Evaluating Perry’s structured approach for professional doctorate theses

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Journal Article
Education and Training, 2017, 59 (2), pp. 215 - 230
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© 2017, © Emerald Publishing Limited. Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to investigate examiner reactions to doctorate of business administration (DBA) theses at an Australian university applying Perry’s structured approach to thesis presentation, which had its origin in the marketing discipline, but is now widely applied to other business disciplines. Design/methodology/approach: This paper examines 49 DBA examiner reports relating to 19 DBA theses using the structured Perry approach, with emphasis paid to comments relating to thesis structure and presentation. Only those theses that acknowledged Perry or demonstrated Perry-like characteristics were interrogated. Findings: The use of Perry’s structured approach can lead to DBA theses that place excessive emphasis on description rather than practical outcomes, as should occur with a professional doctorate, and also fosters excessive repetition and scaffolding that unduly interferes with the candidate’s “story telling”. Many examiners found theses using Perry’s structured approach problematic, particularly with respect to a lack of integration with the literature and reflection on the findings in relation to previous studies. Research limitations/implications: The use of Perry’s structured approach potentially acts as a further barrier to DBA theses, and other professional doctorates by extension, sufficiently differentiating themselves from PhDs. This has implications for the examination of such theses, which are sometimes viewed as lower-quality PhDs instead of professional doctorates. Originality/value: Applying a traditional PhD thesis structure, such as the model advocated by Perry with its use of five chapters, to DBA theses potentially exacerbates existing professional doctorate “image” issues, thereby leading to ambiguity for examiners and the candidates themselves.
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