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Innovate, Educate, and Transform. Navigating the Dissertation. Linda Fischer, Ed.D ., Doctoral Support Center January 2014. The Journey Begins

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Innovate, Educate, and Transform

Navigating the Dissertation

  • Linda Fischer, Ed.D.,
  • Doctoral Support Center
  • January 2014

The Journey Begins

  • Based on research by the DSC the predictors of graduate school completion which are supported by the literature (de Valero, 2001), the important indicators for success are:
  • coursework that encourages inquiry
  • a constructive relationship with a dissertation advisor
  • positive departmental climate
  • orientation, and advising
  • student participation and peer support
  • The program is designed for you to succeed. However, the dissertation is one of the most difficult endeavors you will encounter in your lifetime.

Navigating the Dissertation | 2


The Dissertation Process

  • While each journey is unique the dissertation consists of three phases:
  • The Proposal Defense – Chapters 1, 2 and 3
  • IRB/Data Collection and Analysis
  • The Dissertation Defense – Chapters 4 and 5
  • Basic components of a dissertation:
  • Chapter 1: Overview of the Study
  • Chapter 2: Literature Review
  • Chapter 3: Research Methodology
  • Chapter 4: Research Results
  • Chapter 5: Discussion of Findings and Conclusion

Navigating the Dissertation | 3


Proposal Phase

  • Selection of a dissertation topic and a dissertation chair/committee. For most of you this occurs during the summer conference when you choose a Thematic Group.
  • Review the literature on your topic, identify a problem to formulate research questions in consultation with chair and thematic group.
  • Write Chapters 1, 2, and 3, and develop protocols
  • Defend Proposal

Navigating the Dissertation | 4


Dissertation Topic

  • Originality:
  • Conventional wisdom holds that dissertations should be original work. They should be research studies (gathering of new data or preexisting data or information) that bring new knowledge or understanding to a topic. One of the best ways to know if your study is original is to read widely about your topic.
  • Importance:
  • Not all studies are of great importance, nor should they be. However, the researcher should have some claim that the findings of this study may be of importance in some way toward advancing knowledge and practice.

Navigating the Dissertation | 5


Research Questions

  • Your research questions hold the key; they drive everything.
  • They give you the background and rationale for Chapter 1.
  • They tell you what literature to look at and to include in Chapter 2.
  • They drive the methodology you select and how you design your study in Chapter 3.
  • They will guide the organization of your results in Chapter 4.
  • The answers to your questions will serve as implications for practice in Chapter 5.

Navigating the Dissertation | 6


IRB, Data Collection, and Analysis

  • Before you can begin to collect your data you must complete the IRB process.
  • Institutional Review Board (can be individual or as a thematic group).
  • Protocols are required to complete the IRB (surveys, interview questions, observation sheets, etc.)
  • Have a plan and work your plan for data collection.
  • When you have completed your data collection, you can then begin the analysis.
  • Plan for transcribing your interviews.
  • Plan time for running and rerunning your analysis.

Navigating the Dissertation | 7


Dissertation Phase

  • Write Chapters 4 and 5
  • Dissertation chair approves complete dissertation
  • Submit dissertation to committee members
  • Dissertation Defense
  • Complete any revisions
  • Upload to the Graduate School

Navigating the Dissertation | 8


The Writing Process

  • Putting a proposal or dissertation together is a continuous process.
  • You research a topic and begin conceptualizing your topic based on your thematic group focus.
  • It is an academic discourse with your chair.
  • Unlike turning in a paper for class, you have to approach the dissertation in pieces and continuously revisit a section based on the stage of the process.
  • Seek support through the DSC, peers, faculty chair, colleagues, and friends.
  • The best dissertation is a completed dissertation.

Navigating the Dissertation | 9


Proposal Defense

  • When to coordinate your defense date?
  • Schedule a review with an editor if needed.
  • Your Chair will want to review your final draft about 4 weeks before your defense date for final edits before you send it to your committee.
  • You will need to submit your final draft of your proposal to your committee approximately 2 weeks before your defense date.
  • It is recommended that you make all revisions suggested by your committee within 30 days following your defense.

Navigating the Dissertation | 10


Proposal Defense

  • 8-10 minutes of presentation by you. Template available.
  • Remember, they have read and re-read your draft
  • 8-10 slides
    • Statement of the Problem (1 slide)
    • Literature Review (1 slide)
    • Purpose of the Study (1 slide)
    • Research Question(s) (1 slide)
    • Significance of the Study (1 slide)
    • Sample and Population (1 slide)
    • Instrumentation (1 slide)
    • Data Collection (1 to 2 slides)
    • Data Analysis (1 slide)
    • Timeline for Completion (1 slide)
    • Thank You/Questions (1 slide)

Navigating the Dissertation | 11


Dissertation Defense

  • When to coordinate your defense date?
  • Schedule a review with an editor if needed.
  • Your Chair will want to review your final draft about 4 weeks before your defense date, for final edits before you send it to your committee.
  • You will need to submit your final draft to your committee approximately 2 weeks before your defense date.
  • Take into consideration the upload date and give yourself time for the necessary revisions.

Navigating the Dissertation | 12


Dissertation Defense

  • They have read the study, so focus more on findings and implications, less on literature. Template available.
  • Bring the necessary paperwork
  • Provide a completed copy for each member of your committee (and a thank you note)

Navigating the Dissertation | 13


Dissertation Defense

  • 8-10 minutes for your presentation
  • 8-12 slides
  • Statement of the Problem/Conceptual Framework - why study this?(1 slide)
  • Literature Review (1 slide)
  • Purpose of the Study and Research Question(s) (1 slide)
  • Instrumentation, Data Collection and Analysis (1 slide)
  • Research Questions and Findings - state the question and findings together (1 slide per question)
  • Implications for Practice/Policy (1 slide)
  • Recommendations for Research – what would you do differently? what couldn’t you answer?(1 slide)
  • Review of Abstract (1 slide)
  • Thank You – Questions (1 slide)

Navigating the Dissertation | 14


Helpful Tips

  • Life happens. Be honest with yourself and how you will manage your time and responsibilities with family, career, the dissertation, as well as, your physical, emotional well-being.
  • Develop and maintain a constructive relationship with your dissertation chair.
  • Create a vision, timeline, and work plan - and stick to it. If for some reason you need to make adjustments, re-work your plan and inform your chair of your new timeline.
  • Seek support from multiple sources.

Navigating the Dissertation | 15


Working with the DSC

  • We are committed to your successful completion of the program.
  • Schedule your reviews well in advance of deadlines so that you have the time to make any necessary adjustments.
  • We can schedule a mock proposal or dissertation defense and review your defense slides.

Navigating the Dissertation | 16



  • Your comments are important to us! Please send us your feedback at
  • Email:
  • Call: 213 740-8099
  • Location: RSOE, WPH 402

Navigating the Dissertation | 17