Title: Levels of success in the use of the literature in a doctorate
Publication: South African Journal of Higher Education
This article explores two themes, the first is what examiners look for when judging a doctoral thesis or dissertation, the second is what constitutes an acceptable ‘level’ of doctoral scholarship. The focus of the analysis will be the literature review, chosen because it is in the presentation and use of the literature that scholarliness will be evident. The article draws together for the first time the findings of two large independent research studies on the doctorate that took place around the same time, one in the USA, the other in Australia. The aim of both studies was to make the expectations for the dissertation more transparent to graduate students. What academics expect of the literature component of the dissertation is examined in relation to ‘coverage’ and ‘use’. The findings indicate that examiners have more modest expectations of a thesis than those generally implied in the notion of academic scholarship.
See, e.g., these comments on "acceptable" dissertations re: levels of critical appraisal of the literature (or the lack thereof) (p. 1032)
There is also the related but distinct sense of the level (or lack thereof) of synthesis in the ordinary course of research papers being written. This is a bit closer to what is analyzed with the @holbrookLevelsSuccessUse2008 set of studies. There is still that question of whether the lack of visible synthesis belies a lack of "real" synthesis under the hood. Even if there is a difference, the effect on the community might be the same, especially if there is a dearth of effective review papers.