with UNCC5, the NTNU’s21 prescription on authorship, reads21:1-2: “… if any of the articles is written in cooperation with others, you must follow the rules and regulations concerning co-authorship. If the thesis mainly consists of articles, you should normally be the main author or the first author of at least half the articles. A written statement from each co-author should follow the thesis, detailing your and the co-authors’ contribution. Your independent contribution should be identifiable”.

The UJ8 and the UTA20 are both clear and specific in their rules on authorship. The UJ states the role of co-authorship as follows8:210-211:

Where an article is co-authored, the student’s contribution to such an article must in each case be clearly indicated and confirmed in writing, in the form of a declaration, by the individual co-authors. This information must eventually also be made available to the assessors of the dissertation or thesis. Faculty guidelines may specify further requirements regarding co-authorship, including the exclusion of the possibility altogether (p. 210).

The supervisor of a dissertation or thesis presented as a collection of articles or essays should include a clear declaration regarding the independence of the student’s work. Where articles are co-authored, the declaration should include a statement as described in above paragraph p. 211).

The UTA’s20 guideline on the authorship of the articles used in the article-format thesis, is very much in line with that of UNCC5, NTNU21 and UJ8. It reads20:3-4:

The author of the thesis/dissertation must be the sole or primary author of the articles included in the document. Co-authored papers may be included (if the thesis/dissertation author is the primary author). However, the contributions of the thesis/dissertation writer and his or her co-authors to the paper must be clearly stated in the thesis or dissertation. Descriptions of the contributions of co-authors are normally presented in a subsection of the introductory chapter of the document.

If the article has been published or has been accepted for publication, the author must secure written permission from the publisher (who owns the copyright to the paper), giving the author permission to use the material in the thesis/dissertation.

Permission to use material must be indicated at the beginning of each chapter containing copyrighted material. Copies of written permissions may also be submitted with the thesis or dissertation as an Appendix.

Co-authors should be informed of the thesis or dissertation writer’s intention to use co-authored work in their thesis or dissertation and the co-authors should agree to permit it.

UNB18,19 also allows co-authorship of the published papers, but however states clearly that the student must be the principal author for at least three parts of the published work. (This means that if it is a three-article thesis, the student must be the principal author of all three the articles, while in the four-article thesis one article may be outside the principal-author ruling).

The University of New England (UNE)35 requires on the issue of authorship that the candidate sing two statements, namely the Statement of Originality confirming his/her own work and a Statement of Contribution by Others indicating the input to the articles (and thus also to the article-thesis) by other persons. The UNE35 requires that these signed documents must be placed at the end of each paper/chapter.

Regarding the delinquent intertwining of possible authorship and plagiarism in journal articles and article-theses, the UKZN25 is very precise in excluding any plagiarism or the double use of research data to obtain another qualification, by requiring a clear statement from the candidate. It reads25:4:

  1. That the work described in this thesis has not been submitted to UKZN or other tertiary institution for purposes of obtaining an academic qualification, whether by myself or any other party.
  2. Where a colleague has indeed prepared a thesis based on related work essentially derived from the same project, this must be stated here, accompanied by the name, the degree for which submitted, the University, the year submitted (or in preparation) and a concise description of the work covered by that thesis such that the examiner can be assured that a single body of work is not being used to justify more than one degree. The candidate’s contribution to the project must be followed by a concise description of the candidate’s personal involvement in and contribution to the project, in sufficient detail that the examiner is in no doubt as to the extent of their contribution.

3.The contributions of others to the project must be reflected by a list of all others who contributed intellectually to the project, each accompanied by a concise description of their contribution. This does not include people who ordinarily would be “acknowledged” as opposed to considered for authorship.

Regarding the inclusion of previously published works in the thesis, both the UNB18, 19 and the UNCC5, specifically to cut out the delinquent intertwining of possible authorship and plagiarism, firstly, states that the student must obtain the necessary permission from the university’s advisory committees to include such work;  and secondly, must submit to his/her supervisor, prior to submission of the thesis to the Examining Board, the necessary letters of permission from editors, publishers, and co-authors or other copyright holders.5,18,19

4.1. Consequences of a forced supervisor-as-co-author

The allocation of authorship in the various articles that form the contents of the article-thesis, may hold serious consequences for both the student and the university where he/she is enrolled for the dissertation or thesis. It needs to be illustrated here with an example.

At one of the universities visited for this research, it is the custom (which is inscribed also by a ruling of its senate) that the supervisor’s name had to be put on each of the articles that form the body of the thesis, notwithstanding the significance or not of the role he/she played in the collecting, writing or publishing of the articles. In this case it was the student him/herself, a senior academic and researcher, very well-experienced in the writing, supervising and examination of article-theses and the publication of accredited articles, while his/her supervisor had never before supervised this kind of thesis. In addition, the supervisor had a substandard CV when it came to accredited publications. The immediate outcome of the above study was that the student wrote and published in total on his/her own nearly 30 articles in accredited journals, but was forced to put the non-involved supervisor’s name on all the articles too. As mentioned, the supervisor had never seen, read or had any input in the articles until the well-completed PhD was handed to him by the student for affixing his signature to it as a sign of his/her permission to have it examined.

Firstly, it meant that the supervisor had added nearly 30 accredited articles to his/her CV in a highly dubious way, diminishing the student’s sole authorship to a co-authorship. But this academic and research delinquency went further: for the nearly 30 accredited articles the amount of about R560 000 in total was paid out by the university in the form of Idea incentives to the student and supervisor. In this case the supervisor received (without any input from his/her side) nearly R280 000 in incentives, of which he/she drew R140 000 in cash for personal use (while the other R140 000 he/she used for own academic/research benefits, like personal travel overseas to attend conferences, the buying of books, etc.). The student thus only received (R280 000) of his initial R560 000 in research incentives.

Looking very critically at the above setup, it is clear that forced authorships, like that of supervisors of PhDs, offer the opportunity not only to exploit the PhD student but also the university academically and financially. It offers the opportunity practise self-enrichment as well as serious misconduct by the supervisor without any punitive steps being possible against him/her. Although this outcome may border on fraud and corruption, the senate ruling regarding the forced authorship of the supervisor as applicable to the student’s articles by his/her university safeguards the supervisor against any repercussions.

  1. Approaches to and prerequisites for the examination of a thesis

Regarding the examination of the thesis – either the traditional or the alternative-format thesis — there is great diversity worldwide in the way it has been evaluated. Examples are that the candidate is required, either to argue in defence of his/her thesis together with the examination of the written thesis, to do a formal written or oral and/or verbal examination together with the examination of the written thesis, or just to hand in a written thesis for evaluation by assessors. Notwithstanding this assessment or examination diversity, it is clear that the examination criteria and rules (and thus also the standards) for the article-format thesis are equal to the traditional thesis, as the guidelines of the UJ 8clearly prescribe8:211: “The assessment criteria for a dissertation or a thesis, based on articles or essays are equivalent to a conventional dissertation or a thesis.”

A prominent feature reflecting the diversity of examinations, is the so-called thesis defence (viva voce), which should be referred to here. This defence takes different forms in various countries and institutions. Nassi-Calo1 states the following1:2,4:

In the Netherlands, the defence has several examiners and includes a brief presentation of the work by the applicant, being open to the public. In Australia, the printed volume of the thesis is sent to the examiners who make comments in writing and return it to the candidate. He or she will make a presentation later, but this will not influence the final result. In Brazil, there are institutions that conduct thesis defences open to the public; others do a private session that includes only the candidate, the supervisor and a panel of examiners (p. 2); and:

Whatever the format of the thesis, the assessment by a panel of examiners is paramount for granting the title. In Israel, for example, defence is optional, and few students choose to go through it. As noted above, in The Netherlands it is a formal and open procedure, while in the UK, it is an event reserved only to the candidate and the examiners. In Australia, mainly for logistical and costs reasons, there is no proper defence, the thesis is only given to the examiners, who return it with comments. Moreover, the supporters of this process claim that oral defence rarely changes the outcome of the doctorate. In fact, institutions prefer not to reduce the number of doctors and masters, which weigh positively on university rankings [and the significant income generated by governments’ subsidy to universities for the graduation of masters and PhDs, and the study fees paid by candidates who are being awarded the masters and PhDs]. Moreover, it is really unlikely that a candidate who has gone through the entire process – assuming that there are effective mechanisms along the way – end up failing the final step – the thesis defence. Anyway, it is worth mentioning that a single model will not serve different countries, institutions and areas of knowledge. (p. 4)

Two outcomes are significant regarding institutions where the dissertation or the thesis is subject to the above prescribed defence inside the examination process, namely1:4:

1) The fact that the candidate has published papers in well-evaluated and accredited journals, does not exempt the dissertation or thesis from defence, and this process still must take place in accordance with the criteria established by the qualification-awarding institution;

2)  In cases where the articles, that form part of the article-format dissertation or thesis, have all already been published by a peer-reviewed journal(s), the examination of the masters and PhD is still subject to examination by the appointed examiners, who are required to bring out reports mentioning passed or failed.

In relation to the above points 1) and 2) as regards the quality and the standard of assessment (and legibility) of the examination process and confirmation of the article-thesis, the UJ8, on the specific assessment criteria and outcome of the article-format dissertation or thesis, states8:208: “The format as a collection of articles or essays alters the mode of presentation but not the academic standard of the submission. The mode of presentation does not affect requirements concerning original contribution, or any other academically significant feature of the dissertation or thesis.”

Such a rule bolsters the absolute nature of the examination and it is thus thus clear that for the last, final and formal examination, the reports of the various journals’ reviewers (who had already declared earlier that each of the journal articles that form the body of the article-format thesis is approved and of good standing), are at UJ8 not allowed into the formal examination process for evaluation.

In retrospect, it must further be emphasised that the final examination of the thesis is not a once-off and final act, but is an ongoing examination process, starting with the initial enrolment of the student and consecutively monitoring his/her progress and fulfilment of the prescribed rules as a student for the thesis study. In this context of the final examination of the article-format thesis (reaching at the end of the study the mandatory engagement to undergo a prescribed evaluation in various forms), it must be noted that the UNCC5 has instituted clear and well-described prerequirements in its rules, which start already with the initial registration of the student for the article-format thesis (a pathway many other universities are following too). These rules, that guide the initial process of registration and which have the power to ensure that certain requirements must be fulfilled in consecutive steps — otherwise the study is terminated or the student may be failed in the final examination — read for instance that already in the early stage of the many consecutive steps the article-dissertation must firstly be approved by the student’s advisory panel before formal registration is allowed and the candidate may initiate his/her work on it, etc.

The UNB18,19, as regards the final examination of the thesis, emphasises that the adherence to their Guidelines for the preparation of an article-format dissertation and thesis does not infer acceptance of such a written thesis, but that it is still subject to approval and the acceptance procedures laid down by their School of Graduate Studies for Masters and Doctoral Theses and that nothing in these guidelines limits the role of the Examining Committee of UNB18,19 as final arbitrators for the thesis.

The above stringent regulations on the constant application of trustworthy academic and research integrity during the writing of a thesis, is well-illustrated by the UJ’s8 warning on the correct execution of the article-thesis, as follows8:208: “The format as a collection of articles or essays alters the mode of presentation but not the academic standard of the submission. This mode of presentation does not affect requirements concerning original contribution, or any other academically significant feature of the dissertation or thesis.”

Regarding the final thesis-submission for assessment, the UKZN25 lays down that the thesis should be submitted for examination in a loose-bound form accompanied by a PDF copy. After the examination process the final-version PDF copy of the thesis must be submitted to the UKZN’s25 Post-graduate Office for onward submission to the library. It is not a requirement to submit a copy fully bound in leather, cloth or similar material.

  1. Formal enrolment for the thesis program as a prerequisite for title and topics registration and writing outputs

At the stage when articles, essays or papers should be written which may be recognised as part of the thesis, the UJ8 specifically requires that all the essays, papers or articles that will form part of the thesis, must have been written after the registration for the master’s or doctoral degree with UJ8, and under guidance of the supervisor. Referring specifically to the following three elements: (1) the topics for the essays, papers or articles; (2) the identification of appropriate (accredited) journals for publication; and (3) the timelines for submission to the identified journals to fulfil the registration requirements of the thesis, the UJ8 prescribes further that topics must form part of the research proposal developed and presented by the student and executed in terms of the standard procedures as prescribed by the UJ8 and by its specific faculties. The registered title for the master’s or doctoral research should be based on the central theme of the collection of essays or articles, and as part of the research proposal.

  1. Number of articles published before final examination

At the time of the submission for examination of the journal articles which are offered as part of the article-format thesis, the UJ8 states that it is not a prerequisite for examination submission of the article-format thesis that all the essays, papers or articles must have been published or even have been accepted for publication.

On the specific requirement to have publications ready or published at the time of examination, the UNB18,19, to accommodate the lengthy time required for publication of a paper in a refereed journal, states that at least one of the articles of the three-article thesis must be fully published in a refereed journal at the time of submission of the thesis and that proof of publication must be provided to the supervisor prior to submission of the thesis to the Examining Board. Hereto, where any of the remaining articles are still to be published in a refereed journal at the time of submission of the thesis to the Examining Board, at least one of the remaining two articles (for the three-article thesis) must be accepted for publication and proof of acceptance must also be provided to the supervisor prior to submission of the thesis to the Examining Board. In the case of the minimum of three papers required, either to a conference, refereed journal, or book to constitute the article-thesis, proof of submission of the remaining paper must be provided to the supervisor prior to submission of the thesis to the Examining Board.

The UNCC5, in prescribing the consecutive steps of the pathway to be followed one by one from day one in the activation and execution of publishing the various journal articles for the body of the thesis, states5:2:

1) A maximum of one article published or accepted for publication prior to the proposal defence may be included. This article must represent work undertaken while the student is enrolled in the PhD program and be approved by the committee at the time of the student’s proposal defence. This article must be connected to the theme or themes of the dissertation.

2) The articles submitted for the defence must be of publishable quality. The student’s dissertation committee decides whether the articles meet this standard.

7.1. Publishing of prescribed manuscripts before final examination of article-thesis by manuscripts

The above guidelines bring us back to the article-thesis by publication (where all the journal articles are published or some are published before assessment can take place) versus the article-thesis by manuscripts as referred to earlier in the article. In the case of the article-thesis by manuscripts the “research-model” is based on a so-called theoretical and an assumed examination (which some antagonists of the article-thesis described as an examination based on promises) that will or may take place somewhere in the future after the PhD would already have been awarded. In this context the Athens University of Economics and Business (AUEB)23 and the University of Indiana (UI)36 provide that a PhD-article thesis by manuscripts may be examined and even awarded before any articles (manuscripts) have been submitted to an accredited journal or journals. Of course, in this case the student can submit his/her publications for examination and it can serve as valuable feedback from referees of journals and enable the student to improve his/her position at the examination, but in this setup the student is not obliged to submit any of them before the examination. If the examiners are convinced that the various (unevaluated) manuscripts presented to them are publishable and that they constitute a substantial original contribution to the research field, that the manuscripts have been correctly executed and well presented, then the student can qualify to obtain his/her PhD. The negative implication is here that the manuscripts may never be presented to journals or even be rejected by them, without a negative impact on the student’s already awarded PhD. Such an outright failure may mean that the contaminated PhD would stay unread on the library shelf, notwithstanding its legal status as a PhD!22,23,25

  1. Enrolment deadlines and the formal duration of thesis studies

It is often argued that the maximum duration of enrolment for the article-format thesis (two years for the masters and three years for the PhD) before presenting for official examination, is too short. It is argued that this prescribed cut-off time as to the duration of study/registration limits the free-flow of the research character of a research project, minimising the inflow of information and the analysis of it, to make a trustworthy conclusion possible. The limitation created by such enrolment deadlines and the formal duration of thesis studies, have been argued to be the main reason why the student fails to hand in his/her thesis in time for examination. In this context it is argued that the maximum duration of enrolment for the article-format thesis, other than that of the traditional thesis, must be lengthened.

This opinion may be true, depending on what the objectors specifically try to argue or see as the reasons and/or the factors that may lead to this delay. But there are many contradictions here.

Firstly, most research shows that most of these objections are without any grounds and are mostly vested in subjectivity and personal misapprehensions, as well as own academic and research failures by many of the proponents of the article-thesis.

Secondly, the liability around deadlines is present with and built into every kind of thesis: a) all the types of theses in use have a minimum time of enrolment and a clear deadline before the masters or PhD may be examined and awarded, and/or: b) a maximum time of enrolment after which deadline the enrolment for the masters or PhD may be cancelled. These maximum and minimum times were decided on after years of experience as the best outcomes. As said, the various duration times are exactly the same for the traditional thesis as for the article-thesis: any benefit exclusively for the article-thesis would constitute academic and research discrimination par excellence. (Note again: The minimum enrolment is mostly one year for the masters and two years for the PhD before it may be handed in for examination and be awarded, while the maximum duration of study is mostly two years for the masters and three years for the PhD after which the government’s subsidy paid to the university is generally cancelled).

It is clear that the present-day enrolment deadlines and formal duration of the article-thesis studies are well-balanced and in-depth tested as having worked excellently over many years but, as emphasised in this research, they are not necessarily appropriate for substandard academic and research students.

Regarding the deadlines for dissertations and theses, it must be noted that, besides the internal rules of the maximum time of enrolment, there is the government’s subsidy rules on the maximum duration of enrolment for dissertations and theses. This is coupled with the payment of subsidies to universities of which students qualify inside the maximum permitted time of study. This forced the universities in South Africa to align their rules to those of the government. In this context it must be noted that for a doctorate awarded inside the maximum of three years study, the DHET pays R360 000 (equivalent to three accredited journal articles with the value of R120 000 per article); for the masters the money value is R120 000 (one article payment); and for the mini-dissertation of the applied/directed master it R60 000 (half-payment of an article).

8.1. Only outstanding academically students should be enrolled for masters and PhD studies.

The background to poor academic and research outcomes shows that it is embedded in various impaired academic and research setups, and not so much in the type of the masters/doctorate model. This needs to be illuminated.

As shown above, there are certain prerequisites that form standard guidelines for aspirant thesis- students and their supervisors to adhere to if they want to deliver theses inside the maximum prescribed period of study. Firstly, only outstanding academic students with a clearly stable track record should be allowed into masters and PhD studies. Secondly, it is further of the utmost importance that masters and PhD students are devoted to their studies from the first day of their enrolment, and are focussed on their research and information collecting as well as writing down their findings; it does not matter if it is the output of prescribed articles for the article-format thesis or the collection of data for the delivery of the traditional thesis.

This setting of well-balanced and justified selection and recruiting rules, is the only way to attain the writing and the successful completion of the dissertations and theses in the prescribed time. The minimum and maximum times for the masters and PhD are based, as already indicated above, on experiences and outcomes coming over many years as correct and appropriate. There is just no excuse for substandard students and poor supervisorship: such negative influences — as especially aggravated by the ANC elite’s BAREE (Black-Academic-Research Economic Empowerment) in their focussed aim to appoint substandard Black cadres and comrades into universities’ posts as well as allowing of substandard Black students as masters and doctorate students to increase the ANC’s power by grabbing control of universities — must not further be allowed. It is nothing else than academic and research delinquency that leads to the poor output of dissertations and theses inside the maximum duration of study. Failure to deliver theses before or on the deadline can undoubtedly be avoided if there are strict pre-selection criteria before allowing students into postgraduate study. This will cut out substandard and under-par students, as well as poorly-trained and unqualified supervisors, that are doom for any advanced post-graduate study that needs action and involvement from day one.

Thus, to boost the arguments of the proponents of the article-format or its so-called “benefits” clichés such as the following are used1:3: “it is less laborious than writing a 200 page traditional thesis”, or1:3: “…if papers are published during the masters or doctorate research for the article-thesis it avoids employing valuable time in writing a traditional style thesis”. But then in the same breath such statements eulogising the advantages of the article-thesis, are self-contradicted by saying1:3: “…the time for writing, submitting and peer reviewing articles may not coincide with the deadlines for presentation and defence of the thesis”, reflecting a lack of understanding regarding quality research in general as applicable to the thesis and why many students for the article-format thesis failed to realise it in the prescribed studying time.

Again, and again, we may pinpoint as the central problem, the selection and admission of substandard students as well as supervisors who often lack academic and research quality and character. BAREE, representing the ANC elite’s present delinquent takeover with White staff at South African universities being forced out by mostly incompetent Black cadres in their effort to establish the Chinese Communist Party’s ideology at every South African institution, is the source of all these academic and research problems around the poor output of masters and doctorates in the maximum study period. Few dare speak out concerning this assault on South Africa’s research system.

The watering-down of the rules by some universities is confirmed specifically above by the article-thesis of manuscripts, showing that the rules on deadlines and the maximum durations of PhD studies have already been cleverly side-stepped by the proponents of the article-thesis. This is prominent in the present delivery of the alternative-format PhDs in a so-called “stretched-rules setup”, what many critics of the article-thesis see as the awarding of substandard PhDs and others describe as not a real PhD: for many critics solely to accommodate substandard students as well as their substandard supervisors and examiners. (Possibly due to a worldwide negative connotation, in the British hierarchy of types of doctorates the article-PhD is classed as a junior doctorate). The UJ8 is one of the few universities seemingly willing to point out the fact that the article-thesis is not meant for the under-standard student or the inexperienced supervisor (too difficult?) when it states8:1: “There are specific risks involved with doing a dissertation or thesis as a collection of essays or articles and therefore this option is recommended for top-performing academic students and experienced supervisors.”

8.2. BBBEE/BAREE and cadre-deployment in post-1994 South Africa Academia

In South Africa the above negative kinds of selections and outcomes as a result of substandard students must be read against the current contaminated political culture where those in high positions are allowed to steal, commit fraud and so-called “state capture”. Such outcomes flow directly from the implementation of Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE) and cadre deployment which often enables the substandard and unqualified citizen to be appointed to high-profile positions that they do not deserve or are unable to handle with integrity. Our academic and research setup at our universities also became contaminated by these BBBEE and cadre employees where academic and research quality and integrity have been degraded many times with the less capable student and supervisor in order to obtain so-called equitable race ratios.1

As shown earlier, the lack of knowhow on strategy and project planning by supervisors may lead to a situation where article-thesis students become ensnared in an immensity of data, not only stalling the output of articles before the deadline, but also stalling the process of rapid publication of articles within a well-planned project centred around able, productive and trustworthy journals. On the other hand, even when not stalled, it may produce a mass of substandard masters and doctorates that can permanently contaminate the academic and research culture and environment of the country.

8.3. Lacking research planning and knowhow

The above problems reflect a misconception on what true post-graduate research means and how it must be managed and be steered, to ensure success before deadlines arrive. If the able and devoted student were correctly pre-selected as a candidate for the article-format thesis and his/her undergraduate research training and knowhow was of quality, he/she merely needs to successfully publish articles through trustworthy accredited journals and to collate those into article-theses before the deadline arrives, with good planning and excellent organisation steering the research inside the prescribed and permitted time period. This seems to be missing in our present research culture and the policy of BAREE.

Specific to the pre-organisation of planned data collection for the writing of the journal article, as well as to collect it for publishing as article-theses, Joy Burrough-Boenisch4 from Renkum, The Netherlands, in 2016 provided a good guide when he advised supervisors4:274:

  1. a) To be pro-active in the whole process of the delivery articles, and
  2. b) To inform beforehand editor(s), peer reviewer(s), and language professional(s), that particular article(s) that are going to be presented to him/her/them had to be evaluated in time as part of the obtaining of an academic title, otherwise it may negatively influence the time to deliver published articles and to complete the article-format thesis in time.

This approach and its accompanying learning-experience regarding the standards of journals, means in the first place the avoidance of journals with poor and/or slow histories as to the delivery of the evaluation and the publishing of articles, which in their turn block the delivery of article-theses. [This poor publication is often a characteristic of so-called “international as well as national journals of so-called good status” that offer the free publication of articles. It is important to reflect here on the time elapsed before articles are published by journals (accredited or not) after presented to them: a worldwide research covering 47 countries in 2020 shows the average days in waiting as 134, with the fastest 26 days and the slowest 380 days. In some cases researchers had waited eight months before publication realised. Instead of an increase in the speed with which articles are published, over the last ten years it has slowed down from between 50 and 130 days (average 90 days) to between 150 days and 250 days (average 200 days)]. This negative outcome as regards the publishing of articles that are needed urgently by article-theses, undoubtedly contributes to the poor output of article-theses inside the maximum time of study but, when critically analysed, it is the direct result of poor leadership by supervisors and not because the article-thesis’s research is difficult.37-40

Indeed, all that is left for an able and skilled supervisor to do if a student of excellence were pre-selected, is to activate the candidate to be creative, responsible, devoted and hard-working in delivering the required articles and to choose well-functioning, trustworthy journals to bring the research intentions and the article-thesis productions into action and to the finishing line and success.1,4

  1. Word and page counts of the article-thesis

Most of the universities’ guidelines on the writing of the article-format-dissertation and -thesis lack clear guidance on its minimum and maximum word count and page count.

The guideline of the European International Joint Initiative’s PhD (EIJI)16 on the word count of its three-article thesis (five-chapter thesis) suggests that each of the articles should be between 5 000 and 10 000 words, adding up to a maximum 30 000-word count for the three articles.  The EIJI16 added that, as in the case of the traditional thesis, appendices of unlimited length may be added to its article-thesis, but this placing of extra words through appendices must still limit the word count to a maximum of about 35 000 words. The UKZN25 suggested word counts of 30 000 maximum and 15 000 as the minimum for the PhD. A study, based on an analysis of 1 000 PhDs awarded over nine years at a university, shows that when the measuring metrics only cover the content that is falling within the main body of the thesis (introduction, literature review, methods section, results chapter, discussions and conclusions while sections such as the title page, abstract, table of contents, acknowledgements, bibliography and appendices were omitted from the total word count), the average main body reflects a count of 52 000 words.41

Regarding the Masters study, UKZN25 suggested word counts of 15 000 maximum and 10 000 minimum, and for the word-count of the body (chapters) of the Masters a maximum of 11 000 words and a minimum of 6 000 words. Another independent investigation in this regard puts the Master-dissertation at an average word count of approximately 20 000 words (2 to 3 times less than that of the thesis).41-44

In contrast to the maximum word count of 30 000 at UKZN25 and EIJI16, AUEB23 and US24 state that their article-thesis’s total word count can go up to a maximum of a 75 000 words. (This word count excludes again the appendices which are sometimes added to the thesis and can be of unlimited length). The UNE35 goes further by stating that with the exclusion of the appendices, the word count of the article-thesis can go up to 100 000 words for its non-science subjects and for scientific subjects the word count should be not more than 50 000 words. This guideline is supported by a broad study of 100 cases which puts the ideal word count of the thesis as being between 80 000 and 100 000 words. Hereto the following universities state the word limits of their PhDs as follows: Edinburgh: 100 000, Exeter: 100 000, Leister: 80 000, Bath:  80 000 Warwick: 70 000. An analysis of over 100 PhD theses shows that the average thesis length is between 80 000 and 100 000 words. It seems as if many universities are opting for a maximum word count of 100 000 words.41-44

The Stellenbosch University (SU)43 and the University of Stanford43 do not include any prescribed ruling on the word count or page count of theses in their guidelines besides stating that the compiling and structuring of the article-thesis is unique  and that the word contents are directed by the subjects under study.41-43 In this context of  subjects/disciplines/fields that can direct the word count of theses, some universities indeed set different word-count limits for their departments, like the guidelines from the Universities of Birmingham and Sheffield as follows: Arts and Humanities: 75 000; Medicine, Dentistry & Health: 75 000; Science: 80 000 and Social Sciences:75 000 to 100 000.41-44

The introduction of new guidelines that indicate that two to four articles, even more articles, may in addition be included in the article-thesis, is starting to make the classical model of the “three-article thesis” in some way redundant and thus also its word count. This adaptation may lead to a rise in the word count from 35 000 words to possibly 60 000 words, and even as many as 200 000 words, depending on the amounts of articles included in the thesis. f6,23-25,41-44

Regarding the page count of the article-thesis, both the AUEB23 and US24 state that the total length of the article-thesis should be more or less 300 pages of A4. (This page length excludes the appendices which are sometimes added to the thesis and can be of unlimited length.) An analysis done on 1 000 PhD theses awarded between 2008 to 2017 at the University of Auckland reflects the average number of pages as 204, while the median number of pages is 198. Another similar kind of analysis reflects the median page length of theses as varying between 159 to 223.23-24,41

It seems as if it is overlooked by many researchers that the inclusion of more articles in the traditional three-article thesis surely is going to lead to an huge rise in the word count, which will automatically also bring a significant increase in the page count.23,24,41

Regarding the above various word and page counts reflected for the article-thesis and -dissertation16,23-25,41-44, a clear perspective is needed: Firstly, it is clear that some universities do not differentiate between the lengths or even serious differences in the composition of the article- and traditional theses: this phenomenon has already led to an overly prescriptive approach to the article-thesis contents, its structure and its functioning, wherein the elements of length and contents play a central role. This contradiction of no difference between the two types of theses has led to the large difference between researchers on the “ideal” word and page counts of the article-thesis. Indeed, much of the data offered above on the ideal word and page count of the article-thesis are just not applicable to the article-thesis and are impossible to execute and to deliver with the three-article thesis, even the five-article thesis. Most of these word counts are not reachable, and militate against the aim, motivation and intention of how the article-thesis must be implemented and be steered in research. This outcome reveals why some universities like Stellenbosch and Stanford, have no maximum or minimum prescriptions as to the number of words and pages that the article-thesis must comprise.40-44

Notwithstanding the above dilemma around the best/ideal word and page counts for the article-thesis, we need some criteria to determine later during the writing, supervising and examination of the article-thesis, if its word and page counts fulfil basic standards. As said, in light of the absence of a one-size-fits-all word-and-page-count guideline, the only guideline/criteria to determine in some way the best/ideal length (word and page counts) of the total article-thesis, is to analyse the word count of each one of its articles against specific criteria, such as the prescribed word count and pages of journal articles. In this context the guidelines of many accredited journals show a limiting word count of between 4 000 and 6 000 words for articles, while some others’ guidelines set the maximum word count at 12 000 and the minimum word count at 8 000. If this maximum word count at 12 000 and the minimum word count at 8 000 words per article is used as criteria/guiding, the three-article thesis’s word count can be maximum 36 000 and its minimum 24 000. In this case a four-article thesis’s maximum and minimum word counts will thus be between 48 000 and 32 000 words, while a five-article thesis’s word count will be respectively 60 000 and 40 000 words.1,23-25,41

The earlier suggestions by UKZN25 and EIJI1 (which both showed a maximum of a 30 000 word count) and AUEB23 and US24 (which reflected a maximum of a 75 000-word count), seems in this context very applicable to this research. To ensure optimal and trustworthy examination procedures for the article-thesis in Article Three of the series later, the maximum and minimum word counts of between 12 000 and 8 000 words per article were selected as criteria and will be used consecutively in the research.41-44

In Table 1 the maximum and minimum word counts of between 12 000 and 8 000 per article for a three-article thesis were compiled with the intention to later effect an analysis and comparison from it as the research of the project develops. In Table 1 the implementation of the total maximum and minimum word counts, together with the details of the various sub-word counts for the Introduction, the Chapters, the Synthesis and the Bridging, were given. The calculations are based on the guidelines and prescriptions of various research sources. 23-24,41-44

Table 1: Analysis of word counts of three-article thesis:

Sections Minimum Maximum
Introduction 2 700 2 700
Chapters 24 000 36 000
Synthesis 2 000 2 000
Bridging 300 300
Total 29 000 41 000

The word counts for the four-article PhD, similarly calculated as those described for Table 1, are reflected in Table 2.23-24,41-44

Table 2: Analysis of word counts of four-article thesis:

Sections Minimum Maximum
Introduction 2 700 2 700
Chapters  32 000 48 000
Synthesis 2 000 2 000
Bridging 300 300
Total  37 000 53 000

From this subsection’s discussion it is evident that the absence of a clear description in the literature to limit the maximum articles for the article-thesis, is creating at present an anomaly around the maximum word count and page count.

But, notwithstanding this lack of clarity, no limits should be placed on the word count and page count of the article-thesis: there does not exist a one-size-fits-all word and page count guideline. Each article-thesis must be structured according to the writing needs and preferences of the individual student/writer and always be adaptive to challenging research demands.

  • [Regarding the anomaly around the preferred page and word counts of the article-thesis, is it worthwhile to mention that in South Africa an article-thesis was recently published with the total length of 460 pages of A4 and a total word count of 180 000 words. An analysis of these 460 pages and 180 000 words reflects the following: 250 pages/100 000 words embedded in the thesis’s structure, typed in Times New Roman font at 12pt, while 200 pages/80 000 words embedded in the Addendum typed in Times New Roman font at 8pt. The research was the outcome of a five-article thesis (nine-chapter thesis), consisting of five accredited articles for the article structure and a further 14 accredited articles intertwined in the Introduction and Overview chapters].
  1. Minimum and maximum number of articles prescribed for the article-thesis

Some universities are vague in their rules on either the minimum and or maximum articles required for the article-format thesis. For instance, in this context the UA6 defines its minimum numbers only as “several”. The subrules read as follows6:1: “At the doctoral level, “article-style” dissertations are unified works that include several distinct but closely related studies of research or creative activity, each of which is of publishable quality.” This vague description is echoed by the NTNU’s21 guidelines that states that the article-format doctoral thesis may be written also as a compendium of several short scientific or academic papers, and that the choice of it, for inclusion in the thesis, is determined by the research topic, norms in the field and of course the candidate’s personal choice of format.1,6,21 Both UA6 and NTNU21 neglect to prescribe the minimum articles for their article-format theses.

In this regard AUEB23 and US24 state that the total number of chapters is usually about eight, reflecting a presence of five to six accredited articles.

Putting the minimum prescribed number of articles of the article-thesis in context with its three related prerequisites (the execution, standard and type of the articles) in the presentation for a thesis, the rules of UJ8 provide the following guidelines8:209: “However, they must be in the proper format for submission to the identified journals. Individual faculties may set guidelines about the specific journals, or conference proceedings that are acceptable as a place of publication for an article or essay that form part of the dissertation or thesis under the option. Individual faculties [at UJ] may further set minimum requirements for the number of essays or articles that must have been accepted for publication before the candidate may submit the dissertation or thesis for examination”; and8:209: “The faculty guidelines may specify the appropriate number of articles or essays depending on the discipline concerned. The number of essays or articles should normally not be less than two for a master’s dissertation or less than four for a doctoral thesis.”

Much in the same vein as the reflection by the UJ8, the UNB18,19 describes the minimum number of articles for the article-format thesis as follows18:2: “…being based on published research which you conducted while enrolled as a graduate student at UNB but may not include articles derived from a previous thesis. An article-based thesis would involve the integration of no fewer than three published works into a coherent argument or sequence by using appropriate introductory and summarizing chapters”; and18:2: “A published work is defined as a refereed journal article, a book chapter, or conference proceeding. The assessment of a work as being suitable for inclusion as one of a minimum of three published works rests with the student’s supervisory Committee and the Director of Graduate Studies.”

This prescription of three journal articles as minimum is also part of the guidelines of the UNCC5, although it reflects that sometimes, in order to achieve coherence, students may need to include more articles.  Also the UKZN25 stipulates that the number of articles may be more than three (without specifying the extent).

Notwithstanding the above clear guideline on the minimum of accredited journal articles that must form the body of the thesis by some universities, nowhere does one encounter a reference in their guiding literature on the maximum of articles that may or may not be included in the article-format thesis.5,6,8,18,19,23-25

  • [Referring to the present vagueness around the maximum number of articles prescribed for the article-thesis, attention may be drawn again to the South African article-format thesis that was recently published consisting of 19 accredited journal articles. These 19 articles selected had exhibited some degree of independent viability, but contributed to a central theme, and a coherent whole, to be placed successfully in one volume. Of these 19 articles, 14 accredited articles were integrated in the Literature Review, reflecting respectively as Chapters 2 and 3. Hereto the other five articles of the thesis were placed in the contents (each as an independent article/chapter) as Chapters 4 to 8, to make it a five-articles thesis embedded in a nine-chapters thesis (instead of the traditional three-article-thesis embedded in a five-chapter-thesis)].

Reflected underneath is the traditional publication/manuscript model of the three-article thesis, as supported by SU.43:10 (See under 3.2.3.1.10.1. SU-Alternative Dissertation Structure: Individual Studies.) However, it is just too rigid and too limiting to do in-depth and convincing research on doctoral level. This kind of model is no longer the norm in the South African research community and needs some adaptation and revision.43

3.2.3.1.10.1. SU-Alternative Dissertation Structure: Individual Studies43:10

  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

Hereto the model of outlining/illustrating by UKZN25:3 (see under 3.2.3.1.10.2. UKZN-Outline of Three-Article-Thesis) displays the format that makes provision for the enlargement of the traditional three-article thesis. Below, in subsection 3.2.3.1.10.2., the outline for the thesis by manuscripts and thesis through publications is revealed: it reflects the excellent process of how to enlarge the three-article-thesis25:3with its indication of the undefined numeral symbol of n. (In 3.2.3.1.10.3. UKZN-Outline of Enlarged Five-Article Thesis this enlargement of the three-publication to a five-publication thesis, is given.)

3.2.3.1.10.2. UKZN-Outline of Three-Article-Thesis25:3

  1. Preliminary pages
  2. Title page
  3. Preface and Declaration

iii.   Dedication

  1. Acknowledgements
  2. Table of contents
  3. List of figures, tables and acronyms (separately presented)

vii.  Abstract

  1. Main Text
  2. Chapter 1: Introduction

Introduction including literature review

Research questions and/or objectives

Brief overview of general methodology including study design

  1. Chapter 2

First manuscript/publication

  1. Chapter 3

Second manuscript/publication

4      Chapter n

Final manuscript/publication

  1. Chapter n+1: Synthesis

Synthesis

Conclusions

Recommendations

  1. References/Appendices
  • NB: Between the manuscripts or publications there must be a page (maximum) bridging text to demonstrate the link between them.

In 3.2.3.1.10.3. UKZN-Outline of Enlarged Five-Article Thesis underneath, the enlargement of the three-publication thesis to a five-publication thesis, as based on 3.2.3.1.10.2. UKZN-Outline of Three-Article Thesis, is given.

3.2.3.1.10.3. UKZN-Outline of Enlarged Five-Article Thesis25:3

  1. Main Text
  2. Chapter 1: Introduction

Introduction including literature review

Research questions and/or objectives

Brief overview of general methodology including study design

  1. Chapter 2

First manuscript/publication

  1. Chapter 3

Second manuscript/publication

  1. Chapter 4

Third manuscript/publication

  1. Chapter 5

Fourth manuscript/publication

  1. Chapter 6

Fifth manuscript/publication

  1. Chapter 7: Synthesis

Synthesis

Conclusions

Recommendations

  1. References/Appendices
  2. NB: Between the manuscripts or publications there must be a page (maximum) bridging text to demonstrate the link between them.
  • The above result shows that no limit should be imposed on the amount of articles selected for the article-thesis, as long as all the articles are self-contained and thematically-linked, and contributes comprehensively to the whole of the thesis and its research intentions and outcomes. Indeed, the three-article thesis is in the process of being phased out and we can expect to see in the near future the advent of the five-article thesis and even the six-article thesis. This is the only route to follow if the article-thesis model wants to become a respected partner in the country’s academic and research community.
  1. Conclusions

The advent of the article-thesis and -dissertation in our research environment, seems to find itself at the moment in some way in a “research no-man’s-land”. It appears to have enjoyed support from a strong, independent academic and research community, but is at the same time not always allowed to enjoy total independence as a research entity. It needs the maximum support of the old-established academic and research environment to make a dynamic breakthrough.1-36

In retrospect it is evident that the writing of the article-doctorate and -master is a complex process and is many times constrained, driven and managed by a manifold of rules, regulations and stipulations, which are at times vague and in conflict with each other.

The writing of the article-thesis requires a clear and specific streamlined guiding framework that can adapt easily to the unique needs of its individual student/writer and offers him/her the opportunity to place outstanding accredited journal articles into the heart of his/her article-thesis and to become, depending on certain prerequirements and circumstances, a full participant in the Circle of Research Completeness.

In the next two intertwined articles, respectively entitled: “How to write and supervise an article-masters and –doctorate: Part 1”, and:“How to write and supervise an article-masters and –doctorate: Part 2”, the entities of the article-format masters and doctorate will be further explored and the process of how the writing and supervising of the article-thesis and -dissertation may be activated, will be described. Step-by-step guidance will be provided by compiling a summarised framework, extracted from the rules, regulations and stipulations of various universities, on the writing of the article-format master and doctorate.

In historical perspective we encounter the obtention of the ancient licence (licentia docendi) to be able to and allowed to teach at universities and its awarding of the honourable titles of magister (master) and docere (doctor). After many hundreds of years of constant use they remain the central drivers of our Modern-day academic and research culture. The centuries-old custom and tradition practised by the Catholic Church to require candidates who want to obtain the licentia docendi that they first had had to successfully pass a test, take an oath of allegiance and pay a fee, before they were awarded the master and doctorate (and thus were recognised as being able to each and as learned), did not change much over the years. Millions of students’ much-focused efforts today to obtain the master’s and doctor’s degrees through strict examination confirm it.

The next two intertwined articles (Numbers 5 and 6) further tell the story of this mass drive to obtain still today the exclusive and much sought-after licentia docendi. Also, the story is told of how the present-day candidates for the article-format master and doctorate are now caught up in this race.

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