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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

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Program Characteristics and Overview

The Doctor of Education is a degree oriented to the improvement of professional practice by extending the knowledge, expertise, and skill of candidates through the application of research to leadership issues. The purpose of the Doctor of Education program is to provide challenging professional growth to experienced practitioners and professionals, including educators, administrators, counselors, and individuals working in higher education and related community agencies or organizations.  
The dissertation requires doctoral candidates to demonstrate mastery of a set of applied inquiry skills necessary to investigate authentic problems and effectively lead research-based improvements within their practice. Candidates will position themselves as scholar practitioners of educational leadership as they use inquiry to a) better understand an authentic local problem, b) persuade organizational decision-makers to undertake a research-based course of actions, and c) lead an educational improvement effort grounded in social justice. 

Carnegie Program on the Education Doctorate (CPED) 

PSU is a member of the Carnegie Program on the Education Doctorate (CPED). This is a prestigious nationally recognized organization, which works with higher education institutions to develop and redesign Doctor of Education Programs. 
The mission of the CPED Framework is to develop a professional doctorate in education that prepares educators for the application of appropriate and specific practices, the generation of new knowledge and the stewardship of the profession. 

There are Six Guiding Principles for Program Design: The Professional Doctorate in Leadership, Learning and Community. 

  1. Is framed around questions of equity, ethics, and social justice to bring about solutions to complex problems of practice. 
  2. Prepares leaders who can construct and apply knowledge to make positive difference in the lives of individuals, families, organizations, and communities. 
  3. Provides opportunities for candidates to develop and demonstrate collaboration and communication skills to work with diverse communities and to build partnerships. 
  4. Provides field based opportunities to analyze problems of practice and use multiple frames to develop meaningful solutions. 
  5. Is grounded in and develops a professional knowledge base that integrates both practical and research knowledge, that links theory with systemic and systematic inquiry. 
  6. Emphasizes the generation, transformation, and use of professional knowledge and practice. 
Program Design Concepts 

There are six program design concepts that are an integral part of the doctorate program. 

  1. Signature Pedagogy is the pervasive set of practices used to prepare scholarly practitioners to think, to perform, and to act with integrity.  It challenges assumptions, engages in action, and requires ongoing assessments and accountability. 
  2. Laboratories of Practice are settings where theory and practice inform and enrich each other. They address complex problems of practice where ideas formed by intersection of theory, inquiry, and practice can be implemented, measured, and analyzed for the impact made. 
  3. Problem of Practice is as a persistent, contextualized, and specific issue embedded in the work of a professional practitioner, the addressing of which the potential to result in has improved understanding, experience, and outcomes. 
  4. Scholarly Practitioners blend practical wisdom with professional skills and knowledge to name, frame, and solve problems of practice. They use practical research and applied theories as tools for change. 
  5. Inquiry as Practice is the process of posing significant questions that focus on complex problems of practice and the ability to gather, organize, judge, aggregate, and analyze situations, literature, and data with a critical lens. 
  6. Dissertation in Practice is a scholarly endeavor that affects a complex problem of practice. 

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.
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 four chapters that are completed in three blocks.

  • Chapter 1: Moving from a Problem to a Problem of Practice
  • Chapter 2: Review of Knowledge and Action: Literature Review
  • Chapter 3: Methods and Designs for Action: Methodology
  • Chapter 4: Description of Findings and Recommended Actions

The reference list for the completed dissertation is placed after Chapter Four and before any appendix. Documents, tables and figures whose importance to the text is tangential may be handled as appendix material.
Once accepted, your dissertation will be searchable and available in: add text here

Once accepted, your thesis will be uploaded to the ProQuest database Dissertation & Theses Abstracts Online (see below), where it will be discoverable by PSU students, faculty, and staff as well as patrons of other institutions.  

Please note: your permission is required in order for us to upload your thesis.  Please include a signed copy of the permission form when you submit your thesis.