Doctoral Program and Dissertation Process 3

Doctoral Program and Dissertation Process 3

UC Graduate School

Dissertation Handbook



Table of Contents

Introduction 3

Doctoral Program and Dissertation Process 3

Purpose of Handbook 3

Dissertation Committee 3

Committee Members 3

Choosing committee members 3

Committee chair responsibilities 4

Responsibilities of other committee members 5

Candidate responsibilities 5

Dissertation Guidelines 6

Choosing a Research Topic 6

Dissertation Timeline 6

Dissertation Style 7

Quantitative Dissertations 7

Qualitative Dissertations 8

Final Document 9

Dissertation Research Approval Process 9

Oral Defense 10

Graduation 11

Appendix A: Quantitative Dissertation Information 12

Appendix B: Qualitative Dissertation Information 14

Appendix C: Dissertation Defense Rubric 19

Appendix D: Reporting Statistical Tests 20



Doctoral Program and Dissertation Process

The Graduate School at the University of the Cumberlands offers Doctor of Business

Administration, Doctor of Education, and Doctor of Philosophy degrees. The doctoral

dissertation, designed to evaluate the candidate’s capabilities as a scholar, is the final academic

requirement of the DBA, EdD, and PhD programs. Candidates complete the dissertation during

professional research courses (LEAR 736, 839, 930, 931), which are the last four courses taken

during the program. This handbook sets forth the guidelines for completing the dissertation


Purpose of Handbook

The purpose of this handbook is to guide candidates through the dissertation process

including writing, defense, and final document submission. Candidate and committee member

responsibilities are outlined, writing guidelines are detailed and examples provided, required

sections for each chapter, and printing guidelines for the final dissertation document are

included. The handbook is to be used by instructors, dissertation chairs, and committee members

to ensure maintenance of high standards related to the form and appearance of dissertations.

Dissertation Committee

Dissertation committees are made up of three members; the dissertation chair and two

committee members. Each member has specific responsibilities as outlined below.

Committee Members

Choosing committee members. While enrolled in LEAR 930, the candidate and dissertation

chair will identify instructors to serve on his/her dissertation committee. The dissertation course

instructor will serve as the dissertation chair. Other members are to be instructors teaching at the


graduate level at University of the Cumberlands. These members should be chosen based on

dissertation topic expertise and candidate needs. Dissertation chairs will provide candidates with

a list of instructors available to serve on committees.

Committee chair responsibilities. Responsibilities of the committee chair include:

 Advising the candidate through the dissertation process.

 Guiding the candidate in the selection of two additional committee members.

 Assisting the candidate in meeting deadlines for completion of the dissertation.

 Assisting the candidate in navigating the IRB approval process.

 Guiding the candidate in achieving a high level of technical and ethical quality in the

dissertation research.

 Advising the candidate in the selection of methods/procedures for data collection and


 Advising the candidate in proper APA style.

 Determining when a document is ready for review by the committee and communicate

such with committee members. The candidate should avoid consulting the full committee

for feedback without prior approval of the chair.

 Advising the candidate in preparation for the dissertation defense.

 Notifying the department chair of the date, time, and location of all dissertation defense


 Submitting the defense scoring rubric from committee members to the department chair

in a timely manner after the defense.

 Submitting a print-ready copy of the dissertation to the department chair prior to the

anticipated graduation date of the candidate.


Responsibilities of other committee members. Responsibilities of other committee members


 Providing subject matter expertise as requested by the chair or candidate.

 Reading drafts and providing meaningful feedback.

 Corresponding with the chair and candidate as needed for clarification and resolution of

methodological issues during the dissertation process.

 Immediately notifying candidate and dissertation chair when major flaws that are likely

to result in a candidate’s unsuccessful defense are identified.

 Signing the signature page of the dissertation in a timely manner.

Candidate Responsibilities

Responsibilities of the dissertation candidate include:

 Coordinating with the dissertation chair to select committee members based on expertise

in the dissertation topic area. The candidate is encouraged to select at least one member

with expertise in data collection and analysis.

 Completing the IRB process to obtain approval for research before collecting data.

 Choosing a topic, submitting proofread drafts of materials to the chair, preparing

adequately for consultations, and communicating on a regular basis with the chair.

 Contacting the chair in the event of any significant change in personal or professional

situation which may interfere with program completion.

 Successfully defending research.


 Submitting an error-free, print-ready copy of dissertation as a pdf document to the

dissertation chair and the Graduate School office in a timely manner after a successful


 Printing a minimum of two one-sided copies using white, 24 lb. résumé paper.

 Submitting a minimum of two printed copies of dissertation to program office prior to the

end of the semester.

Dissertation Guidelines

Choosing a Research Topic

Candidates begin thinking about dissertation topics when applying for admission to the program.

The dissertation topics must be grounded in theory, related to program goals, and have specific

implications for practitioners. Candidates are encouraged to choose research topics of personal

relevance and significance. When opportunities arise in coursework, candidates should begin

researching these topics in the form of literature reviews and other assignments that allow for

research. The research topic will be narrowed to a research study and approved by the

department chair/director when candidates enroll in the first dissertation course, LEAR 736. The

link for topic approval is provided through the Graduate School.

Dissertation Timeline

The dissertation topic is approved by the Graduate School and department when candidates are

enrolled in LEAR 736. The review of literature is completed while enrolled in LEAR 736, and

Chapter Two of the dissertation is written. This is a requirement for enrolling in LEAR 839.

While enrolled in LEAR 839, candidates complete Chapter One, the introduction to the study,

and Chapter Three, the methodology section. Candidates must get approval for their research


from the Institutional Review Board while enrolled in LEAR 839, before collecting any data. A

completed Chapter One and Chapter Three and IRB approval are required before candidates

enroll in LEAR 930. Candidates complete Chapter Four, which presents their research findings,

while enrolled in LEAR 930. Once enrolled in LEAR 931, candidates complete Chapter Five.

In Chapter Five, candidates interpret their findings, discuss implications of those findings,

present recommendations for further study and action, and discuss how their study fills a gap in

the literature and contributes to leadership. The final step in the dissertation process is the oral

defense, which is completed in LEAR 931-935. Once the study is successfully defended,

candidates submit printed copies of the dissertation to the department chair. At that time, the

department chair recommends the candidate for graduation.

The DBA, EdD, and PhD programs are designed for dissertations to be completed in four

courses. Candidates needing additional time may enroll in additional courses providing the total

time in the program does not exceed five years. Enrollment in courses beyond LEAR 931 must

be approved by the department chair.

Dissertation Style

The dissertation, a scholarly document, is written for professionals in the field. The

dissertation may include a quantitative, qualitative, or mixed methods study.

Quantitative Dissertations

While there is no set number of pages, a dissertation typically includes approximately

100 pages for quantitative studies. The quantitative dissertation follows a five chapter format

and deductive approach (see Appendix A). The sixth edition of the Publication Manual of the


American Psychological Association (APA) is the style manual to be used in writing the

dissertation. All APA guidelines should be followed.

Qualitative Dissertations

Unlike the EdD and Quantitative PhD dissertations, which follow a five-chapter format,

the qualitative dissertation is not bound by those requirements. Rather, the qualitative

dissertation should be approximately 45,000 words. This word requirement applies to the text of

the dissertation only; it does not cover the title page, acknowledgements, table of contents, or

other non-content related pages. Thus, with a small indulgence in tautology, the dissertation,

should be as long as it needs to be, as long it meets the minimum word requirement.

The Graduate School requires the use of footnotes (when necessary), citations, and references for

all qualitative dissertations. All qualitative dissertations should be double-spaced, typed in 12pt,

Times New Roman with 1” margins. Footnotes must be in 10pt Times New Roman with a

double space between notes, but a single space inside the note itself. The acknowledgements and

other non-textual pages at the beginning of the dissertation should be in roman numerals at the

bottom-center of the page, and they should be continuous. The title page does not have a page

number. When quoting, place punctuation marks inside the quotation marks. For visual examples

of the title page, bibliography, and general formatting, please refer to the Chicago Manual of

Style, 17th Edition and Kate L. Turabian’s Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and

Dissertations (8th ed.).

Final Document

The final dissertation document must be submitted while enrolled in the last research

course, typically LEAR 931. The final document is submitted after the successful oral defense is


presented and all committee member recommended edits have been made. An error-free, print-

ready copy of dissertation is submitted as a pdf document after a successful defense. The copy is

to be submitted electronically to the dissertation chair and the Graduate School. Candidates print

a minimum of two one-sided copies using white, 24 lb. resume paper. Candidates then submit a

minimum of two printed copies of the dissertation to the program office prior to the designated

semester deadline. After having those copies bound, the UC Binding Department will return the

two copies to the candidate. If the candidate wishes to keep more than two bound copies,

he/should submit the number desired. The Binding Department will bill the student for the

additional copies at a minimal cost per copy.

Dissertation Research Approval Process

Approval for conducting the dissertation research must be obtained while enrolled in

LEAR 839 and is a pre-requisite to enrolling in LEAR 930. The Institutional Review Board

application to conduct research and all supporting documents must be submitted in LEAR 839.

The dissertation chair will review the document, and then the student should submit the

documents to the Department of study (Leadership Studies, Counseling, Business, or IT).

Candidates will receive an IRB Approval Letter once the research has been approved. No

research is to be executed until IRB approval is granted and all necessary consents (adults) and

assents (minors) are secured from participants. The IRB Approval Letter is to be placed in the

dissertation as Appendix A.


Oral Defense

While enrolled in the final dissertation course, the candidate must present an oral defense

of her/his research. This oral defense is presented after the committee chair and all committee

members have given feedback and all edits have been made to the dissertation document. The

Department of Leadership Studies will schedule the defense session. All three committee

members must be present for the oral defense. The oral defense session normally takes 45-60

minutes. The committee members and chair will ask questions and offer comments. The

candidate will then be dismissed for committee deliberation. Once the committee and chair have

deliberated and reached a decision, the candidate will be invited to re-join the group for the

committee decision. The committee will make one of the following decisions:

 approved with no revisions,

 approved with minor revisions,

 provisionally approved with major revisions, or

 not approved with recommendation to write a new dissertation.

If one of the first two decisions is made, the committee chair will work with the candidate to get

the final document ready to send to the department chair for review. If the committee decision

requires major revisions or a new dissertation, the candidate will enroll in another research

course to complete the revisions or rewrite.

The defense must be successfully completed by the department defense deadline for the

semester. The dissertation chair and committee will evaluate the candidate using the department

rubric (see Appendix C).



Candidates should apply for graduation at the beginning of the semester in which they

plan to graduate. The application for graduation is located at Once the

research has been successfully defended and copies of the dissertation are received by the

department chair, the department chair will notify the registrar that the candidate has completed

all program requirements and is eligible to graduate. Graduation exercises are held in May.

Candidates are hooded during the graduation exercise.

Appendix A

Quantitative Dissertation Format

Title Page

Signature Page


Abstract (150 words maximum)

Table of Contents

List of Tables

Chapter One (Introduction)


Background and Problem Statement

Purpose of the Study

Research Questions

Theoretical Framework

Limitations of the Study




Chapter Two (Review of Literature)


Subsections based on a deductive approach


Chapter Three (Procedures and Methodology)


Research Paradigm (qualitative or quantitative)

Research Design

Sampling Procedures and or/

Data Collection Sources (reference Informed Consent and IRB approval placed in Appendices)

Statistical Tests



Chapter Four (Research Findings)


Participants and Research Setting

Analyses of Research Questions (one at a time)

Supplementary Findings (if any)


Chapter Five (Summary, Discussion, and Implications)


Practical Assessment of Research Question(s)

Limitations of the Study

Implications for Future Study



Appendices (This section contains any tables, figures and possible data sources that could not

be placed in the text of the paper due to its size, as well as copies of consent forms and IRB



Appendix B

Qualitative Dissertation Information

Title Page

Signature Page


Abstract (150 words maximum)

Table of Contents

Introduction (Example):

Title of Your Project


The introduction is where you will establish for your readers the overall scope of your project. You will

establish the topic, the thesis, and general thesis map. It is in the Introduction where you “hook” your readers into

wanting to know more about your topic and argument. In many ways, this your chance to show off your writing,

thinking, and expertise on the subject as the Introduction serves as your place to show the readers why your project

is important and worthwhile.

Please note several things regarding the format. First, at the top-center, you note the Introduction, Chapter,

Table of Contents, Acknowledgments, or Dedication, placing a colon at the end. Second, for the Introduction and

Chapters, you will then space one line down, and place the title of each chapter. The exceptions are Introduction

where you will place the dissertation’s title and Chapter 1, which you will title “Literature Review.” From there,

double-space between the chapter title and the start of the text. Please note: unlike this example, the page number at

the start of the Introduction and each chapter must be bottom-center.


Despite the open-ended nature of the qualitative dissertation, each dissertation must start with an

Introduction. In the “Introduction,” the author must present his or her research project, the overall scope of the work,

and produce the general thesis of the work as well a thesis map elaborating the sub-topics/extent of each chapter.

The thesis map should logically support the thesis statement. The introduction of each chapter should be the only

place where an outright thesis statement and map are used. The thesis can (and probably should) be referred to

throughout the work, but it should be done in a more subtle, literary style. Allow the introduction to be the place

where you state the thesis in a bold, upfront, and “in your face” manner.

Chapter One

After the Introductory chapter, Chapter One of the dissertation should be your Literature Review. Here, you

will elaborate and engage what the secondary literature says about the general topic you are writing about. You are

expected to discuss and analyze both the seminal works – those writings which have had an important and lasting

impact on how a topic is understood – on the topic as well lesser-known contributions. You should make special

note of potential trends, how understanding of the topic has changed over time, and any potential paradigms that

might have emerged and been influential on the writings on your topic. This does not mean, however, you must

cover everything ever written on the topic or even talk about them in glowing terms. Remember, be critical and set

your perspective and work apart from the other pieces on the subject. For many topics, it would take a lifetime or

more to master that literature. Rather, a good-faith effort to master the literature is what is expected.

After the Introduction and Chapter One, the rest is up to you. You will spend the next chapters (however

many) elaborating your contribution and understanding of the topic. These chapters need to be primary source-

driven. The last element of the textual part of the dissertation must be a Conclusion. In it, you must provide a

general overview of the literature, what your work just argued, and offer suggestive questions for future researchers

on the topic.


Appendix C

Dissertation Evaluation Rubric

Standard Score 4 3 2 1 Score

I. Demonstrates

critical and

reflective thinking capable of


institutional, informational

technology, or

business related problem-solving or

school/ college


Accurately assesses two issues affecting

an institution’s

effectiveness as well as offers a


argument for improvement.

Accurately assesses two issues affecting

an institution’s


Accurately assesses one issue affecting

an institution’s


No evidence is presented.



consideration for the impact of


information technology, or

business on

institutional constituents.

Shows balance

between the needs

of two or more constituent groups

while maintaining

organizational goals.

Shows realistic

consideration for the

needs of two or more constituent


Shows realistic

consideration for the

needs of one constituent group.

No evidence is


III. Demonstrates effective analytical

and communication


Demonstrates a professional level of

skills associated

with formatting, grammar, spelling,

syntax, and use of


Demonstrates acceptable skills

associated with

formatting, grammar, spelling,

syntax, and use of


Needs minor improvement in

skills associated

with formatting, grammar, spelling,

syntax, and use of


Needs significant improvement in

skills associated

formatting, grammar, spelling,

syntax, and use of



Demonstrates knowledge of

genres, paradigms,

theories or trends in business, criminal

justice, education,

English, health sciences, history,


technology, math, nursing, psychology,

religion, or student personnel services.

Subject is identified,

realistic, and grounded in a

recognized genre,

paradigm, theory, or trend.

Subject is identified

and is realistic, but it lacks grounding in a

recognized genre,

paradigm, theory, or trend.

Subject is identified

but is not realistic or grounded in a

recognized genre,

paradigm, theory, or trend.

Subject area is not




Appendix D

Reporting Statistical Tests

For quantitative dissertations, the statistical tests are reported in the abstract and Chapter

Four. The alpha should be set at .05. Some common examples of tests used in quantitative

analysis are listed below as examples. All statistical symbols are italicized. For all tests listed

below, report the degrees of freedom (except the Spearman’s rs, where you report the number of


Symbol Report findings Null hypothesis

Chi-Square Test X2 (X2 [df, N = ] = result, p < or >


The variables are independent.

Spearman’s rs rs (rs [number of pairs] = result, p

< or > .05)

There is no relationship between the

ranked data.


(Independent and

paired samples)

t (t [df] = result, p < or > .05) There is no difference in the means.

ANOVA F F [df] = result, p < or > .05) There is no difference in the means.

(If the null hypothesis is rejected,

then run post-hoc testing).

Regression or

Pearson Product



coefficient r

r r [df] = result, p < or > .05) There is no relationship between the


*For additional tests, please follow current APA guidelines.
Doctoral Program and Dissertation Process 3


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