What Are the Steps to the Dissertation Process?
The road to a completed dissertation or doctoral study is filled with discovery and can lead to great rewards. But to reach your destination, you’ll need perseverance, a detailed map, advisors to guide you along the way, and checkpoints to assess your progress. Walden University, the No. 1 granter of doctoral research degrees,1 provides you all that and more.
As you embark on your journey in an online doctoral program, moving toward that culminating dissertation, you should expect that there will be course corrections along the way. Sometimes you may feel like you’re spinning your wheels. That’s a natural part of the process. Just don’t give up. With Walden as your GPS, you can navigate this route with confidence.
The Dissertation Guidebook is one of the essential navigation tools Walden provides to its doctoral candidates. A vital portion of the document details the 15 required steps that take a dissertation from start to finish. Read along with Walden students to learn more about that process:
The dissertation premise is a short document that identifies a preliminary topic for the dissertation and supports formation of the dissertation supervisory committee. The students’ primary goal for the premise is to narrow their dissertation topic to provide a general sense of the direction of their research.
- Committee Assignment
At this time, students are assigned their dissertation supervisory committee, following the steps outlined for their program of study. The committee will consist of a committee chair and a second committee member who provide guidance related to the content and research methods appropriate to the study. After approval of the prospectus, students are assigned a third member serving in the role of the university research reviewer, or URR (if not assigned at committee formation).
The dissertation prospectus builds on the premise by helping students organize, delineate, and make decisions regarding their dissertation and appropriate research style. The prospectus serves as an agreed-upon plan for developing the proposal and finalizes the structure of the dissertation supervisory committee. The supervisory committee uses the Dissertation Prospectus Rubric to give feedback on the prospectus. If the committee approves, the prospectus will then move to the program director for review.
- Description Proposal Development
The first three chapters of a dissertation are known as the dissertation proposal. The proposal establishes the rationale for conducting the study, including a review and analysis of the relevant literature, and describes the design and methodology that will be used for the study. Students work with their supervisory committee to develop the proposal, consulting the specific university-approved dissertation checklist for specific guidance on the content and organization of the dissertation and the Dissertation Minimum Standards Rubric indicators that will be used to evaluate the dissertation. When ready, students complete a self-evaluation using the dissertation checklist and a Turnitin report and submit these documents with their proposal for committee review via Taskstream, under Proposal Committee Rubric Analysis. (Note: The dissertation chair may complete a separate Turnitin report, which is submitted to the URR for review along with the dissertation checklist and proposal). Students’ committee members, including the URR, evaluate the proposal against the Dissertation Minimum Standards Rubric, referring to the annotated checklist that students provide for detailed guidance when needed. The committee members also review the Turnitin report.
- Proposal University Research Review
When the supervisory committee is satisfied that the proposal meets all the requirements specified in the minimum standards rubric, the chair reconciles the Proposal Committee Rubric Analysis as approved and uploads the clean proposal, checklist, and Turnitin report to the reconciliation. The URR reviews the proposal, again using the minimum standards rubric, including items relevant to content, methodology, form and style, and ethical procedures. The URR either approves the proposal, which enables the student to set up an oral conference, or returns the proposal with a set of suggested revisions. The URR enters his or her review under Proposal URR Rubric Analysis. Students work with their committee to make any requested revisions.
- Proposal Oral Presentation
Following URR approval, students orally present the proposal to their committee via teleconference scheduled with the Office of Student Research Administration (OSRA). Requests must be made at least one week in advance of the meeting. This presentation is used to confirm students’ plans for their research, clarify any remaining questions that committee members may have regarding the study, and help ensure that students initiate their research from a sound foundation. After the proposal has been successfully defended, the chair enters the approval under Proposal Oral Presentation and uploads the clean approved proposal. Note: Walden provides a conference call service for the oral defense that is toll-free for most countries outside the United States. Students living in areas outside this coverage are responsible for toll charges associated with this call.
- IRB Approval
Walden’s Institutional Review Board (IRB) reviews each study conducted by Walden students to determine if the anticipated benefits of the study outweigh the risks associated with participation in it. While developing their proposal, students review the Research Ethics Planning Worksheet and take part in IRB office hours if any questions arise from the worksheet. After the proposal has received final approval following the presentation, students receive a notice from OSRA to submit their formal application directly to the IRB. Note: No data may be collected until IRB approval is granted.
- Dissertation Completion
Following IRB approval, students can collect and analyze their data and report their findings, complete the remaining chapters of their dissertation, and prepare the abstract. They complete a self-evaluation of the remaining chapters in the dissertation checklist as well as make any needed updates to the proposal chapters so that the dissertation reflects the most recent understanding of the information. Students also complete another Turnitin report. Students submit their clean dissertation, checklist, and Turnitin report under Final Study Committee Rubric Analysis for the committee review. Note: The dissertation chair may again complete a separate Turnitin report, which is submitted to the URR for review along with the dissertation.
- Dissertation University Research Review
When the supervisory committee is satisfied that the full dissertation draft, including the abstract, meets all the requirements specified in the minimum standards rubric, the chair reconciles the Final Study Committee Rubric Analysis as approved and uploads the clean dissertation, checklist, and Turnitin report. The URR then reviews the dissertation and abstract, again using the minimum standards rubric, including items relevant to content, analyses, reporting and interpreting results, form and style, and ethical issues related to reporting results. The URR either approves the dissertation and abstract, which enables the student to continue to the Form and Style review, or returns the documents with a set of suggested revisions. The URR enters his or her review under Final Review – URR Rubric Analysis. Students work with their committee to make any requested revisions.
- Form and Style Review
After URR approval of the dissertation and abstract, an editor conducts a Form and Style review. Students must address the editor’s revisions and suggestions.
- Oral Defense Teleconference
After receipt of the Form and Style review, students present their dissertation via teleconference scheduled with OSRA. Requests must be made at least one week in advance of the meeting. This final oral defense is a formal discussion of the scholarly content of the dissertation, followed by an evaluation of the dissertation. At this point, students may need to revise the dissertation based on feedback during the teleconference as well as from the Form and Style review. When the call is completed, the chair enters his or her review of the call under Final Oral Presentation.
- Final Quality Committee Review
After successful completion of the oral defense, students must submit their dissertation (with all changes made and no track changes showing) under Final Overall Quality Committee Rubric Analysis for the formal committee review. The committee members ensure that the Form and Style edits were completed and review the final abstract for compliance with university standards and quality. Committee members complete their reviews and, if the dissertation is ready to go to the URR, the chair must reconcile Final Overall Quality Committee Rubric Analysis as approved and upload the clean approved dissertation to the approved reconciliation.
- Final Quality University Research Review
The URR ensures that the Form and Style edits were completed and reviews the final abstract for compliance with university standards and quality. The URR enters the review under Final Overall Quality URR Rubric Analysis. If approved, the URR uploads the clean approved dissertation.
- Chief Academic Officer Review
After final URR approval, the abstract is sent to the university’s chief academic officer (CAO) or designee as a final endorsement of the study. Revisions may be required at this point, and these changes are facilitated through consultation with the chair and others. Upon CAO approval, the dissertation is officially completed.
- ProQuest Submission
To graduate from Walden University, students must submit their dissertation to ProQuest for indexing. After this submission has been approved, students have completed all the graduation requirements for the dissertation and their degree can be validated.
At the end of this process, Walden adds doctoral students’ work to the university’s online repository of dissertations, where they draw interest from a global audience. Scholars from Singapore, Zimbabwe, Canada, Germany, the United States, and many other countries visit the website to read these outstanding research papers.
Your Doctoral Journey
When you’re ready to make your contribution in an online doctoral or PhD degree program, Walden is waiting with more than 20 doctoral programs with over 120 specializations. Walden designs its degree programs for working professionals who want to further their education while staying on the job and engaged with family, friends, and community.
Earning a doctorate won’t be easy, but at Walden, we know what it takes. You can be assured we’ll guide you every step of the way with a comprehensive suite of support resources designed to help you confidently pursue the finish line. Learn more about the many benefits of beginning your doctoral journey at Walden. Discover your calling with a doctorate that can broaden your professional horizons and change your life.
Walden University is an accredited institution offering more than 20 doctoral degree programs online. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.
1Source: National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) IPEDS database. Based on the most recent year of completions survey data available, using all classifications of instructional programs (CIP) codes. A doctoral research degree is a PhD or other doctoral degree that requires advanced work beyond the master’s level, including the preparation and defense of a dissertation based on original research or the planning and execution of an original project demonstrating substantial scholarly achievement. Available at https://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/use-the-data. (Retrieved January 2021; may consist of or include provisional release data.)
Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, www.hlcommission.org.
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