Ini Disertasi Doktor, Bukan untuk Hadiah Nobel

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A PhD is a stepping stone into a research career. All you need to do is to demonstrate your capacity for independent, critical thinking. That’s all you need to do. A PhD is three years of solid work, not a Nobel Prize (p. 386)

When I read it for the first time in 2010, I found it quite interesting and a must read for PhD students. Following are the few key takeaways:

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1) Examiners assume PhD candidates are still apprentices in the profession of research in their discipline; and so their theses are judged in terms of current competence and future promise as academic colleagues;
2) examiners appreciate work which is logically presented, focused, succinct, summarised and in which signposts are used to help readers to understand the path they are taking through the work;
3) be a report of work which others would want to read;
4) tell a compelling story articulately whilst pre-empting inevitable critiques;
5) carry the reader into complex realms, and inform and educate him/her;
6) be sufficiently speculative or original to command respectful peer attention;
7) a good indicator is the way the candidate reviews the literature and their overall grasp of what’s going on.
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Characteristics of a poor thesis:
– lack of coherence;
– lack of understanding of the theory;
– lack of confidence;
– researching the wrong problem;
– mixed or confused theoretical and methodological perspectives;
– work that is not original;
– not being able to explain at the end of the thesis what had actually been argued in the thesis
– references that are poor: ‘This is usually a sign of a poor thesis
– typos and other careless textual mistakes that indicate a lack of attention to detail
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The positive indicators that lead to initial judgment:
– sparkle, e´lan and sense of confidence with the material;
– cohesiveness and clarity;
– a student who makes the ideas his/her own, with some originality of presentation;
– professionalism—as demonstrated by mature comments, and the accuracy of the logic;
– style and sophistication.
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Examiner’s Note:
All PhDs are not equal and yet most get through. You form an impression that it is OK but not dazzling. This is often when the student applies standard theories in a rather pedestrian way. It’s not wrong, and you can’t fail it, but it’s not dazzling. In other cases you can see that the material is taken and used originally at every level—methodology, literature review, etc. Right from the beginning it makes you see an area that you thought you knew in a way that you hadn’t thought about before.

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