How best to express knowledge: Consideration of the doctoral process in Australia.

Year: 2021

Author: Razoumova, Oksana, Hooley, Neil

Type of paper: Individual Paper

Increasing numbers of candidates are enrolling in postgraduate research degrees in Australia. Such degrees usually require examination of a written thesis by internal and external examiners. In some cases, coursework units may also be incorporated. Given that the thesis needs to outline the production of new knowledge, or the rearrangement of current knowledge and defend proposals for theorised findings, questions arise regarding the efficacy of the written thesis in so doing. The written thesis may outline findings and theorising very clearly, but may not be the most appropriate vehicle to explain and defend all new knowledge arising. For example, the exegesis may be a more appropriate procedure for artistic and other projects.  This small-scale research interviewed and drew on the experience of initially four Australian and international professors to discuss the nature of research degrees in Australia, how it compares with similar programs conducted overseas and suggests proposals to enhance the expression of research outcomes as knowledge. While the literature reports studies regarding postgraduate procedures, this investigation focuses on the appropriateness of the written thesis to adequately express and convey the intrinsic qualities of new knowledge. Key philosophical ideas from theorist Paulo Freire were used to frame and interrogate interview data. An interpretive view of knowledge involving critical inquiry into qualitative interview data guides the research methodology. Participants were interviewed separately utilising a brief number of starter questions. Analysis of transcribed interview responses identified trends, commonalities and differences, enabling the theorising of themes from a Freireian perspective (praxis, dialogue, critical awareness). Project aims include1.To consider the general nature of postgraduate research examination in Australia from the perspective of professorial dialogue2.To reflect on how specific research findings from doctoral studies can best be expressed to accurately convey new knowledge 3.To propose changes to doctoral research examination in Australia such that the theorising of new knowledge can be as rigorous as possible. It is hoped that the research will strengthen a philosophical framework for doctoral programs and that Freire’s notion of ‘conscientisation’ will be a useful construct. That is, a philosophical view of producing knowledge such that researchers and participants engage a deeper socio-cultural awareness of reality and the capability of changing that reality for the public good. At this stage, preliminary issues arising from the literature review and discussions include the variety of different approaches to the doctoral thesis in Australia and elsewhere including exegesis, by publication and a combination of oral and written examination. At this stage, the literature contains detail on the nature of supervision, but indicates only limited discussion on the efficacy of the written thesis in expressing new, theorised knowledge. Further research, perhaps involving a combination of approaches to describe knowledge findings with greater depth and clarity, appears appropriate.