Lee S. Duemer, Ph.D.
Dr. Duemer received his M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh. His doctorate is in Social, Historical, and Philosophical Foundations of Education. He specializes in history of higher education in the United States, and qualitative archival inquiry in education. Dr. Duemer has 40 publications in professional research journals and book chapters.
Most recently he has been working on examining the philosophical foundations of qualitative research.
Guidelines for Serving on Dissertation Committees
- 1. During the semester you present your dissertation proposal you will enroll in three credit hours of 8000 under my name. If your proposal takes place during the summer session then you will need to enroll in 8000 hours during the fall or spring semester.
- 2. Follow the outline (below) for dissertation proposals.
- 3. Submit a draft of your proposal to me before it is sent to your entire committee. Be sure to keep your dissertation chair informed. I will return it to you within 5 business days (unless classes are not in session, it may take longer) with written feedback regarding your methodology. I will send a copy of my comments to your dissertation chair to keep them informed.
- 4. Be sure to closely follow the guidelines for dissertation proposals and defenses established by the Graduate School.
- 5. Please do not bring food, drinks or snacks to the meeting. Please remember the dissertation proposal and defense is a business meeting not a social event.
- 6. I DO NOT PARTICIPATE IN FAMILY REUNIONS. A dissertation defense is a formal business meeting, not a ceremony. The only people you should invite to the meeting are those who share a professional scholarly interest in your topic, such as fellow doctoral students. The outcome of the meeting should be fairly predictable if you have worked closely with the members of your committee, but that is not always the case. Under no circumstances should you invite your children, spouse, aunt, parents, etc. You may find yourself in the uncomfortable position of being asked very pointed questions and exposed to critical commentary on your study, which would be highly unpleasant in front of family members. I cannot speak for all faculty; however, I and others will not censor our comments and questions because of any embarrassment it may cause you. My involvement in your dissertation committee is based on your agreement with these guidelines. If you feel it is absolutely necessary for family members to be present at the proposal or defense then I will be unable to serve on your committee.
Dissertation Proposal Organization
This outline is organized along the traditional format of three chapters that are typically used in presenting a dissertation proposal to a committee. The outline is designed for a qualitatively based dissertation but can easily be adapted for quantitative or mixed-methods use. Students are advised to follow the outline as closely as possible in order to help them organize their thoughts in a clear linear manner.
This outline is not intended to be a starting point for students, but should instead be one of several formative steps in preparing a proposal. Students should also:
- 1. Attend several dissertation proposals/defenses in their area of content involving faculty they may ask to serve on their committee.
- 2. Become familiar with examples of excellent dissertations in their content area as recommended by advising faculty. Students should also become familiar with excellent dissertations that have used methodologies they are interested in pursuing.
Chapter I – Introduction (approximately 10-20 pages)
Introduction: What is the general topic you have selected? Why have you selected this topic?
Purpose of the Study: What are you going to try to determine?
Research Questions: What is(are) the primary question(s) the study will attempt to answer? What are any related or secondary questions?
Theoretical/Conceptual Framework: What theory or philosophy will guide the design of your study and the analysis of data? There must exist a clear linear connection between design, collection and analysis of data, and theory/philosophy must guide them all.
Assumptions: What do you assume to true/given in your study?
Definitions of Terms: What terms are important to this study and what do terms mean in the context of your study? You must develop and follow an internal nomenclature.
Delimitations: What are you going to study and what are you not going to study and why?
Limitations: What characteristics of your study will limit its findings/application to other settings?
Significance of the Study: Why is this study important? In what ways will your study help us to better understand the problem you are studying? What groups might find this study of interest?
Chapter II - Review of Relevant Literature (approximately 20-30 pages)
Introduction: What literature will be reviewed and why is it appropriate?
Topic sections: For each body of literature that you examine, write separate sections. Be sure that you not only summarize what is in the literature but that you also critique and synthesize the literature. What are similarities and differences among the various perspectives presented? What questions are left unanswered? Where are there methodological problems/differences? What have been the important trends in relevant scholarship/research?
Summary: At the end of your literature review summarize what we know from existing literature. Explain what we do not know from existing literature and how this absence of knowledge is important to your proposed study.
Chapter III – Methodology (approximately 25-40 pages)
Research Questions: What are your research questions? Restate these exactly from Chapter I.
Rationale: What research paradigm have you selected, and why is it appropriate for your study? How will it answer your research questions? What are the advantages and disadvantages of the paradigm you have selected? Frame these questions both in terms of how the paradigm relates to the question you are trying to answer and in philosophical terms. You must provide a research-based answer to these questions.
Strategy: What research strategy have you selected, and why is it appropriate for your study? How will it answer your research questions? What are the advantages and disadvantages of the strategy you have selected? Frame these questions both in terms of how the strategy relates to the question you are trying to answer and in philosophical terms. You must provide a research-based answer to these questions.
Context of the Study: Where is the study to take place? Why? How will the site be selected? What characteristics of the setting are important to the study? How is the site representative and different from related sites? How will these factors impact the findings and implications of your study?
Data Collection Methods: How will data be collected? How will each data collection method answer your research questions? Provide a specific step-by-step plan. If you developed an instrument, describe how the instrument was developed and validated/tested/piloted. If you piloted your data collection methods, describe your pilot study. What are the strengths and weaknesses of each data collection method? Frame these questions both in terms of how data collection methods relate to the question you are trying to answer and in philosophical terms. You must provide a research-based answer to these questions.
Data Sources: What sources will you use? How will the sources answer your research questions? What are the strengths and weaknesses of each type of data source you will collect? Frame these questions both in terms of how data sources relate to the question you are trying to answer and in philosophical terms. If dealing with human subjects detail who will be studied. Why? How will the study participants be selected? What characteristics of the participants will be important to the study? How are the participants representative and different from participants in related settings? Are there any ethical issues you may encounter such as having a dual relationship with participants? If so, you must be able to address how you will deal with such issues and demonstrate both a theoretical and methodological understanding of how they will impact your study. You must provide a research-based answer to these questions.
Data Analysis: How will you process and analyze the data? What specific data analysis techniques will you use? What are the advantages and disadvantages of using these techniques? Why are they appropriate to the study? You must provide a research-based answer to this question.
Data Management Plan: What time frame do you propose to follow? You may find yourself dealing with a large amount of unstructured data and must describe how you will manage/organize that data to facilitate the process of analysis. You must show in this section that you have anticipated potential problems and have addressed how you will deal with them. You must provide a research-based answer to these questions.
Trustworthiness and Transferability: What measures will you use to insure the trustworthiness of your findings and transferability of conclusions you make? You must provide a research-based answer to this question.
Suggested further reading: These are some useful readings that can help students develop their proposal as well as assist with the dissertation process in general. This list intended to be a starting point to help students identify further related readings.
Judith Meloy: Writing the Qualitative Dissertation
Noreen Garman and Maria Piantanida: The Qualitative Dissertation
James Mauch and N. Park: Guide to the Successful Thesis and Dissertation
Jose Galvan: Writing Literature Reviews