Doctoral Dissertation: Proposal Approval Checklist

Doctoral Dissertation: Proposal Approval Checklist

 

In the years I have spent as a doctoral chair, I have read many excellent proposals and final dissertations.  Writing a dissertation takes a great deal of patience and time. Some students may become frustrated if he or she believes that the process takes longer than anticipated.  To avoid a lengthy proposal approval process, the student should spend time going over some common mistakes.  Although each school may have different requirements, the following checklist may be helpful to the doctoral learner prior to submitting his or her proposal for review.

Common Errors Place X to Signify Compliance
All Required Forms Are Included
Note That Data Will Be Saved 3 Years Then Destroyed
Paragraphs Must Contain At Least 3 Sentences
Any Defined Words Must Include A Citation
85% Of References Must Be Less Than 5 Years From Proposal Date
All Sections Are Listed In Proposal
References Are In APA Format
Submit to TurnItIn Or Plagiarism Checker
Submit To Editing Software Or Editor
Submit To Statistician If Necessary
Two Spaces Are Required After Periods
Design Is Carefully Described
Clarity – Person Reading Proposal Could Perform Study If Necessary
No Personal Opinions – All Conclusions Substantiated
The Word “Proposed” Is Listed Before Referring To Proposed Study
No Use Of The Wording “The Researcher” To Refer To Writer Of Proposal
No First Person References
No Fluff Words Including:  However, In Addition, Therefore, Etc.
Proposal In Future Tense; Will Change To Past Tense After Study
What Others Have Written In Past Tense
Long Tables Should Be In Appendix
Long Citations Cannot Be On Two Separate Pages – Must Be On One
No Slang Is Included
Use Words “Which and That” Correctly
There Should Not Be Any Tracking Changes Left In Document
Headings Must Be In APA 6th Format
Chapter 1 Must Start On Page 1
Proposal Author’s Name Must Be Listed And Current Month/Year
Watch Use Of The Word Randomly (Be Specific)
No Anthropomorphisms Should Be Used
Watch Implying Causal Relationship If None Exists
Do Not Make Predictions
Multiple Studies In Parentheses Require Names In Alphabetical Order
Avoid Vague Statements Like Something Was “Poor”
Articulate How Participants Were Selected
Articulate What Was Done To Reduce Researcher Bias
Do Not Use Vague Terminology Like “Others”
United States Is U.S. And Not US
1980s Should Be 1980s And Not 1980’s
Stick To One Subject Per Paragraph
Do Not Write In Contractions (Do Not Is Correct – Don’t Is Not)
Do Not Have Back to Back Charts With No Explanation
Use He or She Rather Than They To Define Subject
Be Sure All Chapters Include A Summary
Target Population And Sample Is Clearly Described
Hypotheses May Be Numbered And Supported By Narrative
Choice Of Method Is Clear And Substantive
Punctuation Should Be Inside Of Quotation Marks
Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) Is Completed
Checklist Should Be Provided To Doctoral Chair
Application Should State If Exempt and Why

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Top 10 Tips for Surviving a Doctoral Dissertation

Today’s Ask Dr. Diane:  Do you have any suggestions on how to avoid the pitfalls many other doctoral students may have encountered when writing their dissertations?

As a doctoral chair, I guide students through the process of writing a dissertation.  There are different problems that many of them may face based on the topics they chose to study.  I prefer to chair quantitative, business-related studies, so my suggestions may be slanted in that direction.

Here are the top 10 things that I think a doctoral student should be made aware of from the beginning:

  1. The process will probably take longer than you think.  There may be a set of doctoral courses required for the dissertation part of your degree.  For example, there may be Class 1, 2, and 3.  They will explain that if you don’t finish 1, you can take 1a and 1b, etc.  Be prepared to take 1a, 1b, 2a, 2b, etc.  Remember that every time you take the class, it costs money.  Have it in your budget in case you need extra courses.
  2. Find a good doctoral chair (also called doctoral mentor).  The school will probably have a website that lists professors that you can pick from, to be your chair.  Go through the lists carefully to find one that fits your topic and your needs.  Send them a very polite letter of request to be your chair/mentor.  Do not send a bulk message to a lot of potential chairs.  This is seen as tacky.   I recommend talking to them on the phone prior to signing up with any of them.  If they don’t want to do this, you may want to pick someone who is more hospitable.  Find out if they work at your speed.  I had two different chairs in my journey.  The first one was not a good fit for me.  The second was much better. Keep in mind that you can probably change chairs later if you find out it isn’t working for you.
  3. Become an APA expert.  Most schools require that your paper is in APA 6th edition right now.  Click here for writing help.  When you submit a dissertation, the review board will be beyond picky about this.  Every space, every heading, every table, etc. has to be exact.  Schools usually have writing centers that can help you with APA as well. 
  4. Find a good statistician.  If you are going to do a quantitative study, you will need an excellent statistician for guidance.  It helps to have SPSS software as well. It is important to understand how to do a Power Analysis when deciding on your population and sample size.
  5. Strong editing is a must.  Schools are very picky about anthropomorphisms and they don’t like what they call “fluff” wording.  They want the writing to sound scholarly.  Avoid using words like:  However, In Addition, Therefore.  Do not refer to yourself in the document.  Example:  The research did blah blah blah.  Don’t use the wording “the researcher” unless you are referring to someone other than you.  There should be no first person references in the paper at all. The proposal will be written in future tense so everything you write will be about what will happen.  The only thing that the proposal has in past tense is what others have written.  For example:  Hamilton (2011) stated blah blah blah is OK but everything that you propose to do must be in future tense.  There should be no personal bias.  Use research citations to back up your points.  When you write Chapters 1-3 of the proposal, you need to refer to your study as the proposed study.  Do not forget to include the word proposed
  6. Have a good template.  Some schools use a company called Bold that offers a dissertation template that has all of the formatting set up already.  These templates usually cost under $100 and are worth it.  They have the hard parts like the table of contents set up for you.  Some students try to write their dissertation in a regular Word document first and transfer it over to the Bold document later. This can cause a real headache with formatting and I don’t recommend it.
  7. Set up a schedule and become organized.  I have seen students flounder because they find the process overwhelming and don’t know where to begin.  Setting up a schedule for when you will do things is very helpful.  Set aside a certain number of hours in the week dedicated to your research and writing.   Usually the first doctoral class is set up to create Chapters 1-3 of your proposal.  It may be helpful to begin with Chapter 2 first to research the topic you have in mind. Look for areas in the research where there are gaps that still need addressing.  When you have written about everything others have done regarding your topic in Chapter 2, it should help highlight the exact area where you want to focus for Chapter 1.
  8. Download past dissertations. Looking at past dissertations written by students at your school can be very helpful.  It will give you a template of the format that is appropriate for your school and show you how others handled specific sections.
  9. Keep studies in notebooks.  I personally found it helpful to keep all of the studies I referenced in notebooks. I would alphabetize them by author last name.  I had 5 or 6 different notebooks based on the topics.  For example, since my dissertation was on emotional intelligence and its impact on sales performance, I would have a notebook about sales studies, another about emotional intelligence tests, another about emotional intelligence in workplace, etc. 
  10. Don’t give up.  Think of writing a dissertation as you would writing a book.  It has chapters and has to be approached one step at a time.  You wouldn’t write a book all in one day and you can’t write a dissertation that way either.  Sometimes students fail to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  It’s there.  It just takes a while to get there.

I recommend reading some of the following books:

APA Publication Manual 6th Edition

Business Research Methods

Research Strategies

Methods in Behavioral Research

You May Be Looking For A Job But Your Emotional Intelligence May Be What Needs Work

The job market is over-crowded with applicants all applying for the few coveted jobs.  What makes one person stand out in the crowd over another?  One thing may be their emotional intelligence.  Emotional intelligence (EI) has become a buzz word in the last 10-15 years, thanks mostly to Daniel Goleman who has popularized EI through several mainstream books.  Goleman’s definition of EI is not the only definition of EI.  In fact, there are several authors who have defined EI in slightly different ways. I think one of the basic and most easily understood definitions is:  Emotional Intelligence is the ability to understand one’s own emotions as well as those of others.

Why do employers care about this?  By having the ability to understand other people’s emotions, you can have more empathy, social intelligence and interpersonal skills.  In my dissertation, I examined the relationship between emotional intelligence and sales performance.  I did indeed find that a correlation existed between the two. Those with higher EI levels did produce more sales.  Employers know about the importance of having EI now and are looking for it in their potential employees. 

What if your emotional intelligence quotient or EQ is low?  The good news is that Goleman and others have shown that EI can be improved.  I would recommend reading Daniel Goleman’s book, Emotional Intelligence: 10th Anniversary Edition, Why it Can Matter More Than IQ. Another important book is by Authors such as Hughes, Patterson, and Terrell, who offer training activities that help develop specific areas of emotional intelligence. Although their book, Emotional Intelligence in Action, is aimed at leaders, it would be helpful to those looking for exercises to develop their emotional intelligence.