The dissertation is an independent, scholarly work of research completed by the doctoral candidate, under the guidance of a dissertation committee. A dissertation demonstrates a candidate’s ability to undertake scholarship in his or her field through intellectual endeavor and the application of research skills. The completion of a dissertation requires a scholarly mindset involving ongoing evaluation, analysis, and synthesis of previous, relevant research as well as one’s own work. A dissertation involves exploring an important problem or issue in one’s discipline fully to answer a major and often subsidiary research questions. The problem or issue to be explored should be one that is worthy of substantial and meaningful inquiry, one that warrants investigation due to its centrality within the candidate’s field of study (for PhD candidates) or to issues of practice and application (EdD candidates). A dissertation demonstrates the ability to build theory, test ideas, and/or discover new knowledge or a potential solution in relation to the problem or issue being studied. On the average, a final dissertation manuscript ranges between 100 to 300 pages in length depending on the research questions and methodology employed. Typically, a dissertation takes 2 to 3 years to complete, although it is possible to complete dissertation research within a year.
The dissertation consists of five discrete, but interconnected chapters. The chapters include:
Chapters 1 through 3 constitute the dissertation proposal; essentially, a proposal is a concise plan or blueprint for conducting the remainder of one’s research. The addition of chapters 4 and 5 represent the dissertation final manuscript.
Similar to the proposal defense, the dissertation final defense is an oral, public presentation by the candidate primarily to his or her committee members. While the proposal defense presented the candidate’s study plan (chapters 1, 2, and 3), the final defense is focused on the findings, analysis, and conclusions generated having conducted the research (chapters 4 and 5). The oral defense lasts approximately 60 to 90 minutes. A dissertation defense may not be scheduled until the entire dissertation committee has determined that the dissertation is ready to be presented. A candidate and all of his or her committee members must be able to participate in the live defense. Defenses are coordinated by the dissertation chairperson and scheduled by the Coordinator of the Division of Research and Doctoral Programs. Because oral defenses are public, the candidate may invite family, friends, colleagues, and classmates to attend virtually or in person.
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