I’ve been wanting to share some thoughts on this for a while. What makes bad research? I’ve read some dogmatic and untrained views and opinions being expressed strongly on Twitter and so just wanted to share a more balanced view from an academic standpoint.
The following are some reasons why an MSc research dissertation may get fewer marks, or none at all. I think this is a good starting point for a discussion.
A piece of work would be awarded a zero if it was copied or plagiarised and showed no intellectual input from the student.
If there was obvious low input of effort and superficial write-up conveying little of the context or value of the research the work would get a mark but still fail. It would be judged inadequate.
If the research was obviously deficient in effort and/or arguments and discussions were poorly resourced, if there was an uncritical use of literature, if there was an uncritical use of literature, if there was little sign of analytical techniques used or depth, if there was no clear programme of work and in sufficiently clear objectives… The work would still fail… But you’d be allowed to re-submit at the discretion of the exam board.
If your research is pedestrian or lacking in imagination and critical insight, or you failed to achieve your objectives fully, or your programme of work was not particularly ambitious or innovative… You might just scrape through with a pass. But that’s it. Thanks for turning up.
If you did well overall but had some unfulfilled potential… You might get a merit.
But if you don’t have an identifiable professional research approach, if you don’t fully complete your task, if you don’t achieve your stated objectives and include a good philosophical review of shortcomings, if you don’t demonstrate clear critical appreciation of your subject area, study methods and findings… You won’t be on for a distinction, and your work isn’t considered anywhere near potentially publishable as a journal paper.
The pinnacle of success for a good piece of research would be if it met the above criteria and was deemed potentially publishable as a journal paper, only with editing and minor revision needed.
Is that all? Any more thoughts?
If this is the case, why are so many teachers up in arms when papers get published about theories and ideas that are later reviewed, critiqued and “debunked”? Isn’t all part of the learning and exploring and the bigger journey of research contributing to knowledge? The fact that someone out there has explored and presented an idea is part of that journey. The fact that someone else has then come along and experimented with it and critiqued it and maybe even trashed it is part of that journey too. It’s all valid research.