Dissertation Format and Contents

All completed School of Education dissertations are available for inspection in Swem Library (prior to May 2016) and online via the ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database. Dissertation chairs and/or program advisors may be willing to suggest titles of some exemplary dissertations for your perusal.

Dissertation Format and Contents

Although dissertation research is a creative endeavor in many respects, the reporting of it is governed by conventions. The School of Education faculty expects that dissertations will conform to the writing and style guidelines outlined in the most recent Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA). The purpose of following APA style guidelines is to facilitate the communication of your thinking to your readers by providing a familiar written format for conveying complex ideas.

Once the dissertation is in its final stage, you should obtain names of approved reviewers from your dissertation chair.  If you are in the EPPL department, a dissertation reviewer will be assigned to you. Your dissertation document will be submitted for checking by your chair, and lists of corrections needed will be sent to your chair, who will communicate them to you. The reviewer will check your dissertation for physical standards and approved formatting. There may be more than one round of checking and correction before your dissertation is approved for final submission.

Most dissertations consist of components involving a statement of the problem or focus, the procedures used in exploring the phenomenon under study, the outcomes of the study, and interpretation and/or discussion of the study’s outcomes. The specific form of each of these components will depend upon the nature of the research focus/questions and the study’s design. The faculty has provided several samples (linked below) as general guides to various kinds of research studies. Please do not consider these to be “templates” for dissertation documents; the structure of each dissertation can, and often is, unique.

Sample Dissertation Overview

This describes the components of a post-positivistic (“quantitative”) dissertation.

Sample Chapter 1 and Chapter 3 Outline
Sample Action Research Dissertation Outline
Sample Program Evaluation Dissertation Outline

A non-positivistic (“qualitative”) study may take a variety of forms. The candidate conducting a study of this kind should work closely with the dissertation chair to co-construct a structure that best suits the nature of the study.