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Structure of Reference Lists in Doctoral Theses: A Cross-Disciplinary Study

Joseph Benjamin Archibald Afful (PhD)

E-mail: jbaafful@gmail.com or jbafful@yahoo.com

Abstract

Recent studies in doctoral research education have begun to pay attention to various rhetorical aspects of the thesis. Despite this healthy development, the reference list, a key rhetorical aspect of the doctoral thesis, continues to be under-researched in the English for Specific Purposes, English for Academic Purposes and Higher Education literature. To fill this knowledge gap, this study examined the structure of reference lists of theses in three disciplines namely Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences, Literature, and Sociology. Ten theses from each of the three disciplines at a leading South African university were obtained and investigated, using a discourse analytical approach. The analysis showed two major findings. The first finding relates to a possible influence of disciplinary communities on the labels used. The second point is that Sociology theses appeared most complex in terms of the varied organizational units and labels assigned to these units. These have implications for English for Academic Purposes, research in advanced academic literacy and doctoral writing pedagogy.  

Keywords: bibliography, disciplinary communities, doctoral research, thesis

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