President Ma Ying-jeou's (馬英九) Harvard University doctoral thesis contains more than 1,000 errors that violate the university's freshmen writing guidebook, a report on the Boston-based Web site examiner.com said yesterday.
The news could come as an embarrassment to the president, who prides himself on his English ability and served as former president Chiang Ching-kuo’s (蔣經國) interpreter shortly after graduating.
Ma’s thesis, which discussed issues surrounding the Diaoyutai Islands, was titled Trouble Over Oily Waters: Legal Problems of Seabed Boundaries and Foreign Investments in the East China Sea. It helped Ma graduate from the university's Law School as a Doctor of Juridical Science (SJD) in 1981.
The errors came to light after a retired teacher interested in Ma's views on the islands looked up the thesis, the story said.
It reported that the retired teacher was so shocked at the “sloppy scholarship” that she spent a whole year studying the document and checking all the footnotes.
The results of her work turned up more than 1,000 errors, including misspellings, missing words, grammatical problems and misattributed material and footnotes, the Web site report said.
The report, by Michael Richardson, said that although the teacher had yet to discover evidence of plagiarism, “she is suspicious and continues digging into the paper.”
The teacher had contacted Ma's former faculty advisor, Detlev Vagts, to voice her concerns, the report said.
It added that Vagts, who said he didn't keep a copy of the work, told the teacher in writing: “Although I would like to be helpful with Ma Ying-jeou’s thesis my ability to do so is limited.”
Nevertheless, he assured the teacher that he had “high standards for approval” and was “fully satisfied that Ma Ying-jeou met those standards.”
Presidential Office Spokesman Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) said the value of a doctoral thesis should be its viewpoints and contributions to the specific field.
The fact that the president received an SJD from Harvard was the best proof of the quality of his doctoral thesis, he said.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY MO YAN-CHIH
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