Examiners Comment On Thesis Statements

Jakarta, 27 January 2016

“Look at the bright side! The beauty of having to revise your PhD thesis is that you have both the experience of writing and submitting, as well as rewriting and resubmitting the thesis.  No, you don’t fail if you respond well. So don’t give up!” (Ikong, my husband, 2 September 2014).

I submitted my PhD thesis on 7 January 2014, and two years later, I finally received my PhD degree on 17 December 2015.

When I was notified that I needed to do quite a major revision on September 2, 2014, I was not certain how to react.  I was given one year, up to 2 September 2015, to revise and resubmit; and needed to advise the Examination Office of ANU about my plan.  The reactions from my husband and my supervisors, Dr Royston Gustavson and Dr Andrew Bradly, were very encouraging, more positive than my own.  They were so sure that I could actually get this done, and they were willing to support me all the way.

Indeed, this PhD journey was one of the most challenging endeavors that I have ever done in my life.  It took me almost six years altogether to get it done: four years full time at ANU to submit, 8 months to wait for the Examiners’ comments, 10 months to revise and resubmit. It was a truly spiritual journey.

Here, I would like to share my responses to one of the Examiners.  Maybe it can be of use to those who are interested in getting a PhD; or who need to revise their thesis.  Don’t give up!  We’ll get there somehow.

Responses to the Thesis Examiner

Original Title: ‘To prosper with the nation’: The social capital that bridges CSR programs and corporate sustainability

Revised Title: The social capital that bridges CSR programs and corporate sustainability: The case of Astra in Indonesia

Candidate: Risa Bhinekawati

Note of Thanks

I thank the Examiner  for his/her interest in this study and for his/her valuable comments and recommendations. I value the constructive suggestions from the Examiner, which I believe have resulted in a much stronger thesis.  The revised version of my thesis is enclosed. My responses to Examiner’s detailed comments are as follows.

Outline of Responses to the Examiner

This response document is written in two parts: the first part of this response summarises the general comments from Examiner 1. The second part the thesis response elaborates on the suggestions from Examiner 1 related to content improvements, and the additional work that I have conducted in response to the recommendations.

Part One: Summary of General Comments from the Examiner

  • This thesis explores the relationships between three concepts CSR programs, social capital and corporate sustainability and uses case study methodology in order to do so. This is certainly a topic of considerable interest and definitely worthy a doctoral level study. Thus the topic of this thesis is very appropriate, as is a case study method to study this.
  • More work therefore needs to be done before this thesis achieves the standard required of doctoral work. I am reasonably confident that this can be done without further data collection – just more critique and clearer analysis – but I have insufficient knowledge to be completely certain.

Candidate’s response to general comments:

I thank the Examiner  for his/her general comments. In response, I have restructured and rewritten the thesis based on suggestions from the Examiner as follows:

  • The overall thesis has been restructured, enhanced and rewritten.
  • I have expanded and rewritten the whole literature review by expanding discussions on sustainable development issues of CSR in developing countries, social capital, and corporate sustainability (Chapter 2).
  • Based on the expanded literature review, the conceptual model in Chapter 2 (Figure 2.1) of the original thesis is improved and moved to Chapter 4 (Figure 4.1, p. 101) of the revised thesis.
  • I have also merged Chapter 3(Research Context – Indonesia as a Developing Country) and Chapter 5 (Astra International – A Challenging Journey to Prosper with the Nation) of the original version into Chapter 3 (Research Context – Astra International in Indonesia) to situate the research and to improve the clarity of the research context.
  • I have restructured and rewritten the analysis of each case (within-case analysis) of the MSME program (Chapter 5), the POLMAN program (Chapter 6), and the PALMOIL program (Chapter 7); as well as the cross-case results and discussions (Chapter 8).
  • In the conclusions (Chapter 9), I made sure that the research objectives are achieved and all of the questions are answered.
  • The number of chapters is reduced from 10 chapters in the original version into 9 chapters in the revised version.
  • The comparison of overall structure of the original and the revised versions of the thesis is depicted in the following table.
The Original Version of Thesis

Overall Structure (Big Picture)

The Revised Version of Thesis

Overall Structure (Big Picture)

  • Chapter 1: Introduction
  • Chapter 2: Literature Review, Conceptual Model, and Theoretical Propositions
  •  Chapter 3: Research Context—Indonesia As a Developing Country
  • Chapter 4: Methodology
  • Chapter 5: Astra International—A Challenging Journey to Prosper with the Nation
  • Chapter 6: MSME Development Program
  • Chapter 7: Higher Vocational Education (POLMAN) Program
  • Chapter 8: Local Economic Development (PALMOIL) Programs on Palm Oil Plantations
  • Chapter 9: Cross-case Results and Discussions
  • Chapter 10: Conclusions, Implications, Limitations, and Further Research
  • Chapter 1: Introduction
  • Chapter 2: Literature Review: Sustainable Development, CSR, Social Capital, and Corporate Sustainability in Developing Countries
  • Chapter 3: Research Context − Astra International in Indonesia
  • Chapter 4: Methodology
  • Chapter 5: Within-case Analysis 1 – Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprise Development (MSME Program)
  • Chapter 6: Within-case Analysis 2 – Higher Vocational Education (POLMAN Program)
  • Chapter 7: Within-case Analysis 3 − Socio Economic Development Surrounding Palm Oil Plantations (PALMOIL Program)
  • Chapter 8: Cross-case Results and Discussions
  • Chapter 9: Conclusions, Implications, Limitations, and Further Research

Part Two: Responses to Suggestions on Contents from the Examiner

The Examiner’s comments focus on five issues:

  1. a full critique of extant literature to both situate the research and to show that the gap to be explored exists;
  2. a clear research objective and question built upon this established gap;
  3. a methodology chapter which describes the ontological/epistemological position of the candidate and justifies the case research methodology to be used;
  4. a clear demarcation of what is data and what is analysis so that the conclusions drawn from the research are shown to be reasonably argued and robust; and
  5. references need to be clear. At the moment it is unclear what a reference to the literature, to internal company documents or even to interviews.

The detailed comments of the Examiner and the response to his/her comments are as follows.

  1. The Examiner’s point on the literature: a full critique of extant literature to both situate the research and to show that the gap to be explored exists.

Candidate’s responses to point 1:I thank the Examiner for this comment. I followed the suggestions by restructuring, extending, and rewriting the literature review. The following changes have been made:

  • A total of 129 journal articles and reports were added to enhance the literature review of the revised version, consisting of:
  • 35 articles on CSR
  • 35 articles on CSR in developing countries
  • 30 articles on CSR in Indonesia
  • 29 articles on social capital
  • The concept of sustainable development is discussed in a separate section (section 2.1, pp. 17-22), as compared to only two sentences under section 2.4 in the original version (the links between CSR, social capital and corporate sustainability).
  • The concept of CSR is discussed showing its relevance to developing countries (section 2.2, pp. 22-38).
  • The concept of social capital is elaborated to show the concept, the need for social capital investment, and the benefits of social capital investment in improving the social structure (section 2.3, pp. 38-51).
  • The concept of corporate sustainability is elaborated by adding a discussion of the different types of capital(section 2.4, pp. 51-53).
  • The linkages between sustainable development, CSR programs, social capital and corporate sustainability are clarified in section 2.5, pp. 53-56.
  • The theoretical framework has been improved based on the expanded literature review. It was moved from Chapter 2 in the original version to Chapter 4 (Figure 4.1, p. 101) of the revised version.
  • The research objectives, the research gaps and the research questions are clarified in section 2.6, pp. 56-60; and the theoretical propositions were removed.

1.a.This study is situated in a developing country – Indonesia – as the candidate states that social capital is of greater significance in such a country, being the primary sort of capital for lower income groups. Again this is appropriate although there is no evidence presented to suggest that any of the findings are particular to a developing country.

Candidate’s responses to point 1a: I thank the Examiner for this comment. I followed the suggestions by re-writing the literature review. The following changes have been made:

  • In justifying Indonesia as the research context, a total of 30 journal articles have been reviewed and added to Chapter 3, section 3.1, pp. 61-71 (see point 1c below).
  • In situating the research in developing countries, a total of 35 journal articles and reports are reviewed and added to the literature review:
    • Socio and economic outlook of developing countries: IMF (2006); UNDP (2014); United Nations (2014; 2014b); World Bank (2006; 2014)
    • Public roles of companies in developing countries: Valente and Crane (2009); Visser (2006); Visser (2009); Wettstein (2010)
    • Emerging economies and global supply chain: Frynas (2006); Harcourt (2004); Luken and Stares (2005); Lund-Thomsen and Lindgreen (2014); Millington (2009)
    • CSR in Africa: Ameshi, Adi, Ogbechie, and Olufemi (2006); Arya and Zhang (2009); Baskin (2006); Fig (2005); Fort and Schipani (2004); Idemudia (2011)
    • CSR in Asia: Blowfield (2003); Blowfield and Frynas (2005); Fernando (2010); Fukukawa (2014); Gonzales III (2004); Lund-Thomsen (2004)
    • CSR in Latin America: Coutinho de Aruda (2009); De Oliviera (2006); Muller and Kolk (2010)
    • Issues with CSR standards in developing countries (explicit CSR): Yu (2008); Prieto-Carron (2006)
    • Issues with social irresponsibility of companies in developing countries: Christensen and Murphy (2004); Shrage and Ewing (2005)
    • Subsequently, I have also added a discussion on sustainable development issues in developing countries (section 2.1 pp. 17-22 ), extended roles of companies in developing countries (subsection 2.1.1, pp. 19-22), and CSR in developing countries (subsection 2.2.4, pp. 33-38).
    • Regarding the significance of social capital in developing countries, I have clarified that the poor are strong in ‘bonding’ but they are lacking in ‘bridging’ social capital (subsection 2.3.5, p. 45).

1.b. Given the EU and the UN estimate that 98% of the world economic employment is derived from micro enterprises then I would have thought that much of the argument I universal rather than particular to developing countries or even to one developing country of Indonesia. So I would have expected to either see some discussion of this or greater clarity concerning hat is being claimed.

Candidate’s responses to point 1b: I acknowledge the Examiner’s inputs and I address this comment on the research gaps (section 2.6, pp. 56-60). The rationale behind the selection of MSME program as one of the cases is based the need of developing country to have a more inclusive supply chain and a bridge between ‘formal and informal economies’ (e.g.London& Hart, 2004), and also for the large companies to build capabilities of the poor to fundamentally improve their livelihood (e.g. Ansari, et al., 2012).

The findings can be generalised to other developing countries where companies can invest in building capabilities of informal MSMEs (subsection 1.5.2, pp. 14-15 and subsection 9.2.2, pp. 319-321). However, the findings may also be applicable to developed countries, but it would require further research on the relative roles between governments and corporations.

1.c. The research context is Indonesia so the Chapter explaining this is necessary although I am unsure why this country deserves to be singled out rather than being an exemplar. There are however some potentially important factors – such as the low level of education – which might merit that this is explored further.

Candidate’s responses to point 1c: I acknowledge the Examiner’s comments. In response, I have merged Chapter 3 (the research context of Indonesia) and Chapter 5 (Astra International) of the original version into Chapter 3 (Astra in Indonesia) as the research context in the revised version. Furthermore, the following improvements have also been made:

  • The title of thesis is changed to: ‘The social capital that bridges CSR programs and corporate sustainability: The case of Astra in Indonesia’.
  • To examine the implications of choosing Indonesia as the country of research context, I have reviewed additional literature and added more arguments that Indonesia has similar sustainable development issues as other developing countries, such as poverty, inequality, weak government, corruption, and others. A total of 30 additional journal articles have been reviewed and discussed in Chapter 3, section 3.1, pp. 62-72. The additional articles are as follows:
  • General overview, CSR strategy, CSR regulations and reporting, knowledge gap in CSR in Indonesia: Gayo (2012); Koestoer (2007); Mulkhan (2013); Sayekti (2011); Susilowati (2013; 2014)
  • Astra: Kehati (2015); Sato (1996); Radyati (2014); Urip (2010); Wibowo (2012)
  • Adoption of international standards and codes of conduct: Kemp (2001); Arjaya, Bakri, Sihabudin, and Winarno (2014); Bidhari, Salim, and Aisjah (2013); Cahyandito (2011); Cahyonowati and Darsono (2013); Fauzi and Idris (2009; 2010)
  • CSR in banking sector: Fernita, Paramita, Restuti, and Nugroho (2014); Lestari (2013);
  • CSR in state-owned company: Frisko (2012)
  • CSR in manufacturing sector: Kartadjumena, Hadi, and Budiana (2011); Windiasih, Sulistiyono, Mardikanto, and Soemanto (2014)
  • CSR in consumer goods: Laksmono, Wisnoentoro, and Wardhani (2011)
  • CSR in mining, oil, and gas: Prayogo, Irvan, Hilarius, andYudha (2013); Reyhan & Rudito (2012); Setyadi, Supriyono, Handayani, and Raharjo (2013); Sudarisman (2011)
  • The justification of the selection of Indonesia and Astra as the research context are also clarified in the revised version by streamlining all discussions about Indonesia in section 3.1, pp. 62-72; and discussion about Astra in section 3.2, pp. 72-97
  • The reasons for the selection of the three CSR programs are raised slightly at section 3.3, pp. 97-98 with more elaborative discussions in the respective Chapters 5 (MSME program), 6 (PALMOIL program), and 7 (POLMAN program).
  • To improve clarity, I have merged Chapter 3 and Chapter 5 of the original version into Chapter 3 of the revised version.

1.d. This leads to a consideration of what the research in this thesis is really about and how it is investigated. In this context I am unclear if the candidate is claiming to undertake deductive research or inductive research or even understand the difference.

Candidate’s responses to point 1d:In response to the Examiner’s point, I have improved the methodology Chapter as follows:

  • The term ‘deduction’ and ‘induction’ (Langley, 1999) has been removed. Instead, I use the term ‘matching empirical evidence with the theoretical framework’ (Milles & Huberman, 1994; Pettigrew, 1997; Yin, 2009) for my data analysis as discussed in section 4.8, subsections 4.8.1; 4.8.2; 4.8.3. pp. 134-138.
  • The epistemological and ontological considerations have been added to the methodology Chapter (section 4.2, pp. 103-105).

1.e. The candidate makes the following claim: “Based on the above three gaps in the literature of CSR, social capital and corporate sustainability, I posit that social capital is the ‘missing link’ that bridges CSR programs with corporate sustainability performance. Therefore, my research objective is to investigate why and how the linkages between CSR programs, social and corporate sustainability evolve over time.” Presumably this is a claim to situate the research but I do not agree that this has been satisfactorily undertaken. Clearly one purpose of the literature review is to situate the research of the candidate by showing where gaps in the literature exist. This requires a critical review of the extant literature – and for this subject, and all three aspects of it, the literature is copious.

Candidate’s responses to point 1e: I thank the Examiner for the suggestions. In response, I have reviewed additional literature on the concepts of CSR (see point 1.g below), social capital (see point 1.f below), and on corporate sustainability in context of developing countries (see point 1.a above) and Indonesia (see point 1c above). Based on the expanded literature review, I have refined the research gaps, research objectives, and research questions.

  • The theoretical linkages between the concepts of sustainable development, CSR, social capital and corporate sustainability were revised base on the expanded literature review of the three main concepts (section 2.5, pp. 53-56).
  • The research objectives, the research gaps and the research questions have been further supported by the expanded literature review of the main three concepts (section 2.6, pp. 56-60).
  • Accordingly, the Introduction (Chapter 1, sections 1.1, pp. 2-4 and 1.2, pp. 4-6) and the conclusions (Chapter 9, section 9.1, pp. 311-315) have been re-written based on the gaps in the literature.

1.f. The concept of social capital requires some definition and this requires some actual engagement with the work of Bourdieu above one single Chapter in someone else’s book. It is also important I think to consider the conversion of capital – from one form to another. The important point of social capital for the poor in particular is that it can be converted to other forms of capital and especially – in the case of microenterprises – into economic capital.   This is the prime reason for developing social capital and it seems to me that a lot of work of the case company is concerned with this – so it needs some discussion. In this context also the idea of actors and networks become important so some discussion of key writers becomes important: so Granoveter’s work needs discussing more thoroughly as it is not really about recruitment. Also the ideas of actor network theory, self−organizing systems, and maybe even the anthropological work of Levi Strauss could be considered. It is not really for me to tell the candidate what literature strands needs to be critiqued but there is insufficient here.

Candidate’s responses to point 1f: As suggested by he Examiner , I have taken the following actions:

  • I have reviewed an additional 29 journal articles on social capital, discussed in section 2.3, pp. 38-51:
  • Theorizing social capital: Lin (1999; 1999b)
  • Social capital, social structure, and social change: Levi-Strauss (1944; 1952; 1963); Narayan (1999); Putnam (1993); RoxasandUngson (2011); Uphoff and Wijayaratna (2000); Van Bastelaer (1999); Wissinger (2007)
  • Weak ties (bridging): Burt (2000); Burt (2004); Granovetter (1983)
  • Strong ties (bonding): Granovetter (1973)
  • Social capital, strategies, and economic outcomes: Bourdieu (1980); Bourdieu (1985); Granovetter (2005);Lamisnon andBourdieu (1986); Pearce II and Doh (2005); Supriadi, Maryunani, Sasongko, and Multifiyah (2013); Young (2006)
  • Social capital development within organization: Frank and Yasumoto (1998); Zahra (2010)
  • Investment in social capital and the output of social capital investment: Coleman (1988)
  • Social capital and corporate performance: Barr (1998); Belliveau, O’Reilly, and Wade (1996); Knocke (1999); Thomas (1996)
  • Accordingly, I have made a thorough review to understand how CSR programs can be considered as investments to build social capital, and how social capital contributes to corporate sustainability.I have added discussions on the importance of CSR programs as an investment in building social capital, where Bourdieu’s (1986) arguments about the importance in investing on social capital are supported by other authors (subsection 2.3.4, pp. 44-45); how the investment in social capital improves the social structure (subsection 2.3.5, pp. 45-47); andhow the focal actor invests in bonding and bridging social capital (subsection 2.3.6, pp. 47-48). Lastly, a section on the overall benefit of social capital to the beneficiaries and the focal actor is discussed in subsection 2.3.7, pp. 48-51. These sections have also incorporated assertions of Levi-Strauss (kinship, reciprocity, obligations) on social capital investment.
  • the Examiner has raised an important point thatGranovetter’s work is not only about recruitment. Granovetter and Burt have made substantial contributions to the social capital literature by providing knowledge on the bonding (strong ties), and the bridging of structural holes (weak ties). By having understanding of bonding and bridging, focal actors can make decisions in social capital. The discussion on bonding and bridging is elaborated in subsection 2.3.3, pp. 43-44.

1.g. I am unclear about what definition of CSR is being adopted. There is much literature about CSR in developing countries – including Indonesia – and much about the role of CSR in poverty alleviation which seems to me to be important enough for this topic to get some mention. It is trite to mention a few writers and then state that the WBCSD definition (written for business people rather than academics) will be used. If it is then its use needs to be justified.

Candidate’s responses to point 1g: I thank the Examiner for highlighting this point. In response, I rewrote the section on CSR (the whole section 2.2, pp. 22-38) of the literature review in the revised thesis. The following actions have been taken:

  • I have made clarifications about the CSR definition used for this research, that is, the classic definition by Carroll (1979) (section 2.2. p. 22). I have also discussed different CSR definitions (eg. Aguinis & Glavas, 2012; WBCSD, 1999; and others) that had evolved over time.
  • I reviewed 35 additional journal articles to enhance the understanding on the concept of CSR:
  • The roles of companies and responsible leadership: Karp (2006); Maak and Pless (2006); Maak (2007); Mackey, Mackey, and Barney (2009); Mahoney, McGahan, and Pitelis (2009); Rupp (2011); Waldman, Siegel, and Javidan (2006)
  • CSR concepts: Aguinis (2011); Albareda (2008); Carroll (1991); Carroll (1999); Carroll (2008); Carroll and Shabana (2010); Davis (1960; 1973); Mele (2009); Moon and Vogel (2009); Scwartz and Carroll (2008); Visser, Matten, Pohl, and Tolhurst (2007); Wood (1991; 2010); Orlitzky (2009)
  • Stakeholder theory and practice: Dunfee (2009); Laplume, Sonpar, and Litz (2008); Roloff(2008); Rupp, Williams, and Aguilera (2010)Motivation of corporate social actions: Buehler and Shetty (1974; 1976); Campbell (2007); Margolis and Walsh (2003); Matten and Moon (2008); Pruzan (2009)
  • CSR standards: Equator Principles (2013); GRI (2013); ISO (2010; 2010b); OECD (2011); SAI (2014)
  • Based on the additional literature, I have also improved the section on ‘extended roles of companies in developing countries (subsection 2.1.1, pp. 19-22), ‘implicit and explicit CSR’ (subsection 2.2.3, pp. 31-33); and CSR in developing countries’ (subsection 2.2.4, pp. 33-38).
  • Regarding CSR in Indonesia, I have extended the literature review (see point 1.c above) and improved the whole section 3.1 to justify Indonesia as the research context.   Accordingly, I added discussions on ‘the roles of companies and CSR in Indonesia (subsection 3.1.1, pp. 64-66), ‘mandatory CSR but lack of government capacity to enforce the law’ (subsection 3.1.2, pp. 66-68), and ‘research and knowledge gap on CSR’ (subsection 3.1.3, pp. 68-71).

1.h. It is also problematic to state that “Bourdieu (1986) asserts that social capital is ‘the product of investment strategies’ (p. 249) and that corporation should consider CSR as a strategy to build social capital (Elkington, 1997; Porritt, 2007).” Social capital is acquired by individuals so if corporations are going to take action to increase the social capital of individuals then this needs to be considered. Are we talking about education, or many employee initiatives such as volunteering, or supporting new enterprise development, or merely providing community facilities? Some precision is needed here. And a Porter &Kramer article in HBR does not warrant such importance as no evidence is presented in it. Equally Elkington’s definition of corporate sustainability as the triple bottom line is simplistic and not really helpful. More critique and evaluation is needed.

Candidate’s responses to point 1h:I thank the Examiner for raising this point. In response:

  • Bourdieu’s (1986) assertion about the need for investment in social capital has been explained and supported by other literature in subsection 2.3.4. pp. 44-45.
  • Elkington’s (1997) and Porritt’s (2007) assertions about the roles of corporate investment in building social capital to generate corporate sustainability are elaborated on in section 2.4, pp. 51-53.
  • Porter and Kramer’s (2006) assertions about the importance of strategic fit between CSR programs and social issues are clarified in subsection 2.2.1. pp. 25-28.
  • I have re-written the section on the relationships between the concepts of CSR, social capital and corporate sustainability in section 2.5, pp. 53-56 based on the improved literature review.
  • I have clarified that social capital is both a collective and individual good. The ‘institutionalized social relations with embedded resources’ which consists of economic, political, cultural and the social connections of members in the network, and are expected to benefit individuals and ‘the individuals in the collective’ (Lin, 1999a) (subsection 2.3.2, pp. 42).
  • The within-case analyses on how CSR programs build social capital (MSME – subsection 5.3.3, pp. 169-176; POLMAN – subsection 6.3.3, pp. 213-220; and PALMOIL – subsection 7.5.3, pp. 252-262) and the cross case analysis of the three cases(section 8.3, pp. 286-297) have confirmed that the interactions and communications between the company and the CSR beneficiaries in the three CSR programs have improved the social capital of the company and its CSR program beneficiaries.

2. The Examiner’s comments on the research objectives and research questions: a clear research objective and question built upon the established gap in the literature. I cannot agree with the statement that “there is a lack of research on CSR, social capital and corporate sustainability in the context of developing countries.” It has not been fully explored but there is a lot more research than the candidate seems to be aware of. Indeed the candidate has not really situated her work satisfactorily and has not created the necessary space for the research. A better critique would also lead to more focused and justified research questions and propositions.

Candidate’s responses to point 2: I acknowledge the Examiner’s point that the research objectives and research questions need to be built upon the established gap in the literature. In response, I have enhanced the literature review on the concepts of CSR, social capital and corporate sustainability. I have re-written the whole of Chapter 2 to clarify the relevance and the connections between the concepts in finding the research gaps, building my research objectives and developing my research questions. The research objectives, the research gaps, and the research questions of the revised version are developed based on the enhanced literature review (section 2.6, pp. 56-60). The revised research objectives and research questions are as follows:

Research objectives:

  1. To investigate the actual role of a company in contributing to sustainable development in a developing country.
  2. To explore why and how the concepts of sustainable development, CSR programs, social capital, and corporate sustainability are interrelated and evolve over time.

Research questions:

  1. Why does a company decide to play a role in contributing to sustainable development in developing countries through its CSR programs?
  2. How does a company formulate and implement its CSR to address social issues strategically?
  3. How do the company’s CSR programs develop social capital?
  4. How does the social capital developed by a company’s CSR programs contribute to its corporate sustainability?

3. The Examiner’s points on the research methodology: the methodology chapter needs to describe the ontological/epistemological position of the candidate; and justify the case research methodology to be used.

Candidate’s responses to point 3: I acknowledge the Examiner’s point that the methodology chapter has to describe my ontological/epistemological position and justify the choice of qualitative case study. In response, I have conducted the following actions:

  • The ontological and epistemological considerations in choosing a qualitative case study are added and elaborated on in section 4.2, pp.103-105.
  • Additional literature (26 journal articles) has been reviewed to enrich and clarify Chapter 4:
    • Philosophy of research: Leitch, Hill, and Harrison (2010); Maxwell (2004)
    • Research methods: Cohen and Manion (1994); Creswell (2009); Mason (2006); Somekh and Lewin (2005); Tashakkori and Teddlie (2003)
    • Research methods in management: Edmonson and McManus (2007)
    • Qualitative research in management: Bluhm, Harman, Lee, and Michell (2010); Gummeson (1988); Patton (1990); Van Maanen (1998)
    • Case studies: George and Bennett (2005); Hamel (1993); Leonard-Barton (1990); Meyer (2001)
    • Observation: Adler and Adler (2002); Waddington (1994)
    • Thematic coding and analysis: (Ayres, 2008)
    • Triangulation: Guion, Diehl, and McDonald (2011)
    • Qualitative research interviews: King (1994)
    • Process analysis: Mahoney (2000)
    • Longitudinal field research: Pettigrew (1990)
    • Archival records: PRONI (2015)
    • Strategic narrative: Stryker (1996)
    • Validity and reliability in qualitative research: Sykes (1990)
    • Purposeful sampling: Patton (1990)
  • The theoretical framework, research objectives and research questions are re-emphasized in the methodology chapter. There are some improvements in the theoretical framework based on the literature review: The term ‘non-social capital’ in the original version is changed into ‘embedded resources’ of social capital in the revised version. When the focal actors invests in the social capital development (e.g. through CSR programs), they provide resources (e.g. finance, knowledge, market) to be accessible for the people in the network. The sustainable development concept is added into the driving forces, where in the original thesis it was called ‘initial conditions’.
  • The justifications and limitations of qualitative research and the case study methodology are discussed in sections 4.3, pp. 105-106 and 4.4, pp. 107-108, respectively.
  • The justification for single case study is discussed in the section on research sampling and unit of analysis (section 4.5, pp. 108-114).
  • The steps of data collection and data management are restructured to improve clarity on issues of triangulation (section 4.6, pp. 114-123).
  • The steps of coding and labelling are discussed in section 4.7, pp. 124-134 (data reduction and data display).
  • The steps of data analysis: analytical chronology and within-case analysis, followed by pattern matching, cross-case analysis, and theory development are discussed in section 4.8, pp. 134-138.
  • The discussions and conclusions, issues of qualitative research, and opportunities for further research are discussed in sections 4.9, p. 139; 4.10, pp. 139-141; and 4.11, p. 141, respectively.
  • Overall, I have restructured and rewritten the whole methodology chapter.

3.a. A case methodology seems appropriate but I do not agree that most prior research is quantitative. This might be true to investigate the link between CSR activity and corporate performance, principally financial performance, but is certainly not true to explore many other aspects of CSR.

Candidate’s responses to point 3a:

  • The claim that most prior research in CSR is quantitative has been removed. Instead, I acknowledge that CSR research has been done qualitatively and quantitatively based on prior literature reviews done by other researchers like Aguinis and Glavas (2012) (section 4.2. p. 103).

3.b. The benefits of qualitative research are mentioned alongside the limitations. And various aspects of case methodology are described although it is not really justified as the appropriate methodology for this research. It is not really sufficient to state that these methods are ok so I am using them.

Candidate’s responses to point 3b: I thank the Examiner for this comment. Accordingly, I have improved the methodology Chapter by adding sections on:

  • Justifications for selection of qualitative research are discussed in section 4.3, pp. 105-106
  • Justifications for qualitative case study strategy are elaborated in section 4.4, pp. 107-108.
  • Issues related to qualitative case study are discussed in section 4.10, pp. 139-141.

3.c. The choice of Astra as the case is not really justified. I am sure that it is fine but why this company rather than any other – and why is this purposive sampling.

Candidate’s responses to point 3c:I thank the Examiner for this comment. In response, I have clarified the case selection of Astra by taking the following actions:

  • I have added the reasons for choosing the CSR practice of Astra in the introduction of the revised introductory chapter. Astra has been established since 1957 as a small business and became Indonesia’s largest company, employing over 165,000 people in 2011, while being underpinned by society as being a responsible and sustainable company (Kehati, 2015).What can we learn from this? Especially as the company also matches the criteria of ‘purposeful sampling’ (Patton, 1990) to obtain longitudinal, multi-level empirical evidence. The reasons forthe selection of Astra are elaborated further in subsection 1.3.2, pp. 9-11 of the Introduction.
  • A thorough description about Astra is discussed in the research context (section 3.2, pp. 72-98 of Chapter 3).
  • Theoretical justifications for selecting Astra as a ‘purposeful’ sampling are discussed in section 4.5, pp. 108-113 of Chapter 4 (sampling and unit of analysis).

3.d. If documents and archival records are treated as equivalent, then really only 3 sources of evidence are used. This is not a problem but I am not sure that this can also equate to triangulation – this requires evidence from an external source. In entirely qualitative research such triangulation becomes extremely important so I would look to see some evidence of such triangulation.

Candidate’s responses to point 3d: I thank the Examiner for this comment. Accordingly, I have clarified the use of the source of evidence and triangulation by improving:

  • The section on data collection and data management (section 4.6, pp. 114-123) has been improved, showing different sources of evidence used in the research: interviews (subsection 4.6.3, pp. 116-120); documents and archives (subsection 4.6.4, pp. 120-122); and observations (subsection 4.6.5, pp. 122-123). As both documents and archival records are used in the research, a clarification on the difference between documents and archival records is given in subsection 4.6.4, p. 120.
  • The issues of triangulation are addressed in section 4.4. p. 108 (this research uses multiple source of evidence and confirmation of findings by key respondents); section 4.6, p. 114 (by using multiple data collection methods such as interviews, observations, documents, and archival records); subsection 4.6.3, pp. 116-120 (by ensuring that interviews are gained by gathering different points of views from multiple informants that represent multi stakeholders of the cases of MSME, POLMAN and PALMOIL programs. The issues of triangulation are also acknowledged in section 4.10, pp. 139-141 (issues of qualitative case study).

3.e. Data analysis has been undertaken by some form of coding but as far as I can ascertain this has been based on the judgment of the researcher concerning meaning rather than looking for key words or concepts. I am unsure if written sources and verbal sources have been treated differently and this might be important. Of course coding seeks to turn a qualitative research method into a quantitative one through analysis. This is fine but less needs to be made of the distinction between the two forms of data collection.

Candidate’s responses to point 3e: I acknowledge the Examiner’s point. In response, I have undertaken the following actions:

  • The steps of data reduction (coding and labelling) and data display (presentation in Tables and Figures) are clarified in subsections 4.7.1, pp. 124-129 (data coding and labelling) and 4.7.2, pp. 129-134 (data displays) respectively. An illustration of concepts, code labels and change observed is presented in Table 4.6, p.125. An illustration of coding to categorize evidence from interviews, documents and archival record is presented in Table 4.7, p. 126. An illustration of manual coding is discussed in section 4.7.1. Table 4.8, p. 128.
    • Different treatments of written and verbal data sources are discussed in section 4.6 (Data Collection and Data Management): interviews (subsection 4.6.3, pp. 116-120), documents and archives (subsection 4.6.4, pp. 120-122), observations (subsection 4.6.5, pp. 121-122).
  • To improve clarity of data analysis, the within-case analyses (chapters 5, 6, and 7 in the revised version) and cross-case analysis (Chapter 8) have been restructured accordingly as discussed in point 4 below.

4. The Examiner’s comments on analysis: a clear demarcation of what is data and what is analysis so that the conclusions drawn from the research are shown to be reasonably argued and robust.

4.a. The only data which I can actually see is extract from interviews. There is no evidence of documentary sources which have been used or of observations used. And there is no evidence of any coding. So it is unclear whether the Tables which are used represent data or analysis of a combination. Tables from Chapter 5 onwards are unclear as to their sources. Is this company information/publicity, analysis of the case by the student or something else? If the student has compiled these from data collected then it is unclear how it has been analysed to arrive at this level of certainty.

Candidate’s responses to point 4a:I thank the Examiner for suggestions on data presentation and analysis. In response, I have taken the following actions:

Coding and labelling are discussed in point 3.e. above.

  • The within-case analysis (Chapters 5, 6, 7) and the cross-case analysis were rewritten with supports of adequate reference (empirical evidence and the expanded literature). Overall comparisons between within-case analysis of the original version and the revised version (chapters 5, 6, and 7) of the three cases are as follows:
  • The references (the literature, documents, and interviews) to build tables (time-ordered matrices), and figures (event state network) are clearly stated below each table and figure in chapters 5, 6, and 7.
  • The ‘time-ordered matrices’ are used to display data which show the chronology of each case. The Tables were built based on the literature, corporate documents, archival records, and interviews. For example, the time-ordered matrices for MSME program (Chapter 5) can be seen at Table 5.1, p. 146; Table 5.2, p. 148; Table 5.3, p. 152; and Table 5.4, p. 157,
  • The ‘time ordered matrices’ are consolidated into the ‘event state network’ which is used to analyse the linkages between the concepts of sustainable development, CSR, social capital, and corporate sustainability. The evidence from the interviews and observations is used to validate the data displayed at the ‘event state network’. For instance, the ‘event state network’ of MSME program can be seen at Figure 5.1, p.160.
  • The excerpts from the quoted interviews are presented as appendices D, pp. 353-382 (MSME program), E, pp. 38-398 (POLMAN program), and F, pp. 399-431 (PALMOIL program) respectively. The excerpts are arranged in a way that matches the flow of data analysis.
  • The social issues to be tackled by the MSME program are discussed in sections 5.1, pp. 143-144; the POLMAN program in section 6.1, pp. 188-189; and the PALMOIL program in section 7.1, pp. 226-228, respectively. In the original version, it was discussed in the chapter on research context (Chapter 3).
  • The within-case analysis uses the concepts of sustainable development, CSR, social capital, and corporate sustainability to explain the evolution and interrelation of the empirical findings related to the four concepts.
  • The within-case analyses are undertaken by answering research questions comparing the empirical findings with the operational definitions in Table 4.1, p. 100. The term ‘non-social capital’ used in the original version is removed. Instead, the term ‘embedded resources’ of social capital is used in the revised version. When the focal actors invest in the social capital development (e.g. through CSR programs), they provide resources (e.g. finance, knowledge, market) to be accessible to the people in the network.
  • The data from the interviews and the facts from the literature and corporate documents are used as evidence to support the assertions and claims made from the results of the within-case analysis.
  • The propositions which were used to draw conclusions in the original version are no longer used in the thesis. The findings are directly compared to the theoretical framework.

4.b. One factor which all researchers need to be aware of is that of replicability – the extent to which another could undertake similar research. This is why data and analysis need to be identified. It is also vital that the conclusions need to be seen as reasonable by the reader, which means that the stages of analysis need to be clear.

Candidate’s responses to point 4b: I acknowledge the Examiner’s suggestions by clarifying the steps of data collection and data management (section 4.6, pp. 114-123 of Chapter 4), data analysis (section 4.8, pp. 134-138 of Chapter 4), as well as clarifying and restructuring the analytical chronology and within-case analysis(chapters 5, 6, and 7) and cross-case analysis in the revised version (Chapter 8):

  • For replicability, I maintain a case study database (Yin, 2009) in a way that it becomes a ‘formal, presentable database, so that in principle other investigators can review the evidence directly and not be limited to the written case study report’ (Yin, 2009). In essence, case study documents such as notes, memos, and transcripts should be stored in such a way that later users can retrieve them efficiently. I filed my case study database in the form of soft-copy on my computer and in hard copy in a filing cabinet for easy retrieval.
  • For data management, I used EndNote for my references and ATLAS.ti (Creswell, 2009; Yin, 2009; Miles and Huberman, 1994) to help me to code and categorise large volumes of narrative text from open-ended interviews and other written materials. The ATLAS.ti software is a very valuable tool in data reduction, storage, and retrieval. Coded data can be retrieved efficiently. However, it is important not to underestimate the value of the researcher’s role in conducting a high-level analysis to answer ‘why’ and ‘how’ questions and to draw conclusions (Yin, 2009).
  • At the data reduction stage, I selected, focused, simplified, abstracted, and transformed the data that appeared in selected written materials to sharpen the data for further conclusion and verification. Data reduction activities included thematic coding (Ayres, 2008) and action coding (Stryker, 1996). At the stage of data display or data presentation, I organised, compressed, and presented the data into tables, matrices, and networks in the form of a ‘time ordered matrix’, ‘event state network’, and ‘conceptually clustered matrix’. (Miles& Huberman, 1994) which help me to do a within-case and cross-case analysis.
  • The steps of data analysis being implemented in this study include: 1) analytical chronology and within-case analysis, 2) pattern matching and cross-case analysis, and 3) theory development. Step 1 was undertaken for each case and discussed in chapters 5, 6, and 7 (see point 4a above).
  • For pattern matching and cross-case analysis (step 2), I used the ‘conceptually clustered matrices’ to see the linkages between the three cases with data sources taken from the tables presented in the within-case analyses in Chapters 5, 6, and 7. The matrices were then analysed to capture similarities and difference across the three CSR programs. This ‘pattern matching’ will results on conclusions about the interrelationship among the concepts of CSR, social capital and corporate sustainability, as well as the driving forces of the CSR programs.
  • In Chapter 8 (Cross-case Results and Discussion) of the revised version, I divided the chapter into a section on Results (sections 8.1, 8.2, 8.3, and 8.4, pp. 273-302) and a section on Discussion (section 8.5, pp. 302-310). In the Results section, the four research questions are answered. I explain in a narrative form why and how the concepts of CSR programs, social capital, and corporate sustainability are linked to each other over time (Yin, 2009) by comparing all of the evidence from the three cases with the theoretical framework (Yin, 2009). In the subsequent discussion section, I relate the results to the literature to show the nature of the relationships and why they occur among the concepts and between the concepts and the outcomes (Eisenhardt, 1989) in order to build a theory. Such separation was not clear in the original version.

4.c. There are two important questions to be answered when considering a piece of work like this at doctoral level. The first is the question as to whether the objectives set for the research have been achieved, and the second is concerning whether parts of the thesis fit together to make a whole which comprises an appropriate argument and makes an appropriate contribution to knowledge. In this case the objectives have not been met – or at least not explained sufficiently that I am able to say that they have been met. And the parts do not fit together to show that a satisfactory contribution has been made. Quite possible there is sufficient data and analysis to achieve this but it is not made apparent.  

Candidate’s responses to point 4c:I acknowledge the suggestions from the Examiner, and have made the following improvements based on the suggestions:

  • The conclusions are made by comparing the results of the cross-case with the theoretical framework, resulting in the theoretical model as presented in Figure 9.1, p. 316.
  • I have rewritten the chapters of the within-case analyses (chapters 5, 6, and 7) and the subsequent cross-case analysis (Chapter 8) to ensure that the analyses were developed based on the research objectives, research questions, and theoretical framework.
  • I have also rewritten the Introduction (Chapter 1) and the Conclusions (Chapter 9) to clarify how the research objectives have been met and how the research questions are answered. The Introduction and the Conclusions discuss the achievements of the research objectives, the arguments made in answering the research questions, and show how the theoretical model (Figure 9.1, p. 316) was adopted from Figure 8.1, p. 304, which was developed from the cross-case results (empirical findings) and the theoretical framework (Figure 4.1, p. 101).
  • The final chapter on conclusions, contributions, limitations, and further research is restructured and rewritten. In the revised version, the conclusions, implications, limitations, and further research are linked back to the research gaps, which was not done sufficiently in the original version.

5. The Examiner’s point on references: references need to be clear. At the moment it is unclear what a reference to the literature, to internal company documents or even to interviews.

Candidate’s responses to point 5: I acknowledge the suggestions from the Examiner  by undertaking the following actions:

  • The references in the revised version are divided into two categories, separating interviews from the rest of the bibliography.
  • The literature and published company documents (e.g. annual reports, company journal, and company magazines) are cited as book or journal articles. For example: (Astra International, 2011).
  • Unpublished company documents are listed in the reference list but annotated there and in in-text citations as [Astra Archival Record].
  • I have improved the in-text referencing for the interviews. As an illustration, an in-text reference from a single interview is written as (Pongoh, interview, 2011). If the citations are sourced from more than one interviewee, the in-text reference will be (interviews: Martono, 2011; Pongoh, 2011; Liman, 2011). All interview quotes cited in the thesis are provided in appendices D (MSME program), E (POLMAN program), and F (PALMOIL program). In the reference list, the interviews are categorised under point 2: Interviews.
  • Appendices in the revised version are also improved:
    • A list of observations is added as Appendix C.
    • Interview quotes (appendices C, D, E, and F) in the original thesis were reordered. In the revised version they are restructured into appendices D, E, and F, capturing interview quotes for the four research questions and grouped for each case (MSME program, POLMAN program, and PALMOIL program), respectively.
    • Other appendices remain the same.

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Posted in Always There Is a Way Out, I. Many Dreams Come True, II. I Raise and Fall, III. A Journey to A PhD, Keeping Hopes – Conquering Uncertainty, Taking Risk – Unfolding Life Mystery | 1 Comment

What the examiners said

In Australia, a thesis must be submitted to three examiners: one in the University and two external, one of whom must be overseas. The comments are sent back to the examinations committee, who decide whether the candidate's thesis is

  1. Acceptable as-is (uncommon)
  2. Acceptable with minor revisions (most common, and what I got)
  3. Acceptable only with major additional work and re-submission.
  4. Unacceptable.

Here is the bulk of the examiners' comments on the submitted version of my thesis. The final, revised, version, of course, attempts to correct the shortcomings noted by the examiners.

Examiner 1 (University of Technology at Sydney)


The candidate demonstrated the ability to understand a vast area of research and clearly identify some of the problems in this area. He then went on to develop some novel solutions to these problems.

The contents were definitely sufficiently substantial and broad-ranging to allow coverage of the field. The only difficulty was that the field was so large (the title of the thesis says it all) that the candidate's achievements tended to be isolated. This meant the thesis, although it did present a broad review of the field, did not present a coherent set of contributions. I suspect that the original goal of the thesis was far too ambitions, so the candidate ended up making a number of disconnected original contributions. The thesis does contain material suitable for publication and indeed a number of papers have been published.


The candidate did display sufficient knowledge of the area and a capacity for clear thinking. He was also able to demonstrate a superior ability for analysis and design.

Presentation The thesis was well planned and presented.

[Specific technical comments elided.]

Examiner 2 (Adelaide University, Australia)

Chapters 1 and 2 of this thesis are well-written, provide good motivation and introduction, and present clear explanations of background material. Clearly most relevant literature in the area has been surveyed.

Chapter 3 begins with a good perspective of dataflow history (but I would point out that the discussion of phased actors should have a more detailed comparison with the I-structures used by Arvind's MIT dataflow group since 1978). The chapter sets out to provide a more formal notation and semantics for dataflow process networks, a useful goal. However, in many cases, the semantic definitions are unclear. For example, ..... [several technical points elided]. In summary, such definitions need to be expressed more rigorously. Overall, however, chapter 3 provides a useful description of phased actors which is capable of some interesting characterizations.

Chapter 4 describes a new and interesting visual syntax for Haskell. The development is very thorough; visual syntax for some quite difficult aspects of higher-order functional languages is presented in a convincing manner.

Chapter 5 is concerned with the description of static process networks. It is the longest and most substantial chapter of the thesis. It contain many good, well-presented ideas, especially in the early sections on vectors and streams. The important section on network construction and transformation is also generally good, presenting interesting and powerful methods of network specification. However, section 5.5 on process transformation is somewhat sketchy: it points out interesting possibilities, supported by a useful example, but falls well short of providing, say, general guidelines for applying the transformations developed. In this sense the treatment is incomplete and undeveloped; ideally, the methodology should be strengthened but for the purposes of this thesis a more precise summation of the contribution of this section and how it should be developed will be adequate.

Chapter 6 extends the network notation to express a notion of time, and pursues issues of real-time DSP programming. Again, it is clear that previous work has been thoroughly examined, and sensible alternatives for modeling time are considered. The chapter also presents interesting techniques for functional expression of asynchronous stream functions, supported by well-developed examples. Sections 6.3 and 6.4 define an admittedly-incomplete set of functions for manipulation of timed streams and dynamic process networks, noting that further work is required to find the most useful set of functions. Although the example given of their use is reasonably realistic, the issue of generality should be addressed by at least making an assessment of the general applicability of the primitives proposed, and hence indicating the extent to which this work will need to be augmented to provide a more complete programming system. Similarly, the music synthesizer example shows the power of this work as a specificational technique, but the summary discussion show it to be a long way from a [a few words chopped off fax] programming tool. The chapter should be strengthened in this respect, with a deeper discussion of the issues and techniques necessary to make it s useful part of a real-time programmer's toolkit.

In summary, this is a well-written thesis which presents interesting ideas across a quite broad range. As I have indicated above, I believe that there are several areas in which the discussion should be tightened and strengthened to make a convincing PhD thesis.

Examiner 3 (Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, Scotland)


Mr Reekie has carried out an excellent research program to formalize and facilitate the design of digital signal; processing (DSP) systems. In particular, he has:

  1. Employed a functional language as an intermediary language between diagrammatic DSP design and dataflow-based implementation.
  2. Formally defined dataflow primitives.
  3. Shown that such primitives may be represented as higher-order functions within a functional language.
  4. Designed a visual interface for the functional language with icons for higher-order functions.
  5. Applied formal transformation techniques to optimize higher-order-function-based DSP designs.
  6. Extended this approach to static streams and vector-based process networks.
  7. Enabled the design of dynamic process networks by introducing explicit time and data constructs.

These all represent valuable contributions to the field. I am pleased to recommend that Mr Reekie be awarded the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, subject to minor changes to the thesis discussed below.


Mr Reekie has identified clearly his research area and situated it appropriately within the wider field, His work is presented in a generally lucid and succinct manner. He has already published much of the research.


Mr Reekie has a thorough grounding in the broad area of digital signal processing, and in-depth knowledge of dataflow, higher-order functional programming, and visual language design. This understanding is well demonstrated in his research where he ably integrates and synthesizes practical techniques from the latter three areas.


The thesis is, in general, thoughtfully constructed and professionally presented. However, there are a number of minor short-comings: there require some attention but certainly do not necessitate re-submission.

Mr Reekie's research draws upon a number of disparate areas; of necessity he cannot give full accounts of all of them. However, some of his overview sections would benefit from slightly more attention to detail to provide more context and to ensure that all concepts and technical terms used in subsequent chapters are introduced at this stage.

The main weakness lies in the lack of resolution both to each chapter and to the thesis as a whole. Chapters end somewhat abruptly with no attempt to summarize and reflect upon what has been covered or point forward to subsequent chapters. Concluding summary discussions would be beneficial.

The final chapter is very brief. This would benefit from slightly more reflective discussion of each chapter balancing contributions, shortcomings and potential for further work.

[Detailed technical comments elided.]

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