Over the past month, I had a visit with one my stepson’s and he had a discussion with us regarding what is a doctoral program? The reason for his question was because my husband has just begun his DBA (Doctorate in Business Administration) with an emphasis in technology at the end of December. Most individuals know that a doctoral program is the highest degree that can be earned, the difference is the task that must be performed to graduate and earn the doctoral designation.
A bachelor’s degree is about completing the required course work to earn enough credits to earn the degree. Master’s degrees or MBA’s require a lot of course work with an ending of either a capstone, thesis, or business plan. A doctorate degree does require course work and most schools have a high GPA that has to be maintained. The final decision on whether one earns a doctorate degree is based upon the completion and defending of a research project.
As for myself, I am in the dissertation phase right now. I am working on what is called the Letter of Intent (LOI). The LOI identifies a general problem and then a specific problem that my research will be about. The specific problem is not as simple as it appears to be and currently I am in the process of revamping mine before it can go before the Internal Review Board (IRB). At the University I am attending, the IRB has to approve the Letter of Intent prior to me developing Chapter 1 the introduction. The University I am attending does a five-chapter dissertation while other universities and colleges may only do a three-chapter dissertation.
The dissertation is like a book, just that it contains your original research that is either quantitative, qualitative or uses a mixed methodology. Whichever research technique is chosen, the advice that has continually been given to me is to keep everything simple. The length of dissertation will vary based upon your research methodology and how much information is available on the topic already. As one of my professors said, your dissertation is a topic where you will be the expert on that topic.
Writing a dissertation is not a short process and the overall timelines will vary depending upon the doctorate degree and university that one is attending. Most of my friends complete theirs in 12 – 24 months with an average of 18 months. There are many variables to completing the dissertation, the final step is to defend your research and dissertation to your dissertation committee. The dissertation committee can approve your dissertation, make it conditional with changes or require major changes. Revisions are common with writing a dissertation, do not plan on getting the information right the first time. Currently, I am working on my seventh or eighth revision to my LOI problem statement. The key to a successful dissertation is listening and heeding the advice of your dissertation committee.
The conversation with my stepson was interesting and I hope that we encouraged him to consider going the distance in his educational pursuit. Our goal was to prepare him and help him understand the differences in degrees for undergraduate and graduate. My hope for every reader is this explains better what a dissertation is and the steps to obtaining a doctorate degree.