What is the Dissertation Process

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The Dissertation Guide A Guide for CEC Doctoral Students (for students who entered the program before fall 2014) College of Engineering and Computing Nova Southeastern University 3301 College Avenue – Carl DeSantis Building Fort Lauderdale-Davie, Florida 33314-7796 800-986-2247 954-262-2000 cecinfonova.edu cec.nova.edu ©August 2015 Nova Southeastern University. All rights reserved. Table of Contents List of Figures iv Sections 1. Section 1: Overview 1 Scholars Before Researchers: Pre-Dissertation Coursework 1 The Dissertation 2 The Five-Chapter Model 3 Writing Skills 3 2. Section 2: The Dissertation Process 4 Overview 4 Initiating the Dissertation Process 4 Working with Your Potential Dissertation Chair 5 Producing the Dissertation Documents 6 Defending the Dissertation 8 Completing the Dissertation Report 8 Publishing the Dissertation Results 9 3. Section 3: The Dissertation Relationship 10 The Doctoral Student 10 The Dissertation Chair 11 The Committee Member 11 4. Section 4: Guidelines for Dissertation Deliverables 12 The Dissertation Idea Paper 12 The Dissertation Proposal 14 The Dissertation Report 17 5. Section 5: Document Preparation – Form and Style 19 References and Citations 19 Margins 20 Line Spacing 20 Paragraph Spacing 20 Page Numbering 20 Type Style 21 Title Page 21 The Abstract 21 Chapter Title Heading, Subheadings, and Sub-Subheadings 21 Tables and Figures in the Text Body 22 Appendices 22 6. Section 6: Additional Resources 24 ii Books 24 Journal Articles 26 Additional Links – Web Sites 26 Appendices 27 A. Sample Dissertation Title Page 28 B. Dissertation Approval Page 29 C. Sample First Page of Abstract 30 D. Sample Second Page of Abstract 31 E. Sample Acknowledgements Page 32 F. Sample Table of Contents 33 G. Sample List of Tables 34 H. Sample List of Figures 35 I. Sample of the Format for Headings in the Chapters 36 J. Sample of Appendix Cover Page 37 K. Sample of Appendix Without Separate Cover Page 38 L. Dissertation Pre-Idea Paper Rubric 39 M. Dissertation Idea Paper Rubric 40 N. Dissertation Proposal Rubric 41 O. Dissertation Research Rubric 42 P. Dissertation Final Report Rubric 43 iii List of Figures Figures 1. From Coursework to Dissertation 2 2. The Dissertation Process 4 3. Working with Your Potential Dissertation Chair 5 4. The Dissertation Documents 7 iv 1 Section 1: Overview The Dissertation Guide covers the dissertation process as well as the form of dissertation documents for the College of Engineering and Computing (CEC). This guide describes: • what a dissertation is • how to get started • how to find a dissertation chair • how to form the dissertation committee • how to prepare and submit each of the three dissertation documents: the Idea Paper, the Dissertation Proposal, and the Dissertation Report • what to do if human subjects are involved in the study • where to find additional dissertation resources For matters regarding the dissertation that are not covered in the Dissertation Guide, you should follow the advice of your dissertation chair. Official versions of the Dissertation Guide will be posted to the school’s website (cec.nova.edu). The guide posted most recently to the website supersedes previous Web and printed versions. Scholars Before Researchers: Pre-Dissertation Coursework You are expected to have expertise in your selected area including a solid understanding of the literature in your field before you delve into solving a specific research problem within that field. The 700-level courses are designed for you to develop as a scholar in your chosen field. That is, you will develop knowledge in your domain and strengthen your research skills. The Directed Research courses place more emphasis on your role as a researcher and are intended to help you develop your dissertation idea to the point where it can be supported by a committee. You are required to take at least two sections of Directed Research in sequence, not parallel, as part of attaining candidacy. We recommend that you take your Directed Research courses at the end of your coursework and with a professor with whom you have developed a good relationship and have mutual research interests. A recommended pre-requisite is that you complete the 700-level course with the requested professor with a grade of B+ or higher. While taking Directed Research, you will work closely with your professor to identify a specific research area and a specific research problem within that area. Further, you will develop your dissertation idea paper under the guidance of your professor, your potential dissertation chair. 2 Figure 1 illustrates the process from coursework to the final Dissertation Report. Although you will write your Dissertation Report and secure its preliminary committee approval prior to the Dissertation Defense, the final approval on the report is by your advisor after you have successfully defended your dissertation. More information about this process is in Section 2. Figure 1. From coursework to dissertation. The Dissertation The dissertation is the most important culminating requirement for the Ph.D. degree. It represents a significant extrapolation of new knowledge from a base of solid experience and knowledge in your area of concentration. The dissertation must be of sufficient strength to be able to distill from it a paper worthy of publication in a journal or conference proceedings, or to use it as the basis for a textbook or monograph. Although publication is not a requirement for the Ph.D., you are strongly encouraged to submit your dissertation research work for publication. At the CEC, the dissertation accounts for a substantial portion of the credit hours of each Ph.D. program. You are encouraged to learn about the dissertation process as early as possible. 3 The Five-Chapter Model CEC uses the five-chapter model as its framework for documenting dissertation research. Any departure from this model must be approved in advance by your dissertation committee. The five chapters include: • Chapter 1: Introduction • Chapter 2: Review of the Literature • Chapter 3: Methodology • Chapter 4: Results • Chapter 5: Conclusions, Implications, Recommendations, and Summary Additional information regarding how these chapters need to be incorporated into each of the dissertation documents is presented in Section 4 of this guide. Writing Skills You are expected to demonstrate proficiency in the use of the English language in all work submitted during the dissertation process. Dissertation documents that contain grammatical and spelling errors are unacceptable. Your dissertation committee will not provide remedial help on writing skills. You are responsible for proofreading and editing your work, which, in both form and content, should be letter-perfect. Refer to Section 6 for a listing of books that contain general guidelines for form, style, and writing. You may use an editor or proofer; however, the editor must not assist in conducting the investigation or writing the report. 4 Section 2: The Dissertation Process Overview The dissertation process begins with identifying a suitable research topic and ends with publishing your final dissertation research (see Figure 2). Section 2 includes general guidelines on each phase in this process. Your dissertation chair will guide you through specific steps associated with each phase. Initiating the Producing the Submitting Dissertation Dissertation Dissertation to Process Documents ProQuest/UMI Working with Defending the Publishing Your Dissertation Dissertation Dissertation Mentor Results Figure 2. The dissertation process. Initiating the Dissertation Process Although some students may begin the program with an idea for a dissertation, it is through the course work and subsequent registrations for Directed Research where you develop a potential dissertation topic. Listen for the current research items mentioned by your professors in the 700- level courses. These are often starting points for your guided research effort, continued with Directed Research registrations. 5 Working with Your Potential Dissertation Chair The following process describes what happens after your initial meeting with a professor regarding your proposed dissertation research problem. Note that the potential dissertation chair does not become your official dissertation chair until the Dissertation Idea Paper is approved. Figure 3. Working with your potential dissertation chair. 1. Potential Dissertation Chair contacts Academic Affairs to open entry in DTS. The dissertation relationship is considered established when you are linked with the potential chair in the school’s Dissertation Tracking System (DTS). The potential dissertation chair will contact CEC Academic Affairs to open the entry in DTS. From that point on, all communication pertaining to your dissertation will be communicated via the DTS. Although DTS can be set up to forward notices to your email account when messages are posted, it is imperative that you log in to DTS at least weekly to ensure that you are receiving all communications. In addition, students should use DTS to log (as appropriate) office and telephone meetings. Notice that initially your relationship is with a potential dissertation chair. The professor becomes your official dissertation chair only after your Dissertation Idea Paper has been approved and your committee formed. Refer to https://gscisweb.scis.nova.edu/studentdts/index.cfm for more information about DTS. 2. Student works with potential chair on dissertation idea. Initially you will work directly with your potential chair to focus your problem area, develop the research problem and rough approach, and write an idea paper acceptable by your potential chair. 3. Potential chair initiates formation of the dissertation committee. When the potential dissertation chair is comfortable with idea paper, he or she will initiate the formation of the dissertation committee. Usually membership on the committee is decided mutually by you and your potential chair. Because the committee members work directly with the chair, he or she makes the final decision regarding the committee members. The approval of each committee member will be required for formal approval of the three primary dissertation deliverables: the Dissertation Idea Paper, the Dissertation Proposal, and the Dissertation Report. Dissertation committees usually include the chair and two other members. A qualified person who is not a full-time CEC faculty member may be considered to serve as a committee member. Such appointments must be approved by the committee chair and the 6 associate dean prior to committee formation. As a general rule, outside committee members cannot serve as committee chairs. Exceptions to this rule must be approved by the dean and will be granted only in extraordinary circumstances. 4. Potential chair keeps committee informed. The dissertation committee operates under the leadership of the committee chair. Your chair will be your point of contact for your dissertation work. The chair will keep the committee informed about your progress and will ensure that the committee, as a unit, provides the guidance, evaluation, and consultation necessary to mentor your study. You should avoid taking or assuming direction from a committee member or other resource unless coordinated and approved by your dissertation committee chair. 5. Dissertation students and faculty complete end-of-term status reports. Every term you are registered for dissertation, you will complete a status report on your dissertation progress. Twenty days prior to the end of the term, you will receive an auto-generated notice that the status report is open in the DTS for you to complete. You will have the next ten days to complete the status report. Your dissertation chair will also evaluate your progress at the end of the term. In addition to assigning a grade of PR (Progress) or NPR (Inadequate Progress), the chair will use a rubric (See Appendices L – Q) to summarize where you have made progress during the term. You are advised to check with your dissertation mentor/advisor regarding specific communication guidelines he or she might have during the term (e.g., updates weekly, monthly, bi-monthly). 6. Faculty meet to review dissertation student progress. After the close of each term, the faculty in each discipline will meet to discuss the progress of that discipline’s students. This meeting provides the venue for the faculty to discuss and propose a variety of student actions, most commonly resulting in a group-composed status letter to the student. Producing the Dissertation Documents There are three major deliverables that are part of the dissertation process including the Dissertation Idea Paper, the Dissertation Proposal, and the Dissertation Report (see Figure 4). Each time you submit one of the three dissertation documents in the DTS, you will receive a prompt to certify authorship of your dissertation work. The Certification of Authorship acknowledges the following three statements are true: 1. I am the author of the document submitted and any assistance received in its preparation is fully acknowledged and disclosed in the document; 2. I cited all sources from which data, ideas, or words that are copied directly or paraphrased in the document were obtained; and 3. I prepared the document for the stated purpose. 7 Following is a brief description of each document. Sections 4 and 5 include additional information about the contents and form and style of each document. Figure 4. The dissertation documents. 1. Dissertation Idea Paper: The Dissertation Idea Paper presents your proposed dissertation research. This document must have full committee approval before you can progress to the Dissertation Proposal. 2. Dissertation Proposal and IRB Approval: The Dissertation Proposal builds on the information presented in the Dissertation Idea Paper and functions as a detailed blueprint for conducting the proposed research. The Dissertation Proposal must be successfully defended (i.e., receive full committee approval) before you begin your research and collect data. If your study entails the use of human participants in any fashion, you must obtain permission from the Institutional Review Board (IRB). When IRB approval is required, it must be obtained before the Dissertation Proposal can be approved. More information about IRB is available at: http://cec.nova.edu/research/irb.html 3. Dissertation Report: The Dissertation Report is a detailed, accurate, and cohesive account of a research effort accomplished to investigate a problem and reveal new knowledge. At the close of the Dissertation Defense (see next subsection), if the committee unanimously approves the dissertation, the Dissertation Report will be approved by the chair (possibly after minor changes) and forwarded to the dean for final approval. Without unanimous approval, the Dissertation Report is returned to the student with comments from the committee. Time Expectations for Dissertation Progress The three deliverables mark the major phases of your dissertation research. You should complete the first phase, idea paper approval, within 2 years of your first registration for Doctoral Dissertation. 8 You should have a committee-approved proposal within 12 months of securing an approved idea paper. Time required to complete the dissertation research will vary depending on the nature of your research. Thus the time needed to secure an approved dissertation report can vary tremendously. You will work with your dissertation chair to make sure that your progress is adequate. Time spent on formal leave does not count toward these expectations. Of course, program time limits as stated in the Graduate Catalog still apply. Defending the Dissertation Prior to the final approval of your Dissertation Report, you will prepare and present a Dissertation Defense. You will be okayed to hold your defense only after the committee approves your readiness, based on its assessment of your Dissertation Report. The defense itself is an oral presentation of the results of your study and serves three purposes. First, it fulfills the institution’s responsibility of examining your dissertation work. Second, it provides you with a unique opportunity to present your dissertation, to discuss the work with thoughtful people who are familiar with it, and to address questions and issues for further thought and study. Last, it is the culminating experience for you as a doctoral candidate, providing closure to an intensive period of study. For the defense, you should prepare a presentation that includes: • Identification of the problem • Explanation of the research methodology and its rationale • Discussion of the findings and their interpretation, the contribution to knowledge and professional practice, and suggestions for future research You should be prepared to address questions that arise during the defense. Typically, a defense runs about one hour; the first 30-35 minutes are devoted to your presentation, and the rest of the time is open to questions. Your committee chair will serve as moderator and will be prepared to raise questions and issues if the need arises. Defenses are ideally scheduled within six weeks of the completion of the Dissertation Report. They are scheduled at a mutually agreeable time for you and the committee. A schedule of dissertation defenses (along with abstracts) is available on the CEC web site. Students and faculty are welcome to attend. Completing the Dissertation Report After the committee has approved your dissertation defense, your chair will work with you to ensure that the final Dissertation Report is acceptable. Once the chair accepts the report, you will receive specific instructions on how to submit your dissertation to ProQuest Dissertations and Theses (required for graduation) and complete your degree. 9 Publishing Dissertation Results Publication of dissertation results is not required but is encouraged. Publication promotes professional recognition and is valuable to the new graduate’s professional career and also to CEC. Consider publishing with your dissertation chair. He or she is familiar with the publishing process and can recommend several appropriate professional or scholarly journals for submission of your work. Publication in a refereed journal is the best way to validate the value of your work. For details about graduation and commencement, refer to the CEC Graduate Catalog. 10 Section 3: The Dissertation Relationship The following information is provided to help you understand your role as a dissertation student and the roles of your chair and committee members. The Doctoral Student Throughout the dissertation process, you are expected to: 1. Be continuously registered in coursework, research, or dissertation credits (Fall, Winter, and Summer, unless on approved leave of absence) in order to receive advising and other dissertation services. 2. Abide by the CEC governing documents including the NSU Student Handbook and Graduate Catalog. You must follow the highest standards of scholarly and intellectual integrity and honesty throughout the dissertation process. To this end, you should submit only original, scholarly work that conforms to CEC policies on plagiarism and original work and to applicable laws and regulations (e.g., copyright laws). 3. Communicate and submit dissertation documents to your chair via the Dissertation Tracking System (DTS). You are also expected to document in the DTS a summary of face-to-face meetings and phone conversations if directed by your chair. 4. Submit work that conforms to the CEC guidelines for format and style as described in this guide. 5. Document and maintain a reasonable timeline for completing your research and provide updates on your progress in the DTS as required by your chair. 6. Be willing to receive constructive feedback from your chair and committee members and clearly document how you will incorporate the feedback in your dissertation. 7. Put forth your best work each and every time. Submit work that is free of typos and grammatical errors, reflects feedback provided on earlier iterations of the document, and represents clearly written, logical, and carefully edited work. Submitting work that contains grammatical errors, format errors, or that does not address previous suggestions from the committee, could severely slow down your progress and extend the review process. 8. Inform your dissertation chair about any changes in your position, address, and other contact information, as well as professional and personal changes that might affect your progress. 9. Follow the policies and procedures established by NSU’s Institutional Review Board (IRB) for research with human subjects and the regulations that your own agency or institution may have concerning the protection of human subjects in research. 10. Be current with the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative’s (CITI) certification course in the protection of human subjects (See http://www.nova.edu/irb/training.html). 11. Take personal responsibility for your dissertation and getting the work done. 11 The Dissertation Chair Throughout the dissertation process, the dissertation chair will encourage you and give you support. Specifically, the chair will: 1. Challenge your thinking and rationale for conducting the dissertation research both during verbal and written communications. The chair will critically challenge your ideas, analysis, logic, and arguments. 2. Evaluate and provide constructive written feedback as you move forward in completing the Dissertation Idea Paper, Dissertation Proposal, and Dissertation Report. 3. Provide timely feedback. 4. Maintain a professional and collaborative relationship with you. 5. Use the DTS for all dissertation-related correspondence. 6. Monitor your progress toward completion of the dissertation. 7. Be your advocate. The Committee Member Dissertation committee members support the dissertation chair in reviewing dissertation documents, providing timely and constructive feedback, and ensuring dissertation quality. They do not interact directly with you unless directed by your chair. Your chair will coordinate communication from committee members and provide committee feedback to you. 12 Section 4: Guidelines for Dissertation Deliverables Following are general guidelines for each of the three dissertation documents: the Dissertation Idea Paper, Dissertation Proposal, and Dissertation Report. Always consult with your dissertation chair regarding specific requirements. Although these are three distinct documents, they are not unrelated. The Dissertation Idea Paper serves as the core upon which the Dissertation Proposal is built, and the Dissertation Proposal, with updates and adjustments, constitutes the first three chapters of the Dissertation Report. Check with your dissertation chair for guidance on how to migrate content from the Dissertation Idea Paper to the Dissertation Proposal and the Dissertation Proposal to the Dissertation Report. The Dissertation Idea Paper In the Dissertation Idea Paper you present an idea along with a preliminary plan for your research and convince the faculty that the proposed research is worthy of a dissertation. This document is not intended to be a one-time or static document. As your dissertation work proceeds, goals and approaches may evolve, and the original Dissertation Idea Paper may have to be updated in order for it to accurately track the dissertation study, independent of the state of the study. The Dissertation Idea paper is approximately 25-40 pages and is written in the future tense. It includes the following elements. Abstract The abstract for the idea paper is single-spaced and includes a summary of the proposed research and how it constitutes an original contribution in your respective field (i.e., computer science, information assurance, or information systems). An abstract is a stand-alone document, and therefore should not include citations because it would need references. Background/Introduction In this section, present enough information about the proposed work that the reader understands the general context or setting. It is also helpful to include a summary of how the rest of this document is organized. Problem Statement In this section, present a concise, literature-supported statement of a research-worthy problem to be addressed (i.e., why the work should be undertaken). Follow the statement of the problem with a well-supported discussion of its scope and nature. The discussion of the problem should include: what the problem is, why it is a problem, how the problem evolved or developed, and the issues and events leading to the problem. 13 Dissertation Goal Next, include a concise definition of the goal of the work (i.e., what the work will accomplish). Aim to define a goal that is measurable. Research Questions Research questions are developed to help guide you through the literature for a given problem area. Three to five open-ended questions are usually adequate. As your research evolves, it is likely your research questions will too. Depending on the design of your study, you may also develop a hypothesis(es). Relevance and Significance This section provides further support for both the problem statement and goal of your dissertation study. Consider the following questions and support your discussion by citing the research literature: • Why is there a problem? What groups or individuals are affected? • How far-ranging is the problem and how great is its impact? What’s the benefit of solving the problem? • What has been tried without success to correct the situation? Why weren’t those attempts successful? What are the consequences of not solving the problem? • How does the goal of your study address the research problem and how will your proposed study offer promise as a resolution to the problem? • How will your research add to the knowledge base? • What is the potential for generalization of your results? • What is the potential for original work? Barriers and Issues In this section, identify how the problem is inherently difficult to solve. You should also show how the solution you propose on effecting is likewise difficult. You should show the study you propose is of adequate difficulty to warrant dissertation-level work and reward. Brief Review of the Literature In this section, it is important to clearly identify the major areas on which you will need to focus your research in order to build a solid foundation for your study in the existing body of knowledge. The literature review is the presentation of quality literature in a particular field that serves as the foundation and justification for the research problem, research questions or hypothesis, and methodology. You will develop a more comprehensive review of the literature as part of your Dissertation Proposal. 14 Approach Describe how you plan to address your research problem and accomplish your stated goal. List the major steps that must be taken to accomplish the goal and include a preliminary discussion of the methodology and specific research methods you plan to implement. Although specific details are not required at this point, you must provide adequate discussion of the general process you will follow to implement your research methodology. Milestones Identify the major steps for your dissertation development. In the Approach section you discuss only the steps you will follow in implementing your research methodology. In this section, you discuss the steps necessary to complete the dissertation and the timeframe. Resources Include all resources you will need, such as hardware, software, networks, data communications, access to participants, access to experts in the field, access to peers, and standardized tests, surveys, or other forms of instrumentation. Indicate whether you have the resources and if not, how you plan to obtain them. References Follow the most current version of APA to format your references. However, each reference should be single-spaced with a double space in between each entry. Make sure that every citation is referenced and every reference is cited. The Dissertation Proposal The Dissertation Proposal provides the framework within which your research will be conducted and presents evidence of your qualifications to pursue the research. You must articulate the concepts and theories underlying the study, clearly state the problem, specify goals that are measurable, present a thorough review of the literature, delineate the methods for conducting the research, and present a strategy to achieve the goals. The Dissertation Proposal is written in the future tense and includes the following elements. Front Matter The front matter includes the following: • Title Page • Abstract • Table of Contents • List of Tables 15 • List of Figures Chapters Chapter 1: Introduction This chapter is an expansion of the Dissertation Idea Paper and generally includes the following sections: • Background • Problem Statement • Dissertation Goal • Research Questions and/or Hypotheses o Note: Some studies have research questions and hypotheses while others have one or the other. • Relevance and Significance • Barriers and Issues • Assumptions, Limitations and Delimitations: Assumptions are the unprovable factors that are accepted as true within the context of the study. Limitations are factors that are beyond your control and potentially impact the internal validity of the study. Delimitations are factors that you intentionally impose to constrain the scope of the study to make it manageable. Delimitations impact the generalizability of the results of the study. • Definition of Terms • List of Acronyms (if needed) • Summary Chapter 2: Review of the Literature In Chapter 2, you will expand and develop the review you presented in your Dissertation Idea Paper. The review can include: • Overview of the topics included in the review. • Justification of the criteria for what is included and excluded as part of the review. • Identification of what has been done before including the strengths and weaknesses of existing studies. • Identification of the gaps in the literature. • Analysis of research methods that are used in similar studies and determine whether these methods were valid and reliable. • Synthesis of the literature and present it in a way that helps the reader gain a new perspective on the literature. • Summary of the chapter. 16 Chapter 3: Methodology In Chapter 3, you will delineate, in detail, how the investigation will be conducted. This chapter requires significant enhancement over the scope described for the Approach section in the Idea Paper. Enough detail should be provided to enable replication of your work by other researchers. The following topics are intended to serve as a guide: • Overview of research methodology/design: Explain exactly what type of research study you will do and outline briefly how the study will be conducted. • Specific research method(s) to be employed: Describe in detail the specific research methods you will use to answer the research questions and/or test the hypothesis(es). Explain how these methods will be carried out both conceptually and operationally. • Instrument development and validation: If applicable, identify the instrument(s) that will be used and how each construct will be measured. Discuss the threats to validity and reliability and how these threats will be addressed. Address internal validity, external validity, instrument validity, and construct validity. • Proposed sample: Describe the sample population, how many participants will be part of the study, and anticipated response rate. • Data analysis: Explain how data will be analyzed in order to answer the research questions and/or test hypothesis(es). Use the research literature to support your decisions. • Formats for presenting results • Resource requirements • Summary Back Matter The back matter includes the following: • Appendices • References The IRB Application (Research Involving Human Subjects) If you plan to conduct surveys (email, telephone, regular mail), interviews, testing, or any other type of assessment involving human subjects as part of your dissertation, the instruments and protocols must be reviewed and approved by the university’s Human Research Oversight Board (Institutional Review Board or IRB) prior to beginning the research. The mission of the IRB is to protect human subjects involved in research and ensure appropriate practices are being carried out at NSU. It is recommended that you initiate the IRB review process after you have received approval of your Dissertation Idea Paper and you are instructed by your chair. The college has a faculty representative to the IRB who can help you with the review process. There are three levels of review: center-level, expedited, and full review. The CEC representative

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