The conceptual dissertation does not rely on conventional interpretive fieldwork or quantitative methods. It is a non-empirical or conceptual inquiry that approaches an educational problem through sources such as extant documents, policy, historical texts, film, art, literature, etc. The main focus of a conceptual dissertation is an integrated analysis, from a multi-disciplinary approach, that uses a clearly articulated theory to produce alternative ways of critiquing an educational issue.
Conceptual dissertations have an introduction, body, and conclusion.
- Introduction: provide a multi-layered context and history of the problem. The Introduction provides a rationale for the sources used, for the theoretical approach used, and ends with clear analytical questions that guide the study.
- Body: consists of a series of chapters that integrate theory, method, sources of knowledge, and analysis. These chapters will be organized by the analytical questions that guide the study.
- Conclusion: includes a discussion of the significance of the theoretical approach in the context of the tradition/history of the problem, the new knowledge produced by the conceptual methodology, contributions to the field, and future directions in terms of policy, practice, inquiry, and politics.