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Dissertation Guide

Information for doctoral students preparing for, writing, or submitting their dissertations

For Theses

Master's students should refer here instead:

Citing Your Work


APA Style Manuals in Print

Once accepted, your dissertation will be searchable and available in:

Doctoral Dissertation Guide

Congratulations! You are now ready to consider all of the elements required for the completion of your dissertation. You have put considerable time and effort into your program of study and your completed original scholarly work must be documented through the dissertation process.

Three major elements characterize the doctoral program:

First, an academic advisor helps each student create a plan of study and each student completes academic coursework comprised of the doctoral core plus an area of specialization. Second, a comprehensive exam is administered after the required specialization and core courses are completed. Third, dissertation research is undertaken with the support of faculty members who are selected based on their expertise in the candidate’s chosen area of research. This dissertation committee oversees the process that results in the completion of the written dissertation. The approval of the dissertation by the committee leads to eligibility for a final review of all requirements, and ultimately, the conferring of the doctoral degree.

The doctoral dissertation represents the candidate’s contribution to the educational knowledge base. The dissertation should display mastery of, and the ability to apply research findings to, new analyses, syntheses, interpretations, and other research methods and procedures in order to contribute to the improvement of practice in leadership. The purpose of the dissertation is to produce knowledge, insight, materials, and/or new methods in the candidate’s field of specialization. It may replicate and extend an earlier study for the purpose of correcting errors, eliminating shortcomings, and enhancing or clarifying it. The dissertation must be meaningful and provide evidence of familiarity with existing research in the field.

After graduation, the dissertation will serve as a published contribution to knowledge, useful to scholars and general audiences. The purpose of this document is to outline the formatting requirements of your dissertation.

The College of Graduate Studies, the Lamson Library, and the Graduate Faculty of Plymouth State University have established format standards that a dissertation must meet before it receives final approval as a fulfillment of a graduation requirement. This publication sets forth those standards. Some of these dissertation requirements are purely technical; others have been established to ensure that certain vital information is presented in an orderly, uniform manner. The format is designed to allow for maximum flexibility in minor matters, which vary among academic disciplines (e.g., reference styles). Thus, while you will need to comply with the specifications given here, you will also need to consult the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association.

See also, How to Cite APA page.

The student is responsible for certifying that the dissertation has been prepared in accordance with the regulations in this guide and that it is the student’s own work. The text should be proofread and free of grammatical errors and typos. For support with editing, students may contact the Writing Center. The dissertation author bears ultimate responsibility for meeting all of the formatting and style requirements set forth by the University and the dissertation committee. It is extremely important that the author carefully review and proofread the dissertation before the final submission. If format errors exist, the dissertation will be returned and this may delay graduation. After the dissertation has been submitted to and received by library staff, changes will not be permitted.

The overall dissertation format is standard, with the dissertation having five chapters that are completed in three blocks.

  • Chapter 1: Introduction and Purpose of the Study
  • Chapter 2: Literature Review
  • Chapter 3: Methodology
  • Chapter 4: Data Analysis and Findings
  • Chapter 5: Conclusions and Suggestions for Further Research (or Analysis and Synthesis; or Conclusions and Recommendations)

The reference list for the completed dissertation is placed after Chapter Five and before any appendix. Documents, tables and figures whose importance to the text is tangential may be handled as appendix material.