Clearly, in the following section. Knowledge and philosophy

Clearly,
there might be great deal of subjectivity when coming in distinguishing a good
from bad PhD thesis, but there may be some basic features that mark out a good
PhD thesis from any other kind of thesis or research work. This paper presents
what comprises a good research work and the basic criteria for examining PhD
thesis as proposed by (Scott & Usher, 2011).  They counted that a good research should address
the following: philosophy and knowledge, research methods, ethical
considerations in undertaking research activity, strategies and research
methods and research theories.  Basing on
the fact that different philosophies govern different types of research,
likewise different researchers have developed different criteria of assessing
PhD thesis. For example researchers under the perspectives of Positivist, Post-Positivist, Postmodernist and
Post-Structuralism emphasize on the research validity criteria.  Some researchers have proposed some of the
research criteria suitable for some of the research paradigm such as interpretivist
who emphasize the use of naturalistic inquiry criteria
such as credibility, transferability, dependability and conformability. Apart
from these criteria the author have also shown the contribution of other
scholars on the suggestions of other criteria used to assess the research work
such as epistemic, technological, capacity 
development and value for people and economic. Detailed descriptions of
these criteria are presented in the following section.

Knowledge
and philosophy

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Philosophical
issues are integral to the research process which cannot be ignored. This is because
philosophical issues constitute what researchers silently think about the
research. However, it is emphasized that researchers should consciously think
about methods, outcomes and applications during the research process and not
after it has been done. This argument is based on the critical question that
what researchers normally think when embarking on doing research. Researchers
should strive to understand what makes a research activity legitimate. One
criterion which legitimizes the research process is epistemology. It dwells
with the issues which warrant something to be referred to as knowledge or just
an opinion or belief.  It provides
justification of what we claim to know and how do we come to know. It calls for
setting the rules whereby through their application only certain kinds of
knowledge will be regarded as valid. Knowledge which is obtained through
empiricism, sense experience can be regarded as true knowledge. The argument is
that valid knowledge should be obtained through observation and experiments.  One of the approaches which is used as the
source of knowledge is positivism. 
According to positivism, it is only through scientific methods which can
guarantee accurate representation as well as the correspondence between what is
reality and how it is represented in knowledge (Pg, 13). Another equally significant element in describing knowledge
is representational realism which holds the view that reality is self-evidently
which can be accessed directly. In other words, the argument in this aspect
which is brought here is that there is a universal truth in the universe. Despite
the wide acceptance of the use of positivism researchers should be aware of its
challenges.  One of the most challenges
is that it has been questioned of being not realistic. As an alternative
paradigms post positivist views positivism as oppressive, limiting and
untenable. As an alternative to positivism post positivists accept that
theories, background, knowledge and values of the researcher can easily manipulate
what is observed. Post positivists practise objectivity by
recognizing the possible effects and the way of minimizing biases in the
research practices. Moreover positivists emphasize purely quantitative methods
as an approach to the research, post positivists consider both quantitative and
qualitative method approaches of the research as the basic criteria of insuring
research validity.

 Basing also on the critique
of positivism which give the impression to ignore the
cultural confusions, interpretivist came as
the critique to the research paradigm. Interpretivist
perspectives advocate that the role of the is to undertake everyday experience
and ordinary life as its subject matter and asks how meaning is constructed and
social interaction is negotiated in community practices.  The implication of the interpretivist is that knowledge formation is iterative and spiral as opposed to
linear and cumulative as propounded by positivists (Pg, 31).  In this perspective  researchers have questioned is how can
researchers, as interpreters or meaning producers, be objective about the
meanings produced by those they are being investigated?,  Furthermore, how can a researcher maintain
objectivity without falling into subjectivity?. The suggestions in these
questions are that an investigator needs to bracket and temporarily suspend
their subjectivity and explanation structure. Another paradigm which challenges
both positivist and interpretivist paradigm is the critical theory approach in
research. Contrary with the positivist and interpretivist paradigms, critical
theory emphasize on the  emancipation and
 it does not simply seek to generate
knowledge of the world as it is but to detect and unmask beliefs and practices
that limit human freedom, justice and democracy and to engage in action that
brings them (Pg, 35).  Having explored
different research paradigms which determine the research philosophy and
knowledge it can be said that it is imperative for the researcher to clearly
define his/her research basing in this context. For this reason the task of the
educational research and practice is seen as transformative in relation to both
individuals community and the social world.

 

Research
strategies

 

In carrying out the research, the investigator needs
to put clear the type of the research strategies which will be employed. The
commonly used research strategies are induction, deduction, retroduction and abduction
(Pg, 48). The induction strategy uses the observable data so collected in
building the theory.  Deductive technique
which also is referred to as the deductive reasoning refers to the
practicing the way of thinking from one or more premises leading to a certain
logical conclusion which goes in the same direction as conditionals. This is
done by measuring if the premises/sentences are true then the conclusion is
made through deductive logic and assumes that the conclusion is also true. Another
basic type of the reasoning is retroduction whose arguments are those in which
an explanation is proposed to justification for an pragmatic facts or collection
of evidence. Abdductive researchers squabble
that we can only recognize the world throughout the eyes of the community
actors who equally construct and reproduce it. Adductive reasoning
is a form of realistic assumption which starts with an surveillance then search
for the simplest and most likely justification. Unlike in deductive reasoning, adductive
reasoning, the premises do not guarantee the conclusion.

 

Research
methods

The researcher needs to clarify the research method
she/he will employ in the study. Researchers should always be mindful that a
method is used in a particular way and for a particular purpose. The commonly
research methods as stipulated by Scott &
Usher (2011) are the   experimental method, survey and correlation
research, quantitative approach which consist of  experimental, single case, ex-post facto,
correlation and survey and qualitative which consist of  ethnography and case study.  Under experimental
and quasi-experimental technique the researcher need to elucidate causal
relationships sandwiched between phenomena by intervening in the natural
setting and controlling the relevant variables Scott & Usher (2011).
Experimental and quasi experimental method researchers use methods that are
essentially deductive and involve the testing of hypothesis or theory. Under
this research method the researcher need to explain the research validity and
study designs. Under the experimental method, Scott & Usher (2011) suggest that
it is of important for the author to take into consideration  two types of validity namely internal and
external validity.

Moreover
under the experimental method Scott & Usher (2011) described some types of
the study design such as One-Off Case study design,  Single-group experimental design, the static
group comparison, the pre-test and post-test control group design and factorial
design (pg 63-65). Other research methods which research may adopt are survey
and correlation designs which  are underpinned by the positivist epistemology
and direct realist ontology. Survey researchers collect data in relation to generously
proportioned populations as compared to experimental one which involve smaller
quantity of data. Survey has one common known benefit in the sense that data
are collected from larger number of respondents hence it covers larger
geographical area. In doing this the questions are normally in the form or
structured interview, semi structured interview or questionnaire.  Another research method is the qualitative
research design, case study and theory construction. The qualitative approach involves
the process of coding or classification of the field notes obtained from observation
or interview transcripts by inferring either from the words being examined what
is significant basing on the respective theory or on the way in which the case
is being understood.  The second step in
qualitative method is to examine the categories for the purpose of identifying
the inter-relationships among the expression or words. This course of action
helps the investigator to extend the relationship of the general context which
later helps to make connotation and have trustworthiness outside the precincts
of the case so being investigated. Another step is to make explicit patterns,
commonalities and differences and then to take these by now more developed hypothetical
constructs into the field to investigate or filter them which later will help
to unequivocal and make oversimplification that certain relationships hold firm
in the setting being examined. Generally according to Miles and Huberman (1994)
three processes are being involved in the qualitative research namely: data
reduction, data display and conclusion drawing and verification.

 

Ethical
considerations on the research

Good research needs to take into consideration ethical
issues. Various ethical issues need to be taken into consideration in
implementing the research. One of the major ethical considerations is that
researcher’s values, preconceptions and, indeed, interests should be carefully
be controlled during the act of collecting data and the whole research process.
The researcher is expected to behave neutral during the research. The repercussion
of this is that the manner in which a researcher perform before the participant
during the research, determine the status of the data and any inference drawn
from them.  It is argued that researchers
need to maintain democracy during the research.  Egalitarian researchers argue that they are responsible
not only to participants in their project but also to other body in the public
arena with the concentration in the information collected. Several questions
need to be asked about this approach. This is that the investigator needs to
accept that the ethical decisions they make regarding such issues as being
sensitive to the needs of participants, even if those needs are not fully
recognized by those contestant, assuring anonymity to them so that they cannot
be acknowledged by other people within or outside the setting, and creating a
consensual relationship with participants, which means that those participants
are not compelled to provide them with data, are in fact also epistemological
decisions or at least have epistemological implication.

Research validity

Research validity have
been identified as one of the main criteria used in assessing the PhD work. In
this aspect the author have mostly described the weakness of using research
validity as the criteria of assessing PhD work as it is emphasized by the
experimental and quasi experimental method. The author  have identified two types of validity namely
internal and external validity. Internal Validity is the type of validity in
which experimental researchers cannot be sure that the effects they ascribe
after the intervention are in fact caused by those interventions and not by
other factors.  The common weaknesses of  internal validity of experimental method
ascribe by Scott & Usher (2011) are the
historical background and experiences of 
the experimental subjects, maturation of the experimental subjects as
the effects of the intervention can be affected also by the maturation of the
participants. Addition to that internal validity gives the impression to be
susceptible to pre-test sensitization, test reliability and selection factors.  Another type of validity is External Validity.
In contrast to internal validity, external validity refers to sampling
procedures and to whether findings can be generalized to larger population or
not. Campbell and Stanley (1963; Shadish et all; 2001) as sited in Scott &
Usher (2011) have suggested four capacity problems with generalizing research
findings.  These are: inability of the
researchers to conceptualize performance indicator, lack of true preventative
of the experimental and control group, in ability to replicate the way how the
researchers operationalizes variables in the experimental settings in real life
situation. Last is the effects of the internal validity variables such as
history, maturation, pre-test sensitization, test reliability and selection
over external validity.

 

Naturalistic inquiry

Some of the research assessment criteria have been developed under
the naturalistic inquiry perspectives. These criteria have been developed to
oppose the criteria developed by positivism perspectives like validity. The criteria which have been
developed under this perspectives are credibility, transferability,
dependability and conformability, other criteria are plausibility,  relevance, simplicity,  transparency, 
trustworthiness, sufficiency of evidence, sufficiency of process of
evidence gathering, capacity development, practice development, impact,
accessibility, theory development and systematicity.  Other scholars like Furlong and Oancea (2005)
as sited in Scott & Usher (2011) developed four
interrelated and interdependent dimensions as the criteria for assessing a
research work. The criteria described are epistemic,
technological, capacity development, value for people and economic. Within each
of these dimensions, they suggest a number of sub-dimensions; so, the epistemic
dimension comprises: trustworthiness, capacity for making a contribution to
knowledge, explicitness, and propriety and paradigm dependence.  The technological dimension comprises:
purposivity, salience or timeliness, specificity and accessibility, a concern
for enabling impact, and flexibility and operationalizability. The capacity
development dimension requires the piece of work being judged to be plausible,
collaborative, reflexive or deliberative, receptive and/or transformational.
And finally, the economic dimension marketability, cost effectiveness, auditability,
feasibility and originality. The implication of their argument is that for
a  piece of work to be judged to have
reached a threshold of excellence, it should meet the requirements of these
dimensions and sub-dimensions, or at least that when a judgement is being made,
these criteria, translated into standards, should be central to the way the
judgement is made. In a similar fashion, the UK Research Assessment Panel for
Education has identified three criteria for judging the worth of research
texts, and thus by implication the research they report: originality: ‘the
development of innovative designs, methods and methodologies, analytical models
or theories and concepts’ significance: ‘research has, or has the potential to
have, considerable significance if it breaks new theoretical or methodological
ground, provides new social science knowledge or tackles important practical,
current problems, and provides trustworthy results in some field of education’
and rigour: ‘methodological and theoretical robustness and the use of a
systematic approach.

 

Conclusion

The discussion so far has focused on the
viability of certain types of criteria for evaluating a PhD thesis and what makes a good research in general. A more specific use for such criteria is to assess the
worth of educational research. In the first instance,
these criteria are epistemic or internal, and
their application necessarily entails evaluating the strength and type of evidence used to support educational
hypotheses. The discussion has also focused the background theory, which
underpins the worth of a piece of evidence. The application of internal
criteria is only one way of judging educational research. The issue of the
relationship between internal and external criteria therefore becomes salient,
such as validity, credibility, plausibility, relevance, simplicity,
transparency, trustworthiness, sufficiency of evidence, sufficiency of process
of evidence gathering, capacity development, practice development, impact,
accessibility, theory development and systematicity, are specific to particular epistemic and ontological positions, and
furthermore, advocates for a multi-criterial approach which  have to address the issue of the relationship
between them or the different values that can be given to each. The issue of
whether it is possible, within the limits of language, to develop lists of
evaluative criteria or even whether it is possible to judge between different views of knowledge it has been seen
that it depends on research philosophy, paradigms and strategies believed by
the researcher.