How to start Dissertation introduction

how to choose a dissertation topic and how to choose a title for your dissertation and how to write dissertation introduction and dissertation proposal
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Published Date:02-07-2017
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i DISSERTATION HANDBOOK Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership  P-12 School Leadership  Higher Education Leadership School of Education Union University October 2011 Online version available at 1 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION Purpose All graduate-degree granting institutions are committed to assist graduate students and faculty members in meeting the goals of consistency, logical organization, attractiveness, and correctness in scholarly writing. This manual is designed to provide guidance to the doctoral candidate in the preparation of the doctoral dissertation according to the requirements of the Ed.D. Program in Educational Leadership. This document describes the steps of the dissertation process, offers sample forms, and presents the program’s form and style requirements with examples. The candidate is responsible for ensuring that each of those steps and style requirements are followed and that all required submissions are made by the specified deadlines in Appendix C. Because this information is essential and subject to change, and because the candidate is responsible for adhering to all of it, candidates should become familiar with it and resolve any questions with their advisors before proceeding with their dissertation work. Clear understanding and adherence to the following will make the dissertation process smoother for all concerned. 2 Ethics of Dissertation Research The primary responsibility for ensuring ethical conduct throughout the dissertation process, and ethical treatment of subjects, lies with the doctoral candidate and the dissertation chair. Since conferral of a graduate degree implies personal integrity and knowledge of scholarly methods, there are three areas in which graduate students should be particularly cautious: (a) proper acknowledgment of cited works, (b) the use of copyrighted material, and (c) approval to conduct research involving human subjects. Webster's New World College Dictionary (2007) defines plagiarism as ". . . to take (ideas, writing, etc.) from (another) and pass them off as one’s own” (p. 1100). Any material taken from another source must be documented, and in no case should one present another person’s work as one’s own. Extreme caution should be exercised by students involved in collaborative research to avoid questions of plagiarism. If in doubt, students should check with the major professor and the graduate school about the project. Plagiarism will be investigated when suspected and prosecuted if established. If copyrighted material is used in a limited way, permission to quote usually need not be sought. If, however, extensive material from a copyrighted work is to be used such that the rights of the copyright owner might be violated, permission of the owner must be obtained. In determining the extent of a written work that may be quoted without permission, the student should consider the proportion of the material to be quoted in relation to the substance of the entire work. According to The Chicago Manual of Style (1993), "A few lines from a sonnet, for instance, form a greater proportion of the work than do a few lines from a novel. Use of anything in its entirety is hardly ever acceptable" 3 (p.146). In no case should a standardized test or similar material be copied and included in a dissertation without written permission. According to Circular 21 (Reproduction of Copyrighted Works by Educators and Librarians, 1988), The following shall be prohibited: . . . There shall be no copying of or from works intended to be 'consumable' in the course of study or of teaching. These include workbooks, exercises, standardized tests and test booklets and answer sheets and like consumable material. (p.11) The publisher usually has the authority to grant permission to quote excerpts from the copyrighted work or can refer requests to the copyright owner or designated representative. The copyright owner may charge for permission to quote. Permissions should be credited with the acknowledgments, and the source should appear in the reference section of the manuscript. Compliance with federal regulations governing the use of human subjects, animal care, radiation, legend drugs, recombinant DNA, or the handling of hazardous materials in research is monitored by a number of federal agencies. Because of these regulations, research compliance is another area of importance to graduate students and to the conduct of their research. All research conducted at Union University involving human subjects must be approved by the University’s Institutional Review Board (IRB) before the actual research begins. Forms required by the IRB along with detailed information may be obtained from the IRB’s web site ( These same forms are required by the School of Education Research Review Committee (SOERRC). 4 The student completes and submits an application to the Institutional Review Board at who then determines what level of review is needed (exempt, expedited, or full) and initiates the appropriate review process for that level. The IRB communicates the results of the review to the student (exemption, approval, recommendations, etc). Note: The best case scenario to achieve exempt status is to include only pre-existing/archival data in the research investigation. Under exempt status, there should be no use of inventory scales, questionnaires, or interviews to collect any information for the purpose of clarifying, validating, or answering any questions, hypotheses, or data analysis. Graduate programs in education at Union University are designed to provide, within a service-oriented Christian environment, quality graduate study opportunities to meet the educational needs of students. The mission of the School of Education is to prepare educators of character and competence who reflect Christ as they serve and lead in their schools and communities. In line with this mission, the goal of the graduate school, as well as the student's dissertation committee members, is to ensure that a dissertation is produced that will reflect credit and academic integrity on the student, the student’s committee, the department, and the graduate school. Other Documents For style issues not dealt with specifically in this handbook, students should use the most recent edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA). To ensure that dissertation proposals are approved by the Union University Institutional Review Board (IRB), candidates should obtain, read, and 6 CHAPTER 2 DISSERTATION PROCESS The dissertation is an original and scholarly research contribution to the candidate’s chosen area of specialization. It should demonstrate competent application of appropriate research procedures and ethical guidelines in the investigation of a significant problem or issue chosen by the candidate with the guidance of the candidate’s dissertation chair and committee. The Research Process The research process in the doctoral programs in P-12 School Administration and Higher Education can be seen as a continuum of three years (or tiers) that includes three scholarly works: Tier 1 includes the Qualifying Paper (for P-12 School Administration program) or an extensive literature review (for Higher Education program); Tier 2 includes the Dissertation Proposal; and Tier 3 includes the Dissertation. Students in the P- 12 School Administration doctoral program in EDR 707, Leadership Research Seminar, complete the Qualifying Paper, which is presented in the Qualifying Paper Symposium each June. The Qualifying Paper, as well as the Higher Education program’s literature review, is an extensive review of literature (a minimum of 30 sources) based on seminal and current literature in Educational Leadership. Half or more of this literature will be based on primary sources. The topic for review may or may not be coincidental with the dissertation topic. 7 The proposal. The dissertation proposal is completed as a part of Dissertation Seminar (EDR 712 in P-12 School Administration or EDR 751 in Higher Education) in collaboration with the dissertation chair and research committee. The Proposal comprises the first three chapters of the dissertation. The second chapter of the Proposal, the Review of Literature, contains a minimum of 40 references, half or more of which are primary sources and dated within the last five years, and a minimum of 40 pages. The dissertation. The Dissertation is completed after registration in EDR 790, Dissertation, and after the doctoral student has achieved candidacy. Candidacy is achieved after the successful completion of all course work, Dissertation Proposal approval, and successful Comprehensive Examinations. During this period, doctoral candidates will add significantly to the first three chapters that constituted the former Proposal, especially Chapter 2, the Review of Literature, culminating in a minimum of 60 references. The Dissertation is based on an extensive literature review that relies upon primary sources for an empirical research foundation. Most of the literature added to the Dissertation after Proposal approval will be primary sources. Primary sources describe empirical research studies, those that were conducted first-hand by the original researcher(s). Submission of paper for publication or presentation. The Ed.D. student must submit a paper for publication or professional presentation, which is written by him/her with guidance of the dissertation chair during enrollment in the Ed.D. Program at Union University. Upon accomplishing this requirement, each student must submit proof of the submission of the paper/manuscript and the chair’s approval signature to the dean’s office 8 (see form, Appendix B-8). Validated verification of official submission must be on file in the Dean’s Office before the student will be permitted to defend his/her dissertation. It is the student’s responsibility to complete this requirement. Information concerning the processes involved in manuscript or paper submission will begin in EDR 707 in the P-12 School Administration program or in EDR 750 in the Higher Education program. The Approval Process The approval process for dissertations is a necessary part of the overall process of developing the research and the final written description of that research. The sequence below is the one normally followed. Students should not attempt significant variations from this sequence. Selection and approval of the dissertation topic. Students should finalize topics that may develop into the proposal topic as a result of collaborating with the appropriate entities (i.e., school districts, higher education institutions) and the research seminar instructors (EDR 707, 712, or 750, 751). During the student’s second year, while in EDR 712 (P-12 School Administration students) or EDR 751 (Higher Education students), an approved “Topic Selection Approval Form” (Appendix B-1) must be submitted and filed in the graduate program office. The form should be filed during the first semester of EDR 712 for P-12 School Administration students. For Higher Education students, the form should be filed at the conclusion of EDR 750. Selection and approval of the dissertation committee. The doctoral learning community is created by the dynamic of faculty working with students in coursework, seminars, and doctoral processes. The dissertation committee chair and committee 9 members are an integral part of this scholarly community where students, chairs, committee members, seminar instructors, and research design and statistics instructors collaborate to ensure quality inquiry and writing. The candidate’s doctoral dissertation chair and committee are responsible for guiding the student in all steps of the dissertation process including the selection of a topic for the dissertation, approval of the dissertation proposal, and the approval of the completed dissertation and oral defense. The chief responsibility for this guidance lies with the dissertation committee chair. Under the direction of the Director of the Ed.D. Program, a dissertation committee consisting of a chairperson and two other members will be selected. The dissertation committee chairperson shall be a full-time graduate faculty member from the School of Education. The remainder of the committee is composed of two other members: (a) one full-time graduate faculty member from Union University; (b) an outside committee member, preferably, who is not a full-time faculty member at Union University, who has earned the terminal degree, who has a research interest in the dissertation topic, and who has been approved by the Dean’s office (see Appendix B-3). Instructors of EDR 710-Intermediate Statistics, EDR 720-Research Methods and Design, and EDR 725-Advanced Statistics and Design serve as ad hoc members of each dissertation committee as consultants in the area of statistics and research design. Instructors of the doctoral seminars play a supporting role and serve as resources, as well, in this scholarly community. 10 Arrangements for the selection of the committee chair are typically made during Tier 1 of the student’s program (during EDR 707 for P-12 School Administration students; during EDR 750 for Higher Education students). Chair selection is based on the chair’s research interests as they relate to the student’s research focus. Further, students should finalize topics that may develop into the proposal topic as a result of collaborating with the appropriate entities (i.e., school districts, higher education institutions) and the research seminar instructors (EDR 707, 712, 750, or 751). After topics have been finalized and approved, dissertation chairs will be assigned. During the student’s second year, while enrolled in EDR 712 (P-12 School Administration) or EDR 751 (Higher Education), an approved “Topic Selection Approval Form” (Appendix B-1) must be submitted and filed in the graduate program office. The form should be filed during the first semester of EDR 712 for P-12 School Administration students. For Higher Education students, the form should be filed at the conclusion of EDR 750. After this form is filed, the remaining committee members will be assigned. Once the full committee has been assigned and formed, the “Dissertation Committee Selection and Approval Form” must be completed and filed in the graduate program office. The dissertation chair is a pivotal person in the dissertation process, determining when each section of the candidate’s work is ready to be reviewed by all committee members. Meetings of all committee members are decided upon by the chair and arranged by the student with the approval of the chair. The oral defenses are directed by the chair. Students in the EDR 707 sequence or EDR 750 and the EDR 712 sequence or 11 EDR 751 shall meet face-to-face with their chairs at least one time in each sequence in order to satisfy passing requirements for the class. The candidate’s dissertation committee supports, guides, and directs the dissertation experience. The committee’s primary function is to provide written or oral feedback on various drafts of the candidate’s dissertation chapters and to ensure that a scholarly product is the final result. Committee members provide invaluable time and effort to a candidate’s dissertation experience; therefore, committee members must be given completed drafts at least two weeks in advance to allow appropriate time for review before giving feedback. Students must make the changes recommended by committee members before the next meeting with the chair or committee or before submitting another draft. Proposal development. The dissertation proposal is a detailed plan of the proposed dissertation study. Doctoral students develop a proposal during EDR 712 or EDR 751, Dissertation Seminar; EDR 720, Research Methods and Design; and EDR 725, Advanced Statistics and Design. As the research proposal is developed, the student should give attention to the selection of data-gathering instruments and to the obtaining of permissions that will be necessary for the completion of the proposed research. Structure of the literature review. Use the “funnel” approach to structure the review of literature (i.e., general to specific). Begin the review with a discussion of the historical and general theoretical bases for the topic and end with empirical studies of primary sources closely related to the study. Primary sources describe research conducted by the original researcher (i.e., first-hand, original research). Within this structure, 12 headings and subheadings should be used. Each section and subsection should contain empirical research from primary sources (there may be exceptions where only secondary sources may be found). Begin with a synthesis statement or paragraph concerning the research contained within the heading. Next, discuss the individual studies in detail (i.e., the sample, instrument, procedures for data collection, and findings). Then, close the section with a conclusion that is an evaluation of the literature. As a result, each heading or section should begin with a synthesis of the reported research, followed by analyses of that research, concluding with an evaluation or summary of that research. Primary vs. secondary sources. The literature review should contain primary sources. Primary sources describe empirical research studies, those that were conducted first-hand by the original researcher(s). The literature review contains a minimum of 40 references, half or more of which are primary sources and dated within the last five years, and a minimum of 40 pages. Secondary sources are rarely appropriate in a dissertation proposal; however, it is appropriate to use books written by experts in the field of study. Do not use secondary sources that summarize the empirical studies of others (e.g., as cited in). Overuse or misuse of direct quotes. A limited number of direct quotes may be judiciously used, restricted for emphasis, effect, or authoritative support. For the most part, the review of literature should be a synthesis of the source material, a paraphrase, primarily presented in the candidate’s own words. The use of too many quotations implies a lack of mastery of the topic. 13 List of components. Although the dissertation committee may approve an alternative format, an acceptable research proposal would typically include the following:  Proposal Approval Form  Title Page  Chapter 1 – Introduction: Begin with an historical perspective or context that includes a justification for and significance of the proposed research, a rationale for the choice of the research problem, a statement of the problem, purpose of the study, definitions of terms used, delimitations noted, along with hypotheses or research questions.  Chapter 2 – Review of Literature: A thorough review of the relevant literature. Must have a minimum of 40 references, half or more of which are primary sources and dated within the last five years, and at least 40 pages. The chapter should include a synthesis statement, review of pertinent literature, definitions, and research questions/hypotheses.  Chapter 3 – Methodology: Procedures and intended research methods, including introductory statement of purpose, description of the study, selection of subjects, participants, design, collection and treatment of data, instrumentation, statistical methods, data analysis, limitations, and a timeline. When describing the instrumentation, write each research question individually. After each, describe the instrument that will be used to answer the question. Offer validity and reliability information. Do the same for the next question. Secure written permission to make copies and/or include 14 instruments in your manuscript, if applicable. When describing the statistical methods/data analysis, write each question individually, and, after each, describe the test to be used to analyze the collected data. Justify the test choice by identifying the independent and dependent variables and what information will be gained after the use of the test.  References – Citations should follow formatting requirements of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association.  Appendices – Required permissions, instruments, etc. Approval of the research proposal. Before beginning the required dissertation research, the student must submit a research proposal to the dissertation committee members for their approval. Before proceeding with the research, the Research Proposal Approval Form indicating committee approval, attached to a clean copy of the research proposal, must be submitted to the Office of Graduate Studies in Education and placed in the student’s file. The approved dissertation proposal serves as an important contract between the candidate and the dissertation committee, describing how the proposed dissertation research should proceed. Any subsequent departures from that contract must first be approved by the dissertation committee. Methodology approval. Ed.D. students are required to follow a three-step methodology approval process beginning at the proposal preparation stage. Step one is to obtain the approval signature of his/her EDR 720 Research Methods and Design professor, or designee of the chair, prior to the proposal approval meeting (see form in 15 Appendix B-4). This signature gives approval for the methodology section of the Proposal. Step two requires each student to obtain approval for the statistical design described in the methodology section from the EDR 710/725 statistics professor, or designee of the chair (Appendix B-4). This person may or may not already serve on the student’s dissertation committee. It is strongly suggested that the aforementioned signatures be obtained at the end of the Research Methods and Design course (EDR 720) and then at the beginning of the Advanced Statistics course (EDR 725) respectively. The form must be submitted to the director’s office prior to scheduling the proposal approval meeting. Lastly, as the third step, near completion of the dissertation, the statistics professor’s approval signature, or signature of the chair’s designee, must be obtained again before the student is allowed to defend his/her final dissertation (Appendix B-4). The final signature of the statistics professor, or designee, must be obtained in approval of the student’s statistical analysis, and the fully completed form with all signatures must then be submitted and filed before the final defense of the dissertation can be scheduled. It is strongly suggested that this be done at least four months prior to the dissertation defense deadline. It is the student’s responsibility to maintain and submit the appropriate portion of this three-step form at the mandated times. Forms must be submitted to the applicable program director’s office, and a fully completed copy with all signatures must be attached 16 to the dissertation manuscript submitted to the dean’s office prior to defense of the final dissertation. The proposal approval meeting. When the chair believes that the proposal is ready for defense, the student shall obtain approval from each committee member to convene the committee for the proposal approval meeting. See Appendix D for an overview of the proposal approval meeting. The student shall schedule the time and place of the proposal defense with the committee chair. The committee may choose to approve the proposal as written, approve the proposal upon specific changes indicated by the committee, or disapprove of the proposal. The student is responsible for making all necessary changes immediately and submitting the revised proposal to the chair. The chair holds the responsibility of ensuring that all changes have been made. Upon submission of a satisfactory proposal to the chair, the student should forward a copy of the proposal and approval form with original signatures to the Office of Graduate Studies in Education on the respective campus. An approved proposal must be on file before registering for dissertation hours. Next steps. All IRB forms, required information, and related materials (e.g., copies of instruments, permission forms, informed consent letters, etc.) should be completed by the candidate. Next, the IRB forms, required information, and related materials should be submitted to the candidate’s chair for approval and then forwarded by the candidate’s chair to the chair of the School of Education Research Review Committee for review. Upon implementing suggestions from the SOERRC, the candidate’s chair should forward the IRB proposal to the Union University IRB committee for approval 17 along with the signature sheet (i.e. SOERRC chair’s and candidate’s chair’s signatures) of approval. Permission from other agencies should be obtained immediately after IRB approval. Comprehensive examination. Upon completion of all coursework (with at least 3.2 GPA), students may receive a clearance from the Program Director to take the comprehensive exams. Written comprehensive examination. In the written comprehensive examination, students respond to three questions chosen from coursework within the Program of Study. The written exam is taken over the course of three days, one day reserved per question. Students are given four hours to respond to each question. All responses are generated via computer on campus at Union University; however, students are given the opportunity to write notes or responses by hand during the examination time as a response aid. Students are supplied the course name and topic of each question no later than two weeks prior to the written exam. Questions are chosen from the three components of the program: Leadership Issues, Leadership Practice, and Leadership Research. If a course chosen for comprehensive examination has been transferred from another institution, an alternate course will be selected by the Program Director. Course instructors serve as initial evaluators of responses. The responses may be graded as follows: Excellent, Above Average, Adequate, Adequate with Clarification Needed, or Inadequate. The evaluators are given two weeks to complete the assessment. The 18 Program Director will inform the student and dissertation chair of the results of the written examination. If the student is unsuccessful on the written exam (at least 1 of the 3 questions not answered adequately), the student with one failed area may choose to rewrite on the failed area (issues, practice, or research) in the following term after comprehensive exams. A student with two failed areas may choose to rewrite on the whole exam (different questions) a year later. If successful on the second attempt, the student achieves Candidacy (provided the dissertation proposal has been approved) and may register for Dissertation hours the following semester. If unsuccessful on the second attempt, the student is dismissed from the program immediately. No student will be allowed more than one rewrite. A student with three failed areas will be dismissed from the program immediately. Oral comprehensive examination. The oral comprehensive examination meeting is held when all written responses are received from the evaluators. When the written responses have been returned to the chair, the student should ask permission of the chair to schedule the time and location of the oral comprehensive examination meeting. The oral examination is conducted to allow the student a time to reflect upon his or her program, personal and professional goals that have been reached, and goals yet to be reached. It is also a time to allow the student to clarify responses to the written comprehensive exam when needed. If the student scores an “adequate with clarification” on any question, the evaluator of that question should be invited to the oral meeting. The student is responsible for inviting the evaluator to the meeting. 19 The student should provide the Comprehensive Examination Decision Form (Appendix B-6) at the oral examination. Once completed, the form with original signatures must be forwarded to the Program Director for signature. An approved comprehensive examination must be on file before registering for dissertation hours. Admission to doctoral degree candidacy. A student must have degree candidacy status before beginning the doctoral research. A student will be admitted to degree candidacy status only when the following conditions have been met: (a) completion of all pre-dissertation course work with a minimum grade point average of 3.2; (b) submission of a dissertation proposal that has been approved by the student’s dissertation committee; and (c) successful completion of the written and oral comprehensive examinations. The student will receive written notification when candidacy status has been achieved. Candidacy status allows the student to register for dissertation hours. Should a student not achieve candidacy by failing to file an approved proposal before the deadline for registering for dissertation hours, the student should petition the dean for permission to register for EDU 751 Proposal Development, a doctoral level course that offers the student, within one term, the opportunity to complete the dissertation proposal. Following proposal approval and achievement of candidacy, the student may register for dissertation hours in the next dissertation term. 20 Review of the School of Education Research Review Committee (SOERRC) and approval of the Institutional Review Board (IRB). All School of Education students and faculty who propose to conduct research must have the IRB protocol reviewed by the School of Education Research Review Committee (SOERRC) before seeking approval from the IRB or conducting research. The same forms used for the IRB are used for the SOERRC. All forms and documentation required for the SOERRC and the IRB, along with more detailed explanation, may be found on the IRB web site at All IRB forms, required information, and related materials (e.g., copies of instruments, permission forms, informed consent letters, etc.) are completed by the candidate and submitted to the candidate’s chair for approval. Upon approval of the chair, the forms are forwarded to the chair of the SOERRC by the candidate’s chair for review. After the suggestions from the SOERRC are implemented, the IRB protocol may be submitted by the candidate’s chair to the IRB for consideration. After IRB action, the protocol is returned to the student with copies to the dissertation chair and the chair of the SOERRC. All students and university faculty and staff who propose to conduct research involving human subjects must have prior approval from the IRB. There are three levels of IRB review, which are determined by the level of risk to the human subjects. First, full board review is required when there is more than minimal risk to subjects, vulnerable populations are involved, invasive procedures are used, or experimental devices are

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