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The Iterative Process in a Doctoral Program: Advice for Degree Candidates and Educators

You can improve your chances of earning your doctoral degree by following the iterative process described here.

Earning a doctoral degree can open new career opportunities and change your life—as well as the lives of those around your and in your broader community. But before you can frame your diploma and add this valuable achievement to your résumé, you have to successfully complete your doctoral program. Whether you’re studying online or on campus, one of the best ways to ensure your success is to embrace the iterative process from the first stages of your research to the final revisions of your dissertation. Why does this process work so well for both students and educators? Read on.

What Is the Iterative Process?


The iterative process is the act of repeating analysis and/or actions with the purpose of increasing your understanding of the subject or challenge and improving your chances of mastery. The process is particularly useful for complex decision making and difficult tasks—challenges that are part of earning a doctoral degree. It’s also important for educators, whether they’re in the process of earning a degree or not.

Why Is the Iterative Process Important to Earning Your Doctoral Degree?

Whether you’re enrolled in a traditional or an online doctoral program, the iterative process can help ensure the accuracy and quality of your work. Going over your research again and again can decrease the chance that you’ll miss something pertinent, while rewriting your dissertation multiple times can improve your writing and strengthen your arguments.

Dr. Colin “Kim” Winkelman of the Richard W. Riley College of Education and Human Sciences at Walden University compares writing a doctoral dissertation to learning how to paint a self-portrait. “First you must decide on the subject you wish to paint,” he says. “Then, you need to assemble the materials and paint colors. Next, you will sketch an outline of your subject. Then, you mix the colors and begin to fill in the sketch. Now you stand back and ask yourself—does this represent me and what I want to achieve? In order to receive an objective appraisal of your initial work you select a mentor, who recommends you tone down the colors, fill in details, and add more expression to your eyes. You then literally go ‘back to the drawing board.’ Like the artist, it is important that you understand that revisions are necessary when writing a doctoral dissertation.”

One of the most important parts of the iterative process in a doctoral program is your relationship with your dissertation advisor. When you’re enrolled in an accredited online doctoral program, you’ll have access to qualified faculty members who will provide you guidance.

Walden University is an accredited university offering online bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree programs. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,