Thanks for the link to Rudolph's and as well as to Casson's thesis. I have saved them for further study later.Matthew Longhorn wrote: ↑May 26th, 2019, 12:53 pmI just stumbled across the PhD thesis of Michael Allan Rudolph and have marked it for holiday reading starting next weekend.
1. Beyond identifying that the author has a phd and therefore presumably the work was considered good enough, I am guessing that not all phd theses are of the same quality. Is there any way to identify whether a thesis was marked out for being above average or any other indicator of quality?
As to your question, yes, obviously Ph.D. theses are not of the same quality. There's no real shortcut other than reading them and having the background to evaluation. Nevertheless, some heuristics are: (a) the school, (b) the advisor, (c) the theoretical approach. In this case, Rudolph's was produced at SEBTS under David Alan Black. As far as a Greek thesis is concerned, I would expect one produced there to be reasonably competent. The other dissertation was produced at KCL under Edward Adams. His name didn't ring a bell but his publications look legit. So no red flag there either.
You can learn a little more looking at the table of contents, and it looks like both of them discuss and apply Relevance Theory to the discourse marker. This is currently a hot topic in the field (as far as these things go) so what you're looking at are two theses applying the latest theory. Naturally, if you're not a fan of RT, you might not be impressed, but as far as these go, I would expect to make similar, if somewhat modest, contributions of relevance (heh) to the current field. But there's no real substitute than reading the dissertations, and even then you need to have the appropriate background.
Even if two works are covering similar different ground, I would still read them both. Their explanations will be somewhat different and occasionally one will turn on the light bulb in your head. For example, I didn't really get aspect theory until I read Corien Bary's doctoral dissertation. Now, I would certainly not recommend it to a beginner--it way too heavily invested in a particular formalism and the thesis was never published--but I was in the right place and time to receive her explanations of aspect, even though that was not really the aim of the dissertation. Indeed, I often find master's thesis a bit more accessible than the doctoral ones, because they are more concerned about demonstrating mastery over the theory than finding some original contribution.