The topic in the wind this week is the challenge many students have with the concept of alignment throughout a doctoral study. All aspects of a doctoral study must be in clear alignment. First and foremost, your dissertation must align with your course of study (PhD, DBA, EdD, DM, PsychD etc–one of 27 different doctoral degrees available). Each program has a different focus. For example, the focus of a problem for a DBA program is a problem that exists right now; a PhD focus will be about what may be possible in the future. A DBA problem is one with a business orientation for a CEO; where an EdD problem will be an educational focus perhaps for the School Principal or Superintendent or President and/or Provost for a university. Alignment with your program is crucial to your success. Let me invite you to talk with your academic counselor and/or your chair to ensure that your problem is aligned with your program goals before getting too far down the road. A good way to think about your dissertation focus is to review an anchor study strategy. Go to the ProQuest Theses and Dissertation for your school to see what graduates in your program from your school have pursued in the past. Remember, research does not exist in a vacuum; the goal is to continue moving what is known about the topic forward. Ask yourself: What will you add to the greater body of knowledge?
Next, let’s look at the alignment of the study itself. Think of a dissertation as a jigsaw puzzle–where ALL pieces in the puzzle MUST connect and align in the SAME puzzle. All roads lead to and from the problem statement: this is the foundation of the dissertation: ground zero if you will. Thus, let’s look at the key words as an alignment strategy. If you are conducting a study about financial productivity measures such as return on investment (ROI), return on assets (ROA), and net profit, then these EXACT words have to be in your purpose statement as well. I tell my students often, if it isn’t in the problem or purpose statement, it isn’t anywhere else in your dissertation either.
Print your problem and purpose statement. Keep this one page document NEXT TO YOU as you work on your dissertation. Consider highlighting these key search words. These key words must align throughout your entire study to include sections of your lit review. A Lit Review must provide a current history to date regarding what is known about these key words of your topic so as to establish the gap that exists that justifies the need for your study. What do we know, what do we not know, and of what we don’t know, what will your study contribute to the greater body of knowledge?
From your problem and purpose statement, you will need to ensure align includes your method and design, as well as your target population and sample. Ensure that your writing focuses on these key search words as part of all elements of the big picture part of your dissertation.
Keep working on this progress. You’re in the hunt!
Until next time,
Dr. Cheryl Lentz
The Academic Entrepreneur