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Walden Capstone Writing Collaborative: Introduction to Writing the PhD Dissertation

Introduction to Writing the PhD Dissertation

The Walden University Dissertation Guidebook presents a description of the requirements of the PhD dissertation as well as the expectations for content, methods, and social change implications.  This document contains an emphasis on student work that “embraces and reflects the mission and core values of the university” (p. 1).  Reviewing this material should be one of the first steps in beginning the dissertation writing process.

Next, as students begin preparing to write, they should review the materials related to the PhD dissertation document and process, provided on the Office of Research and Doctoral Services website.  This page contains resources for writing the premise, prospectus, and the minimum standards rubrics for each method. In addition, students should download the appropriate template from the Writing Center’s Form and Style PhD Templates page.

To introduce students to writing a PhD dissertation capstone, here is a description of the main goals and outcomes associated with this process and document:

The goal is to address a specific, defined problem AND to fill an identified gap in the research

  • Work on the dissertation begins with identifying a subject area and becoming familiar with the research in that area, both broad and specific work from previous researchers.
  • The PhD dissertation involves identifying a problem that the student will address in the document.
  • Different from the problem, but equally as important, is the gap in the literature.  Students need to demonstrate that there has not already been research that sufficiently addresses the defined problem.

The PhD dissertation demonstrates a grounding in related literature and research in field

  • Another goal of the PhD dissertation is to demonstrate knowledge and expertise in the subject areas covered in the literature review.
  • This is why the literature is lengthy and exhaustive; it is the student’s demonstration that he/she is an expert in these areas and is familiar with all previous relevant research, and that the student can convey this expertise through writing.

The PhD Dissertation is built on basic or applied research

  • When earning a PhD, students are expected to conduct their own, original research. 
  • This can be qualitative or quantitative data collected from human participants or archives or secondary analyses of existing data.  The point is that the student is executing a research study.
  • The student demonstrates knowledge and expertise in the identified research design and interpretation of results.
  • The dissertation demonstrates that the student can convey this expertise through writing.

The document makes a significant contribution (to addressing the problem at the gap) as well as advancing research

  • After identifying the problem and the gap, one of the goals of the PhD Dissertation is to contribute to the scholarship in that area.  The results should make a significant contribution to the student’s chosen area of focus.

The document advances social change

  • A final, Walden-specific and important outcome of the PhD Dissertation is that the study and results also make a significant contribution to social change.  Students need to describe who may benefit from the findings of the study and how they may benefit.