Proposal Seminar

This  8-week course began June 2, 2015. The instructor for DOC/720 was Carol Holland, Ph.D.

Course Description

This course will assist students in determining their dissertation topic. Students will work on their own dissertation prospectus as well as discuss the work of the other students in the class. Upon completion of this course, students will develop their problem statement, purpose statement, and determine the most effective methodology to use for their dissertation. At the end of the course, students will have incorporated this information to form their dissertation prospectus.

Course Competencies

  • Demonstrate an understanding of institutional processes and expectations for completing a doctoral dissertation.
  • Examine the core concepts that provide a framework for original research.
  • Evaluate knowledge gaps in a selected field by synthesizing relevant scholarly literature.
  • Develop a provisional title for the prospectus.
  • Formulate a provisional theoretical or conceptual framework to ground the proposed study topic.
  • Define a problem statement to address the current issues and gaps in knowledge.
  • Prepare a clear explanation for the background and significance of a proposed research study.
  • Develop research questions and hypotheses for quantitative investigation or qualitative research questions for interpretive, naturalistic inquiry that will ultimately address the knowledge gaps and underlying motivations of the proposed study.
  • Develop a draft version of a dissertation prospectus that includes the topic selection, problem statement, purpose of study, literature reviewed, and research design and methodology

There were no reading weeks for this course as there had been in the past. This course “hit the ground running”.

  1. Dissertation Topic Selection
  2. Problem and Purpose Statement Development
  3. Beginning the Literature Review
  4. Research Questions
  5. Research Design and Methods I
  6. Expanding the Literature Review
  7. Research Design and Methods II
  8. Compiling the Draft Prospectus


There were a number of assignments that required time and effort. However, I am just focusing on the major assignments. They were as follows:

  • Week 1: In week 1 we began selecting, identifying, and researching our dissertation topic. This required a 1,050 to 1,400-word summary of the proposed dissertation topic. We were to identify an important topic worthy of a dissertation, based on readings, research, experience, and interests. We were to be selective in our choice and conduct sufficient literature review on the topic so that we were familiar with the previous studies and trends on the selected field of study. I stuck with my originally visioned topic of online education in higher education and the sociological concept of community. Consider the following questions when developing the problem statement for the proposed research. The questions were to guide us in the selection of the topic and help to identify what exactly we wanted to study. The answers to the questions also served to aid in the development of the problem and purpose, literature review outline, design/method, research questions and hypotheses where appropriate.
    • Who will the study affect / not affect?
    • What may a potential effect of the study be?
    • How will the study affect others?
    • Who/what will we be studying?
    • Why will we be examining or exploring this area?
    • What is the current problem?
    • Where is it a problem? In what context does the problem exist?
    • Are there historical, cultural, political, etc. contexts involved?
    • Why do we feel it is important to address the problem?

    The summary was to include the following:

    • State the proposed dissertation topic.
    • Identify the problem that serves as the basis for your argument.
    • Express the argument in support of the selected topic.
    • Describe how the topic will contribute to the field
    • Discuss why the topic will be viewed as original research, and appropriate for a Ph.D.-level dissertation.

    I earned 9.6/10 on my first paper in DOC/720.

  • Week 2: In week 2 we had an assignment that was completed in 4 parts:
    Part 1: Problem Statement. Write a 150- to 300-word problem statement draft based on the proposed dissertation topic. Format the problem statement draft consistent with APA guidelines and include a title page, table of contents, and headers/subheadings per APA. The first section should introduce the reader to the topics being covered in the paper. Then add a mini-literature review section or BACKGROUND OF THE PROBLEM section to the paper. Finally do not use purpose in the STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM.
    Part 2: Purpose of Study. Write a 150- to 300-word draft on the purpose of the study that reflects the problem statement. Format the purpose of study draft consistent with APA guidelines and align the problem with purpose.
    Part 3: Review. Locate the Week 2 “Draft Peer Review” activity. Create a new message and attach your Problem Statement and Purpose of Study drafts. Post the draft messages by Day 4. We then exchanged papers and provided peer feedback on a member of our learning team. Providing quality peer feedback is an important skill for doctoral students to develop. In addition to providing feedback to a peer, we were also expected to submit our feedback for faculty review to ensure we are demonstrating the necessary feedback skills. We were provided a Peer Review Template along with the draft document. These had to be turned in by Day 6 which left a day for the final edits. I earned 4.73/5 on my Problem Statement and Purpose of Study Draft and 2.8/3 on my Peer Review.
    Part 4: Revise and Submit. Review the peer feedback received on the drafts. Revise the drafts, as needed, based on peer feedback received.
  • Week 3: In week 3 we had two assignments. The first was the Introduction and Historical Perspectives Summary. We were to write a 700- to 1,050-word introduction to the literature review of the study that sufficiently covers our intent. Provide a relevant historical, social, or political perspective that reflects or incorporates the problem, purpose, and context of the study. Be sure to discuss how the literature review frames the research in our field of study. Then format any citations and references in the paragraphs consistent with APA guidelines and prepare a scholarly academic paper using a title page, table of contents, headings, subheadings, an introduction at the beginning, a summary at the end of the paper and add a reference page with no writing mechanics errors. I earned 6.8/8 on this part of the week’s assignment.The second part was a Literature Review Outline. Here we were to create a 2-page outline and beginning narrative of the planned literature review. We could add some narrative to the outline, but many areas did not have narrative. Critically reflect on the literature, based on the following components of the Dissertation Criteria and Rating Scale (Coverage, Synthesis, Method, Significance, and Rhetoric). Include paragraphs within the outline that narratively describe scope of the study, search criteria for literature review and criteria for inclusion and exclusion, and the other elements within the rating scale. Identify a minimum of 10 scholarly sources to support the context of the problem in the literature review outline. I earned 3/4 on this part of the week’s assignment.
  • Week 4: Week 4 was another peer review week. This time we had a 3-part assignment.
    Part 1: Research Questions. Create 3-4 draft research questions and, where appropriate, hypotheses from the problem and purpose statements. The questions should be sufficiently complex and original so that the findings could contribute to the existing body of knowledge in the field. Compose enough research questions to address the problem of study and support the nature and design of the study. Any quantitative research questions should include a hypothesis pair–null and alternative hypotheses. Write and submit a scholarly paper with a title page, table of contents, introduction, problem, and purpose statement to support and align with the research questions/hypotheses developed. A background section (mini literature review) should also be included. At this point I have determined that my study will not be quantitative as I had hoped but is certainly qualitative, involving a phenomenological study of some type.
    Part 2: Post our assignment to the peer review tab by Day 4. Review another’s work and return by Day 6. I earned 3/3 on my peer review.
    Part 3: Review the peer feedback received on the draft and revise as needed. Then submit the draft and Peer Review Template by Day 7. I earned 6.42/8 on this particular assignment mostly because I became challenged with the direction I wanted to go.
    As this was the midpoint in the course, we also had a Mid-Course Reflection due this week. I earned 1/1 on that assignment but more importantly, it allowed me a space where I could discuss my frustrations at the topic, the research questions, and the methodology I was struggling with.
  • Week 5: In week 5 we focused on the Research Method and Design Plan. We were to write a 1,050- to 1,400-word Research Method and Design Plan draft and include the following:
    • Develop a draft Table of Contents for your proposal
    • Describe what research methodology you have determined aligns with the proposed problem and purpose.
    • Clarify why this research method and design approach is appropriate to your problem statement and proposed research questions.
    • Submit a scholarly developed paper that provides an introduction to Chapter 3: Research Design and Methodology that also provides an overview of the problem and purpose of the study.
    • Integrate a minimum of 4-6 foundational or seminal sources–two that support the research method and two that support the research design you have selected. I earned 9.2/10 on that assignment but still did not feel comfortable with the work as it was progressing.
  • Week 6: In week 6 we had two assignments. The first part was to expand on the outline of the review of the literature created in week 3 by further developing the following components: coverage, synthesis, method, significance, and rhetoric. We were to write a 700- to 1,050-word summary of the review of the literature and include the following:
    • An expanded literature review and outline that contains some narrative within the topical outline (headings and subheadings) within chapter 2. Not all areas will have content, but many more than were included in the original document developed.
    • An evaluation of how well the literature review addresses the research questions, variables or phenomenon of interest, population of focus, and context or setting for the study.
    • A section that provides an assessment of the alignment of the method and design to the context developing from the literature review
    • Attach a change matrix documenting comments and changes made since completing the literature review and outline during week 3.
    • Compile an additional 10 scholarly references to further illuminate the context and strengthen the rationale for the proposed problem, purpose, and method and design for the study.

    I earned 6.15/8 on this particular assignment. In addition to this assignment we also were to locate the week 6 “Peer Review” activity and review the research method and design plan draft posted by one of the learning team members in the week 6 peer review activity using the Peer Review Template. Post the completed Peer Review Template along with the reviewed draft document (including feedback) as a response to the learning team member’s original message by Day 5 so that those changes could be incorporated into the expanded literature review assignment.I earned 3/3 on the peer review.

  • Week 7: In week 7 we worked on a revised research method and design plan. We were to write a 1,050- to 1,400-word Research Method and Design Plan draft and include the following:
    • Reconsider the research method and design plan, based on the feedback received.
    • Incorporate any changes for the research methodology, based on feedback
    • Expand on the original document that covered:
      • A title page and Table of Contents for the proposal
      • Described what research methodology was determined to align with the proposed problem and purpose.
      • Clarify why the research method and design approach is appropriate to the problem statement and proposed research questions
      • Submit a scholarly developed paper that provides an introduction to Chapter 3: Research Design and Methodology that also provides an overview of the problem and purpose of the study.
      • Integrate a minimum of 4-6 foundational or seminal sources–two that support the research method and two that support the research design selected.
    • Include at least three additional scholarly or foundational sources that support the research method and design selected.
    • Complete the change matrix process based on feedback from the original submission.
    • Format the paper consistent with APA guidelines using headings/subheadings, citations as appropriate, with no writing mechanics errors and a reference list.

    I earned 4.66/5 on this assignment in week 7.

  • Week 8: In week 8 there were 3 different assignments due. The first was the Draft Dissertation Prospectus, which involved revising the draft prospectus clearly addressing all of the criteria on the rating scale that we had used to guide our previous work. I earned 8.31/10 on my final prospectus. The second assignment was to self-evaluate our work. This included a 350-word summary outlining our plans for the continued development of the prospectus and its role in the dissertation process. There was a specific spreadsheet for this assignment. I completed and earned 5/5. Finally, we were asked to write an end-of-course reflection. I left the course still aware of and diligent to my research topic. However, as I attempted to write various aspects of the prospectus I found I was still hitting some walls and the flow just wasn’t there. I earned 1/1 on my end-of-course reflection.

Challenges, Successes, & Miscellaneous Comments

This is the beginning of what will be a long journey toward writing a book that represents my original work. I have been consistent with the topic, fully aware that online learning is here to stay and will be for as far as I can see. As a sociologist I understand that community (social integration) is a big part of life and naturally extends into university learning. I also acknowledge that a sense of community is vastly different for traditional students who live and work on campus than for adult students who attend nights and online. The challenge was found in other variables needed for a study. I needed to narrow my topic to something that is manageable and yet, still open enough at the top to be applicable to higher education. As the class progressed I identified doctoral students as the adult students in online courses as my population. Additionally, I felt the need to identify where I would be conducting my research and for this, I selected private, for-profit universities. My hope is to be able to access students in doctoral programs at UOPX. My reasoning behind this is that these higher education institutions are set up specifically to cater to adult students. There is no campus community in the sense that students to not have a traditional university campus where all of the services needed might be provided by a short walk or bike ride. There are no dorms and no cafeteria and no sports. Private, for-profit universities are gaining momentum as they acknowledge the need that adult students have to continue higher education and these higher education institutions are willing to adapt learning so that it is more student centered and focused on adult student needs.

I found the change matrix to be a very helpful way to visually see changes as they are made to the document. I understand, although have not found it necessary yet, that should I need to go back and review a previous work, it will be much easier to find through the change matrix. I did not complete DOC/720 feeling ready to go on to the next stage. One continuing challenge is that I am a slower learner than some. I revel in the opportunity to sit and soak in data or literature and periodically make notes of ideas as they spring forth. The requirement of weekly writing on a schedule was a definite challenge for me but one that I somehow was able to keep up with. I successfully completed the course with 90.67/100 points. I earned an A- and 3 credits. This officially marks the halfway point for my degree. I have now completed 34 units and have 31 more to go.

Required Reading

Bloomberg, L. D. & Volpe, M. F. (2012). Completing your qualitative dissertation: A road map from beginning to end. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage

Coley, S. M. & Schienberg, C. A. (2014). Proposal writing: Effective grantsmanship (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage

Locke, L. F., Spirduso, W. W., & Silverman, S. J. (2014). Proposals that work: A guide for planning dissertations and grant proposals (6th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage

Morgan, D. (2014). Integrating qualitative and quantitative methods: A pragmatic approach. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage

O’Dwyer, L. M. & Bernauer, J. A. (2014). Quantitative research for the qualitative researcher. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage

Pan, M. L. (2013). Preparing literature reviews (4th ed.). Glendale, CA: Pyrczak.

Roberts, C. (2010). The dissertation journey (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage