Examiner reference to theory in PhD theses
Published on Jan 2, 2015in Innovations in Education and Teaching International 1.17
· DOI :10.1080/14703297.2014.981842
As we were aware of the confusing and wide-ranging disciplinary and individual positions on the importance of theory in research, this study sought to determine how thesis examiners emphasised theory in their reports in order to inform candidate learning. While references to theory were not prominent in reports, examiner comment coalesced into six categories indicative of ‘accuracy and completeness’, ‘grasp’, ‘alignment’, ‘coherence and consistency’, ‘treatment of findings and discussion’, and ‘dimensions of contribution’. It was evident in summative comments that most examiners expected to find accuracy and grasp in a thesis. Grasp universally inspired confidence. The findings indicate positive recognition of a spectrum of sophistication in treatment of theory irrespective of discipline. Specific comment capturing a fusion of most or all the categories in one thesis was rare and always positive. Based on these categories, the paper provides clarity in what candidates need to attend to with respect to theory.