One aspect of the logic of the thesis concerns the relationship between the evidence you present and the conclusion you draw. The assessors of your thesis will scrutinise this relationship to see if your evidence supports your conclusions. You must present convincing evidence to support any conclusion you draw. You should never draw a conclusion unless you can validate it by means of appropriate supporting evidence. If you fail to present convincing evidence to support your conclusions, your assessors will severely penalise you. Throughout the process of writing your thesis, every time you draw a conclusion you should ask yourself whether you have presented objective, appropriate, weighty evidence to justify it. If you have not, either delete the conclusion or present the evidence. Mouton (2001:113) describes three rules of scientific evidence:Objective evidence: ‘Is the evidence “scientific”, i.e. objective and systematic as opposed to anecdotal, selective or arbitrary?’Appropriate evidence: ‘Is the evidence relevant to the research problem?’Weighty evidence: ‘Is the evidence sufficient or strong enough to support the weight of the conclusions that are drawn from it?’
Unsupported generalisations: Always ensure that you have enough evidence (empirical, experimental, documentary) to substantiate your conclusions. Students very often generalise beyond the range of the evidence that has been presented. Avoid using words such as “all” and “every” unless you are certain that there are no exceptions.Appeals based on authority: Claiming that your view is supported by an expert is not always sufficient or appropriate, and only useful if the person or “authority” quoted is generally recognised as an expert in the field.Impressing by large numbers (the bandwagon argument): Large numbers alone do not tell enough. Claims made on this basis need to be evaluated on their own merits because statistics can be misleading. For example, claiming that “75 out of 100 patients who used this therapy are still alive” does not tell the entire story.Affirming the consequent or the “post hoc” fallacy: This faulty reasoning results from a misunderstanding about what causes and event. For example, if you ate cereal for breakfast and then the phone rang, it would be wrong to assume that the phone rang because you ate cereal.False analogy: This occurs when you compare a number of cases on the basis of a few similarities and then conclude that they are similar in other respects as well. For example: South African and Zimbabwe are both African countries with developing economies, therefore, they must be similar in other respects (political history) as well. Often the dissimilarities between the cases outweigh the similarities. All relevant characteristics of the cases have to be taken into account.Circular reasoning: This is when you try to prove a point by just returning to the point itself. An example of this might be: “Stress leads to unproductive behaviour because it is so tedious.” “Unproductive” and “tedious” are very closely linked in meaning, so no new information is provided.Ad hominem reasoning (attacking the person): This directs attention away from the argument at hand by attacking the personality of the individual involved. The person arguing ignores the issue and instead turns the focus to the credibility of his or her opponent. “Not only does Candidate X support abortion, but he’s also been married four times.”Non sequitur reasoning: Non sequitur means “it does not follow”, and it refers to conclusions that do not have logical connections to the evidence provided. In other words, you are assuming a connection between events that are disconnected and unrelated. “Violence in movies has a bad effect on children; therefore, no one should see violent movies.”Red herring argument: This is when the person arguing brings in a side issue that has not relevance to the point being made. For example: “She is a good doctor; she drives a great car and is really funny.”
The titlepage must indicate the title, student’s name, degree (Master of Theology or Doctor of Theology), date submitted and name of supervisor.The disclaimer must appear at the bottom of the title page: ‘The opinions expressed in this thesis [or dissertation if DTh] do not necessarily reflect the views of the South African Theological Seminary.’The declaration follows the title page, stating: ‘I hereby declare that the work contained in this thesis [or dissertation if DTh] is my own original work and has not previously in its entirety or in part been submitted to any academic institution for degree purposes.’The summary (abstract) comes next. It is a one-page summary of the thesis or dissertation.The table of contents lists all the chapters and all the headings in the text (together with their numbering) as well as details of the page numbers on which they appear. It also lists all appendices and the bibliography.The list of tables and figures should name and number all tables, figures, diagrams and charts, indicating the page on which they appear.
With a little practice, this triadic structure of writing will become second nature to you. The principle is the same as the philosophy of teaching that says:(1) Tell them what you will tell them(2) Tell them(3) Tell them what you have told themThis threefold repetition helps to focus the reader’s attention on what is most important in the chapter.Bridging sentences (also called hinge sentences) help the reader to follow the argument of the chapter by drawing connections between sections. Bridging sentences need to point backward and forward—connecting what went before with what is about to follow.
20 The Thesis
By Kevin G. Smith
Theological Research Seminar
Even if you are competent and experienced in all the
other skills required to be or become a good scholar,
few people master the art of writing scientifically
overnight. To put together a coherent, logical, clear and
persuasive argument, because that is the literal
meaning of “thesis” or “dissertation,” usually involves
repeated practice, many drafts, and a great deal of
effort and even frustration (Mouton 2001, 112).
A thesis is, above all else, a logical report of the
research process and findings.
Logic of Validation
One aspect of the logic of the thesis concerns
the relationship between the evidence you
present and the conclusion you draw.
1) Objective evidence
2) Appropriate evidence
3) Weighty evidence
2) Appeals based on
3) The bandwagon
4) The “post hoc” fallacy
5) False analogy
6) Circular reasoning
7) Ad hominem reasoning
(attacking the person)
8) Non sequitur reasoning
9) Red herring arguments
• Title page
• Table of contents
• List of figures
• What? Begin with the background of the problem,
leading into the problem statement and main
• Why? Explain the research’s motivation, aims,
objectives and significance.
• How? Present a synopsis of the research design and
methodology adopted to solve the main problem.
End with a preview of the argument to follow.
• Summary: a review of the logical argument of the
• Deductions: conclusions that have been reached
through the research (e.g., whether the research
has supported or refuted the hypothesis).
• Recommendations: practical suggestions flowing
out of the research.
• Bridging sentences
• Section headings
• Write clearly, simply and to the point.
• Use positive constructions.
• Avoid passive constructions.
• Do not use an indefinite ‘this’.
• Avoid sexist or derogatory language.
• Avoid colloquial (spoken) language.
• Structure and organise your argument.
• Assess alternative perspectives and rival
points of view.
• Think through the sort of evidence that would
be convincing to a competent reader.
• Use linking devices.
• Edit and rework your writing.
• Check grammar and spelling.