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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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How to write and supervise the article-format- master and -doctorate (4): Part 2

Title: How to write and supervise the article-format master and doctorate (4): 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, Higher Education, 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-thesis, doctorate, journal-article, masters, proposal, supervise, write.

Ensovoort, volume 42 (2021), number 4: 2

1. Background

No-one involved in serious research doubted that the article-thesis and -dissertation have the potential to dramatically increase the overall research output of theses and dissertations, as well as to benefit the universities’ research profiles in terms of local and world accreditation, and to generate  enormous extra revenue via the publishing of accredited articles for the article-theses and -dissertations if this process is properly utilised inside the greater research system of the Circle of Research Completeness.

In perspective, when comparing the article-thesis and -dissertation with the traditional thesis and dissertation – notwithstanding the many pros and cons associated with both and the inclination to see the two types in absolute opposition to each other — many similar elements stand out. Both research formats today reflect a model of well-planned, specialist-focused and concrete research approaches, stripped of data overload, traditionalism and unnecessary theoretical argumentation and superficial reasoning. Both are intensively applied and practical, research-orientated, addressing contemporary and future social, economic, political, cultural and professional problems and the solving of those with a positive financial impact on the student, university and society. Indeed, the various approaches that are followed by universities on the compiling of the article-format thesis my often be seen as a combination/mixture of the traditional thesis and the article thesis, and although many universities referred to this outcome in general terms just as an article-format thesis — essentially because every university follows its own policy in the offering and executing of finer detail — the end product is indeed the traditional thesis.8-11

It is thus no surprise that the article-format thesis is not seen by some serious researchers as a dramatic break-away from the traditional academic research culture as is so much argued and propagated in the literature. In short: both types are for these so-called moderate researchers equal in quality, as well as equal in constitution.

This outcome has brought to the foreground the allegation by the proponents of the article-format thesis as to the presence of a so-called “old-age” academic sector that is essentially still beset by Middle-Age remnants that are steering and running the traditional thesis and dissertation. It is alleged that these traditionalist or reactionary academics are clouded by a noble conception which seeks only knowledge in terms of “age-old” philosophical and theoretical reasoning, wherein the traditional PhD occupies a central place as the only correct one. In this way, so the antagonists argue, the age-old sector is largely ignoring the modern-day unprofitable and antiquated impact of the traditional thesis on the student, university and taxpayer. But realities and facts contradict these arguments and cognitions of the proponents of the article-thesis. It holds no water whatsoever to say and write in public that “the days are gone that universities can offer senior research programmes like the traditional or standard thesis which are not generating income for society nor universities themselves”. This is false and misleading, and is contradicted outright by the mass incomes that the traditional or standard dissertations and theses still generate today. Indeed, looking  at the income generated recently by universities through the article-thesis and -dissertation, it is clear that in itself it is ostensibly not a money-generating product above all else, notwithstanding that its model makes it well suited for this task.1-12

There is positive evidence that the article-thesis is in the process of gaining ground in many North-American, European and African universities. But it is far-fetched and an improper stratagem by the proponents of the article-thesis model to propagate that the traditional thesis should be phased out in South Africa or that students must not be encouraged to present their theses in this format. This kind of attack not only damages the integrity of the traditional thesis, but also that of the article-thesis and our research integrity in general: strength does not lie in division, but in unity, not in obstruction, but in cooperation. It is in this “healthy research context” that the article-thesis must be nurtured and promoted contribute and play its part in the greater research community and not as an antagonist of the established research environment.9-11

The proper launching of the article-format thesis as a research vehicle will surely only happen when the present-day South African academics and researchers in general change their mindsets and become truly part of a modern advanced-research culture wherein the traditional thesis and article-thesis stand as equals, mutually supportive and cooperative, depending of course on how they are correctly and effectively used in the research cycle. The difficulty for many of the experienced and seasoned (traditional) academics and researchers is not so much the practical change in their research style from the standard thesis to that of the article-thesis, but the difficulty for them to make a cognitive change in their mindset that is freed from remnants of the past which makes them consider (and label) the article-thesis at times with good reason, but also at other times falsely, as inferior and substandard (especially around the issue of the length of the article-thesis, as reflected by page and word counts, etc.).

On the other hand stands we sometimes find resistance to modern research challenges and responsibilities by some hard-line proponents and supporters of the traditional thesis. Prominent features here are their misuse of the so-called benefits of the traditional thesis and its age-old academic and research culture as both an attack and a defensive weapon against the academic and research integrity of the article-thesis. It must be noted that within this hostile attitude research bias may be a pertinent underlying reason, but also negative internalised cognitions and purely personal elements, which are often totally unrelated to the research focus of the article-thesis or -dissertation.8-15

On the positive side, the opportunities lie there in waiting for a new generation of young academics and researchers, hungry for research challenges and unaffected and uninfluenced by either the research culture of the traditional or the article-thesis, to take on research in its broadest sense. However, in confronting these challenges this new generation needs the assistance and support of their universities to develop their skills and knowhow to overcome their research inexperience and insecurity. Herein they may easily be helped by their universities by offering them yearly four to five workshops on journal-article writing, as well as on the training of the supervision and the examination of the article-format dissertation and thesis. Courses in financial management and money-generation offered by the universities to academic and research staff to develop them to optimise income for universities through the various agents of research – such as the output of a mass of accredited journal articles and article-theses — will surely supplement the syllabus of these workshops positively.

1.1. Introduction (Continues from Article 3)

This article, titled: “How to write and supervise the Article-Masters and –Doctorate: Part 2”, is a continuation of the previous article (Number 3), titled: “How to write and supervise the Article-Masters and –Doctorate: Part 1”. It must be read as a unity.

1.2. Aims of the article (Continues from Article 3)

The purpose of this article, titled: “How to write and supervise the Article-Masters and –Doctorate: Part 2”, as part two of two intertwined articles, is to provide a framework or guideline to assist aspirant students (as well as supervisors and aspirant examiners) in their preparation of the writing of the article-thesis and –dissertation.8-11,13,16-50

In the previous intertwined article, entitled: “How to write and supervise the Article-Masters and -Doctorate: Part 1”, a framework or guideline was provided to assist aspirant students (as well as supervisors and aspirant examiners) in their planning, compiling and writing of the research proposal and journal article as prerequisites to write the article-thesis and -dissertation.8-11,13,16-50

1.2.1. Scope of article (Continues from Article 3) 

The information applies to students and supervisors of the article-master’s and article-doctorate, presented as a collection of essays or articles.

2. Method (Continues from Article 3)

The research has been 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 of the writing and publishing of the article-format dissertation and thesis. By this method the focus is to be informative regarding the various local and global approaches to the delivery of article-format theses or dissertations. The sources include the guidelines of universities and other institutions on the writing of the article-thesis for the period 2017 to 2021.

The research findings are presented in narrative format.

3. Results and discussion (Continues from Article 3)

3.1. Background to Article 3

When addressing the writing of the article-masters and -doctorate, the presence of two related, pre-established research entities become prominent, namely a) the writing of the research proposal of the article-thesis and -dissertation; and b) the writing of the journal article. A critical analysis of the literature shows it is mostly ignored in the guidelines on the writing of the article-thesis and -dissertation of most universities. The hard reality is that the article-thesis and -dissertation can in no way be realised without the prerequisite research proposal to plan and to guide the aspirant student on the best path to follow to start the article-thesis or -dissertation. It was essential that these two research outcomes were firstly addressed in the previous article (Three) before the start-up of the writing of the article-thesis and -dissertation could commence. 8-11,13,16-50

3.2. Position of the article-thesis and-dissertation in the present-day research environment

The position of the article-thesis and -dissertation in today’s academy and research is more complex than its proponents themselves seem to observe and understand. The proponents of the article-thesis need to do introspection to eliminate the model’s many times self-inflicted academic and research wounds, its research immaturity, and to find ways to recruit the hard-core of research traditionalists into its inner circle by a less radical insistence on the methodology of the article-thesis ideology. The polarisation between the article-thesis and traditional thesis by radicals in the research community is unwise and indeed an unhappy outcome. We need to move away from radical academic politics inside the research community. Most of these kinds of disturbances contributed to the lack of excellent guidelines to aid in the writing of the article-thesis and -dissertations at most universities.

3.3. Introduction

3.3.1. The Open-guide Approach (Continues from Article 3)

The Open-guide Approach, as described in Article One, offers the aspirant student who is planning to enrol for the article-thesis and dissertation, a broad understanding of the many rules that guide such enrolment. These rules, as were seen in the guidelines of fourteen universities and other institutions, often reflect an immense diversity, as well as conflicting requirements and limitations on how to write the article-thesis or-dissertation, adding to the  confusion of the aspirant student on how to address his/her approach in relation to the article-thesis or -dissertation. The first question that arises is: how is it possible to write the article-thesis or dissertation within such a hodgepodge of divergent rules? Some comparison of the manifold rules and thus the selection of appropriate rules from them, is needed to offer the aspirant student a well-considered, combined guideline (but still based on the many rules of the fourteen universities and other learning institutions) to enable him to write the article-thesis or -dissertation with confidence.8-11,13,16-25

3.3.2. The Closed-guide Approach (Continues from Article 3)

In this section the main intention is thus to condense the mass of information of Article One (previously published) as reflected and described by the guidelines of various universities into one descriptive guideline.8-11,13,16-25 In this way, through the development of a condensed framework that is based on the prerequisites, rules, discretions and traditions obtained and described in the Open-guide Approach, the aspirant student  will be formally introduced through the Closed-guide Approach to focussed and guiding pathways that he/she may follow to compile and to write an article-format thesis successfully and to obtain the master or PhD degree at the end. Although this combined guideline excluded unnecessary and inapplicable rules, it must be noted already at this stage that the Closed-guide Approachcan at most put an excellent working guide together to steer the aspirant candidate in his/her decision-making on how to write the article-thesis or -dissertation, but it is not able to compile a single framework/guideline to fit each one of the exclusive rules and requirements of all fourteen the universities and other institutions: there are just to many universities with unique rules and prescriptions on how the article-thesis and -dissertation should be written. Indeed, some of these institutions are very rigid and prescriptive (and their academics and researchers  many times besotted with their own research ideas and beliefs). On the other hand, there are many so-called “liberal” universities that allow the student much freedom in his/her way of writing the article-thesis. In this context the choice of the most suitable university should not only be the first priority of the aspirant student, but also his/her right to decide on.8-11,13,16-25

3.3.3. The student as responsible researcher

Notwithstanding the pros and cons around the troublesome guidelines of some institutions,  in-depth knowledge of the many rules, regulations and stipulations guiding the writing of the article-thesis is a must for all aspirant students of the article-thesis and -dissertation. It does not matter where the student enrols, it stays his/her duty and problem, firstly to master the abilities to write the article-thesis, and secondly to write it him/herself personally. Although the final copy of the draft thesis or dissertation is often automatically rewritten and restyled through a template at universities, while professional author services and language editors do a thorough upgrade of even the substandard thesis and dissertation that is awaiting assessment, the total research process and the compiling and writing of the thesis stay the primary task of the aspirant student: for that outcome he/she needs the basic knowhow as reflected in this section: how to write an article-thesis or -dissertation.8-11,13,16-25

3.3.4. The writing of the article-thesis and –dissertation (Continues from Article3) 8-11,13,16-25

3.3.4.1. The structure description of article-thesis

This structure description cannot and must not be seen as an absolute guideline on the classification of the content, or as a minimum- or a maximum-rule guideline in the compiling and writing of the article-format thesis. It serves at most to inform the aspirant student, who is planning to enrol for the article-format masters and doctorate, on the many prerequisites to fulfil and how the student, in line with his/her chosen university, should address his/her research to start and complete the article-format thesis successfully).8-11,13,16-25

3.3.4.2. Structure8-11,13,16-25

The article-thesis’s writing and execution is determined and steered by its Structure which describes precisely how the article-format dissertation’s information must be compiled, set out and placed: a consecutive path that starts with Chapter 1 and runs until the final (closing) chapter of the article-thesis. The compiling of the Structure varies from university to university, as the descriptions for instance on the contents of the thesis and the order of the elements to format the article-format thesis have already been discussed earlier in the prerequisites, rules, discretions and traditions of the Open-guide Approach which broadly guides the writing of the article-format thesis. With reference to the prescribed Structure, it is contained within the article-thesis’s chapters (representing the various journal articles) and in the following subsections: Introduction, Review of Literature, Method, Results, Conclusions.8-11,13,16-25

For the compiling of the Structure of the Article-thesis the rules of the guidelines of fourteen universities and other learning institutions on “how to write the article-format thesis and -dissertation”, were integrated to reflect the formatting requirements mostly prescribed. These fourteen resources formed throughout section 3.3.4. The writing of the article-thesis and -dissertation the basis of the information.8-11,13,16-25

The Structure’s contents are usually reflected in the following order: 1. Preliminary Section or Front Matter; 2. Body or Main Text Section; and 3. Concluding Section or Back Matter.8-11,13,16-25

The choice to include or not to include some of the Structure’s various sections and subsections in the text by aspirant students when planning their article-theses, is indicated underneath by descriptions such as required, optional, relevant/irrelevant and applicable/inapplicable next to it.8-11,13,16-25

 For an example to demonstrate the compiling and the description of the article-thesis in this article, the traditional three-article-thesismodel was used underneath. The outlining and structuring of the three-article-thesis here is based on the guideline Alternative Dissertation Structure: Individual Studies of the Stellenbosch University (SU).51The guideline of SU51:10, the SU-Alternative Dissertation Structure: Individual Studies – meant to make the process understandable for the aspirant candidate of the three-article-thesis on the compiling and writing of it — gives a step-by-step description and illustration of how articles 1, 2 and 3 should be placed, reflected and written in the three-article-thesis. This illustration was done by the repetition of the same article contents as an example for all three the articles by the SU-guideline51; this means that the presentation of the structuring of the contents of article 1, article 2 and article 3 are exactly the same to as to illustrate the compilation process. [This Structure offered by the SU51:10 was previously fully illustrated and described in Article One of the Series under the subheading: 3.2.3.1.10.1. SU-Alternative Dissertation Structure: Individual Studies (See Reference number 43 in Article One previously published). The mentioned example of the SU guideline51:10 to reflect (repeat) the same structure of the contents for Individual Study 1 (Article 1), Individual Study 3 (Article 2) and Individual Study 3 (Article 3) may be read in the under-mentioned similar structure of the contents51:10:

  • 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.

For this article’s description and guidance on how to write the article-thesis and -dissertation, the description of the structuring (repetition) of the contents of each one of the articles of the three-article-thesis was done in the same way as the SU guideline’s51:10 description of the structuring of the contents of each article constituting the three-article-thesis.

3.3.4.2.1. Preliminary Section (Front Matter-section which contains the Prefatory Material) 8-11,13,16-25

  1. Front Cover and Title Page (Required)

The cover-page (unnumbered) sets out the name of the institution, the officially approved title of the thesis in the fewest words that adequately describe the contents of the thesis/dissertation (15 or fewer words at the top). This is followed by the candidate’s name in a new line (some universities require the mentioning of other degrees and qualifications, including the names of the awarding institutions). Hereafter follows the thesis statement like: “Thesis submitted for the degree Doctor of Philosophy in History at the Orient University”, or “Submitted in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the School of Political Sciences, University of the Orient, Eastern-Cape.  (In the case of a directed-master’s dissertation, it should be stated as: “Submitted as the dissertation component in partial fulfilment (for instance the percentage of 50 % is to be stated) for the degree of Master of Education in the Faculty of Education, University of the Orient). After this, in new lines, follow respectively the name of the supervisor(s), the month and year in which the student will graduate and the student’s number.

  1. Abstract (Required)

The Abstract should synthesize the three articles and the research work as a whole: it mainly states the purpose of the study, showing the highlights of the three chapters and the new knowledge contributed by the thesis. The Abstract is mostly seen as a brief description with the maximum of two pages (350 words) of the objectives and the results of the research and the acknowledgements that are due. The Abstract page should be double-spaced and is typically numbered in Roman numerals. It introduces the pages (page two here) as follows: ii).

  1. Keywords (Required)

Three to ten keywords, preferable not more than five, should be listed below the Abstract.

  1. Copyright Information (Optional)

The inclusion of any articles that were previously published or were accepted for publication, requires permission from the copyright holder to submit such material as part-fulfilment for the particular formal qualification. The sections not copyrighted by another party may be covered under the publication of the new manuscript. Where essays or articles are submitted for publication prior to examination of the dissertation or thesis, the student and supervisor should obtain consent from the particular journal for the particular article to be submitted as part-fulfilment of the dissertation or thesis. It is also suggested that the student obtain permission from the appropriate journal’s editor informing him/her that the dissertation will be made available online if it is uploaded for instance on ProQuest.

  1. Dedication (Optional)

If the Dedication subsection is included it must be very brief: merely indicating to whom the work is dedicated and avoid anything too emotional.

  1. Acknowledgments (Optional)

The same approach regarding the layout and format is followed as with the regular/traditional dissertation: Acknowledgements are done to all individuals, groups of people or institutions that the candidate feels indebted to for the support they rendered as well as any sponsor(s) of the research obtained in the articles, along with grants number(s) and eventual disclaimer.

  1. Preface (Optional)

The preface merely states the motivating factors why the study was conducted without getting into details of what was investigated.

  1. Declaration (Required)

It must be declared that the research is new and that it was not presented for another degree by the candidate or other persons. It must offer a clear, precise description of the candidate’s as well as other persons’ contributions to the research outcome.

  1. Table of Contents (Required)

Each one of the articles that forms part of the thesis, should be identified in this Table as a separate section by giving the complete title as it appears on each manuscript. The contents of the thesis must be divided and reflected in chapters and paragraphs (and if necessary, into subparagraphs) with corresponding page numbers, all of which must be enumerated in the following sequential: 1.1, 1.1.1, 1.1.2,1.2, 1.2.1, 1.2.3, 2.2.1, etc. Although the guidelines of some universities advise that the subheadings which occur within the individual article’s manuscript are not to be listed, and that only the subheadings from the introductory and summary sections are  listed in the Contents, other universities require that the Table of Contents must capture all major sections of the thesis at the various levels (primary, secondary, tertiary subheadings) and that it should be electronically generated and should be able to take the reader to specific headings in the thesis.

  1. List of Tables (if applicable/relevant)

The student must list all tables that appear within the entire document. The numbering of tables will be dependent upon the chosen style (for example APA, MLA, etc.) and the formatting guide for the document as a whole. (This list is optional and only considered if there is one or more Tables in the thesis or dissertation).

  1. List of Figures (if applicable/relevant)

All figures that appear within the entire document must be listed. The numbering of figures will be dependent upon the chosen style (for example APA, MLA, etc.) and the formatting guide for the document as a whole. (This list is optional and only considered if there is one or more Figures in the thesis or dissertation).

  1. List of Abbreviations, Symbols, and Nomenclature (if applicable/relevant)

All the abbreviations, symbols and nomenclature must be listed as one complete list in the preliminary section of the dissertation and should not be included with the individual articles of the three-article-thesis. (Listing is optional and only considered if there is one or more  Abbreviations in the thesis or dissertation).

3.3.4.2.2. Body or Main Text Section8-11,13,16-25

  1. Chapter 1 or Introduction8-11,13,16-25

The introductory chapter for the traditional thesis and the article-thesis is similar. This Section should include the literature review and have the following11:5:

  1. a) Background and the context of the study;
  2. b) Description of the core research problem and its significance;
  3. c) A comprehensive, critical, coherent overview of the relevant literature leading to clearly defined knowledge gaps;
  4. d) A coherent problem statement highlighting the nature and magnitude of the problem, the discrepancy, knowledge gaps therein and possible factors influencing the problem;
  5. e) Clear and SMART research questions, objectives and hypothesis and/or theoretical framework;
  6. f) A conceptual framework (optional);
  7. g) Description of the study area and general methodology (in a standard thesis this should be a stand-alone section);
  8. h) Layout of the thesis (thesis structure) indicating what chapters are presented in the thesis and how they address the objectives.

1.1. Statement of the study’s purpose or singular research hypothesis to be tested

This part is also referred to as the general discussion or the Synthesis Chapter and demonstrates the logical thread that runs across the various manuscripts/publications (synthesis). There should be no doubt that the manuscripts/publications forming the article-thesis complement each other and address the original objectives stated in the general introduction of the thesis. The general discussion/synthesis chapter should end with a conclusion and recommendations where necessary.

The Introduction or Introductory Chapter should include a clear statement of the study’s purpose or singular research hypothesis to be tested. It must contain a description of the problem and an explanation of how the articles/papers included in the document address this problem.  It provides necessary background information and a broad statement summarizing the findings of the study. This section will also include a statement of the relationship between and among the various articles and other parts of the research: This Introductory Chapter should be a clear description and enlightening as to the articles and should form a cohesive body of work that supports a theme or themes. It should explain clearly why the previously published or publishable papers were chosen. It may reflect a deeper and more intensive review of prior work related to the problem and should be more comprehensive than publishers allow in journal articles: many of the points of discussion that are contained in the literature reviews of the individual articles, often need to be included in this chapter.

  • [Note: When there reflects a lack of a sufficient or comprehensive literature review on the total submission — meaning thus the various articles’ literature on the whole does not meet the requirements of a dissertation or thesis and fail to describe and illumine in-depth the topic under study, it is advised that in such a case it may be necessary to draft a separate chapter that constitutes a literature review, or in the case of a collection of articles, a body of literature that is common to all the articles, that could be reviewed and located in the overall introduction].

The word count of the Literature Review, subsumed in the Introduction, must be within the stipulated word count for a thesis or dissertation. A stand-alone Methodology section is not

needed, seeing that the methods are adequately described later on in each manuscript/publication.

1.2. Footnotes, references and bibliography

The Introductory Chapter’s own footnotes, references and bibliography can be presented as a final subsection or as separate subsections at the end of the Chapter. Preferably they should not begin on a new page if they can be continued naturally on the last page immediately after the closing of the Discussions and Conclusions of Chapter 1.

Alternatively, the footnotes, references and bibliography can be collected and reflected after Chapter 5 (traditionally the Final Chapter of the three-article thesis), as a subsection, or as subsections titled: General Discussion, Conclusions and Recommendations and Future Advisory as the separate footnotes, references and bibliography of the Concluding Material or Back Matter.

1.3. Intention of the Introductory Chapter

The intention of the Introductory Chapter is to provide coherence by explaining the line of argument to be elaborated in the following chapters representing the various articles. This chapter of a thesis by published works should be written independently by the student.

1.4. The numbering of the Introductory/Chapter 1

Place in Arabic Numerals Chapter 1 immediately above the title description, identified as Introductory, at the top centre of the page. This title page must be placed on a new page. Begin the page numbering with an Arabic numeral: 1 and number each page consecutively (for instance 2, 3, 4, etc.) until the end of the thesis or dissertation.

1.5. Number of articles prescribed for article-thesis

Most guidelines of universities require a minimum of three separate or independent-standing chapters (representing each an article) in the three-article-format thesis. Of these three articles, at least one must be an already published work. There is no ruling limiting the former publication of all three articles at the time of examination and in many cases all the articles have already been published in accredited journals at the time of examination.

Regarding the minimum/maximum number of articles that may make up an article-format thesis, there is not a so-called “minimum/maximum clause”, seeing that every article-format thesis is unique and thus requires its own approach in formatting and style in the offering of data on the research topic. (Note: Article-format theses consisting of up to nineteen already-accredited published articles, have been offered in the past).

  1. Chapter 2 (Article 1) 8-11,13,16-25

To compile Chapter 2, the following four steps (see subheadings: 2.1. to 2.4) are suggested by the literature:

2.1. Placing of the title Chapter 2

Place the naming Chapter 2 (reflecting Article 1) just above the title chosen for Article 1 at the top centre of this page. This placement must be on a new page. With the start of Chapter 2 the page numbering, coming from Chapter 1, continues again in Arabic numerals (as introduced by the page numbering coming from the beginning of Chapter 1: Introduction, as is reflected in subheading 1. above). The number of each page again ensues consecutively to the end of Chapter 2 (ending at either the Bibliography, Appendices, or the Bridging Section, depending on the structure of Chapter 2). None of the pages within Chapter 2, as an essential part of the Body of the thesis or dissertation, may be skipped.

2.2. Connecting text

On this first page (beginning) of Chapter 2 any connecting text or supplementary information that is necessary to link Chapter 2 (Article 1) to Chapter 3 (Article 2) and/or the following chapters, may be presented under headings such as “Background”, “Introductory Comments”, etc. Here, an introductory note, or footnote, indicating the publication status of the work, should be included. Note: Instead of the above “connecting or bridging page”, the “bridging section” can be offered separately as the last page of Chapter 2 (Article 1), the page just before the start of Chapter 3 (Article 2), as illustrated later in subheading 2.4.4. of this section. If the above-mentioned introductory or background text is not included at the start part of Chapter 2, the title page will be the first page of Chapter 2.

2.3. Scholarly citation

On the same page as the title page should be placed a full scholarly citation for the published work that must include the name of the author(s), a note that permission from the publisher to use the article(s) in the thesis or dissertation has been granted if the work(s) is in press or has been published, an introduction, review of literature, method, results and conclusions.

2.4.  Contents of Chapter 2

The contents of Chapter 2 (Article 1) itself are started up on a new page and follows immediately after the title page marked as Chapter 2.

2.4.1. Abstract

The contents of Chapter 2 must contain the Abstract in those cases where the initial published version contains one. This is in sequence with the main body of literature.

2.4.2. Footnotes, References, and Bibliography

Also, in sequence with the main body of literature are its Lists of Footnotes, References, and Bibliography. If footnotes, references and the bibliography are provided at the end of Chapter 2, they are presented as a subsection of the chapter, meaning that they do not begin on a new page if they can be continued naturally on the current page. The page numbering of the subsections’ footnotes, references and the bibliography of Chapter 2 must continue consecutively throughout Chapter 2 with Arabic numerals till the last page of the bibliography subsection. This can mean the closing of Chapter 2’s numbering if it does not have Appendices and/or a Bridging Section. If one or both of these two parts are included, the pages for Chapter 2 continue consecutively with Arabic numerals till the end of either the Appendices and/or the Bridging Section (See undermentioned subheadings 2.4.3. and 2.4.4. of this section).

2.4.3. Appendices (Optional)

In an article’s contents relevant material can especially be embedded, making the conclusions from it very coherent to the total study and forcing-in the use of an Appendix or Appendices. Some items that might be included here may be additional details on the background, methods, procedures, raw data, tables to detail for text presentation, computer programmes, technical notes on methods, schedules and forms used in the collecting of materials, copies of documents not generally available to the reader, case studies too long to put directly into the text, etc. Although this type of data reflection is not required for article chapters, it can be very effectively used, not only to present coherence between the various articles as well as the total thesis, but also to focus the attention prominently on research outcomes, conclusions and put the need for further research in perspective. This representation may be done at the end of Chapter 2 (Article 1) as an appendix or a set of appendices, and inserted as a subsection or as subsections of the chapter. A single subsection can be labelled in the case of Chapter 2 (Article 1) as “Chapter 2 Appendix” when only one appendix is reflected. If several appendices, like three, are included into Chapter 2, the labelling must be respectively shown as: “Chapter 2 Appendix 1”, “Chapter 2 Appendix 2” and “Chapter 2 Appendix 3”. This matter, other than the appendices that are placed in the Back Matter, does not require a new section that starts on a new page, but it should start where any other subsection in Chapter 2 would begin.  It is the choice of the author(s) of Article 1 to include appendices at the end of each of the article chapters of the article format thesis or to include it in the Back Matter. (It must be noted that the article’s subsection of appendix or appendices are not meant for reflecting large sizes of documents or supplement files. (This type of material must be placed in the Appendices of the Back Matter.)

The page numbering of the subsection Appendices of Chapter 2 (if included) must continue consecutively throughout Chapter 2 with Arabic numerals onwards to form the last page of Chapter 2 (if there is not a Bridging Section following). Note again that no pages within the Body of the thesis or dissertation must be skipped.

2.4.4. Bridging Section

A “Bridging Section” of more or less one-page length, can, if it is necessary to make the information of Chapter 2 (Article 1) more coherent to the incoming information of Chapter 3 (Article 2), as well as to make information of the total document or thesis coherent as a whole, be placed as the last page or separator page of Chapter 2, and continue consecutively from the last page of the Appendices where applicable: See 2.4.3. This text linking Chapter 2 with Chapter 3 and providing details of the Chapter 3’s manuscript/publication indicates publication status. This Bridging Section is not applicable if a connecting text was already included in subheading 2.2. in the chapter. It seems the placing of a single connecting page between the previous and the next Chapter is the most popular choice.

2.4.5. Text preparation

The requirements for the preparation of the text differs between universities. In some cases it is required that the inclusion of an article in the dissertation means that the text of it is retyped into the format as prescribed by the university. Requirements, for instance, can be double line spacing, 12-point Times or Times New Roman font, 4 cm left-hand margin, and all other margins as 2,5 cm. In other cases it is advised by universities that an article’s presentation must be offered in the manner in which the manuscript was offered for publication or was published. This means that chapters containing articles intended for or published already by different publishers may be presented in the format that meets the specific requirements of each individual publisher even if the publishers require different formats. As an alternative the author is allowed to choose his own style on the basis that the articles are reformatted into a single, common style.

In both forms of presentations as to the styles of articles, the pages must be renumbered so that all the pages in the thesis/dissertation are numbered consecutively. The pages in each article must follow the overall page numbering scheme of the dissertation, as was started by Chapter 1’s title as reflected on page 1.

  1. Chapter 3 (Article 2)8-11,13,16-25

To compile Chapter 3, the following four steps (subheadings 3.1. to 3.4.) the following guidance is provided by the literature:

3.1.  Placement of the title Chapter 3

Place the description Chapter 3 (reflecting Article 2) just above the title chosen for Article 2 at the top centre of this page. This placement must be on a new page. At the start of Chapter 3, the page numbering, coming from Chapter 2, continues again in Arabic numerals, as introduced by the page numbering coming from the beginning of Chapter 1: Introduction, as is reflected in subheading 1.). The number of each page again follows consecutively to the end of Chapter 3 (ending at either the Bibliography, Appendices or the Bridging Section depending on the structure of Chapter 3). No pages within Chapter 3 as an essential part of the Body of the thesis or dissertation, may be skipped.

3.2.  Connecting text

On this first page of Chapter 3 any connecting text or supplementary information that is necessary to link Chapter 3 (Article 2) to Chapter 4 (Article 3) and/or the following chapters, may be presented at the beginning of Chapter 3 under headings such as “Background”, “Introductory Comments”, etc. Here an introductory note, or footnote, indicating the publication status of the work, should be included. Instead of above “connecting or bridging page”, the “bridging section” can be offered separately as the last page of Chapter 3 (Article 2), the page just before the start of Chapter 4 (Article 3), as illustrated later in subheading 3.4.4.  Note: If the above-mentioned introductory or background text is not included at this starting section of Chapter 3, the title page will be the first page of Chapter 3.

3.3. Scholarly citation

On the same page as the title page should be placed a full scholarly citation for the published work that must include the name of the author(s), a note that permission from the publisher to use the article in the thesis or dissertation has been granted if the work is in press or has been published, an introduction, review of literature, method, results and conclusions.

3.4.  Contents of Chapter 3

The contents of Chapter 3 (Article 2) itself are started on a new page and follows immediately after the title page marked as Chapter 3.

3.4.1. Abstract

The contents of Chapter 3 must contain the Abstract in those cases where the initial published version contains one. This is in sequence with the main body of literature.

3.4.2. Footnotes, references, and bibliography

Also, in sequence with the main body of the literature, are its Lists of Footnotes, References, and Bibliography. If footnotes, references and the bibliography are provided at the end of Chapter 3, they are presented as a subsection of the chapter, meaning that they do not begin on a new page if they can be continued naturally on the current page. The page numbering of the subsections’ footnotes, references and the bibliography of Chapter 3 must continue consecutively throughout Chapter 3 with Arabic numerals until the last page of the Bibliography subsection. This can mean the closing of Chapter 3 numbering if it does not have Appendices and/or a Bridging Section. If one or both of these two parts are included, the pages for Chapter 3 continue consecutively with Arabic numerals until the end of either the Appendices and/or the Bridging Section. (See undermentioned subheadings 3.4.3. and 3.4.4. of this section.)

3.4.3. Appendices (Optional)

In an article’s contents relevant material can especially be embedded, making the conclusions from it very coherent with the total study and necessitating the use of an appendix or appendices. Some items that might be included here may be additional details on the background, methods, procedures, raw data, tables or detail for text presentation, computer programmes, technical notes on methods, schedules and forms used in the collecting of materials, copies of documents not generally available to the reader, case studies too long to put directly into the text, etc. Although this type of data reflection is not required for article chapters, it can be used very effectively, not only to present coherence between the various articles as well as the total thesis, but also to focus the attention on prominent research outcomes, conclusions and the need for further research. This representation may be inserted at the end of Chapter 3 (Article 2) as an appendix or a set of appendices, and added as a subsection or as subsections of the chapter. A single subsection may be labelled in the case of Chapter 3 (Article 2) as “Chapter 3 Appendix” when only one appendix is reflected. If several appendices, like three, are included in Chapter 3, the labelling must be respectively reflected as: “Chapter 3 Appendix 1”, “Chapter 3 Appendix 2” and “Chapter 3 Appendix 3”. This matter, other than the appendices that are placed in the Back Matter, does not require a new section that starts on a new page, but it should start where any other subsection in Chapter 3 would begin.  It is the choice of the author(s) of Article 2 to include appendices at the end of each of the article chapters of the article-format thesis or to include it in the Back Matter. (It must be noted that the article’s subsection of appendix or appendices are not meant for the inclusion of large sizes of documents or supplement files. This type of material must be placed in the Appendices of the Back Matter.)

The page numbering of the subsection Appendices of Chapter 3 (if included) must continue consecutively throughout Chapter 3 with Arabic numerals onwards to form the last page of Chapter 3 (if there is not a Bridging Section following). Note again that no pages within the Body of the thesis or dissertation must be skipped.

3.4.4. Bridging Section

A “Bridging Section” of more or less one page length can, if it is necessary to make the information of Chapter 3 (Article 2) more coherent with the incoming information of Chapter 4 (Article 3), as well as to make information of the total document or thesis coherent as a whole,  be placed as the last page of Chapter 3, and may continue consecutively from the last page of the Appendices where applicable: See subheading 3.4.3. This text links Chapter 3 with Chapter 4 and provides details of Chapter 4’s manuscript/publication indicating publication status. This Bridging Section is not applicable if a connecting text was already included in subheading 3.2. It seems that placing a single connecting page between the previous and the next Chapter is the most popular choice.

3.4.5. Text preparation

The requirements for the preparation of the text differs between universities. In some cases it is required that for the inclusion of an article in the dissertation the text of it is retyped into the format as prescribed by the university. Requirements, for instance, can be double line spacing, 12-point Times or Times New Roman font, 4 cm left-hand margin, and all other margins as 2,5 cm. In other of the cases it is prescribed by universities that an article’s presentation must be offered in the manner in which the manuscript was offered for publication or was published.

In both forms of presentations as to article style, the page numbering for the article must follow the overall page numbering scheme of the dissertation, as started by Chapter 1’s title on page 1.

  1. Chapter 4 (Article 3)8-11,13,16-25

To compile Chapter 4, the following four steps (subheadings 4.1. to 4.4.) are recommended by the literature:

4.1. Placement of the title of Chapter 4

Place the inscription Chapter 4 (reflecting Article 3) just above the title chosen for Article 3 at the top centre of this page. This placement must be on a new page. At the start of Chapter 4 the page numbering, coming from Chapter 3, continues again in Arabic numerals, as introduced by the page numbering coming from the beginning of Chapter 1: Introduction, as is reflected in subheading 1. The number of each page again follows consecutively to the end of Chapter 4 (ending at either the Bibliography, Appendices or the Bridging Section depending on the structure of Chapter 4). No pages within Chapter 4, as an essential part of the Body of the thesis or dissertation, may be skipped.

4.2. Connecting text

On this first page of Chapter 4 any connecting text or supplementary information that is necessary to link Chapter 4 (Article 3) to the Chapter 5 (Conclusions), may be presented at the beginning of Chapter 4 under headings such as “Background”, “Introductory Comments”, etc. Here, an introductory note, or footnote, indicating the publication status of the work, should be included. Instead of the above “connecting or bridging page”, the “bridging section” can be offered separately as the last page of Chapter 4 (Article 3), the page just before the start of Chapter 5 (Conclusion), as illustrated later in subheading 4.4.4. Note: If the above-mentioned introductory or background text is not included at this initial stage of Chapter 4, the title page will be the first page of Chapter 4.

4.3. Scholarly citation

On the same page as the title page should be placed a full scholarly citation for the published work that must include the name of the author(s), a note that permission from the publisher to use the article in the thesis or dissertation has been granted if the work is in press or has been published, an introduction, review of literature, method, results and conclusions.

4.4. Contents of Chapter 4

The contents of Chapter 4 (Article 3) itself are started on a new page and follows immediately after the title page marked as Chapter 4.

4.4.1. Abstract

The contents of Chapter 4 must contain the Abstract in those cases where the initial published version contains one. This is in sequence with the main body of literature.

4.4.2. References and bibliography

Also, in sequence with the main body of literature are its Lists of Footnotes, References, and Bibliography. If footnotes, references and the bibliography are provided at the end of Chapter 4, they are presented as a subsection of the chapter, meaning that they do not begin on a new page if they can be continued naturally on the current page. The page numbering of the subsections’ footnotes, references and the bibliography of Chapter 4 must continue consecutively throughout Chapter 4 with Arabic numerals until the last page of the Bibliography subsection. This may mean the closing of Chapter 4 numbering if it does not have Appendices and/or a Bridging Section. If one or both of these two parts are included, the pages for Chapter 4 continue consecutively with Arabic numerals until the end of either the Appendices and/or the Bridging Section (see undermentioned subheadings 4.4.3. and 4.4.4. of this section).

4.4.3. Appendices (Optional)

Within the contents of an article, relevant material may especially be embedded, making the conclusions from it very coherent with the total study and necessitating the use of an appendix or appendices. Some items that might be included here may be additional details on the background, methods, procedures, raw data, tables with detail for text presentation, computer programmes, technical notes on methods, schedules and forms used in the collecting of materials, copies of documents not generally available to the reader, case studies too long to put directly into the text, etc. Although this type of data reflection is not required for article chapters, it can be used very effectively, not only to present coherence between the various articles as well as the total thesis, but also to focus the attention on prominent research outcomes, conclusions and the need for further research. This representation may be done at the end of Chapter 4 (Article 3) as an appendix or a set of appendices, and inserted as a subsection or as subsections of the chapter. A single subsection may be labelled in the case of Chapter 4 (Article 3) as “Chapter 4 Appendix” when only one appendix is reflected. If several appendices, like three, are included in Chapter 4, the labelling must be respectively reflected: “Chapter 4 Appendix 1”, “Chapter 4 Appendix 2” and “Chapter 4 Appendix 3”. This matter, other than the Appendices that are placed in the Back Matter, does not require a new section that starts on a new page, but it should start where any other subsection in Chapter 4 would begin.  It is the choice of the author(s) of Article 3 to include appendices at the end of each of the article chapters of the article-format thesis or to include it in the Back Matter. (It must be noted that the article’s subsection of appendix or appendices are not meant for the reflecting of large sizes of documents or supplement files. This type of material must be placed in the Appendices of the Back Matter.)

The page numbering of the subsection Appendices of Chapter 4 (if included) must continue consecutively throughout Chapter 4 with Arabic numerals onwards to form the last page of Chapter 4 (if there is not a Bridging Section following). Note again that no pages within the Body of the thesis or dissertation must be skipped.

4.4.4. Bridging Section

A “Bridging Section” of more or less one-page length may, if it is necessary to make the information of Chapter 4 (Article 3) more coherent with the total document or thesis coherent as a whole, be placed as the last page of Chapter 4, to continue consecutively from the last page of the Appendices where applicable: see subheading 4.4.3. This text would be linking Chapter 4 with Chapter 5 and providing details of Chapter 5’s manuscript/publication indicating publication status. This Bridging Section is not applicable if a connecting text was already included in subheading 4.2. in the chapter.

It seems the placing of a single connecting page between the previous and the next Chapter is the most popular choice.

4.4.5. Text preparation

The requirements for the preparing of the text differs between universities. In some cases it is required that for the inclusion of an article in the dissertation the text of it is retyped in the format as prescribed by the university. Requirements, for instance, may be double line spacing, 12-point Times or Times New Roman font, 4 cm left-hand margin, and all other margins as 2,5 cm. In other cases, it is prescribed by universities that an article’s presentation must be offered in the manner in which the manuscript was offered for publication or was published.

In both forms of presentation as to article style, the page numbering for the article must follow the overall page numbering scheme of the dissertation, as started by Chapter 1’s title on page 1.

  1. Chapter 58-11,13,16-25

This chapter, the final one (Chapter 5) of the three-article-thesis, must reinforce the linkages between Chapters 2, 3 and 4 (Articles 1, 2 and 3), as well as to bring into perspective the connection of the three articles with the relevant discipline or field of the study. In practice it is in the first place a clarification or summary of how the articles are related to each other and contribute to the total study. The final chapter should be written independently by the student. In this chapter it should, if not already done separately in the articles that make up the Body of the research, be indicated what the specific contribution of the doctoral student to the thesis was if it were written by several authors: if the thesis mainly consists of articles, the candidate should normally be the main author or first author of at least half of the articles. If co-authored, the contributions of the candidate to the thesis or dissertation and each of the co-authors to the various papers must be described clearly. A written statement from each co-author should follow the thesis, detailing the candidate’s and the co-authors’ contributions: the candidate’s contribution should be identifiable.

5.1. Creation of title page for Chapter 5 and its naming

Create a title page named Chapter 5, which is placed on a new page. Place the title of General Discussion, Overall Conclusions, Recommendations and Future Advisory just beneath Chapter 5 at the top centre of this page. Here the page numbering continues again in Arabic numerals, as introduced by the page numbering coming from the end of Chapter 4 (Article 3). The number of each page again proceeds consecutively to the end of the Chapter 5 and no pages within Chapter 5, as an essential part of the Body of the thesis or dissertation, must be skipped.

The final Chapter (Number 5) consists mostly of 1. General Discussion, 2. Overall Conclusions, and 3. Recommendations and Future Advisory.

5.2. General Discussion

The General Discussion is indeed meant to be comprehensive, summarising and clarifying the various appended articles of the study. It should not necessarily provide new results but may provide a synthesis of new conclusions by combining results from the various articles. The summary’s information may offer an in-depth review of the various articles and may thus be supplementary. It may offer a motivation of the chosen scope, research problems, objectives and methods, as well as a strengthening of the theoretical framework, analysis and Overall Conclusions, since the extent of the separate articles in general does not allow longer kinds of discussion. The General Discussion should conform to the same style and format as that followed in the writing of the Discussion of the articles.

5.3. Overall Conclusions

The Overall Conclusions state only the conclusions for the manuscript as a whole. The Overall Conclusions should conform to the same style and format as that followed in the writing of the Conclusions of the articles.

5.4. Recommendations and future advisory

It should include applications and ideas for the discussion of future research directions that separately emerged from the three articles and from the dissertation as a whole.

3.3.3.4.1.3. Concluding Material or Back Matter8-11,13,16-25

  1. Bibliography (Required)

This Bibliography contains a complete list of works consulted and referred to in the general text, namely the Introduction, Overall Conclusion, and any supplementary sections, but excluding the Bibliographies of the three articles. The comprehensiveness and quality of the Bibliography of the summary chapter must place the scope and results of the study as a whole in the wider context of the current state of the national and /or international research of the undertaken study. The Bibliography should conform to the same style and format as that followed in the compiling of the Bibliographies of the articles. Note: It is permissible that, instead of presenting a separate bibliography list at the end of each chapter in the Main Text, to include just one list of all the sources cited in the thesis or dissertation in the section of the Back Matter. Authors may elect to do both if they wish.

  1. References (if applicable/relevant)

Included here should be only the general references from the Introduction and Synthesis chapters (like the Overall Conclusion), and any supplementary sections: all other references should be within the manuscripts presented under its data-chapters. The References should conform to the same style and format as that followed in the writing of the References of the articles. Note: It is permissible that instead of presenting a separate reference-list at the end of each chapter in the Main Text, to include just one list of all the sources cited in the thesis or dissertation in the section of the Back Matter. Authors may do both if they wish.

  1. Works Cited (If applicable/relevant)

Included here should be only the works cited from the Introduction, Overall Conclusion, and any supplementary sections. The Works Cited should conform to the same style and format as that followed in the writing of the Works Cited of the articles. Note: It is permissible, that, instead of presenting a separate works cited list at the end of each chapter in the Main Text, to include just one list of all the sources cited in the thesis or dissertation in the section of the Back Matter. Authors may to do both if they wish.

  1. Appendices (if applicable/relevant)

These documents contain detailed information of the various aspects of the research and how it was executed. Included can be for instance a copy of the instructions and explanations relating to the research participants, the material and/or the methodology of the experimental questionnaire or weighting method employed, tables with raw data, transcriptions of audio material and or video recordings, diagrams, ethics certificates, etc., considered important but not essential for inclusion in the actual thesis. Included here are thus only additional appendices that relate to the thesis as a whole, excluding specifically those reflected in the three articles. Also, additional papers that emanated from the work but not directly contributing to the thesis, may be included.  The Appendices should conform to the same style and format as that followed in the compiling of the Appendices of the articles.

The fully published paper or manuscript submitted for publication should be presented as published or submitted to the journal: the actual published paper should be scanned and inserted.

  1. Back Cover8-11,13,16-25
  2. The article-thesis’s immediate challenges, dilemmas and potential in the South African research setting8-11,13,16-25

In light of the primary aim of this article, namely to promote and to position the article-thesis as a dynamic research tool to the country’s academics and researchers, certain negative elements in our research environment that may obstruct the future development and functioning of the article-thesis need to be reflected on.  This will be done beneath in subsections 4.1 to 4.4.

4.1. The intertwining of the article-thesis with the traditional thesis

One of the obstructions to the Circle of Research Completeness is the unfounded opinion regarding the absolute difference and irreconcilability between the article-format thesis and the traditional thesis, making any united utilisation to benefit research impossible. This cognition, having been voiced in the literature so many times and strengthened by the oft-repeated opinion that the traditional thesis and the article-format thesis are two completely different sub-genres of academic writing, is a research myth. Also, opinions that the traditional thesis and the journal-article-thesis are meant for different audiences and written for different purposes, is another myth.8-11,13,16-25

Notwithstanding such opinions meant to isolate for opportunistic reasons the traditional thesis because of its alleged “outdated academic and research culture” and that its presence is “contaminating” the Modern-day research culture, the evidence contradicts such negative labelling. The positioning of the “benefits” of the article-thesis because it is alleged to be much shorter, presenting a tighter framework and a more compact style, is gainsaid by the fact that the average traditional thesis in the USA seems to be between 100 and 200 pages and consists of more or less 20 000 to 40 000 words, which represents a very compact model.8-11,13,16-25

There is very little difference today between the way the contents of article-theses and traditional theses are focussed: both are loaded with theoretical as well as practical ideas that are backed up with evidence, reporting is well-detailed with results and discussions relevant to the research, while comprehensive bibliographies are part of the structure of both entities. Both the article-thesis and the traditional thesis demonstrate interest in future research directions and the structure of the article-thesis reflects the same as that of the traditional thesis, like introduction, literature review, description of research approach, methodology, reporting, and results interpretation and conclusions.

From a critical viewpoint both the article-thesis and traditional thesis are intensively used and read by the so-called busy academics, researchers and scholars who surely do not want to pick up fast, superficial tips from short-styled, uninformative research instruments. The article-thesis has been optimised to the same level for educational purposes today as the traditional thesis, as evidenced by journal articles incorporating essential primary elements into the article-format thesis and the extraction of the traditional thesis’ contents into various journal articles.8-11,13,16-25

A critical analysis of the research methodology for the two types (although sometimes in different intensities) reflects in both cases comprehension and primary intentions to anchor research in a conceptual or meta-scientific framework which is regarded as a paradigm that contains the worldview, as well as the epistemological, ontological and methodological approaches to studies. In both is to be found the belief that a theoretical or metatheoretical framework which contains the worldview and approaches of different theories to do research is applicable to all of contemporary research activity. Both thesis types have comprehensive elements in their information gathering which specifically relate to the journal articles of the article-thesis and focused elements which resonate with the initial data collection of the traditional thesis.8-11,13,16-25

A critical retrospective shows that the research roadmap of both types of theses has undoubtedly led many times to an overload of unnecessary information, especially descriptive information captured in their Introduction and in the Literature Review, as well as in the model-building around its methodology. But, hereto one may at the same time observe an underload of necessary information for both types, making them prone to poor research outcomes. The rigid philosophical research inclination that is traditionally negatively associated with the traditional thesis, is not always excluded from the research culture of the article-format thesis where research is alleged to be focused intensively and solely on specific topics, methodologies and research argumentation. The modern needs of research have led thereto that the traditional thesis has also adopted condensed applied and practical research, totally free from inapplicable, inappropriate and unnecessary material. In this context it must be emphasised that applied and practical research is not the exclusive domain of the article-thesis, as some of its proponents try to propagate. There is an allegation of the incorporation of an overload of theoretical and philosophical material within most of the traditional theses that may be seen as simply the repetition of already published information that is constantly used over and over again to back up and perpetuate certain outdated research approaches and models. But this may be equally encountered in the article-thesis’s construction and outputs, sometimes. 8-11,13,16-25

The inclination to profile the two types of thesis as two opposing, massive research drivers: descriptive conceptual theorising and theory building versus explanatory operationalised-theory testing, is today more of academic importance. It is part of a misused theoretical, inappropriate and inapplicable approach to offer outdated arguments and outlines on how the traditional thesis versus the article thesis should be structured, compiled and written. The models of the traditional thesis and the article-thesis are not two opposite research entities: an accommodating mixture of the two is in some way already in place. The antagonists against this mixture are blinded by what they see as the so-called “difference in structuring of the two’s implementation”, while they missed out on many similarities in the research approaches, as for instance: the research inclinations and intentions, the writing up and reporting of data and the making of conclusions,  the same methodology as to the design of an article, the collection and selection of data for an article, the writing of the article thesis, the writing of  the traditional thesis and the book, while in the two instances both quantity research and quality research are allowed to be practised. It is overlooked that both the article thesis and traditional thesis are in a survival mode and have adapted many of the elements of each other to be acceptable to the broad contingent of serious researchers 8-11,13,16-25

How much the article-thesis and the traditional thesis are intertwined in construction and in daily use in our research practice is well-illustrated by the SU’s51 four permitted dissertation types wherein the combined-article-chapter-thesis is a prominent entity. The description of this permitted SU-type51 of thesis (See under Format 2), specifically based on the combination of articles and chapters, reads as follows51:6:

FORMAT 2: ARTICLES, OR COMBINATION OF ARTICLES & CHAPTERS51:6

  • 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.

Although the traditional thesis stands undoubtedly stronger than the article-thesis in the present-day research culture and  environment, it is not and will never be the supreme entity inside the Circle of Research Completeness. The other parts of the Circle, such as the accredited article, the book and the article-thesis, have the power in the future to overtake the traditional thesis’s favoured position. On the other hand the Circle’s embedded empowerment has the strength to stall the assumption of superiority by any of the other entities in the Circle.

4.2. Shortcomings and problems of the article-thesis model8-11,13,16-25

Prominent in the rejection by some antagonists of the article-thesis and -dissertation because of  its so-called status as an “illegitimate” research tool, one encounters the controversial “illegal” status of the article-thesis by manuscripts that is argued to have the potential to support the substandard  student. Firstly, this negative assumption derives from the attractive option offered by it to the student to graduate notwithstanding that there is no guarantee that the submitted papers for the thesis may eventually be rejected and the credits emanating from publications may stay permanently absent. Secondly, the less honourable inclination to opportunistically advantage the university’s interests in terms of credit and subsidy earnings of the awarded but essentially “failed PhD”, is looked upon negatively. Thirdly, the accompanying negative intention of the article thesis by manuscripts, namely not to put the under-performing PhD student’s graduation at risk by delayed graduation when some or all of his/her manuscripts are not published/accepted, has undoubtedly cast the academic and research integrity of the article-thesis model in a dubious light. Many of the traditionalists see in this research entity, as an exclusive part of the article-thesis-model, a delinquent tool to obtain fast and with less input, abilities and responsibilities, senior qualifications and other personal awards, as well as the cloak of academic eminence. The outcome is labelling the legality of  PhD qualifications of the thesis by manuscripts (but unfortunately also the thesis by article) as far lower than that of the traditional thesis in the worst-case scenario, making the supporting of the article-thesis a kind of no-go area for many of the traditionalists in advanced research.

Prominently included in the academic and research approach of the proponents of the article-thesis — that some of the propagandists of the traditional thesis already see as nothing else than research delinquency – has been the successful partition into fragments of lesser difficulty and easier challenges to the normal and standard academic and research tasks of the traditional thesis by the supporters of the article-thesis over the last decade or two. For many of the traditionalists it is nothing else than a focused plan to make “acceptable” a place for substandard academics and researchers. For the traditionalists it is specifically the three-article-thesis which is at fault, to them just another part of the article-thesis proponents’ approach to escape the comprehensive work and of the downscaling of quality research embedded in the traditional thesis by their shortcutting of the research contents. The investigation of this research reflects the objection and rejection of the three-article-thesis by the older traditionalists of the research community, specifically its lack of contents and the absence of associated/supportive information, bringing into a focussed perspective the “short length” of it. Reading some of the article-theses published, it becomes clear that the traditionalists’ objections hold water.  Some of the article-theses have absolutely failed the test of PhD quality and status.

But here the advice of the traditionalists is quite clear on how to correct the article-thesis: add contents of quality to it by enlarging it to five or six articles and add also some of the elements of the traditional thesis into its structure to give it integrity. Tables 1 and 2 of the previously published Article One (read it under Article One’s heading: 3.2.3.1.10. Minimum and maximum number of articles prescribed for the article-thesis) show that the minimum/ maximum word count specific to the three-article-thesis are respectively 29 000 and 41 000 words, while for the four-article-thesis the minimum/maximum word counts are respectively 37 000 and 53 000 words. The minimum/maximum word counts of the three-article-thesis is seen as “substandard” by some traditionalists, while the maximum word count of the four-article-thesis (53 000 words is seen as a border-line case for some traditionalists. It seems it is only the minimum/maximum word counts of respectively 45 000 and 65 000 words of the five-article-thesis that are acceptable to some traditionalists.

4.3. The not-so-innocent propagandists and supporters of the traditional thesis

Although the supporters and propagandists are fast to point out the many shortcomings of the article-thesis, they are not innocent themselves in the direct undermining of the established research culture, as well as the research integrity of the article-thesis. Here one often finds specifically their own lack of competence, skills and the understanding of the meaning of true scholarship, their immense inability to be academically and research-organised and to take on high-level academic and research tasks which should be normally part of any academic or researcher’s daily existence. This state of affairs needs to be reflected on.

Firstly, in retrospect regarding the present-day position of the traditional thesis in the greater research culture, it seems to a great extent still driven and strengthened by a large sector of propagandists and supporters who are still enthralled by “outdated traditional views and opinions” of research models. This nostalgic attitude centres around the rigid concept of the so-called “good age-old traditional and established research culture” that cannot and must not be changed.

Secondly, the avoidance and exclusion of the article-format thesis today from senior academic programmes and the pushing to the foreground of the traditional thesis by certain sectors at universities, also many times originates in the lack of abilities, skills and experience of present-day academics and researchers in the writing of distinct articles in accredited journals. This hostility is part of their failure to execute the Circle of Research Completeness wherein all the instruments of research — meaning the journal article, the traditional thesis, the article-thesis and academic/research book — can be dynamic role players without opposing and obstructing each contribution to the academic and research environment.  In South Africa many academics are not free from this “curse of non-publication and inexperience”. This unfortunate “academic and research contamination” has not only led to an under-production of publications, but also discouraged students to enrol for the article-format thesis because of a lack of experienced supervisors and a negative view of this so-called “new-age research model”. This shortcoming in skills and its internalised obstruction to change for the sake of tradition, or changes that ask extraordinary relearning (and even research rehabilitation), has contaminated not only the article-thesis status, but also the position of the traditional thesis, the journal article and the book that are all inherent parts of the Circle of Research Completeness, or at least should be.

My enquiries from research professors, academic staff and research unitis reflect a generally negative attitude towards the article-thesis and -dissertation. Many members of both the older group as well as a younger group seem not willing to get involved in the supervising or the examination of it. An evaluation of this negativism here reflects a lack of exposure to research in general, while their past and present involvement in article-publishing is minimal. It seems especially the younger group that is the least involved, quoting excuses such as a full teaching program, a lack of exposure to training in the compiling and writing of journal articles, and a low departmental and faculty interest as the main reasons. But this negativity seems to come many times from the staff’s ongoing absence from office and thus a lack of direct involvement with their faculty’s work activities and  responsibilities.

Some of the older academics (between 55 and 65 years) that I consulted in the research, openly opposed the production of article-theses in their research units, offering excuses such as the article-thesis not being a “real” PhD (wherein its “short length” and alleged lack of “sufficient research contents” stand out prominently as general arguments), that there is no demand for it, etc. Investigation hereto showed that most of these opponents of the article-thesis lacked themselves comprehensive supervisor’s and examiner’s experience of this type of thesis. More: most of them lacked a sound CV of published accredited articles. Furthermore, their understanding of the Circle of Research Completeness is many times poor and substandard, making their knowhow to generate money for their university through well- planned and -steered research — such as the publishing of accredited articles and books and the delivery of article-theses — minimal.

4.4. Impact of BAREE and cadre-deployment on present-day academic and research culture

The above conclusion regarding the presence of an established sector of substandard academics and researchers working in the present-day South African academic and research culture who directly and indirectly undermine outcomes such as the mastering of the writing of the research proposal, the journal article and the article-thesis, is undoubtedly further strengthened by the role of BAREE (B: Black, A: Academic, R: Research, E: Economic and E: Empowerment) in the South African university setup. This unfavourable academic and research environment – in addition to South Africa’s devastating political BBBEE– and cadre-deployment-policy that has led to an absolute culture of corruption, incompetence and indeed to the country’s near collapse after 26 years of ANC governance — is also in the process of offering support to substandard academics and researchers, spelling chaos to quality higher education and advanced research. The intention with BAREE is outright the same as that of BBBEE of which the main object is to accommodate substandard politicians, civil servants and cadres/comrades of the ANC in the public services, and to allow and to accept substandard work performance, etc. In this respect BAREE has undoubtedly since 1994 led to the decline of personal, social and leadership integrity inside the academic and research environment. Not only has this politics undermined the universities’ integrity, but it has promoted chaos and outright discrimination based on race-ratio appointments, lacking any merit or quality and integrity. It has demolished not only good research at the lower staff levels, but has also obstructed the reaching of the highest level of research outcomes that should be uniquely vested and practised in the Circle of Research Completeness, such as for instance the publishing of books based on published theses, journal articles, traditional theses, etc.52-60

  1. Suggestions on the writing of the article-thesis and -dissertation8-11,13,16-25

The aim and strategy of this article was to offer information and guidance on how to write the article-thesis, based on the guidelines of various universities and other learning institutions. This outcome was obtained as a combined guideline from the data of the above three sections’ guidelines, namely 3.3.2. Writing of the research proposal, 3.3.3. Writing of the journal article and 3.3.4. Writing of the article-thesis.  It is thus suggested that all persons involved with the writing, supervising and examination of the article-thesis should study in-depth the above guidelines compiled in this article before enrolling for the thesis-program.

There are some suggestions to make at the close of the article on how the compiling and writing of the article-thesis — from the start to its final presentation to the supervisor — must be planned and executed.

Firstly, it is important that when the student decides on the study and is looking for an aspirant supervisor, to do his/her homework well. From day one he should only have contact with a supervisor showing a sound record of senior/advanced research: a supervisor whose CV includes the holding of an article-PhD in the same research field as the student’s planned article-PhD, while he/she reflects abilities, skills, experience and training such as the following:

  1. a) the successful sole-author of at least five accredited journal articles; or
  2. b) the successful co-author of at least seven accredited journal articles;
  3. c) the successful sole-supervisor of at least two Phd-article-theses, and/or at least four masters-article-dissertations; or
  4. d) the successful co-author of at least four PhD-article-theses, and/or at least six masters-article-dissertations;
  5. e) if a selected university cannot deliver the required supervisor and/or accompanying infrastructure, move on. South Africa does have 26 universities active in some way in post-graduate training and surely in the delivery of the article-thesis and -dissertation. Try them out one-by-one: Most do now have a well-developed online offering of programmes (especially refined after the advent of Covid-19): a student living in Cape Town is free to enrol at a Johannesburg university, distance is not an impediment, as the University of South Africa’s country-wide enrolment of students confirms.

The above recommended setup could be avoided if our country has an established category of prescribed registered qualifications that supervisors of the article-dissertation and -thesis must possess before they are allowed to supervise a masters or a doctorate. (This category of prescribed registered qualifications should be similarly applicable to the examiner of the article-masters and -doctorate). Some European universities have already solved in some way the problem of supervisor- and examiner-incompetence long ago by the issuing of recognised university qualifications/registrations to qualify as supervisors and examiners. The École Saint Thomas ďAcquin of the Université catholique de Louvain offers the professional degree Maȋtre Agrégé (M.AGG or Magister Aggregatus) or Professeur Agrégé (PRAG) as a kind of post-doctorate qualification for the supervisor and examiner. Other universities in Germany, Austria, France, Switzerland, Lichtenstein and Poland have the higher standing post-doctoral qualification of habilitation to teach at universities, namely the Dr. habil. In other cases, the title of habilitation is added to the existing doctorate, for instance: Dr. phil. Habil. Specifically, in the case of the supervisor and examiner of Masters and Doctorates, there is also a professional registration/qualification awarded which the PhD graduate academic and researcher can put behind his degree, namely the title: Privatdozent or ius docendi (the right to teach).61-66

Secondly, the aspirant student must absolutely avoid the choice of doing an article-thesis with manuscripts. This article-thesis-model can become a terrorising ghost, equal to a substandard supervisor and a degree obtained at a poor-quality teaching university or an unaccredited university. It can contaminate the student’s career and integrity. In the same contexts stands the avoiding of the three-article-thesis: do at least an article-thesis consisting of five, but preferable six and more articles.

Furthermore, it is prescribed by some universities that the supervisor’s name must be put on the journal articles as a so-called co-author, notwithstanding the supervisor’s sometimes minimum input or even zero input. If this outcome is avoidable, stay away from recognising the supervisor, and apply co-authorship only in cases where the supervisor made an extraordinary contribution.  Allowing more than one co-author on an article is a no-go area and should absolutely be avoided.

Thirdly, myself a holder of a traditional PhD as well as an article-PhD and the sole author of multi-accredited articles and books, I like to advise the aspirant student not to deliver one-by-one his/her articles for the planned article-thesis — meaning first finishing one article before taking on the next one — but to do the basic research and writing of the thesis fully as a completed project (similar to the preparation of a traditional thesis and book). After the completion of this draft thesis/book, the total data can be separated into various articles that form a consecutive, concise unity and then publish the articles together as a project/series. In this way the roadmap is laid firstly for the production of the planned series of accredited articles, and secondly for the delivery of the planned article-thesis. In addition to these publications, try to get all the thesis’s articles published inside the first two years of enrolment for the study. What is clear and confirmed by facts, is that the basic data collection can take less than one year, while the delivery and publishing of the articles may take less than six months (at most one year). The final compiling of the already published (available) articles into the thesis, can be done between three and six months, making the delivery possible of a six-article-thesis for examination inside the prescribed maximum period of a three-year enrolment. This planned approach will not only have assured the awarding of the PhD and a bursary of R30 000 and more for the student (and much honour to the student as well as his supervisor!), but assured the university of the total income of R1 080 000 (R360 000 subsidies for the PhD, plus an extra R720 000 in subsidy for the six articles at R120 000 each).

Fourthly, this basic approach to the collecting of data and the writing down of it into a comprehensive manuscript/draft book, has three excellent outcomes. In the first place it opens the door for the student to enter the Circle of Research Completeness wherein he/she not only can go on to publish a book on the research for the PhD (which should be a prerequisite in allowing a student into the article-thesis programme), but steer the student to become a life-long an active publisher of accredited articles and books (other than the substandard profile of low and minimal publications currently reflected by many academics and researchers). This active publication output can even lead to the obtention of other PhDs by the active researcher. In the second place the comprehensive manuscript/concept book as a first stage makes it possible for the student to present it to interested editors of accredited journals as a pre-view to decide if the planned articles will be acceptable. This makes the later reviewing of the separate articles much easier and will facilitate and speed up their acceptance/publishing. In the third place it is important that the student already with the start-up of his research contact various accredited journals to enquire if they would be interested to publish the planned articles as a project/series.64,65

Regarding the publishing of the articles as a series, it is recommended that it is done at one journal only. This outcome holds many benefits for the aspirant student. Certain tips, as reflected underneath, are here of great value:

  1. If it was previously agreed with the editor of the journal to do it this way (and the draft manuscript of the total research was evaluated by the editor), the process to review is speeded up and acceptance/publication is mostly fast;
  2. If the same reviewers or part of them, together with the editor of the journal, reviewed all the articles, a similarity in the quality and in the contents is assured;
  3. In accordance with the advice of publishing the articles of the article-thesis, avoid to publish one, unattached article at a time, but focussed research in such a way that it always forms a project/series, consisting of not less than three articles, but preferably five and more. [The shortest of my projects was five articles while the longest was 20 (which was published inside of a year)]. Although some journals are not keen to do it this way because of a lack of able reviewers and an incomplete infrastructure to publish fast, most well-established journals, with a well-established infrastructure of reviewers and publishing space, are very keen to do the publishing of articles this way;
  4. Avoid publishing in so-called “free page” journals: they mostly lack the infrastructure to deliver quickly on the publishing of articles and is mostly the reason why the compiling and writing of the article-thesis to be published inside the prescribed three years of study, is impeded. Do not hesitate after a so-called “pay” journal has accepted articles for publication, to ask for a discount on page fees. (This significantly benefits the university seeing that page fees are usually paid by the university where the student is doing the article-thesis, and in exchange receives up to R120 000 per published article from the DHET: this discount assures the “stretching” of the university’s research funds);
  5. Avoid the use of co-authors like the plague generally in the writing and publishing of articles. (If a co-author is a must, stick to the supervisor as a single co-author);
  6. do not get mesmerised by publishing in internationally listed journals. No-one doubts their importance, but the preference for international publishing as superior to national publishing has unfortunately overrun the mindsets of many South African academics and researchers over the years, deliberately moving their own and their students’ national publishing to the backroom, unjustifiably so. The only ones obtaining benefit from international publications are the universities that proudly reflect the international publishing on their data and at the same time receive R4 000 more for each international publication than a national publication (R124 000 for an international one against R120 000 for a national publication). The costs to publish in well-known international journals are many times twice and more those of the national one: varying many times from R4,00 per word internationally to R2,00 and less per word nationally. These high costs to publish internationally have led thereto that universities start to limit the page fee payable to publishing in accredited journals (with many times a maximum pay-out of R15 000 per article, forcing some academics to subsidise their own publishing costs from their Idea-funds or own pocket). The Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) over many years has done its best to ensure both nationally and internationally, without discrimination against any journal of quality, the presence of a comprehensive list of accredited/listed journals from where the aspirant author may feely make a choice. In total six groups exist, of which the own list of the DEHT is equally a part. This own DHET list is very strictly compiled by the DHET selectors to assure that only South African journals of integrity are allowed onto it and thus qualify to publish articles that are subsidised by the DHET. There is not a single reason why South African academics and researchers cannot and should not publish in national journals;
  7. The aspirant student of the article-thesis must not allow that he/she be enthralled by either the radicals of the article-thesis or the traditional thesis, but he/she must become a “moderate” researcher: Borrow from both and stay a supporter of the mixed-model of thesis writing. That is the only way to gain entrance into the Circle of Research Completeness and to taste what it means to be a true author/writer of many publications.

4. Conclusion8-11,13,16-25

No-one doubted that the article-thesis as a research tool can be a winner and that it can be a wealth and status generator for the universities, but to be a winner in the research community, requires some adaptation in content growth, a more diverse structure, stricter assessment rules, etc. Its traditional three-article-thesis and thesis by manuscripts show just too many shortcomings and are seen by many as nothing else than shortcuts by less well-trained and experienced students and supervisors to obtain the “golden” PhD.

A central impediment to the article-thesis making inroads into the South African research environment, is its failure to claim and to assure the training of undergraduate and postgraduate students, academics and researchers in the art of the writing the research proposal, the writing of journal articles, the writing of the article-thesis. These research tools require a totally different approach to that of the traditional thesis. This specialist knowhow is mostly absent from the present-day academics’ and researchers’ mindset. It is one of the main reasons for the unnecessary conflict between modernists and traditionalists in our present-day research community and unasked-for negativity about the article-thesis model as a creative research tool. This negative setting goes further: it has led to aspirant students shying away from enrolling for and writing the article-thesis, simply out of a sense of fear.  A prominent fear in this respect is for ultimate failure in not obtaining the PhD; essentially because of students’ lack of training to do research and to write the article-thesis, as well as the lack of skilled supervisors to steer and guide them through their studies; forcing them to adopt instead the “safer” traditional thesis.

To be a winner requires from the article-thesis some adaptation in content growth, a more diverse structure, stricter assessment rules, the three-article-thesis should become the five-article-thesis, etc.

From the research of this article on how to write the article-masters and -doctorate, it is clear that it is not only the aspirant students, but also supervisors who are in great need of obtaining an in-depth understanding of the rules, regulations and stipulations on how to do the research, preparation and writing of the article-thesis and -dissertation. Hopefully the intertwined three guidelines compiled in this article, namely: “How to write the research proposal”, “How to write the journal article” and “How to write the article-thesis and -dissertation”, would motivate and assist aspirant students and aspirant supervisors to obtain the needed knowhow.

In the next two intertwined articles, entitled: “How to examine the article-format-masters and –doctorate: Part 1” and:  “How to examine the article-format-masters and –doctorate: Part 2”,  a summarised guideline will be presented on how to examine the article-thesis and –dissertation.

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  23. Why middle-aged entrepreneurs are better than young ones. [Cited 2021 Jan. 9]. Available from https://theconversation.com/why-middle-aged-entrepreneurs-are-better-than-young-ones-96297
  24. “South African Higher Education Reviewed: Two decades of democracy”. (Including chapter on Governance). [Cited 2021 Jan. 9]. Available from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/312889357_South_African_Higher_Education_Reviewed_Two_decades_of_Democracy_including_chapter_on_Governance
  25. Transformation at Public Universities in South Africa: SAHRC Report – PMG. [Cited 2021 Jan. 9]. Available from https://pmg.org.za/committee-meeting/26226/
  26. Media Statement: SAHRC releases report on transformation at Public Universities in South Africa. [Cited 2021 Jan. 9]. Available from https://www.sahrc.org.za/index.php/sahrc-media/news-2/item/492-media-statement-sahrc-releases-report-on-transformation-at-public-universities-in-south-africa
  27. Historique – UC Louvain. [Cited 2021 Jan. 9]. Available from https://uclouvain.be/fr/instituts-recherche/isp/historique.html
  28. Professeur Agrégé (PRAG). [Cited 2021 Jan. 9]. Available from https://academiccareermaps.org/positions/
  29. [Cited 2021 Jan. 9]. Available from https://www.academiccareermaps.org/posituions/47
  30. Habitation -Wikipedia. [Cited 2021 Jan. 9]. Available from https://en.w.wikipedia.org/wiki/Habilitation/
  31. Why you shouldn’t immediately try to convert your dissertation into a book. [Cited 2021 Jan. 9]. Available from https://www.insidehighered.com/advice/2019/08/06/why-you-shouldnt-immediately-try-to-convert-your-dissertation-into-a-book-opinion
  32. Rackham, programs partner on doctorate completion extensions -The University Record. [Cited 2021 Jan. 9]. Available from https://record.umich.edu/articles/rackham-program-partner-on-doctorate-completion-extensions/

How to write and supervise the article-format master and doctorate (3): Part 1

Title: How to write and supervise the article-format master and doctorate (3): 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 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-thesis, doctorate, journal article, masters, proposal, supervise, write.

Ensovoort, volume 42 (2021), number 4: 1

1. Background

It must be noted that Article One: “How to position the article-format master and doctorate in the Modern-day Research culture and environment of South Africa”, found that there was no single solution or guideline that fits all universities on how the article-thesis and dissertation should be compiled and written. Although this article as well as the next article offers a combined guideline incorporating the guidelines of many prominent universities on the compiling, writing and presentation of the article-format dissertation and thesis, there are still some differences in approaches and rules between universities worldwide. This article’s guidance only serves to offer the aspirant student (as well as the aspirant supervisor and examiner) an understanding of the issues around the article-format dissertation and thesis; and as a starting point for the writing of the article-masters and doctorate within a clearly supportive framework.

1.1. Introduction

For most students, young or old, taking on the research and writing of the article-master or doctorate, it may often appear to be something of a black hole and a world never travelled before. But increasingly this impression has faded in our present internet-environment which is saturated with valuable information, constantly and instantly available. The setup today around the study for the article-master and doctorate is far more student-friendly and supportive than twenty years ago. Modern-day universities offer online easily readable and descriptive guidelines on the rules and prerequisites for enrolment in their article-master and doctorate.  It is therefore very important that students should inform themselves about the procedures, regulations and rules regarding the formatting of dissertations/theses of the universities where they intend to enrol. Some universities make use besides their guidelines and other advice, of various other kinds of support to help the aspirant student, such as prescribed templates to present and structure all the data intended to be published as a thesis or dissertation. Some of these templates leave very little space for deviation, while others are only focussed on the capturing of primary data.

There are also many role players from the private sector today assisting, for a professional fee, the inexperienced candidates from day one of their enrolment, until the handing-in of their article-dissertation or thesis. It has become the custom lately that most of the concept theses and dissertations, after having received the “green light” from the supervisors to be presented for the final examination, are first processed/corrected by these private author-service editors and language editors to make dissertations and theses fulfil all the prescriptions of the universities where candidates are enrolled. These modern-day “private-sector” academic and research-editing enterprises undoubtedly are lightening in some way the burden for students to present their theses or dissertations for examination, but it does not  fully eliminate the expert knowhow that novice students need to master the writing of the article-thesis and dissertation.

The fact is that the candidates must themselves be the initial data collector, compiler and note taker of the data, transforming it into draft academic/research documents, equal to those for final theses or dissertations. Here, as mentioned in the first article of the series, we are again reminded of the age-old adage applicable to all students, namely: “…to pass successfully a test, to take an oath of allegiance and to pay a fee”, as a prerequisite for the obtention of the licentia docendi and the awarding of the honourable titles of master (magister) or) doctor (docere). Thus, for the awarding of the much sought-after licentia docendi — the end product of the student’s study — the article-dissertation or -thesis must be strictly the student’s own work. There is no way around it.1-6

The above prescribed and required academic and research integrity and knowhow are well-reflected in the rules of the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA)7 that state 7:3: “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.”

This mandatory selfauthorship of the research and writing of his/her own thesis/dissertation by the candidate which requires beforehand an in-depth understanding of thesis writing, represents one of the main reasons why this article on how to write the article-thesis and -dissertation was compiled and written.8-11 ● It is important to note at this stage in the writing of this article that its title includes two specific references: writing and supervising. Although the contents of the article continuously refer to the aspirant student of the article-masters and -doctorate, this reference is equally applicable to the aspirant supervisor that needs to guide the aspirant student in his writing of the article-thesis or -dissertation. In South Africa there is at this stage a dire shortage of capable supervisors to steer students through their article-theses and -dissertation studies. This unfortunate situation determines that the educational matter and aims of this article are at all times equally applicable and needed by both the student and supervisor. To avoid the unnecessary repetition of the same information in the process of addressing, guiding and training both the aspirant student and the aspirant supervisor on how to write the article-thesis and -dissertation, the reference aspirant student must be seen and read as similar to the reference aspirant supervisor throughout this article. Note: Regarding the required knowhow and abilities of examiners of the article-thesis and -dissertation, is it also clear that few are well-trained and experienced in this field and can in general be described as aspirant examiners or more appropriately in some cases as novice examiners-in-training. This article’s guidance and training are thus equally applicable to the aspirant examiner as a first training lesson before he/she later goes on to the more complicated training program of how to examine the article-masters and -doctorate (see Articles Five and Six of the series of seven articles). In this context it must be noted that the aspirant supervisor should also as a prerequisite training lesson, master the contents of Articles Three, Five and Six of the series to be a capable supervisor in the end.

This article entitled: “How to write and supervise the Article-Masters and -Doctorate: Part 1” and the next article entitled: “How to write and supervise the Article-Masters and -Doctorate: Part 2”, is a continuing process regarding the writing of the research proposal, journal article and the article-thesis and -dissertation that was commenced in Article One. The broad information, as reflected in Article One on the rules, regulations and stipulations on the writing of the research proposal, journal article and article-thesis and -dissertation, will be summarised and used as a guide on how to write the research proposal, journal article and article-thesis and -dissertation.8-11,13,16-25

1.2. Aims of the article

The purpose of this article, as part one of two intertwined articles, is to provide a framework or guideline to assist aspirant students (as well as supervisors and aspirant examiners) in their preparation for the writing of the research proposal and journal article. To realise this aim, the research and writing practices of various universities and other institutions as to the writing of the research proposal and article have in this article been incorporated into two combined guidelines on how to write the research proposal and the research article. 8-11,13,16-50

In the next intertwined article, entitled: “How to write and supervise the Article-Masters and -Doctorate: Part 2”, the aim is to provide a framework or guideline to assist aspirant students (as well as supervisors and aspirant examiners) in their planning, compiling and writing of the article-thesis and -dissertation. To realise this guideline the research and writing practices of more than fourteen universities and other institutions of learning have been incorporated.8-11,13,16-50

1.2.1. Scope of article (Continues in Article 4)

The information applies to students and supervisors of the article-master’s and article-doctorate, presented as a collection of essays or articles.

2. Method (Continues in Article 4)

The research has been 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 concerning the writing and publishing of the article-format dissertation and thesis. By this method the focus is on being informative to the various local and global approaches to the delivery of article-format theses or dissertations. The sources include the guidelines of universities and other institutions on the writing of the article-thesis for the period 2017 to 2021.

The research findings are presented in narrative format.

3. Results and discussion (Continues in Article 4)

3.1. The writing of the journal article and the research proposal in perspective

The presentation of the two subsections, the writing of the journal article and the research proposal, is a comprehensive and complicated process (more than 20 A4 pages).  The comprehensiveness of the contents in the two subsections justified that both should have to be placed and discussed in a separate article in this project under the heading: “How to write, supervise and examine a research proposal and a journal article.” But, to keep the focus on the writing of the article-thesis and -dissertation and to maintain the unity and succinctness of this article and that of its intertwined Article Four (“How to write and supervise the article-format-masters and -doctorate: Part 2”), as well as that of the seven articles of the series as a whole, it was decided to place subsections 3.3.2: Writing of the research proposal, and 3.3.3: The Writing of the journal article, as an internal part of this article titled: “How to write and supervise the article-format-masters and -doctorate: Part 1”. It undoubtedly, notwithstanding the lengthening of the article’s contents and pages, helped to make the information better readable, focussed and streamlined, in order to provide in the end an in-depth and a better understanding of the process of writing the article-thesis.26-34,41-50

3.2. Open-guide Approach

This division with its manifold prerequisites, rules, discretions and traditions unique to the article-format thesis, as well as the elements and/or concepts associated with it, were comprehensively elaborated in the previous two intertwined articles (Numbers 1 and 2).

3.3. The Closed-guide Approach

3.3.1. Overview

When addressing the writing of the article-masters and -doctorate, the presence of two related and pre-established research entities attain prominence, namely a) the writing of the research proposal of the article-thesis and -dissertation; and b) the writing of the journal article. It is essential that these two research outcomes are firstly addressed before the writing of the article-thesis can commence.

The allocation of a primary position to the article-thesis and the boasting around it in the literature on the subject, has led thereto that its basic foundation, namely the journal article and the writing of the journal article as specific research entities, have in the past and even today been relegated to a secondary position. A critical analysis of the literature shows it is mostly ignored in the guidelines on the writing of the article-thesis and -dissertation of most universities. The hard reality that is ignored further here, is that the article-thesis can in no way be realised without the prerequisite research proposal to plan and to guide the aspirant student on the best path to follow to actuate the article-thesis or -dissertation.

Without the research proposal being accepted by the university where the student intends to enrol for the PhD or Masters, there is not and cannot be a second outcome such as the journal article(s) to form the basis of the article-thesis, or the possibility to write the much spoken-of article-thesis itself. These two prerequisites, so as to proceed with the writing of the article-thesis, will firstly be reflected on underneath.8-11,13,16-50

3.3.2. Writing of the research proposal26-34

The entity research proposal is described by Sudheesh,  Duggappa and Nethra26 as a detailed plan or a “blueprint” for executing later on the article-thesis and -dissertation. They emphasise that with an excellent research proposal in place the whole research project to  realise the article-masters or doctorate will flow smoothly26:1: “A clean, well-thought-out proposal forms the backbone for the research itself and hence becomes the most important step in the process of conduct of research.”

But in this context, it must be mentioned that today the research proposal plays mostly an insignificant role at the start of the article-thesis (even for the traditional thesis): it is either absent from post-graduate schools’ stock of guides, or where it is implemented at post-graduate schools, it is of substandard quality.26-34

A further problem is that, where some form of guideline is available at the Postgraduate Schools of various universities, oftentimes there is not much uniformity in the approach, descriptions and executions of it, leading to conflicting instructions between various universities. This deviation is confirmed by Sudheesh et al26 when they write26:3: “The contents or formats of a research proposal vary depending on the requirements of [the] evaluation committee and are generally provided by the evaluation committee or the institution.”

The awarding of an acceptance of the thesis proposal by the research committees of universities is determined by various factors, as for instance the complexity of the research plan, the experience of the aspirant student and his/her supervisor, permissions needed to execute the research, the costs involved in the study, etc. This process is sometimes rapidly completed, while in other cases it may be a time-consuming process.  It is only after the acceptance of the thesis proposal and the appointment of a supervisor or supervisors, that the student is free to start his research.26-34

In my forty years of research experience at universities I have not seen one single written guideline of excellence on how to specifically write the research proposal for the Masters or PhD. My recent enquiries in the performance of this research activity at a specific university faculty, showed that its students were guided exclusively by supervisors’ and staff-members’ so-called “knowhow, experience and verbal talk”, together with the use of old, outdated research proposals that had previously been presented by the faculty’s students. A dynamic guide for the writing of the research proposal for doing a Masters or PhD (also the guides for writing the journal article and article-thesis) is still sadly absent at the specific faculty, despity an urgent need for it that has been felt over many years. Moreover, it seems that there are often planned obstructions in faculties regarding the approval of research proposals in which personal vendettas between staff block the approval of good proposals, while poor proposals, supported by a negative staff group, are often approved. The introduction of Black Academic Research Economic Empowerment (BAREE) – which seems many times nothing else than ANC Black Cadre Academic Research Economic Empowerment (ABCAREE) — at universities and their Postgraduate Schools with the sole intention of the empowerment through race-appointment of less trained and experienced staff as a priority, also placed politics in the centre of blocking the delivery of research proposals (and thus also blocking the start of one’s research for masters and doctorates). A prominent feature of this phenomenon is substandard staff and leadership that take the lead to demolish any positive academic activity and research which they see as “Apartheid-tainted”. This not only leads to a decrease in article output, but a lack of properly trained staff and well-seasoned mentors to train the newcomers to the South African academy. It was thus no surprise that in some cases aspirant students took up to twelve months before they could register their topics and could start their masters and PhDs (while still lacking in some cases able supervisors). It is thus also no surprise that forty percent of the initial applicants interested to enrol with the faculty for the masters or PhD, moved on to other, more dynamic and organised faculties of other universities which are less constrained by BAREE and a poor academic and research culture. Now, with Covid-19 and the comprehensive movement online by residential universities it makes it possible for students to enrol postgraduate at many universities. Surely the negative outflow of 40% of aspirant postgraduate students will increase rapidly from the specific university’s faculty. This chaos may to a great extent be ascribed to the absence of a research proposal of excellence.35-40

The research proposal, to activate a specific research project such as the article-thesis or dissertation, is embedded in, circumscribed and guided by a clearly established framework. This framework — which must be seen by the aspirant student as the guide and outline for the ̴start of his thesis or dissertation research project through the research proposal – gives a roadmap of the planned research project and the total research outcomes that may be expected. How the research or thesis proposal must be compiled and written to fulfil certain prerequisites is mostly characterised by the following common elements34:1:

  1. A specific issue, problem, or matter in society, science, politics, etc. is identified;
  2. Other researchers’ work on the topic is collected and evaluated;
  3. Data necessary to solve the issue, problem, or matter is collected by the student or obtained independently;
  4. Data are analysed using techniques appropriate to the data set;
  5. Results of the analysis are reported and are interpreted in light of the initial issue, problem, or matter.

The mastering and mapping of the research project have two clear intentions or aims: Firstly, the positioning of the specific purpose of the research proposal should demonstrate that the thesis topic addresses a significant research issue, problem, or matter; that an organised plan is in place for collecting or obtaining data to help solve the issue, problem, or matter; and that methods of data analysis have been identified that are appropriate to the data set. The second purpose of the research proposal is to train the aspirant student specifically in the art of proposal writing in general (something he/she should already be trained for during the honours degree). This represents an instrument that he/she may use also in his/her future career where proposal writing for funding, research, etc., plays a central role, within or outside the student’s possible future role as an academic, a researcher, a supervisor and examiner of article-theses and dissertations, etc. Thirdly, the basis of the research proposal has many of the elements of the article-thesis included, thus further facilitating journal-article writing as well as the writing of the article-thesis which ultimately becomes a much easier exercise.8-11.13,16-50

It must be made clear at this stage to the aspirant student (as well as his/her supervisor) that the best laid out research plan can go awry because of unforeseen circumstances, ending or erasing some or all the elements of the initial research proposal. This may make necessary a rewriting of the research proposal or even a reformulation of the topic of the planned article-thesis. Most universities’ guidelines on the writing of the article-thesis indeed makes provision for these kinds of adaptations, ensuring still the successful outcome of the planned thesis or dissertation. In this regard, the following sympathy and advice for the aspirant student by seasoned supervisors and examiners of the article-thesis and -dissertation are helpful and very positive34:1:

We are well aware that the best laid out research plans may go awry, and that the best completed theses sometimes bear only little resemblance to the thesis planned during the proposal. Therefore, when evaluating a thesis proposal, we are not trying to assure ourselves that you have clearly described a sure-fire research project with 0% risk of failure. (If there was no risk of failure, it wouldn’t be research).

Instead, what we’re interested in seeing is if you have a clear handle on the process and the structure of research as it’s practised by our discipline. If you can present a clear and reasonable thesis idea, if you can clearly relate it to other relevant literature, if you can justify its significance, if you can describe a method for investigating it, and if you can decompose it into a sequence of steps that lead towards a reasonable conclusion, then the thesis proposal is a success regardless of whether you modify or even scrap the actual idea down the line and start off in a different direction. What a successful thesis proposal demonstrates is that, regardless of the eventual idea you pursue, you know the steps involved in turning it into a thesis.

What are the various primary prerequisites which an aspirant writer of the research proposal (very much equal to those of the journal article and article-thesis) must in his/hers writing approach and efforts fulfil? Sudheesh et al.26 put these prerequisites more as aims and as requests — in line with the elements encountered earlier in the description/contents of the framework that circumscribes the research proposal — to the foreground26:2:

A proposal needs to show how your work fits into what is already known about the topic and what new paradigm will it add to the literature, while specifying the question that the research will answer, establishing its significance, and the implications of the answer.

The proposal must be capable of convincing the evaluation committee about the credibility, achievability, practically and reproducibility (repeatability) of the research design.

Four categories of audience with different expectations may be present in the evaluation committees, namely academic colleagues, policy-makers, practitioners and lay audiences who evaluate the research proposal.

A researcher must be balanced, with a realistic understanding of what can be achieved. Being persuasive implies that the researcher must be able to convince other researchers, research funding agencies, educational institutions and supervisors that the research is worth getting approval.

At the start of the description regarding the writing of the research proposal, it is important to refer back to the earlier framework that circumscribes the article-thesis in which the research proposal assumes a central position: the description of the Contents or the Structure of the proposal is a prerequisite. But to speak here of a single description, is impossible: various descriptions stand out here, varying from broad ones to comprehensive ones. The basic elements required as emphasised by most of the guidelines, are: Cover page, Introduction, Literature Review, Research Design and Reference List, while others in this context reflect the various elements and their descriptions more comprehensively.26-34

For presenting the outline of the elements of the research proposal compiled for this article, a combined research proposal was structured according to the research proposals of various institutions.26-34This comprehensive proposal is reflected underneath under the heading of Research Proposal. It consists of three parts or subheadings, namely 3.3.2.1. Basic Introduction, 3.3.2.2. Contents or Structure and 3.3.2.3. Summary.

An important characteristic of this combined-compiled proposal, as emphasised already, is that its structure is very similar to that of an article-thesis and -dissertation itself – the end product which the proposal is aiming at. This element provides for the possibility that the aspirant student would be able to use a large fraction of the material of the research proposal in his/her article-thesis at the end.8-11,13,16-348-11,13,16-34

As a basic directive it must be emphasised that a substantial proportion of the research proposal should contain a well-developed plan devoted to the elucidation of the research plan, but it should be relatively free of contingencies having to do with such matters such as agency cooperation and the availability of data, while the length of it should normally be no longer than 25 pages (not counting appendices, etc.).26-34

The three parts (3.3.2.1. Basic Introduction, 3.3.2.2. Contents or Structure and 3.3.2.3. Summary) of the Structure of the research proposal included under the description Research Proposal (as based on the guidelines of various universities and other resources), is reflected and described underneath. The resource references26-34 will be applicable to the whole contents of the undermentioned five subsections: 3.3.2.1. Basic Introduction, 3.3.2.2. Contents or Structure, 3.3.2.3. Summary, 3.3.2.4. Retrospective on shortcomings and 3.3.2.5. Tips on the writing of the research proposal.

3.3.2.1. Basic Introduction26-34

  1. Title page

It should be a short, descriptive title of the proposed thesis project. The title’s inscription should be fairly self-explanatory.

  1. Abstract

This element reflects a brief summary of the research proposal which should not exceed more than 200 words. It should provide a brief introduction to the issue, problem or matter under investigation, while it also serves as the place to make the key statement of the planned article-thesis. Included in the Abstract must be a short summary of how the student wants to address the issue, problem(s) or matter(s) under investigation, while all work/research already completed on it and how it impacts on the planned research, may be included. [This brief summary may also be offered as part of the contents in the next subdivision (3. Basic Introduction) where a short overview of the planned research can be described].

  1. Basic Introduction – Optional

This element represents a short overview of the planned research, using keywords to reflect how the research is going to be done: See also subdivision 2. Abstract above. (This short or Basic Introduction must not be confused with the under-mentioned Introduction of the Structure).

3.3.2.2. Contents or Structure 26-34

  1. Title page or Cover page

1.1. Title of proposal

1.2. Name and affiliation of the researcher (principal investigator) and co-investigators

1.3. Institutional affiliation (degree of the researcher/investigator and name of study institution, supervisor)

1.4. Contact details of researcher such as cell and phone numbers, E-mail IDs and lines for signatures of researchers, date of delivery.

  1. Introduction

With the Introduction (also sometimes referred to as the Main Introduction), the context for the proposed project is set out with the main intention to capture the interest of readers. The data presentation must be at a level that makes it easy to understand for the reader with a general research/academic background. The background of the study must be explained, starting from a broad picture narrowing in on the research question, while a review is offered of literature on the planned research topic. The Introduction should be designed to create interest from readers concerning the topic and the intention of the proposal. It should address the question why specifically this research and what drives it, and lead to the next question on the significance of the planned study and how it compares and relates with previous studies on the issue. The pertinent here is how will the research add to knowledge, practice and policy in this research area?

  1. Literature review

This subsection reflects a synthesis/summary of the contemporary state of relevant knowledge, including an explanation of how the study will add to and build on theory. This literature review is not an exhaustive review of the total literature, but must be structured in such a way that the reader of the proposal may grasp the argument of this study and relate it to those of other researchers working in the same domain without losing the focus that the planned research is innovative, original and new. Relevant references to research on the topic must be cited: literature should thus include supportive data, disagreements and controversies. Some of the guidelines recommend that the progression of the review moves from the more general studies to the more focused studies, or that a historical description be used to develop the story around the research without making it exhaustive.

  1. Aims and objectives

In a couple of sentences, the thesis statement must be offered. This statement can be presented in the form of a hypothesis, research question, or a project or goal statement. The function of the thesis statement is to capture the essence of the planned research project and to delineate the boundaries of the research intentions. The research aim gives a broad indication of what the student wants to achieve with the research: the hypothesis to be tested can be the aim of the study, while the objectives related to parameters or tools used to achieve the aim, are generally categorised as primary and secondary objectives.

  1. Research design and Methods

The objective of this subsection is to convince readers that the overall research design and methods of analysis chosen will correctly address the research issue or problem, fulfilling the aim of the planned study. In this section the reader has to be convinced that the methodology and sources to evaluate the data are applicable to the specific topic. It means that besides the discussion of the methods and sources intended for conducting the research, must also be contain specific references to sites, databases, key texts or research data that are indispensable to the project. This outcome requires a description of the methodological approaches to gather data, as well as the techniques to analyse this data and to test it for external validity. In this section we find the overall plan of research with attention given to defining major concepts, statement of assumptions, specification of sources and nature of data, methods and techniques to be used, and a suggested plan for analysis and interpretation of data. An overall description of the research approach, materials and procedures used, is offered. In instances where instruments have yet to be developed, a clear plan for instrument development should be presented. The proposal should advance a clear operational plan concerning data management, coding, and analysis. Appendices with instruments, pilot results, codebooks for secondary data or other relevant materials may be submitted. Included hereto one encounters a description of the research methods to be used, how data will be collected and analysed (which may also include calculations, technique, procedure, equipment and calibration graphs, etc., if applicable to the project).  Limitations on the research project, as well as assumptions and the range of validity, must be detailed. If citations are offered, it must be limited to data sources, while more complete descriptions of procedures can be presented, but the results and its discussion should not be included in this section. The above-mentioned elements of the Research-design and Methods are enumerated in more detail below:

5.1. Population and sample (Where applicable)

This subsection refers to population as all elements such as individuals, objects and substances that meet the prescribed criteria for inclusion in a given universe, while the sample refers here to the subset of a population which meets the prescribed criteria to be included in the planned research. (The criteria determining included elements as well as those of excluded elements, should be clearly described together with the description of the calculation of sample size).

5.2. Data collection and analysis

This subsection deals with the process of the reduction and reconstruction of data and its analysis, including the reflection of the calculation of the sample size. The steps adopted to effect the coding and sorting of collected data, as well as the various tests used to analyse data for its robustness and significance, must be explained. (It is a prerequisite for some universities that the software and its suitability that is going to be used in the planned data analysis, as well as the name(s) of the statistician(s) who are going to analyse and rework the data (including their specific contribution to the end results of the thesis), are mentioned).

5.3. Rigour

The rigour or soundness of the research must be reflected throughout the proposal as a guarantee of the ongoing strength of the research process with respect to neutrality, consistency and applicability.

5.4. Neutrality

The robustness of the research methods must be guaranteed against bias. Specific working measures must be in place to avoid bias, viz. blinding and randomisation, to ensure that the result(s) obtained from the adopted research methods is purely a chance and not the result of other confounding variables.

5.5. Consistency

By adopting standard and universally accepted and recognised research methods and scales, it will ensure that the research findings would be the same if replicated with the same participants in a similar context.

5.6. Applicability

By adopting standard and universally accepted and recognised research methods and scales, it will ensure that the research findings would be the same if applied to different contexts and groups.

  1. Implications and contribution to knowledge

The proposal must show that the planned research fits into an existing collection of knowledge on the topic and has the potential to add a new paradigm to the literature and existing knowledge on the issue or matter.

  1. Appendices

This section includes the documents supporting the proposal. Although various approaches are followed in line with institutions’ needs for the type of documents to be included, these documents are mostly informed consent forms, supporting documents on the research intentions and plans, questionnaires, measurement tools, and information on patients included in the research.

  1. Reference, bibliography and citation lists

The three words “references, bibliography and citations” are, although different in meaning, used in proposals interchangeably and refer to all references cited in the proposal. All ideas, concepts, text, data, graphs, etc., that are not that of the aspirant student, must be cited and all statements made by the student must be backed up by with his/her own data or a reference. All references cited in the text of the proposal must be listed. Most universities allow the student to use his/her own choice of quoting/reference style, but the style chosen must be used consistently throughout the proposal. (Some guidelines recommend the use of only certain styles and descriptions in this context, as for instance on how the citing of the references to single-author, double-authors and more than double-authors, or the citing of newspaper articles, etc., must be done. Ohers suggest that the listing of all references must be cited in alphabetical order, etc. It is recommended that the student first contact the School of Postgraduate Studies where he/she intends to enrol, to obtain their rules and guide on quotations and their preferred reference style before deciding on the compiling of the proposal’s bibliography.)

  1. Ethical considerations/guidelines

The student’s proposal should clearly reflect that the total research fulfuls and meets the ethical standards prescribed for research in general as well as specifically at all times. Many studies, especially those applicable to medical and human research where special moral and ethical problems are encountered that are not usually experienced by other types of research, need safeguarding to ensure that ethical standards are met at all times throughout the planned research. This ethical guide might refer to the protection of the rights of participants, like self-determination and autonomy, privacy, confidentiality, fair treatment, protection from discomfort and harm, as well as the process of obtaining the informed consent and permission from participants and relevant authorities regarding the institutional review process. This process of ethical approval and consent requires a well-described information policy throughout. It is a requirement that informed consent needs to be obtained from participants before the research commences as well as from the research site and the relevant authorities involved in the planned research.

  1. Other research ethics

10.1. Conflict of interest

Any form of possible conflict in the planned research project — from financial, political, business, social to personal or any other interests — must be declared. If such interests are present and are not declared, the study may be declared null and void and even criminal and civil actions may follow. If there is honestly no conflict of interest, the following may be inscribed in the proposal: There are no conflicts of interest.

  1. Research schedule

A detailed description must be presented from the acceptance of the research proposal until the completion and handing-in of the planned thesis. Prominent in this respect would be the listing of the stages of research to complete, with specifically setting deadlines for each stage’s completion. If any research or field work were already completed as required to contribute to the total project being finished, it must be mentioned and described. If problems and limitations were observed and experienced at this stage of the compiling of the proposal, it must be considered and stated how these challenges are going to be addressed and overcome.

  1. Research budget

Although the preparation of a research budget is mostly not applied to the ordinary research project for the Masters or PhD, financial/funding proposals need a well-planned budget overview of expected costs, possible additional/unexpected costs, etc., and a justified list of all costs involved. It is recommended that also for the research proposal applicable to the ordinary dissertation and thesis similar budgeting as that for the funding proposal, is compiled and included in the proposal.

12.1. Financial support and sponsorship

If financial support and sponsorship is provided by a university bursary, it must be indicated. If no financial aid is received the following must be reflected under the subheading financial support and sponsorship: Nil.

  1. Revisions and Proofreading

It is important that the proposal’s grammar, spelling and punctuation are of good standard. Students are referred for assistance to a resource such as the Style Manual for Authors, Editors and Printers (Australian-orientated). The student must assure him/herself of the Postgraduate School’s preference for either the American or British spelling and punctuation conversions. At all times it is important that the language of the proposal be excellent, professionally revised and proofread before it is sent to the Postgraduate School’s proposal committee.

3.3.2.3. Summary26-34

This summarised subsection emphasised that the aspirant student/researcher must communicate his/her knowledge of the field and method of his/her planned research project to interested persons. Central to this communication is conveying of the nature of the research design and contents: the communication must start from the contents of subheading 2. Introduction and end at subheading 9. Ethical considerations as described under the heading 3.3.2.2. Contents or Structure.

Results obtained in the compiling of the proposal may be presented and put into discussion as to how it fits into the framework of the planned thesis. The contribution of new knowledge obtained during the compiling of the research proposal — information that is elaborating on existing knowhow and thus can help to understand the issue, problem or matter better, as well as why it is important and what the major implications are of this new data in addressing the research problem — should be elaborated.

3.3.2.4. Retrospective on shortcomings26-34

In retrospect, it must be mentioned that subsections 11. Research schedule and 12. Research budget offered under the heading 3.3.2.2. Contents or Structure, are not always well-addressed in the South African approach to the writing of the research proposal, although they are undoubtedly of great importance. The neglect of the elements Research schedule and the Budget (mostly because a great part of the financing of the thesis and dissertation are done mostly in-house through bursaries by universities after acceptance of the study) is one of the main reasons why some research projects got shipwrecked because the universities’ financial support is insufficient to steer the whole project to the end. Also, the failure many times to comprehensively oversee the language, technical and presentation quality of research proposals, as has been described in Revisions and Proofreading above, is a prominent short-coming that makes many proposals not only substandard, but has often led to their rejection. Notwithstanding this, subsections 9. Ethical considerations/guidelines and 10. Other research-ethics of heading 3.3.2.2. Contents or Structure, are currently well supervised and managed by most of the universities’ ethnical committees, thereby limiting exploitation and ethical wrong-doing.

3.3.2.5. Tips on the writing of the research proposal 26-34

Before the aspirant student starts his/her writing of the research proposal, it is advised that he/she firstly observes the do’s and don’ts do regarding the writing of the proposal.  This is possible by reading the many items of advice or tips on the writing of the proposal. In this context it may be mentioned that some of the guidelines on the writing of the research proposal offer valuable tips on how to present the research proposal to make it eye-catching and most of all to make it more understandable, like the use of pictures, figures, flow charts: here modern-day computer technology such as scanners and drafting programs are excellent to use where applicable. Including in these tips is the emphasis that the student in the compiling of his/her proposal must be at all times practical, persuasive and focussed to be able to link a diverse body of research together. The vision of a crystal-clear picture of the intended research must be obtained before there can be any thinking of writing the proposal. Sudheesh et al.26 focus pertinently on the thinking and planning of the aspirant student during the pre-writing of the proposal by forcing his/her attention back to the initial aim that triggered thinking on the intended research, when they write26:2-3: “The aim of the researcher should be clearly stated in simple language that describes the research in a way that non-specialists can comprehend, without use of jargons. The proposal must not only demonstrate that it is based on an intelligent understanding of the existing literature but also show that the writer has thought about the time needed to conduct each stage of the research.”

Another important tip, that is mostly ignored in the presenting of the research proposal (as already show out earlier in 13. Revisions and Proofreading), is the need that its language and grammar must be of top quality. Thankfully a small section of critics on the writing of the research proposal do not hesitate to state that one of the most neglected aspects of the research proposal (mostly because of neglect by Postgraduate Schools) – as opposed to the mostly excellent language presentation of the article-thesis when it is finally presented for examination — is its often the poor language standard. This aspect must be within the context of the research proposal’s secondary position within the writing of the article-thesis as well as the journal article. It is recommended that the aspirant student, notwithstanding his/her own use of modern word processing programs, sends his/her research proposal for language editing to a professional author-language service before being presented to the post-graduate committee of the faculty where he/she intends to enrol for the article-thesis/dissertation.  The guidelines of some universities are also very helpful on the correcting aids and services available regarding the language aspect of the research proposal.26-34

One of the guidelines34 used by me in the compiling of this combined research proposal notes well describes the importance of revising and proofreading the research proposal before it is sent to the Postgraduate School’s proposal committee. Because of its clear and focussed message to the often unconcerned student trying to get his/her Masters or PhD, I would like to quote it directly34:4:

  • Poor grammar and spelling distract from the content of the proposal. The reader focuses on the grammar and spelling problems and misses keys points made in the text. Modern word processing programs have grammar and spell checkers. Use them.
  • Read your proposal loud – then have a friend read it aloud. If your sentences seem too long, make two to three sentences instead of one. Try to write the same way that you speak when you are explaining a concept. Most people speak more clearly than they write.
  • You should have read your proposal over at least 5 times before handing it in.
  • Simple wording is generally better.
  • If you get comments from others that seem completely irrelevant to you, your paper is not written clearly enough. Never use a complex word if a simpler word will do.

The above focus on tips brings us to two important questions:

  1. What is the very first step to take by an aspirant student when he/she decides on postgraduate study for a Masters or PhD? and
  2. In light of the comprehensive guideline on the prescribed contents of the research proposal as presented in this article, what is the best order in which to write a research proposal to make it easily and quickly executable for presentation to the proposal committee?

Firstly, it is advised that after the student has decided to study further in his/her field of research, he/she should make as a first step contact with an applicable faculty of the university that is going to handle and manage his/her planned study. Mostly this contact-making by the aspirant student would focus on a specific person at a university whose skills and experience correlate with the planned study as a “temporary” supervisor to start the “basic planning”, while in other cases, after the student’s direct contact with/enquiry at the university, such a person is allocated to the student. After comprehensive talking and discussions under the direct guidance of the “temporary” supervisor(s) on the intended study, it is mostly followed by the activation process to put together a basic, informative summary of how the study is going to be addressed. This outcome, after further discussions, leads mostly to the first stage of the final research proposal. The next step for the aspirant student is to contact the research committee which is managing and steering his/her field of study and present his/her draft proposal to them. With the guidance of this committee the student develops a proposal for review and approval.13,18,26-34

Secondly, good starting advice for the novice student in compiling and writing his/her proposal, is to read the condensed tips underneath, entitled34 “Order in which to write the proposal”, by one of the institutions which advises to proceed in the following order34:4:

  1. Make an outline of your thesis proposal before you start writing
  2. Prepare figures and tables
  3. Figure captions
  4. Methods
  5. Discussion of your data
  6. Inference from your data
  7. Introduction
  8. Abstract
  9. Bibliography
  10. This order may seem backwards. However, it is difficult to write an abstract until you know your most important results. Sometimes, it is possible to write the introduction first. Most often the introduction should be written next to last.

I fully agree with the above tips which, in the initial compiling and writing of the proposal, place the Introduction and Abstract as secondary in importance and as last outcomes: I have used an adapted version of it very successfully for years in compiling proposals and it has always resulted in excellent outcomes.

In closing this subsection on “how to write the research proposal”, there is no doubt to me that it is a far more complicated process and exercise than most students, academics and researchers realise or are able to handle. It seems that most of the aspirant students, supervisors and examiners of the article-thesis and -dissertation are novices in the writing of the correct research proposal. This research “chaos” necessitates urgent intervention and improvement.

3.3.3. Writing of the journal article 26-34,41-50

Boon in 2017 writes41:1:

If you’ve trained as a scientist, you knew that part of the learning curve involves figuring out how to write a scientific paper. Unfortunately, a few scientists receive explicit instruction in writing papers – researchers by definition are expected to know how to write.

When you’re a grad student, your supervisor is there to guide you through the paper publication process, as it’s in their best interests to have you publish the outcome of your research with them.

Once you become an independent scientist, however – whether that’s in academia, industry, or at an NGO – writing research papers can be a frustrating and lonely experience.

The difficulty as an early career researcher lies in making the time to learn how to write a good paper while also teaching yourself R stats and maybe a bit of Bayesian statistical methods, coming up with new pedagogical approaches to engage your students – or figuring out how to manage a work team, applying for a shrinking pot of grant fuds, starting up a lab or getting familiar with a new job.

The above statement is full of contradictions and nullifications/anomalies. It is clear that the writing of the research article was not in the past and still is not today an essential part of the training of most graduates in South Africa. Neither is it a characteristic of most academics and researchers to oversee and to supervise in-depth and with eagerness the output of the research articles of their students: mostly because thesis supervisors were themselves as students seldom exposed to article writing per se and are still struggling to master article writing. For these academics and researches, as for their students, the writing of research papers today is all but a frustrating and lonely experience. This sad story regarding the poor condition of our research culture and environment has already been sufficiently told in the previous subdivision as to the chaos around the writing of the research proposal. Such chaos ought to be addressed if the article-thesis and -dissertation are to be born formally as effective research tools.13,18,26-34

3.3.3.1. Overview26-34,41-50

In light of the importance of the role of the journal article inside the functioning and in the construction of the article-thesis and -dissertation, it was decided to address next the writing of the journal article, before providing guidance on the writing of the article-thesis and -dissertation itself. Again, the various guidelines of universities and other sources were used to offer a combined guideline on how to write the accredited journal article.26-34,41-50 All the data offered underneath in subsection 3.3.3. Writing of the journal article, are based on these specific resources.26-34,41-50

Journal articles are the exclusive foundation bricks of the article-thesis and -dissertation: It is the heart of the article-thesis and undoubtedly needs more enlightening. Indeed, article writing must be the first step in article-thesis’s writing: With an excellent basis of knowhow and experience of article writing, the compiling of the article-thesis should be a natural outcome and comparitively easy. The present-day research culture of jumping from here to there without doing anything constructively — as characterised by a lot of talk but lacking plans and deeds for instance to introduce in a comprehensive and dynamic way the article-thesis and -dissertation into our research environment — confirms the neglect of journal-article writing, and how the article-thesis writing should comprehensively be approached and executed.26-34,41-50

The writing of the article-thesis is primarily based on the collection of new data and the publishing of it in accredited-journal articles. In combination to these outcomes, we also find  in the contemporary research setup the aim and intention of the extracting of research-data from the published traditional thesis — to be rewritten in an accredited journal article or accredited journal articles — in the same way as followed for the construction of the journal articles from unspecific data to create the article-thesis. Indeed, for a small number of academics and researchers there is at the moment also the aim and intention not only to compile new research data with a common topic in such a way that it may be published in an accredited journal or journals and at the same time fit into an article-format thesis, but also to channel this data into a book. [This research practice and approach will later on be focussed on in some depth in Article Four of the series].26-34,41-50

Given that this article is focussing on the compiling and writing of the article-format thesis wherein the journal article takes a central place, it is important to provide guidelines telling the aspirant author about the elements unique to a journal article, as well as how a collection of journal articles may be transferred into a dissertation or thesis. Prominent here is the scope and style of the journal article. The construction and profile of a single journal article (as well as the construction and profile of each of the separate journal articles that constitute the article-thesis) are many times equal to that of the article-thesis: this similarity is such that the journal article is often referred to as a kind of a “article-mini-thesis”.26-34,41-50

Various excellent guidelines are available for the writing of the journal article on the internet, while many oversees universities offer their own well-described guidelines to their aspirant students who intend to do the article-thesis and -dissertation.26-34,41-50 My observation of the South African setup regarding the training of postgraduate students to be able to write the journal article with excellence, is unfortunately that it is of the same substandard quality as for training in the writing of the research proposal. Very few South African universities offer thorough in-house training on honours and masters level, giving the opportunity to students to master the challenge on how to write the journal article. As already show pointed out several times in this research project, it seems that a large section of academics and researchers of universities lack knowhow themselves on how to write, supervise and examine the journal articles and thus to publish themselves. At the moment most Postgraduate Schools’ staff have side-stepped their responsibilities and shortcomings in this context by the hiring of consultants to offer article-writing-training through workshops, which are not really having the desired effect, as evidenced by the low output of research articles by many of South Africa’s full-time academics and researchers.26-34,41-50

Three approaches to article-writing exist: The standard or full-length article as reflected in this research under IMRAD, the Short (or brief) Communication/Report (±3,500 words) which makes a considerable contribution to existing literature and the Rapid Communication/Report which represents so-called “hot data” and is used in highly competitive and fast-moving research fields such as medicine. For this research the focus was on the standard journal article. ● [The race to get out fresh research data as fast as possible to crack Covid-19, is a good example of how researchers at the moment are bypassing with the Rapid Communication/Report the peer reviewing of articles and the unnecessary blocking of the publishing of data to get “hot” information out. There is no doubt that these manifold rapid reports will be collected in a year’s time to constitute various comprehensive publications and full-length articles on Covid-19].50

As with the research proposal, a basic structure, consisting of various elements, is also prescribed for the design of the journal article. In this context, we may firstly refer to the elements of its Contents or its Structure.26-34,41-50 Five basic elements are mentioned by most guidelines under the heading of Main Text: Introduction, Literature Review, Research Design and Reference List. Hereto, other guidelines reflect other compositions with more comprehensive descriptions. Some descriptions reflect ten and more elements for the structuring of the journal article. Some differences in the description or reflection of the elements occur, depending on the target audience of articles, such as for medicine, science, humanities, social studies, etc.

The elements and descriptions of the current research in section 3.3.3. Writing of the journal article were obtained and are based on the guidelines on how to write the journal article from ten contributors (universities and other learning institutions).41-50 Supportive data were also incorporated from the guidelines on how to write the research proposal from nine contributors (universities and other learning institutions) in section 3.3.2. Writing of the research proposal.26-34All data discussed in this section are thus mostly based on these nineteen sources and will continuously be reflected underneath in section 3.3.3.2. IMRAD-system and its five subsections: 1 Introduction, 2. Research-design and Methods 3. Results, 4. Summary and 5. Back Matter. Also, the data of the two sections described underneath, namely 3.3.3.3. Basic tips on the writing of a journal article, and 3.3.3.4. Some tips on the writing of articles from published traditional thesis, are based on these nineteen main contributors’ guidelines describing how to write the journal article.26-34,41-50

3.3.3.2. IMRAD-system26-34,41-50

In this article the construction of its guideline for the writing of a journal article, its presentation of the Main Text presentation was built around the IMRAD-system with its four elements: Introduction, Methods, Results and Discussion. For the writing of this article’s guideline on how to write a journal article, the IMRAD-system’s elements were extended to include five subsections: 1. Introduction, 2. Research design and Methods, 3. Results, 4. Summary and 5. Back Matter.

  1. Introduction26-34,41-50

The main intention here is to capture the interest of readers: the data presentation must be at a level that makes it easy to understand by readers with a general research/academic background. The background of the study must be explained, starting from a broad picture narrowing in on the research question, while a review is offered of literature on the planned research topic. The Introduction should be designed to create interest among readers about the topic and bring forward the question why specifically this article was done and what drives it: it must pose the question on the significance of the article, how it compares and relates to previous studies on the issue and how will the research add to knowledge, practice and policy in this research area. Included in this context we find a short literature review which should reflect the present-day state of relevant knowledge, structured in such a way that the reader can grasp the argument related to this study in relation to that of other researchers working in the same domain without losing the impression that the planned research is innovative, original and new. Relevant references to research on the topic must be cited and literature should thus include supportive data, disagreements and controversies, while the progression of the review must move from the more general studies to the more focussed studies.  A further element that should be offered in a couple of sentences is the thesis statement (aims and objectives) in the form of a hypothesis, research question, or a project or goal statement to capture the essence of the planned article and to delineate the boundaries of the article’s intentions; the aim gives a broad indication of what the student wants to achieve with the research; the hypothesis to be tested can be the aim of the study. Hereto the objectives related to parameters or tools used to achieve the aim, are generally categorised as primary and secondary objectives.

  1. Research design and Methods26-34,41-50

The objective of this section is to convince the readers that the overall research design and methods of analysis were applicable to the specific topic and had correctly addressed the research issue or problem, fulfilling the aim of the article. Attaining prominence here would be a detailed description of the methodological approach and sources used in the article: research design, settings, population studies, inclusion and exclusion criteria for data, time of study, instruments/tools/techniques used, data collection, references to sites, databases, key texts or research data that were indispensable to the article, statistical software and tests used to analyse data and to test it for external validity, the definitions of major concepts, statement of assumptions, specification of sources and nature of data, as well as a clear operational plan concerning data management, coding, and analysis. Where instruments had been developed, a clear plan for this instrument development should be presented. Here the Appendices, that include components such as instruments, pilot results, codebooks for secondary data or other relevant materials, should be submitted. Included further in the Appendices are calculations, technique, procedure, equipment and calibration graphs, etc. (if applicable to article).

Limitations on the planned article, together with its assumptions and range of validity, must be detailed under the subheading Research design and Methods. If citations are offered, it must be limited to data sources, while more complete descriptions of procedures may be presented, but the results and discussion of these should not be included in this section.

Some of the detailed elements of the Research design and Methods refer to the Population and Samples (Population: all elements such as individuals, objects and substances that meet the prescribed criteria for inclusion in a given universe, and Samples: the subset of a population which fulfils the prescribed criteria to be included in the planned research. The criteria guiding inclusion elements as well as the exclusion elements, should clearly be described together in the description of the calculation of sample seize).

The subsection Data collection and Analysis deals with the process of the reduction and reconstruction of data and its analysis, including the calculation of sample size as will be done in the article. The steps adopted to do the coding and sorting of collected data, as well as the various tests used to analyse data for its robustness and significance, must be explained. In this context it must be noted that it is a prerequisite for some universities that the software and its suitability that is going to be used in the planned data analysis, must be described. Also needed are the name(s) of the statistician(s) who are going to analyse and rework data, as well as their specific contribution to the end results of the thesis, which should be described.

The Research design and Methods must reflect the rigour or soundness of the research, showing the article’s ongoing strength regarding the research process with respect to the three components: neutrality, consistency and applicability. The neutrality of the article’s research method(s) must be confirmed, assuring the robustness of its research method against bias and to ensure that the result(s) obtained from the adopted research method is purely by chance and not impacted by other confounding variables. The element of consistency must bear out that the planned article will successfully adopt standard and universally accepted and recognised research methods and scales to ensure that the research findings would be the same if replicated with the same participants in a similar context. Also, the element applicability must ensure that the research findings of the article through its adoption of standard and universally accepted and recognised research methods and scales, would be the same if applied to different contexts and groups.

  1. Results26-34,41-50

The results must answer the research question through the presentation firstly of primary results, followed by secondary results. These results are to be demonstrated by the use of text, tables, graphs, etc., to present the research data obtained in a clear, organised way. In this context the element of implications and contribution to knowledge is central as evidence to confirm that the article fits into an already known collection of knowledge on the topic and that it has the potential to add a new paradigm to the literature and existing knowledge on the issue or matter. The data that are backing continuously and comprehensively the results of implications and contribution to knowledge, are accommodated, delivered and evidenced by the four elements Appendices, Reference, Bibliography and Citations.

The element Appendices assures through supporting documents that the results of the article are backed-up and true. In this context various approaches are described and followed in line with institutions’ needs of which types of documents are seen as supportive, depending on the field of study (medicine, humanity, economics, etc.). In practice the documents of the Appendices mostly include informed-consent forms, supporting documents on the research intentions and plans, questionnaires, measurement tools, and information on patients included in the research, etc.

All ideas, concepts, text, data, graphs, and so forth, presented in the discussion under Results that do not belong to the author(s) of the article, must be cited under the element of reference, bibliography or citations. All statements and references made in the text of the article, must also be fully backed up by the author’s own data or a reference that is listed in the reference, bibliography or citation lists. All the references, bibliography indications and citations should be thoroughly and correctly done and where permission is required (like the use of Images, Tables, etc., of other publications), it must be obtained from owners beforehand. It is further suggested that articles should be citation-rich throughout their contents. Regarding the use of a quoting/reference style, most universities allow the student to use his/her own choice of style with the prerequisite that the style chosen must be used consistently throughout the article. Hereto some guidelines recommend the use of only certain styles and describe specifically how the citing of the references to single-author, double-authors and more than double-authors, the citing of newspaper articles, etc., should be done. Other guidelines suggest that the listing of all references must be cited in alphabetical order, etc. As with the writing of the research proposal, it is recommended that the aspirant student first contact the School of Postgraduate Studies where he/she intends to enrol, to obtain their rules and guide on quotations and their preferred reference style before deciding on the compiling of the article’s bibliography.

The element ethical consideration and guide reflects and guarantees that the article in its totality fulfils and meets the ethical standards prescribed at all times. Those students in medical sciences and the humanities, where special and unique moral and ethical problems are encountered that are not usually experienced by the general types of research, need to adhere to ethical standards throughout the execution and writing of articles, making the element ethical consideration and guide a point of focus in the article’s Result at all times. This adherence must be based on a well-described informative policy and must ensure the protection of the rights of participants’ self-determination and autonomy, privacy, confidentiality, fair treatment, as well as protection from discomfort and harm. This policy also includes and reflects the prior obtaining of informed consent and permission from participants and relevant authorities regarding the institutional review process and the use of the research site.

Another research ethic that may negatively influence the results of an article, is the element of conflict of interest, which reflects the presence of possible poor ethics and doubtful researcher integrity. Any form of conflict in the planned article – varying from financial, political, business, social to personal or any other interests — must be declared. If interests of this kind are present and are not declared, the article’s integrity, as well as that of the author and his/her article thesis, may be declared null and void.  Criminal and civil actions may follow.

The element research schedule reflects the duration of the article’s research, the compiling and the writing of it, until the date of publication, while the two elements research budget and financial support and sponsorship are mostly not applicable to the ordinary journal article, and even the ordinary research project for the article-format Masters or PhD. If there is such involvement, it is suggested that it should be reflected. It must be noted that the funding of a research project (and the costs to see the research through) is of immense importance: lack of funds many times shipwrecked good research projects.

All the data that were offered and used above in the discussion and evidencing of the Results — as were based (where applicable) on the elements of Appendices, the Reference, Bibliography and Citations, the Ethical Consideration and Guide, the Research ethic, the Conflict of Interest, as well as the elements of the Research Budget and that of Financial Support and Sponsorship — must be described, collected and listed, together with Acknowledgements, in the subsection 5. Back Matter, that follows after subsection 4. Summary.

  1. Summary26-34,41-50

Two subheadings are covered here under the heading Summary, namely: Discussions and Conclusions.

In the summarised subsection: Discussion, the author of the planned article must communicate his/her knowledge of the field and methods in his/her article. Of central importance here is conveying the nature of the research design and contents, starting from subsection 1. Introduction and ending at subsection 3. Results of section 3.3.3.2. IMRAD-system (reflecting the Main Text).26-34,41-50

Results obtained in the compiling of the article are presented here and discussed as to how they fit into the framework of the planned article. The contribution of new knowledge obtained during the compiling of the research of the article — information that elaborates on existing knowhow and thus can help to understand the issue, problem or matter better, as well as why it is important and what the major implications of these new data are in addressing the research problem – should be illuminated.

In the discussion of the data that were collected during the research, comparisons must be drawn between the existing data collected to see what new outcomes emerged on the topic and what existing information seems to be opposing new findings and possible solutions to the problem. Other outcomes that should be addressed, are explaining certain exceptions to the research problem’s classifications, as well as certain problems that cannot be addressed by means of the article’s research findings. In this context, the author not only needs to show  the strength of the research findings, but also point out the limitations encountered by the research and thus how the initial delineation of the problem may undo the research’s possible positive contributions to solving it. On the other hand, alternative approaches, emerging from the research’s clarification, may be used to constructively address the problem and fully solve fully the delineation issue.

The subsection Conclusions represents a very important and very difficult part of article writing: it is by far not just a summary of what outcomes have preceded each other. Its intention is to make the total argument driving the research from day one with an analysis of data and findings, to put forward evidence collected in the research, new views and opinions on the problem as well as new approaches to address the matter. A short but strong conclusion, based primarily on concise positive evidence and findings as offered and pinpointed during the writing of the Summary, thus needs to be formulated and to be argued.

  1. Back Matter26-34,41-50

Under the section Back Matter six subsections are included. The first subsection Appendices includes the documents supporting the proposal. Although various approaches are followed in line with the institutions, certain types of documents need to be included, for instance informed-consent forms, supporting documents on the research intentions and plans, questionnaires, measurement tools, and information on patients included in the research.

The other five subsections are the following: Reference, bibliography and citation lists, Ethical considerations/guidelines, Other research-ethics (Conflict of interest), Research budget (Financial support and sponsorship) and Acknowledgements which may reflect a brief acknowledgment of any financial, academic or other support provided in the production of the article.

3.3.3.3. Basic tips on the writing of a journal article26-34,41-50

Various sources offer valuable tips on how to write a journal article. As with the writing of the research proposal, I have decided to include here some basic tips offered by various sources on the writing of the journal article. 26-34,41-50

The firsts tips reflected are those of the APA48 and that of Professor Marissa Rollnick of Wits:49

The APA’s tips read48:3:

  • Look at articles in the field and relevant journals to see what structure and focus are appropriate for their work and how they are formatted.
  • Request and consider the input of advisors, colleagues, or other co-authors who contributed to the research on which the dissertation or thesis is based.
  • Review an article submitted to a journal alongside their advisor (with permission from the journal editor) or serve as a reviewer for a student competition to gain first-hand insight into how authors are evaluated when undergoing peer review.

The tips of Professor Marissa Rollnick49identify four steps to be considered by the aspirant author of the journal article, namely49:1-2:

1) Deciding on authorship

You may need to decide whether this includes your supervisor and agree the order of the authors’ names. Different disciplines have different authorship practices, but in the humanities the principal author is mentioned first.

2) Planning the article

A single paper in a journal should contain a central message that you want to get across. This could be a novel aspect of methodology, a new theory, or an interesting modification you have made to theory or a novel set of findings. Decide what this central focus is. Then create a paper outline bearing in mind the need to:

  • Isolate a manageable size
  • Create a coherent story/argument
  • Make the argument self-standing
  • Target the journal leadership
  • Change the writing conventions from that used in your thesis

3) Selecting a journal

Selecting a journal is a very important step in planning the article. The journal you select should target appropriate readership, be accredited and be acceptable to your peers.  Start by asking yourself the following questions:

  • Look at your reference list. Which journals have you used?
  • Study the editorial policies of the relevant journals: some are more restricted than others (e.g., content, research paradigm, article length).
  • Scan past editions. Are there any similar papers?
  • Is it a trusted journal? There are several marks of quality and reliability to look out for in a journal, and people may judge your ability to choose appropriate journals to submit to.
  • When selecting your journal think about audience, purpose, what to write about and why. Decide the kind of article to write. Is it a report, position paper, critique or review? What makes your argument or research interesting? How might the paper add value to the field?

4) Writing the article

When writing the article consider your choice of “theoretical framework” and “voice”. Be clear what your article is about, and what it is trying to do. Finally ask your supervisor/co-author to go through the article with the following mind:

  • Use the criteria the reviewers will use.
  • Read and edit acting as a sympathetic friend and mentor.
  • Ask another colleague or friend who thinks differently to read it.
  • Get someone to edit it for language and spelling. Many authors use professional proof readers [who not only edit the language and spelling, but format the style of the article in terms of the publishing-guidelines of the journal]. This is not a sign of weakness as the editor has some distance from the article. This is particularly important if you come from a country where a different language to that of the journal is used.

An additional point here, is that when quotations from a foreign language (if you are writing in English) is used, to have it translated into English.  Regarding further the issue of ensuring the excellent status of the language and grammar of the article, the aspirant author/student is  referred back to subsection 3.3.2.5. Tips on the writing of the research proposal.26-34

An important tip is that manuscripts of journal articles must be peer-reviewed for publication if they are to be counted as research or accredited articles that are recognised by the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) and qualify for state subsidy to universities.

Other tips of importance to be noted, is advice on how to start the article specifically with suggestions on how to approach the collection and writing of the research data.26-34,41-50 The guideline is never to see the first draft of the article as the final draft, but that the manuscript must constantly be revised and be rewritten as the creative process develops; this process must be maintained until the correct, final version is reached. It is suggested by some advisors that the traditional sequence of Abstract> Introduction> Methods> Results> Discussion> Conclusion> Acknowledgments, should be changed during the initial research start-up, doing the Abstract and Introduction last, after the editing of the Main Body has been completed. It is further suggested that the development of tables and figures must be put in place before the writing down of data is started. Regarding the writing of the article itself, it is suggested that a start-up plan is positioned firstly by what to write and secondly by how to present the data. This is to be followed by the selection of data in a cohesive, original and well-reported style. As to planning, it is seen further as an essential part of the initial start-up of article writing in order to activate a setting saturated in the free flow of ideas. This planning forms the basis of a mind map or road map of the planned research project: it is seen as a large tree (the central theme), which is encircled by some branches (subthemes) that on their own can reflect new data that must be steered into other separate articles, while the essential data that are focused on the main theme, are recollected and steered back to the trunk of the tree. With a detailed plan in place the start-up as to the writing of the article may begin: in practice the student at this stage has already collected immense data on the topic, identified his/her reading audience, as well as the applicable journal to publish in. This directed outcome means the readers intimately know (as does the author) the research field as well as the terminology, the methodologies and its theoretical positioning.  This makes it is possible for the author to jump directly into his/her topic with arguments, facts and other information and thus the dynamic activation of the Introduction without unnecessary time wasted or useless descriptions.26-34,41-50

Regarding the choice of the journal to publish in, it is a first priority for the aspirant author to study various journals’ publishing and writing styles, data-collection approaches, readership, types of tables and figures used, etc. In the choice of a journal the aspirant author must also note aspects such as language, if the journal is indexed in the major electronic databases, how available is it (quarterly, monthly, yearly, broadly, or is an online version and in PDF format), and how the journal’s appearance and design fulfil the author’s needs. The reputation (like accreditation) of the journal is also of great importance, while its impact factor can be considered (although this factor many times seems to be artificially inflated and to be untrustworthy). Information on the journal’s publishing status can further be obtained from colleagues who published in it, the scrutinising of recent articles in it, who are the persons on the editorial board, the duration of reviewing time of articles before publishing (reflected by dates of submission, acceptance and issuing reflections on articles), costs of page fees, etc.26-34,41-50

It is further suggested that the author’s writing style must be formal and that any form of offensive language must be avoided. It is further suggested that the writing contents must throughout be offered well-paragraphed: each paragraph, consisting of at least five sentences, should contain one main subtheme, while the flow of information between and among the various paragraphs should be logical. To make the offering of data more understandable, subheadings may be used to focus on the main theme and to clarify the contents and the aims of the article. Another piece of advice is that students, as they collect data in preparation of writing their articles, must save the data in reference-management systems such as Mendeley, Zotero or Endnote.26-34, 41-50

3.3.3.4. Some tips on the writing of journal articles from a published traditional thesis 26-34,41-50

In the Introduction of this article there was also reference to the writing of articles from an already published traditional thesis. The approach to the writing of this kind of article, together with the elements to be collected and to be compiled for the contents of this type of article, are essentially the same as that for writing a journal article from scratch: in some way it is an easier process, seeing that the data has already been collected and even sorted around a central topic. The information that guides the writing of the research proposal and the research article, is thus fully applicable to this subsection (See the descriptions in respectively Sections 3.2 and 3.3 above).26-34,41-50

An already published (traditional) thesis many often offers enormous data that may easily be adapted into various articles. In this context the American Psychological Association (APA)48 offers a short but informative guideline on how to write or to adapt a journal article from a published thesis or dissertation. The APA’s48 guideline, elaborating on certain of the elements that are of importance in the formatting of the journal article, is offered underneath purely for informative and academic guidance, given that it supports learning in general regarding the writing of the journal article. It reads as follows48:4-6:

  1. Length: Brevity is an important consideration for a manuscript to be considered for journal publication, particularly in the Introduction and Discussion sections. Making a dissertation or thesis publication-ready often involves reducing a document of over 100 pages to one third of its original length. Shorten the overall paper by eliminating text within sections and/or eliminating entire sections. If the work examined several research questions, you may consider separating distinct research questions into individual papers; narrow the focus to a specific topic for each paper.

2) Abstract: The abstract may need to be condensed to meet the length requirements of the journal. Journal abstract requirements are usually more limited than college or university requirements. For instance, most APA journals limit the abstract length to 250 words.

3) Introduction section: One of the major challenges in reforming a dissertation or thesis is paring down its comprehensive literature review to a more succinct one suitable for the introduction of a journal article. Limit the introductory text to material relating to the immediate context of your research questions and hypotheses. Eliminate extraneous content or sections that do not directly contribute to readers’ knowledge or understanding of the specific research question(s) or topic(s) under investigation. End with a clear description of the questions, aims, or hypotheses that informed your research.

4) Method section: Provide enough information to allow readers to understand how the data were collected and evaluated. Refer readers to previous works that informed the current study’s methods or to supplemental materials instead of providing full details of every step taken or the rationale behind them.

5) Result section: Be selective in choosing analyses for inclusion in the Results section and report only the most relevant ones. Although an unbiased approach is important to avoid omitting study data, reporting every analysis that may have been run for the dissertation or thesis often is not feasible, appropriate, or useful in the limited space of a journal article. Instead, ensure that the results directly contribute to answering your original research questions or hypotheses and exclude more ancillary analyses (or include them as supplemental materials). Be clear in identifying your primary, secondary, and any exploratory analyses.

6) Discussion section: Adjust the discussion according to the analyses and results you report. Check that your interpretation and application of the findings are appropriate and do not extrapolate beyond the data. A strong Discussion section notes area of consensus with and divergence from previous work, taking into account sample size and composition, effect size, limitations of measurement, and other specific considerations of the study.

7) References: Include only the most pertinent references (i.e., theoretically important or recent), especially in the introduction and literature review, rather than providing an exhaustive list. Ensure that the works you cite contribute to readers’ knowledge of the specific topic and to understanding and contextualizing your research. Citation of reviews and meta-analyses can guide interested readers to the broader literature while providing an economical way of referencing prior studies.

8) Tables and figures: Make sure that tables or figures are essential and do not reproduce content provided in the text.

In closing subsection 3.3.3. Writing of the journal article, it is clear that the in-house training of most university faculties lack an established program to train and to skill aspirant authors/students in the writing of the journal article. This failure spreads from the  substandard contents of most of the honours programmes that fail to equip the senior student with the necessary research tools to make him/her well-prepared for taking on the article-thesis or -dissertation. This research chaos comes from the fact that many academics and researchers at universities who are responsible for supervising and examining article-thesis studies, are themselves poorly trained and experienced in article-writing themselves. The fact that most of the aspirant students, supervisors and examiners of the article-thesis and -dissertation are novices in the writing of journal articles, necessitates an urgent intervention in this research area.26-34,41-50

  • The above presentation of the two subsections, the writing of the journal article and the research proposal, were a comprehensive and complicated process (more than 30 pages). This comprehensiveness of the contents justified that both should have been placed and discussed in a separate article in this project under the heading: “How to write, supervise and examine a research proposal and a journal article”. However, to keep the focus on the writing of the article-thesis and -dissertation and to maintain the unity and succinctness of this article and that of the four articles in the series as a whole, and to make the information more readable, focussed and streamlined, it was decided to place the two subsections: 3.3.2.Writing of the research proposal; and 3.3.3.Writing of the journal article as internal parts of this article, titled: How to write and supervise the article-format masters and –doctorate: Part 1”. It undoubtedly, notwithstanding the immense lengthening of the article’s contents and pages, helps to ultimately provide an in-depth and a better understanding of the process involved in the writing of the article-thesis.26-34,41-50

In the next intertwined article (Number 4), entitled: “How to write and supervise the Article-Format Master and -Doctorate: Part 2”, the section 3.3.4. Writing of the article-thesis and -dissertation will be continued and discussed. 8-11,13,16-25

4. Conclusion8-11,13,16-66

There is no doubt that the writing of the article-thesis and -dissertation is a far more complicated process and exercise than most students, academics and researchers realised or are able to handle. It seems that most of the aspirant students, supervisors and examiners of the article-thesis and -dissertation are novices in the writing of the research proposal and the writing of the journal article. It is clear that the in-house training of most university faculties lack an established programme to train and to skill aspirant authors/students in the writing of the research proposal and journal article. This failure spreads from the substandard contents of most of the honours programmes that fail to equip the senior student with the necessary research tools to make him/her well-prepared for research and for taking on the article-thesis or -dissertation. Much of this research chaos comes from the fact that many academics and researchers at universities who are responsible for supervising and examining article-thesis studies, are themselves poorly trained and inexperienced in article writing themselves. The fact that most of the aspirant students, supervisors and examiners of the article-thesis and -dissertation are novices in the writing of the research proposal and the writing of the journal article, necessitates an urgent intervention in this research area.

The next article (Number 4), titled:“How to write and supervise the Article-Master and -Doctorate: Part 2”, the aim is to further provide a framework or guideline to assist aspirant students (as well as supervisors and aspirant examiners) in their planning, compiling and writing of the article-thesis and -dissertation.

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