Three students—Linda (BTh), Kalnisha (MTh), and Javier (PhD)—all elect to write their theses on “the Synoptic Problem”. What would be expected of each student to do justice to the topic at the level of his/her thesis? At which levels is it possible to write a thesis on “The Synoptic Problem”?Give this some thought before you move to the next slide.
Synoptic Problem: BTh LevelWhy is it possible to write a BTh thesis on “The Synoptic Problem”? The answer lies in understanding what is required at the BTh level. Linda does not need master all the literature on the Synoptic Problem, and she doesn’t need to contribute anything “new” to the discussion. All she has to do is write 40 solid pages that accurately represents the major scholarly views. That is doable.
Synoptic Problem: MTh LevelIn the quiz, I suggested that it is NOT possible for Kalnisha to write a Masters thesis on “The Synoptic Problem”. Why? Because in a Masters thesis, Kalnisha will need to demonstrate mastery of a vast body of literature on the Synoptic Problem. I doubt very much whether she will be able to do justice to the extensive body of literature on the topic. Her thesis is likely to degenerate into a dry and thin rehash of the existing views—hardly the stuff of good theses.
Synoptic Problem: PhD LevelWhat about Javier? Can he write a PhD dissertation on the Synoptic Problem? It depends. If he is just fascinated by the topic and fancies spending 2-3 years of his life researching it, it is very risky. To pass his PhD, he will have to contribute something new to the scholarly discussion of the Synoptic Problem. Considering the extensive discussion of the Synoptic Problem by the great scholars, that will be difficult. However, if Javier has done extensive preliminary study of the existing literature, and has an innovative new hypothesis to present, then his thesis could make a major contribution to scholarship. The burden of making an original contribution lies with Javier.
04 South African Thesis Requirements
By Kevin G. Smith
South African Thesis Requirements
Theological Research Seminar
What are the expectations of a thesis at each level?
• In a thesis-only programme, the MTh thesis should be
approximately 40,000-50,000 words in length, and should
contain in the vicinity of 100-150 bibliography entries.
• In a mini-thesis at the end of a coursework MTh, the
guidelines are 20,000-25,000 words and 50-75 sources.
• The MTh thesis should be properly formatted, referenced,
• The MTh thesis should be logically and linguistically coherent.
MTh: Some Basic Guidelines
• The PhD dissertation should be approximately 80,000-100,000
words in length.
• The PhD dissertation should have approximately 250-300
• The PhD dissertation should be properly formatted,
referenced, and edited.
• The PhD dissertation should be logically and linguistically
PhD: Some Basic Guidelines
BTh level MTh level PhD level
30-40 credits 180 credits 360 credits
12,000-15,000 words 40,000-50,000 words 80,000-100,000 words
30-40 pages 140-160 pages 250-350 pages
30-50 sources 100-150 sources 250-300 sources
Candidates must systema-
tically analyze the selected
topic in the field of study.
Candidates must master the
selected topic in the field of
Candidates must add new
knowledge to the field of
Comparison of Thesis Levels
• BTh level: design and execute a small research project in a
chosen field of study, showing reasonable command of the
subject area and the appropriate research methods.
• MTh level: demonstrate mastery of the literature and
research methods which relate to the chosen topic and field
• PhD level: contribute new scientific knowledge in the field of
study (assumes mastery of literature and research methods).
Comparison of thesis levels
• New knowledge
• Basic skills
• Limited scope
Comparison of Thesis Levels
•Make a significant, original, and substantial contribution
to existing knowledge at the frontiers of the discipline?
•Write a research report worthy of publication, either in its
entirety or in key sections?
•Demonstrate comprehensive knowledge of
existing research and literature in field.
•Select and properly apply appropriate
research methods with competence.
•Develop a cohesive and coherent argument
around the chosen thesis.MTh
•Identify, conceptualize, and
conduct a research project?
•Demonstrate familiarity with
academic models and methods.
competence in the presentation
of a coherent thesis.
Assessment Criteria by Level
ILLUSTRATION OF VIABLE THESES
What kind of topic can be researched at each level?
Three students—Linda (BTh), Kalnisha (MTh), and Javier
(PhD)—all elect to write their theses on “the Synoptic
Problem”. What would be expected of each student to
do justice to the topic at the level of his or her thesis?
At which levels is it possible to write a thesis on “The
Give this some thought before you move to the next
Illustration: Synoptic Problem
• Can Linda write her BTh thesis on The Synoptic
• At the BTh level, she does not need to master all the
literature or to contribute anything new.
• All she has to do is write 40 solid pages, covering the
major views in an organised manner.
• Therefore, this is doable—though not exciting.
Synoptic Problem: BTh Level
• Can Kalnisha write her MTh thesis on The Synoptic
• She is unlikely to demonstrate mastery of the vast
body of literature in a 150-page thesis.
• She is likely to write a dry and thin rehash of existing
• Therefore, this is not doable.
Synoptic Problem: MTh Level
• Can Javier write his PhD dissertation on The Synoptic
• To pass his PhD, he will have to contribute something
new to the scholarly discussion of The Synoptic Problem.
• The topic is doable if he has discovered an original
hypothesis that he can defend convincingly.
• The burden is upon Javier to make an original
Synoptic Problem: PhD Level
ASSESSMENT CRITERIA FOR A PH.D.
How will my thesis be examined?
1. Identify, understand, interpret, integrate, apply, and
communicate a body of new knowledge (original research) in
interaction with existing knowledge (current state of research
in the field of study).
2. Apply logical, theoretical, analytic, creative and systematic
thinking effectively to solve a range of problems within a
focused research context.
3. Exhibit the ability to identify and address issues of ethical
action and social responsibility in the field of research.
Exit-level outcomes for a PhD
4. Apply principles of sound research practice in collecting,
organizing, and evaluating information in terms of a critical
understanding of relevant research methodologies,
techniques, and technologies.
5. Be aware of, and be able to interact constructively with,
multicultural and multi-faith communities, from a theological
6. Apply the insights of one or more disciplines to identify and
critique issues of church and society.
Exit-level outcomes for a PhD
• Does the candidate demonstrate comprehensive knowledge
of existing research and literature?
• Does the candidate demonstrate a high level of independent
• Does the dissertation make a significant, original, and
substantial contribution to existing knowledge at the frontiers
of the discipline?
• Is the dissertation publishable, either as a whole or in part?
Core Assessment Criteria for PhD
• Demonstrate linguistic competence in the presentation of a
• Demonstrate familiarity with academic methods and models.
• Demonstrate a good understanding of the relevant academic
sources in the chosen area of study.
• Demonstrate ability to develop a cohesive and coherent
argument around the chosen thesis.
• Include material which is worth publishing.
• Add significantly to the body of existing knowledge in the
• Make an original contribution to the subject area.
Bill Domeris’ Criteria
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