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Centre for Knowledge Dynamics and Decision making

Stellenbosch University

S Thesis Protocol

This document describes the parameters for the successful completion of a Master’s thesis in the
The document must be understood against the backdrop of the NQF descriptors for level 9 (prior
to 2009, level 8a) and the Centre’s Generic Assessment Grid.
This Protocol must be read in conjunction with the lectures on Research, Science and the
Construction of Complex Documents.
1. Standards
Standard are maintained consistent with the requirements of the NQF, in consonance with
universities abroad who are recognised for their academic quality, and expressed in terms of
our Generic Assessment Grid.
To be allowed to engage in research and thesis work a student must have:
a) Achieved an outcome at NQF level 8 (prior to 2009, level 7) of at least an average of
b) Submitted a proposal which is assessed to be at least at level N of the Centre’s Grid for
the factors C, L, P and T
All theses in the department are full research theses. Such a thesis comprises of at least 120
pages (excluding the cover and title pages).
2. Timeouts
It is acknowledged that thesis work, like all forms of learning, requires time for growth and
However, like with the seasons of nature, intellectual growth should be completed within
certain time frames, beyond which fruition of a research project and thesis becomes quite
unlikely. To restrict unproductive allocation of the department’s recourses of time, energy
and expertise, the following timeouts apply:
− Timeout 1 for the successful submission of proposals:
Part time students are allowed a 9 month period, and full time students 4 months to
complete their proposals after the preceding examinations.
− Timeout 2 for written progress during the research project:
Should no form of written progress be made, in the case of part time students within
15 months, and in the case of full time students within 9 months after the proposal
was accepted, the centre will not allow enrolment to be continued.
3. Character of a Master’s Thesis
A Master’s thesis is the presentation in publication format of the results of a research process
initiated, designed and executed by the student.
The purpose of the Master’s research is not to renew the body of knowledge (as is expected
from a doctoral study) but to extend known knowledge through further refinement,
application, interpretation and experimentation.
The thesis will exhibit the student’s mastery of the subject matter at an advanced level of
reasoning. The research and the research report (thesis) shall be the authentic and
independent work of the student.
4. The Start-up Process
After completing NQF level 8 (previously 7) candidates submit their proposals to the Chair
of the department. The Chair may delegate the assessment of such proposals to other staff,
but it remains the responsibility of the Chair to manage the process and to guarantee quality.
It happens quite frequently that proposals are returned for reformulation.
Only once the proposal is assessed to be at level N of the Grid (see point 1b) may the
candidate register and a supervisor is assigned. From then on the supervisor becomes the
person of contact for the student. The student then starts discussions with the supervisor, who
may or may not expect further work on the proposal.
For part time students, not later than 5 months, and for full time students, not later than 2
months after a student has made contact with the assigned supervisor, an extensive, annotated
bibliography has to be submitted to the supervisor. This should cover at least 30 primary
sources and is normally 10 to 15 pages long.
From then on, an appropriate course for further interactions between the supervisor and the
student, and in particular specific reporting dates, is mutually agreed upon. The schedule will
obviously depend on the nature of the research project, the required methodology, and the
personal preferences of the supervisor and the researcher.
5. The Supervisor’s duties
The supervisor’s role is to support the student in the process of acquiring deeper perspective
on the topic. Hence the supervisor could be seen as a coach who facilitates the student’s own
growth process.
The supervisor supports the student primarily by providing qualitative feed back – both
positive and negative - (using the C, L, P, T, R, M grid) on the work submitted.
A secondary form of support is by way of providing a sounding board for the student, in
particular through ad hoc suggestions as to possible alternative approaches.
Supervisors normally perform these duties only on the basis of written submissions.
The supervisor is not the author of the thesis and is not responsible for content, literature
discovery or thesis design.
The supervisor is not responsible for any form of editing and layout, regardless of the stage
of the process.
Supervisors can not be expected to comment on a running basis to segments of the thesis.
Proper supervision can only be done comprehensively.
The supervisor will not accept an incomplete thesis for processing. Such a submission will be
returned for completion and by the deadline date carried over to the next graduation cycle.
6. The End Game
Certain deadlines apply to all students. Note that the deadlines are absolute. These are:
− 10 March – notification of intention to submit a thesis for examination for the current
academic year (graduation in December or March of the following year)



The required form is available on the website and must be duly signed by the student
and faxed to 021-808 2117 or a scanned copy e-mailed to thesismikm[at]
− For intended graduation in December: the complete1 thesis must be in possession of
the supervisor not later than the FIRST FRIDAY IN JUNE (unless the date is the 1st
of June)
− For intended graduation in March: the complete2 thesis must be in possession of the
supervisor not later than the FIRST FRIDAY IN AUGUST (unless the date is the 1st
of August)
Once a completed thesis is received the supervisor has 4 weeks to analyse the submission.
This will lead to suggestions and instructions with regard to changes and corrections. It also
leads to a renewed time table for the eventual submission of the final3 thesis.
In order to qualify for the formal examination process, a final thesis must be received not
later than the following dates. Note that these dates are absolute:
− For intended graduation in December: the final thesis must be in possession of the
supervisor not later than 31 AUGUST
− For intended graduation in March: the final thesis must be in possession of the
supervisor not later than 31 OCTOBER
The final thesis is scrutinised internally and the supervisor should convey to the candidate an
opinion as to the marks that may be expected when the thesis is submitted for examination.
The supervisor also indicates whether he or she endorses the submission of the thesis.
However, the final decision to submit the thesis for examination rests with the student. This
decision may only be taken after a final person to person discussion with the supervisor.
The final thesis submitted for formal examination is handed in to the departmental office.
The supervisor signs a submission form, and the department hands the thesis over to the Post
Graduate Examinations Office (PEO).
For technical reasons students may NOT hand in the thesis directly to the PEO.
A thesis is handed in only in electronic format.
For  the  specifics  that  apply  during  the  submission  process,  see  the  document:  Submission  and 
Examination Procedures. 
7. Plagiarism
Plagiarism is the intentional pretence to be the author and originator of an idea or text or
process or application or artefact, knowing fully well that it has been taken over from another
person or source, but without due recognition to that person or source.

A COMPLETE thesis is a document with at least 120 pages, which include the title pages, table of
contents, a summary of the thesis in both Afrikaans and English (and in Xhosa if possible), the full text
of the thesis – properly edited typographically and after an initial language shake-ip – and the full
See the footnote 1.
A FINAL THESIS is a document which totals at least 120 pages (formatted according to the
instructions by the Centre), which include the title pages, table of contents, a summary of the thesis in
both Afrikaans and English (and in Xhosa if possible), the full text of the thesis – properly formatted
typographically and professionally edited linguistically – and the full bibliography. The final thesis shall
be in a state of readiness for publication.
Apart from the fact that plagiarism is a form of theft, it militates against the essence of
research and thesis work, and any form of plagiarism may lead to a summary termination of
the department’s contract with the student.
Sophisticated software packages are used by the department to detect plagiarism in submitted
texts from students.
In all cases the department will comply with the rules of the university in respect of
plagiarism. This prescribes the handing over of any case of plagiarism at post graduate level
to the disciplinary committee of the University.
8. Formatting, Layout, Reference System
A template is provided by the Centre and all theses must comply with this.
Neither supervisors, nor examiners will bear any editing responsibilities.
Documents shall be formatted using word processing software at advanced levels.
Supervisors will return documents which do not comply with this requirement for upgrading
before they are supervised or examined.
Generally a same-page footnote system of referencing will be used, as demonstrated in the
relevant lectures and the template.
9. Language and Editing
It is the student’s responsibility to ensure that language editing be done to satisfy
international academic standards of logic, clarity and sophistication. This requires a higher
level of linguistic sophistication than is the norm for most other forms of documentation.
Supervisors will not correct inadequate language but will return the documents for correction
before they are supervised or examined.
In general South African or British English is the standard mode for academic publication,
but in principle any language may be acceptable provided the supervisor and examiners are
proficient in that language.
Under all circumstances, however, it is expected that the final text (which is bound for library
purposes) be edited by a qualified language practitioner.
10. Examination
Examination is done by one internal and one external examiner.
Examiners are appointed by the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and endorsed by the
Senate after scrutinising the examiners’ academic credentials.
The formal examination process is handled by the PEO independently of the department or
Examiners are given 6 weeks to complete examination.
Examiners indicate – with motivation – whether the thesis a) is acceptable as is, b) acceptable
after extensive editing, c) acceptable after revisions of substantive nature, d) should be
Examiners – in most cases – expect alterations, editing, or additions to a thesis (that is, if the
thesis is not rejected or returned for major revisions).
After examination a very short time is available for requested changes. If changes of a more
significant nature are required it is quite likely that graduation has to be postponed.
After completion of the examination the department receives all reports and marks and an
examination committee under the supervision of the Chair finalises the end result. The
Committee functions according to rules determined by the Faculty of Arts and Social
11. Printing and Binding
The final document is submitted for binding by the department on behalf of the student.
12. Money Matters
The department and supervisor is not responsible for the costs involved in the research
The department does bear the cost of three copies of the thesis as well as the electronic copy.
Any further costs are for the account of the student.
13. In Case of a Dispute
The US has a clear route for dispute resolution in case of disagreement. This can be found in
the Yearbook of the US.