A PhD is not always a PhD; or when badly written scholarship makes me sad

by Anna Blanch on December 11, 2009

I just read a very badly written PhD thesis; so bad in fact that I would like someone to shoot me in preference to embarrassing the world of academia if i ever try to hand in anything resembling a steaming pile of sentences – most which are almost unintelligible – as an original contribution. I had hope…the abstract …was good…but seriously this is why Christian scholars have such a bad rep in literary circles.

I think it was the lack of specificity in sentences. For instance Maria Edgeworth was heralded as writing didactic literature for children at the time of  “its early creation.” and the “very general” generalizations. I am hesitant to quote more. I really don’t want to reveal the name of the author. I have no idea if they are still writing in the field but I don’t think it would benefit anyone for me to reveal their identity. It wouldn’t even ease my frustrating. But when you are writing on an author who has had only 3 or 4 dozen articles, about the same amount of chapters, less than ten monographs and maybe a dozen MA and PhD theses, it is particularly frustrating when you hope upon hope that someone might have made a good effort at covering important ground only to find that they dropped the ball, and still got a PhD for it.

I am grateful that I have supervisors who tear my grammar apart and make me tell them what “this” or “that” refers to exactly, even when it seems blindingly obvious to all of us but may not to a reader. Maybe i should be happy that the bar is lower than you expect, but then again i’m not…not even a little. I am, however, even more convinced that not all PhD’s are equal even if they all mean you are still “Dr.”

Sometimes things like this just rile me alot. Its a scary thing trying not to be someone who writes rubbish and hopes they hand you a lovely hood and taps you on the head. I apologise for my badly written blog posts and my terrible first draft (most posts) syntax and grammar. I assure you I proofread far more elsewhere but I will endeavour to make more of an effort to double-check things.

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