Secrets for a Successful Dissertation


Jacqueline Fitzpatrick, Jan Secrist & Debra J. Wright

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  • Chapters
  • Front Matter
  • Back Matter
  • Subject Index
  • Part I: The Secrets of the Dissertation Content and Process

    Part II: The Secrets to Maintaining Sanity and Good Humor

  • Dedication

    This book is dedicated with heartfelt appreciation to Barry D.L. and Phyllis


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    Secrets for a Successful Dissertation is one of the most thorough, incisive, and, above all, honest books on the perils of the doctoral student that I have had the pleasure of reading. The authors, who have spent many collective years perfecting this volume, show uncanny wisdom and abundant humor as they portray the often perilous route doctoral students must take to succeed in the graduate school role. Their portrait reveals many of the “unspoken” norms that doctoral students face. They have researched current and contemporary literature in methodology, psychology, and stress and time management. The net result is a book that is highly readable, thought-provoking, and, especially, entertaining. I found myself laughing and crying at the same time, thinking, “Thank god I survived the process.” It covers just about everything a reader would wish to know about the trek to obtaining a doctoral degree. It covers specific graduate school hurdles, pitfalls, and what to do about them and retain your sanity at the same time. Their analysis is insightful and tinged with specific applications and examples that facilitate the process of not only surviving but thriving in a graduate school.

    Johanna SteggertHunsaker, Ph.D. Professor of Organizational Behavior University of San Diego


    We thank the following for their consistent encouragement throughout this challenging process:

    • Harry Briggs, our editor, for his enthusiasm, ready responsiveness, and clear understanding of our message
    • The Sage staff and patient problem-solvers willing to work with three strong-willed women
    • Johanna Hunsaker, Ph.D., who offered critical guidance and introduction to the publishing world
    • Kathy Heinrich, Ph.D., whose passion for research and writing inspired us to complete this manuscript
    • The faculty and students who are familiar with this process, shared a variety of stories, and have requested anonymity
    • Our patient families, who keep asking, “Is it done yet?” and “What will you dream up to do next?”

    Introduction: Great Expectations

    It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

    —Charles Dickens

    Are you contemplating going back to school for a doctorate? Or are you well beyond the contemplation stage, far enough through the course work to think you might actually finish and now facing the mysteries of the dissertation phase? Or perhaps you know brave folks who are currently leaping over endless academic hurdles and tearing out their hair from the isolation and lack of information stages that pass for the “dissertation phase.” If you are personally seeking a Ph.D., an Ed.D., or Psy.D. or know anyone who is, you are reading the right book.

    Writing a dissertation is guaranteed to reduce former academic confidence levels to quivering attacks of feeling “educationally challenged.” Straight A's on your transcript do not guarantee your success in the dissertation process; those grades only tell you that you have mastered the art of chew, swallow, and regurgitate what each professor believes is important. Glowing comments on your weekly critique papers don't guarantee you will write a sentence that will pass muster with your dissertation committee. In other words, all your work up to this point does not seem to have a great deal of bearing on the writing of a dissertation.

    Writing a dissertation is much like writing a book, and it is an exhilarating accomplishment. The benefits jump out immediately: a better advantage in the job market, being introduced in social situations and seeing the “wow” in people's expressions, improved chances of future publication, receiving greater consideration for your ideas, and finally being able to relax and enjoy life.

    Secrets for a Successful Dissertation has been written by three women who have recently completed doctoral degrees in educational leadership. This information is offered to both women and men, obviously, but we simply cannot help a bit of gender bias—how can it be otherwise? Even though this book tends to lean toward the soft sciences, certain chapters will also aid those struggling in the more traditional, that is, hard, sciences. Debra Sikes (1996) reported that women earned more doctorates than men in education and, for the first time, in social sciences, but men surpassed women in every other field. We also have read that many women enter various doctoral programs with higher college GPAs but lower candidacy and graduation rates. We would like to boost those graduation rates for women. However, because we also like men, we would like to boost their graduation rates as well. We recognize that the work requirements for dissertations are (or should be) the same and yet the results, regardless of gender, are wildly different. This is neither a gender nor an age issue, it is a student issue. Thus we have included advice from students and graduates of both genders, all ages, varied ethnic groups, and many disciplines from universities in diverse parts of the country. We recommend you read this book in its entirety, then revisit each chapter when you get down in the dumps and have nothing better to do.

    We often felt there must be secret passageways through the doctoral program that we had to stumble onto ourselves, like a torturous adolescent rite of passage with all the insecurities but none of the acne. Academia can be as silent and as difficult to move as an elephant in your living room. So we offer this book in an effort at least to get that elephant's attention so you can point it in the right direction. The rest is up to you.

    The chapter and section titles have been joyfully borrowed and tweaked from every famous book or movie we can think of, for no redeeming reason other than to make you smile. You need to smile. Believe us, you need smiles. We also added commonly found road signs to remind you that these are well-traveled roads.

    Who are we? We are the coauthors, but because we felt more like conspirators for much of the writing process, we refer to ourselves as co-conspirators. Neither our stories nor our lives are limited to titles, so we provide the following, in our own words.

    Dr. Jacqueline Fitzpatrick: I expected the writing of the dissertation to be the highlight of my graduate experience. My dissertation subject, an examination of the mentoring relationship between two women, continues to be an important topic to me. Even though my interest in my topic never wavered, I found the dissertation process filled with invigorating highs and frustrating lows. I discovered I shared similar experiences with other doctoral students. Looking back, I can say that many of my disappointments could and should have been avoided. As savvy as I considered myself to be, I lacked some simple knowledge that I now have. Some experiences were uplifting: uncovering fascinating data from research participants, trying to maintain the library rules of silence when I discovered a vital snippet of information, reviewing the completion of each chapter, accepting an encouraging word from a committee member, and hearing positive feedback that the research truly made a difference in women's lives. My purpose for writing this book is to help you focus on your topic, understand the dissertation process, remind you to keep your sense of humor, and not let yourself become overwhelmed by lack of knowledge of political and personality issues that should have no bearing on your timely graduation.

    Co-conspirator opinion: “Jacque is the organizational glue that holds our support group together on assigned tasks. She is the master of typed class notes, the superorganizer of manuscripts, and is highly (and ever so tactfully) skilled in ‘the taming of the shrews.’”

    Dr. Jan Secrist: My midlife journey through a doctoral program was mostly for curiosity and to satisfy a personal challenge, which I am delighted to say I accomplished. The journey also created two opposing insights. First, I rediscovered that my personality prefers to revel in wonder of words, not wrestle with rigid thinking patterns, and that I'd much rather explore the inner personalities of people than the outer trappings of power. Second, the journey squelched most of my natural voice for three years. At the beginning of the program I was told, “Don't put a smile in your writing.” When I responded that I'd spent many years being paid to put a smile in my writing, the answer was, “Not acceptable in a doctoral program.” Slowly, semester after semester, the regimented classes chipped off chunks of my personal voice, dulling its sparkle and denting my time-honored, off-beat sense of humor. Fortunately, a couple of classes encouraged an occasional rebellious squeak of independence. Near the end of the program I was relieved to discover that my irreverent, maverick voice was returning, which allowed me to thoroughly enjoy writing the dissertation. I cowrote this book in hopes that its upbeat message will encourage others to play the academic game honestly—but always hold firm to their individuality, speak their own language, and honor their own voices.

    Co-conspirator opinion: “We keep Jan around because she's our persistent humorist and satirist. She forces us to enjoy life and its failings. She is the master of the questions ‘Why?’ and ‘Why not?’ and keeps the party going.”

    Dr. Debra J. Wright: As the person who planned to graduate the day after Orientation, I found myself struggling through this dissertation process as a novice, fighting for sanity, wondering why I ever began, and yet always knowing there was a light (although at times very dim) at the end of the tunnel. Completion of the doctoral dissertation, and ultimately the degree, was as much of a necessity, careerwise, as it was a stepping stone to competence, self-esteem, and the very real feeling that life begins after 40! So many around me had yet to begin the process and so many who went before me had yet to end the process. There was a passion as well as a sense of achievement in meeting this goal and looking in the mirror each morning and realizing I had no more apologies to make for my intelligence and no more extraneous initials to intimidate me in the hallowed halls of academia. My purpose for this book was to open the door to humor as well as to reinforce to others that this is not a matter of intelligence. This process is a matter of persistence, diligence, and tolerance for ancient rituals that make one stand out in a crowd (not to be confused with outstanding in your own field) and more personally a reward to myself and my family in finally accepting what they kept telling me all along: You can do it. I didn't quite graduate the day after Orientation, but I did break some records.

    Co-conspirator opinion: “Debbie is so incredibly smart, she makes the rest of us look terrific, so of course we hang out with her. Her sense of humor, fast repartee, and amazing depth of knowledge add much needed balance to head off our perpetual ‘comedy of errors.’”

    The three of us have found certain truths to be self-evident in our academic journeys. Whether you are researching people or plants, microbiology or moon shots, prejudices or preferences, irregular cell division or erratic fatty substitutes, intelligence quotients or emotional quirks, or anything else under the umbrella of what passes for research these days, you will find that there are rules—strict rules, often listed as “guidelines.” You may love them or think they are archaic, pedantic, endless, and unreasonable rules. But you must follow them to the letter. Because different universities have slightly different rules, it is up to you to fine-tune your information gathering to your own university. It is also true, however, that dissertations have many common elements no matter where you are flexing your doctoral “wanna-be” ambitions. These general concepts are what we address in this book.

    We can't solve all your academic and personal problems, negotiate your rule-solving, pay your bills, or write your dissertation. But we hope this tome offers some salient hints for surviving the dissertation process with your mind and body relatively intact. The average “recovery” time for most students completing a doctoral program is one to three years. Perhaps this book will not only shorten your recovery time but give you a sense of being in control of your own destiny along the way.

    A novel and far-fetched idea, we know—but worth a try.

    Sikes, D. (1996, May). In her own words: Warning: Getting a Ph.D. is hazardous to your health. Women in Higher Education, p. 17.
  • Emergency Appendectomies

    Appendix A: Action Words to Introduce Quotes

    — shows

    — challenges us to consider

    In their book, — explore

    — goes beyond the idea that was preached in

    True quality elicits, in —'s words, “love …”

    —, speaking at a conference, said

    In his essay, — challenges the conventional view

    A recent article in — contrasts the approach to that of —

    — calls the theory of — the most important contribution to —

    — was the subject of research by —

    He adds:

    — underscores

    —'s idea of — is underscored in his writing

    — characterizes his views on

    From —'s perspective

    — suggests that

    In his book, — details

    As — chronicles in his book

    In his book, — provides a sobering assessment of

    — views the economic policy as

    — in his book — documents

    In —'s view

    In forsaking history, many people in business are, to paraphrase

    philosopher George Santayana, “condemned to …”

    — published her analysis of

    A report by —, published in —, showed

    A lesson from — is that

    — has demonstrated that

    — introduces the idea of

    — wrote about

    To paraphrase —

    — calls this —

    In —, Drucker provides an analogy

    — writes

    — suggests that

    In an article —, Paul worries that

    — asks

    — is trying to create what he calls

    — notes

    In —, — describes

    — explains

    — uses the concepts of — to provide counsel

    Consultants like — incorporate the ideas of — in their writing

    — writes

    He adds

    — makes the point

    — warns

    —, who —, emphasized

    — are using models of

    —, in —, introduces notion of

    — suggested that

    —, which — calls —

    — believes that

    — researched

    — has written extensively about

    In the book, — reports on

    — addressed the need for

    — reported that

    — has suggested

    — is explored by —

    — spoke to the world council, “Indigenous people are the base …”

    — shows what — will do

    — argues for

    — argues against

    — presents arguments against

    — evolves the theory of —

    The theory of — evolved from the work of —

    An article in — discussed

    — observed that

    — points out that

    — examines

    It is apparent to — that

    — has evolved the idea of

    —, from his study on —, concludes

    As shown by —,

    In —, — looks at

    For —, there seems to be

    — is credited with

    The importance of —'s thinking comes from providing a logical process

    — bases her ideas of — on —

    In providing a reasonable argument for —, —

    — continues by saying

    — vision is reflected in the words

    — take a third position

    — resolves the issue by showing —

    — argues further that

    According to —'s theory,

    — clearly elucidated

    — further sees

    — defines

    — summarized

    — devoted space to

    — gave a one-sentence definition

    — articulated a distinction

    — attempted to

    — used the works of — to show

    The same point is made by —'s conviction that is shown in

    — reiterated

    — clarifies

    — uses the example of — to show

    For —, leadership is —

    — reflected on

    —'s model allows

    The dominant idea, theme understanding, in — is that

    — has long held

    —'s reaction to — is

    — dismisses the idea of —

    Using the framework of —, it can be seen

    — concluded the talk by

    — summarizes

    — postulates

    — queried

    — predicted, warned, advised, anticipated

    — words typify

    —'s research heralds a new

    —'s theory of — reveals

    — conjectures, proposes, suggests

    — speculates, surmises

    — puts forth

    — alludes to

    — enlightens

    —'s work informs us about —

    — directs attention to

    — broadens the understanding

    — is convinced

    — expounds

    — interprets

    — qualifies

    — illustrates

    — contributes to

    — promotes the idea that

    — affirms the view that

    — reasons that

    — substitutes — for —

    — portrays, illustrates, delineates, depicts, charts

    — deliberated on

    — believes that

    — cogitated on

    — surmised that

    — understands that

    — realized that

    — considered

    — speculated on

    — rationalized the — by

    — pondered

    — weighed

    — applied

    — examined

    — perceived

    — discerned

    — distinguished

    — recognized

    —'s reply to, response to, rejoinder to

    — regarded

    — was concerned with

    — recounted, related

    — referred to

    — drew a parallel to

    — touched on

    — was concerned with

    — referred to

    — repeated, reiterated, echoed, reworded

    — conceived the idea/notion that

    — mused about

    — viewed

    — comments, remarks, gives voice to, asserts

    — exhorts us to

    — accentuates

    — is credited with

    — gives credence to

    — acknowledges that

    — questions, inquires, explores, probed, analyzed, grappled with

    — studied

    — appreciated

    — envisioned

    Appendix B: A Research Proposal: A Checklist of Items for Possible Inclusion

    The following is a checklist for items that are typically included in a research dissertation or report. Not all of the suggested categories are necessary or appropriate for all studies, and the order of the items may vary somewhat. These items are only intended to serve as a guide.

    Chapter One: The Problem
    • Introduction
    • Background of the problem (e.g., educational trends related to this problem, unresolved issues, social concerns)
    • Statement of the problem situation (basic difficulty, area of concern, felt need)
    • Purpose of the study (goal oriented)—emphasizing outcomes or products
    • Questions to be answered or objectives to be investigated
    • Conceptual or substantive assumptions (postulates)
    • Rationale and theoretical framework (when appropriate)
    • Delineation of the research problem (explication of relationships among variances or comparisons to be considered)
    • Statement of the hypothesis (conceptual rendition subsequently followed by operational statements in Chapter One or in the “Methodology” chapter)
    • Importance of the study—may overlap with statement of the problem situation
    • Definition of terms (largely conceptual here; operational definitions may follow in the “Methodology” chapter)
    • Scope and delimitations of the study (narrowing of the focus)
    • Outline of the remainder of the thesis or proposal
    Chapter Two: Review of Related Literature
    • Organization of the present chapter—overview
    • Historical background (if necessary)
    • Purposes to Be Served by Review of Research Literature
    • Acquaint reader with existing studies relative to what has been found, who has done what, when and where latest research studies were completed, and what approaches involving research methodology, instrumentation, and statistical analyses were followed (literature review of methodology sometimes saved for the “Methodology” chapter)
    • Establish possible need for study and likelihood for obtaining meaningful, relevant, and significant results
    • Furnish, from delineation of various theoretical positions, a conceptual framework affording bases for generation of hypotheses and statement of their rationale (when appropriate)

      NOTE: In some highly theoretical studies, the “Review of Literature” chapter may need to precede “The Problem” chapter so that the theoretical framework is established for a succinct statement of the research problem and hypotheses. In such a case, an advance organizer in the form of a brief general statement of the purpose of the entire investigation should come right at the beginning of the “Review of Literature” chapter.

    Sources for Literature Review
    • General integrative reviews cited that relate to the problem situation or research problem such as those found in Review of Educational Research, Encyclopedia of Educational Research, or Psychological Bulletin
    • Specific books, monographs, bulletins, reports, and research articles—preferences shown in most instances for literature of the past 10 years
    • Unpublished materials (e.g., dissertations, theses, papers presented at recent professional meetings not yet in published form but possibly available through ERIC)
    • Selection and arrangement of literature review often in terms of questions to be considered, hypotheses set forth, or objectives or specific purposes delineated in “The Problem” chapter
    • Summary of literature reviewed (very brief)
    Chapter Three: Methodology or Procedure
    • Overview (optional)
    • Description of research methodology or approach (e.g., experimental, quasi-experimental, correlational, causal-comparative, or survey)
    • Research design (spell out independent, dependent, and classi-ficatory variables and sometimes formulate an operational statement of the research hypotheses in null form so as to set the stage for an appropriate research design permitting statistical inferences)
    • Pilot studies (as they apply to the research design, development of instruments, data collection techniques, and characteristics of the sample)
    • Instrumentation (tests, measures, observations, scales, questionnaires)
    • Field, classroom, or laboratory procedures (e.g., instructions to subjects or distribution of materials)
    • Data collection and recording
    • Data processing and analysis (statistical analysis)
    • Methodological assumptions
    • Limitations (weaknesses)
    • Possible restatement of conceptual hypotheses from “The Problem” chapter in operational form relative to instrumentation and experimental procedures or design followed (operationally stated hypotheses can also be put in null form to furnish an optional third set of hypotheses amenable to statistical testing)—if not done elsewhere
    • Summary

    NOTE: The proposal may have a “Time Line for Completion of Project” section.

    Chapter Four: Findings (Analysis and Evaluation)
    • Findings are presented in tables or charts where appropriate
    • Findings reported with respect to furnishing evidence for each question asked or each hypothesis posed in problem statement
    • Appropriate headings are established to correspond to each main question or hypothesis considered
    • Factual information kept separate from interpretation, inference, and evaluation (one section for findings and one section for interpretation or discussion)

      NOTE: In certain historical, case study, and anthropological investigations, factual and interpretative material may need to be interwoven to sustain the interest level, although the text should clearly reveal what is fact and what is interpretation.

    • Separate section often titled “Discussion,” “Interpretation,” or “Evaluation” to tie together findings in relation to theory, review of literature, or rationale
    • Summary
    Chapter Five: Summary, Conclusions, Recommendations
    • Brief summary of everything covered in first three chapters and in findings portion of Chapter Four
    • Conclusions (“so what” for findings, often the hypotheses restated as inferences with some degree of definitive commitment and generalizability)
    • Recommendations (practical suggestions for implementation of findings or for additional research)
    Criteria for Evaluation of a Research Report, Article, or Thesis
    • Title of article or report
      • Precise identification of problem area, often including specification of independent and dependent variables and identification of target population
      • Sufficient clarity and conciseness for indexing of title
      • Effective arrangement of words in title
    • The problem
      • Description and statement of problem
        • Statement of basic (felt) difficulty or problem situation—significance and importance of the problem areas in either basic or applied research
        • Careful analysis of known and suspected facts and explanation of existing information and knowledge that may have some bearing on problem—spelling out specific factors giving rise to the basic difficulty, spelling out their interrelationships, and their relevance to the problem area
        • Soundness of the logic underlying selection of variables or factors to be studied and expression of their relationship to the problem area
        • Systematic and orderly presentation of the interrelationships of relevant facts and concepts underlying the problem
        • Clear identification of the problem statement through use of an appropriate heading or paragraph caption (the same requirement holding for other major categories of the research)
        • Succinct, precise, and unambiguous statement of the research problem (including the delineation of independent, dependent, and classificatory variables) of the major questions to be resolved or of the objectives to be investigated
        • Distinction (if required) between problems or questions that are either factually oriented or value oriented
        • Distinction in the instance of theoretically oriented research or of basic research between the purpose, which is often goal oriented or instrumental in relation to certain pragmatic objectives, and the research problem, which is primarily directed toward the finding of relationships, the making of comparisons, or the noting of changes (possible cause-and-effect relationships) relative to operationally formulated research hypotheses
      • Sufficient delimitation of the problem area—narrowing of the scope without becoming concerned with a trivial problem
      • Review and evaluation of the literature pertinent to problem areas
        • Adequacy and relevance of the previous investigation cited with reference to the basic difficulty posed, design of the current investigation, procedures followed, and projected analysis of data
        • Appropriate development of a rationale or framework from the research studies cited with reference to the current problem under investigation
      • Clear-cut statement of the conceptions, assumptions, or postulates underlying the problem being investigated
      • Precise statement of (a) hypotheses or (b) deduced consequences of theories or (c) the objectives of a study (objectives being most common in survey and descriptive research)
        • Hypotheses involving relationships and comparisons
        • Presentation of deducible consequences or predictions (if any) that are logically consistent with a hypothesis (i.e., antecedent-consequent statement: If A exists, then B follows)
      • Definitions of terms
        • Clarity in the definitions of key terms and variables (especially constructs)
        • Use of operational definitions whenever possible
    • Design and methodology (procedures)
      • Logic, structure, and strategy of study carefully delineated
        • Distinction made between whether the research involves variables manipulated and controlled by the investigator (usually found in experimental research) or whether an ex post facto situation exists involving the analysis of data already available or collected as in most field studies and correlational investigations
        • Appropriate use of paradigms, flowcharts, or schematic models
        • Specification of threats to external and internal validity of the design employed
      • Clear descriptions of samples studied
        • Mode of selection of subject cited (e.g., random assignment, matching voluntary participation, or convenience by being available)
        • Data regarding how representative a sample is relative to a population
        • Information concerning the possible operation of selective dropout and survival of the fittest
      • Adequate information pertaining to the reliability, validity, and standardization properties of instrumentation—psychometric characteristic of scales or tests used
      • Sufficient description of operational or field procedures followed in the collection of data—where, when, and how data were obtained
      • Coordination of the specification of the relationship between the null (statistical) hypotheses and the research (problem) hypotheses
      • Appropriateness of the statistical treatment and data processing procedures
      • Evidence of a preparatory pilot study having been conducted
      • Procedure clearly enough described so that other investigators can replicate (repeat) the study performed under essentially comparable conditions in the future
      • Statement of methodological assumption such as adequacy of reliability and validity of measures, representativeness of samples, fulfillment of appropriate requirements for carrying out statistical tests
    • Presentation and analysis of data
      • Logical and orderly exposition in terms of the framework of the hypotheses, deduction, objectives, or questions asked in conjunction with the statement of the problem
        • Objective rather than subjective or speculative presentation
        • Analysis consistent with and supported by the facts obtained
        • Absence of overgeneralizations or sweeping statements that go beyond the data
        • Relationships of the findings to previously cited research explicitly stated
        • Negative findings relative to the hypotheses as well as positive findings presented with minimal distortion or bias
        • Uncontrolled factors influencing data outcomes appropriately cited and discussed
        • Weaknesses in the data honestly conceded and discussed with appropriate emphasis
        • Lack of confusion between facts and inferences—clearly shown separation of analysis of findings from interpretation and discussion of findings
        • Resolution of contradictions, inconsistencies, or misleading elements in the findings
      • Appropriate and clear use of charts, tables, figures, and graphs
    • Summary and conclusion
      • Precise and accurate statement of (a) the problem, (b) the methodology followed, and (c) the findings without the introduction of new or irrelevant information
      • Conclusions at a scope and level of generality justified by the data presented
      • Appropriate caution exercised and necessary qualifications made in drawing conclusions
      • Conclusions in a form that other investigators can understand and subsequently verify
      • Conclusions coordinated with the tentative acceptance or rejection of the research hypotheses presented or with the objectives or questions posed
      • New questions set forth for possible investigation—recommendation for additional research in the problem area
      • Recommendations concerning implementation of the research findings when appropriate relative to the objectives stated in the purpose of the investigation (most frequently encountered in survey studies and action research)
    SOURCE: Isaac, S., & Michael, W. B. (1995). Handbook in Research and Evaluation (3rd ed.). EdITS/Educational and Industrial Testing, San Diego, CA. Reproduced by permission.

    Appendix C: Statistical Decision Tree

    Figure C.1. Decision Tree: Choice of Appropriate Statistical Procedure

    Appendix D: List of Active Verbs

    • accentuates
    • acknowledges
    • addresses
    • adds
    • advises
    • affirms
    • allows
    • alludes
    • analyzes
    • anticipates
    • applies
    • appreciates
    • argues against
    • argues for
    • articulates
    • ascertains
    • asks
    • asserts
    • attempts
    • bases
    • believes
    • broadens
    • challenges
    • characterizes
    • charts
    • checks
    • chronicles
    • clarifies
    • cogitates
    • comments
    • compiles
    • conceives
    • concerns
    • concludes
    • condemns
    • conducts
    • conjectures
    • considers
    • continues
    • contrasts
    • contributes
    • convinces
    • counsels
    • creates
    • credits
    • deals
    • decides
    • defines
    • deliberates
    • delineates
    • delivers
    • demonstrates
    • depicts
    • describes
    • designs
    • details
    • devotes
    • directs
    • discerns
    • discusses
    • dismisses
    • displays
    • distinguishes
    • documents
    • draws a parallel
    • echoes
    • elicits
    • elucidates
    • emphasizes
    • encourages
    • enlightens
    • envisions
    • evaluates
    • evolves
    • examines
    • exhorts
    • expands
    • explains
    • explores
    • expounds
    • extracts
    • files
    • finds
    • follows
    • formulates
    • gathers
    • generates
    • gives
    • gives credence
    • gives voice
    • grapples
    • heralds
    • holds
    • identifies
    • illustrates
    • implements
    • incorporates
    • influences
    • informs
    • inquires
    • inspects
    • inspires
    • integrates
    • interprets
    • introduces
    • investigates
    • judges
    • leads
    • lectures
    • looks
    • maintains
    • manages
    • manipulates
    • mediates
    • models
    • muses
    • notes
    • observes
    • offers
    • operates
    • organizes
    • paints
    • paraphrases
    • perceives
    • performs
    • pilots
    • ponders
    • portrays
    • postulates
    • preaches
    • predicts
    • prescribes
    • presents
    • probes
    • promotes
    • proposes
    • protects
    • proves
    • provides
    • publicizes
    • publishes
    • puts forth
    • qualifies
    • queries
    • questions
    • raises
    • rationalizes
    • reacts
    • realizes
    • reasons
    • recognizes
    • recommends
    • records
    • recounts
    • recruits
    • reduces
    • refers
    • reflects
    • regards
    • reiterates
    • rejoins
    • relates
    • remarks
    • remembers
    • repeats
    • reports
    • researches
    • resolves
    • responds
    • retrieves
    • reveals
    • reviews
    • rewords
    • says
    • sees
    • shapes
    • shows
    • speaks
    • speculates
    • states
    • stipulates
    • studies
    • substitutes
    • suggests
    • summarizes
    • surmises
    • talks
    • touches
    • underscores
    • understands
    • unifies
    • upgrades
    • verbalizes
    • views
    • warns
    • weighs
    • worries
    • writes

    Suggested Readings

    Chapter 1: Writing the Doctoral Proposal
    Locke, L. F., Spirduso, W. W., & Silverman, S. J. (1993). Proposals that work. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
    Offers specific and detailed advice for the proposal stage using strong examples for students to understand what works.
    Chapter 2: Choosing a Methodology
    Denzin, N. K., & Lincoln, Y. S. (Eds.). (1994). Handbook of qualitative research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
    This book is a compilation of ideas, concepts, and theoretical bases for most of the qualitative methods. It is extremely useful in defending your choice of method as it gives you current theories and the operational workings of a chosen methodology.
    Huck, S. W., Cormier, W. H., & Bounds, W. G., Jr. (1974). Reading statistics and research. New York: HarperCollins.
    Yes, this is a statistics book! But it is fairly easy to read and gives the reader a comprehensive set of instructions on how to write (publish) results of quantitative research. It even gives you something similar to sentence starters. This book is also a good reference for the advantages and disadvantages of each statistical treatment, something you will need in defending your choice of methodology.
    Leedy, P. D. (1995). Practical research: Planning and design (
    5th ed
    .). New York: Macmillan.
    An excellent review for any kind of quantitative research. Its practical, no-nonsense approach makes the basics understandable to even the novice reader. It offers many charts that outline purpose, goals, and appropriate applications that make it difficult not to be successful in planning a good research study.
    Lincoln, Y. S., & Guba, E. G. (1985). Naturalistic inquiry. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.
    All books by Guba and Lincoln are well worth reading. Their approach to evaluation will be useful for almost any research with human subjects.
    Merriman, S. B. (1988). Case study research in education. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.
    If you are conducting a case study, this book is worth purchasing. Merriman is often cited in qualitative dissertations and is regarded as a leader in the case study research field.
    Miles, M. B., & Huberman, A. M. (1994). Qualitative data analysis (
    2nd ed
    .). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
    This book allows the qualitative researcher to view various methods of presenting data, mostly in a graphic format. It is unique in that it presents visual applications of data displays and helps the qualitative person stay within the bounds of qualitative reporting.
    Morse, J. M. (Ed.). (1994). Critical issues in qualitative research methods. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
    A good overview of qualitative research methods with references at the end of each chapter so that further information on one specific type of research can be better understood.
    Yin, R. K. (1984). Case study research: Design and methods. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.
    Another one of the “must-have” books for case study research. Yin is certainly recognized as an authority in the field, and the book itself is set up to be easily referenced.
    Chapter 3: Selecting Committee Members
    Myers, I. B., & Myers, P. B. (1980). Gifts differing. Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press.
    This book will help you identify your personality type. You must know yourself before you can understand others!
    Chapter 4: Surviving the Human Subjects Committee
    Check your own institution's handbook for requirements.
    Chapter 5: Collecting Data
    Fink, A., & Kosecoff, J. (1985). How to conduct surveys: A step-by-step guide. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
    This one is an absolute must for those designing surveys or questionnaires. It takes an easy-to-understand approach, step-by-step, through the development of an instrument. It also gives the reader a great appreciation for the positives and negatives of survey research.
    Glass, L. (1992). He says, she says: Closing the communication gap between the sexes. New York: Putnam.
    You are most likely going to be interviewing both women and men, so you might as well have some basic information about gender communication styles as a starting point. Because the genders tend to be socialized differently, and have different coding and decoding styles, this information will help you structure both your questions and your analysis with more understanding and sensitivity.
    Hawley, P. (1933). Being bright is not enough: The unwritten rules of doctoral study. Springfield, IL: Charles C Thomas.
    Dr. Hawley's book is written from a student advocacy perspective. Her approach is personal and practical as she deals with the issue of ABDs. It is fairly easy reading but Dr. Hawley goes back and forth between her academic professorial role and that of a student struggling through the dissertation phase.
    Reardon, K. K. (1995). They don't get it, do they? Communication in the workplace—closing the gap between men and women. Boston: Little, Brown.
    Another excellent reference from the experienced voice of a specialist in negotiation and interpersonal communication. Reardon offers terrific communication ideas for research in business and leadership dissertations as well as in general communication patterns.
    Chapter 6: Developing a Support Group
    Gray, J. (1990). Men, women, and relationships: Making peace with the opposite sex. Hillsboro, OR: Beyond Words.
    Communication is the foundation of all human interaction. Given that we deal with both genders in life, as well as in academia, we might as well understand the basic differences in communication styles.
    Kroeger, O., & Thueson, J. M. (1988). Type talk. New York: Dell.
    Type Talk discusses our basic personality types and offers suggestions for improving working relationships in mutually supportive ways. We learn techniques to resolve our differences rather than denying or ignoring them. Good for building committee relationships.
    Sternberg, D. (1981). How to complete and survive a doctoral dissertation. New York: St. Martin's.
    This volume can be found only in your university library, which shows that some things never change. One of the best chapters is the last: “Beyond the Dissertation: Surviving It and Professionally Exploiting It.” This offers encouragement and a bit of entertainment.
    Tannen, D. (1990). You just don't understand: Men and women in conversation. New York: William Morrow.
    This is a popular book, found in all bookstores in paperback. If you only wish to read scholarly books, this may not be for you—but it offers valuable communication tips for both genders.
    Chapter 7: Getting Organized
    Gordon, K. E. (1983). The well-tempered sentence. New York: Ticknor and Fields.
    For the “innocent, the eager, and the doomed,” all of which fit doctoral students at varying stages of the writing process, this book offers punctuation guidelines with humor, stories, and clever illustrations that make the information both readable and rememberable.
    MYSTAT Statistical Applications, Course Technology, Inc., One Main Street, Cambridge, MA 02142.
    This computer program is available in both MACINTOSH and IBM/PC versions. The user's guide is excellent in explaining data entry and also in giving examples of data problems. The graphics in the program are a bit more friendly than in STATVIEW (to be discussed later) but data entry is not as user friendly. Most statistical treatments are available.
    O'Conner, P. T. (1996). Woe is I. New York: Putnam.
    The book cover proclaims it is a “grammarphobe's guide to better English in plain English,” which it is, but it is also a clever, complete, delightful little volume with examples that make learning basic writing rules more fun than you thought possible.
    Rudestam, K. E., & Newton, R. R. (1992). Surviving your dissertation. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
    This sage book contains a great deal of valuable information from the faculty viewpoint. You will find that the Secrets book is written from the student viewpoint and will make you smile and lighten your load. Together, you can't lose.
    STATVIEW SE + Graphics, Abacus Concepts, Inc., 1984 Bonita Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94704.
    A computer program designed for the Macintosh user that contains a comprehensive and easy-to-comprehend user's guide. This statistical program is easy to use and has a variety of graphics. Data entry is easy to understand. Most statistical treatments are available.
    Strunk, W., Jr., & White, E. B. (1979). The elements of style. New York: Macmillan.
    This book has been around for a long time because it is so useful. Reminders to cut unnecessary words, to use active verbs, and answers to all questions about punctuation are only a few of the book's offerings. This book should sit on everyone's desk and be used often, no matter how well you write.
    Style Guides
    The Chicago manual of style (
    14th ed
    .). (1993). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
    Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (
    4th ed
    .). (1994). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
    A must if your dissertation must adhere to the APA format.
    Turabian, K. L. (1987). A manual for writers of term papers, theses, and dissertations (
    5th ed
    .). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
    Condensed (and easier to follow) version of The Chicago Manual of Style.
    Any other style manual accepted by your individual institution—and don't forget any style publications that may be available from the graduate division and/or those published by your individual college, department, or university.
    Chapter 8: Using Technology
    Any manual for your word processing system.
    Your local phone book with dog-eared pages for computer stores, emergency services, and 24-hour techno-wizard referral hot line.
    Chapter 9: Defending the Dissertation
    Elgin, S. H. (1987). The last word on the gentle art of verbal self-defense. New York: Prentice Hall.
    An excellent resource for building confidence, freeing yourself from verbal abuse, and learning how to avoid negativity as you elicit desired responses.
    Walker, B. A., & Mehr, M. (1992). The courage to achieve. New York: Simon & Schuster.
    This is the only study conducted on academically gifted women. It teaches women to honor their intellectual gifts and use them with no parental or spousal preapproval or approval.

    About the Authors

    Jacqueline Fitzpatrick, Ed.D. Jacqueline is Adjunct Faculty for graduate students in the School of Education at the University of San Diego. She supervises and mentors student teachers in elementary schools throughout the San Diego area. Jacqueline earned her doctorate in Educational Leadership with her dissertation research on the mentoring of professional women. Her presentation at the 1996 World's Future Society concerned women's contributions to leadership. Jacqueline previously taught in elementary schools, has been an educational counselor to high school students, taught research techniques in the Master's Counseling Program, and is currently working on her next research project addressing the concerns and experiences of women in undergraduate education.

    Jan Secrist, Ed.D. Jan wears three professional hats: She is Adjunct Faculty at the University of San Diego (Master's Counseling, Extension and University of the Third Age), specializing in Life Span Development, Gender Communication, and Women's Issues; she has a private practice advising high school students in the college selection process; and is a seminar trainer for the U.S. Navy on Communication and Gender Issues. Jan gave a presentation at the World's Future Society on “Leadership, Gender and the Future” and frequently consults with business organizations on communication concerns. Jan's dissertation research has inspired two manuscripts: the narratives of midlife women, and a children's book. She plans further research on women's development.

    Debra J. Wright, Ed.D. Debra is Associate Director and Program Administrator for the International Educational Leadership Graduate Program and is Assistant Professor teaching research methods and process at San Diego State University in California. She earned her doctoral degree in Educational Leadership from the University of San Diego, California. Debra has previously worked as a principal in an alternative high school and taught for 14 years in public education. Her research interests include issues of diversity and the process and methodology of research for educators. She has published articles related to nontraditional graduate education programs and student advocacy issues and produced instructional videotapes on the development of research proposals and theses.

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