Traditional Dissertations


A traditional dissertation is a five chapter document that includes an introduction; literature review; theoretical framework; methodology for research; results/findings; and conclusions, implications and recommendations. This is the most common dissertation type. Candidates wanting to pursue positions as faculty in their discipline might select this form of a dissertation.

Chapter 1: Introduction

  • Introduction to Issue: provides a broad introduction to the context in which the particular issue being researched resides. The introduction should rely considerably on scholarly sources in addition to the writer’s interests and concerns. The linkage to educational leadership should be clearly established. 
  • Problem Statement: the specific statement of the issue/problem that will be addressed in the research project. The problem should be clearly defined. The author should briefly introduce a case, supported by literature, for why the project should be undertaken.
  • Research Questions: a broad statement, usually framed as a question, which will be addressed in the research project. Any sub-questions should also be included. 
  • Methodology: within a paragraph or two, the writer introduces the methodology that will be used in the research project. 
  • Significance of Issue: lays out the rationale for the study and its significance. Typically, the significance centers on the need for information about the issue and addresses gap(s) that exist in our current knowledge. Writing this section assumes a sound knowledge of the literature about the issue. 
  • Definition of Terms: each term that may not be commonly known or understood that is used in the study is defined, often drawing on appropriate citations. 
  • Organization of Study: a brief transitional piece that states what is addressed in each of the chapters of the dissertation.

Chapter 2: Literature Review

Throughout the entire literature review, a case should be made for the study (i.e., showing a gap in current knowledge that can appropriately be addressed by the proposed study)

  • Classic Literature: most research topics/undertakings have a well-established body of literature. This portion of the dissertation reviews appropriate elements of the body of literature.
  • Research Literature: specific research that has been conducted and informs the particular research being proposed. If previous studies are cited, the writer provides a brief statement about how the studies were conducted and what conclusions were reached (as opposed to stating only the conclusions).
  • Conceptual or Theoretical Framework: in most projects, the conceptual/theoretical framework flows from the literature review. The framework provides a rationale for the ways in which the data will be obtained, analyzed and interpreted.

Chapter 3: Methodology

  • Methodological Approach: overview of the methodological approach and its relevance for the proposed study. 
  • Research Question(s): essentially repeats the question(s) outlined in the Introduction. Wording of the questions must be the same throughout the paper. 
  • Design Rationale: makes the case for the specific design chosen and explains how this design is grounded in prior research in the field or explains why the current approach is novel and necessary.
  • Role of the Researcher: presents a detailed explanation of the role that the researcher will take in the study.
  • Ethical Issues: the researcher needs to address any values, subjectivity, experience, etc. that may have a bearing on the study and how these will be addressed to ensure the integrity of the research. 
  • Data Sources: what source(s) the data will be drawn from (e.g. individuals, groups, databases, etc.)
  • Data Collection: how data will be collected (e.g. interviews, observations, sections of databases, etc.)
  • Participants: in studies with participants as a source of data, this section describes who they will be (e.g. school principals, college presidents, 8th graders, etc.)
  • Participant Selection: how and why the particular participants are selected
  • Interview Protocol: this section describes the complete interview processes, including: What will be asked of the subjects? When will the interviews be held? Where will the interviews be held? Under what conditions? The interview protocol section should include information pertaining to confidentiality,, protection of human subjects, right to withdrawn, etc. A copy of the interview questions (informed by the conceptual framework) typically is referred to and presented as an appendix. 
  • IRB Procedure: all research projects need Institutional Research Board (IRB) approval before the research begins (see Proposal/Prospectus section for more information). Note of the approval must be included in the methodology section. Researchers and major professors need to have completed the IRB ethics tutorial which can be accessed through the IRB site on the Graduate School’s website.
  • Data Coding: describes what procedures will be used to code the data
  • Data Analysis: describes the procedures used to analyze the data
  • Trustworthiness: refers to the findings being accurate, believable, reliable and valid. Descriptions of the study’s efforts towards credibility, transferability, confirmability, dependability, reliability and validity may be addressed in this section.

Chapter 4: Results

  • Introduction: a brief introduction to the study, method and elements to be presented in this portion of the dissertation. 
  • Participants: in qualitative studies, the participants and surroundings are introduced with rich descriptions and detail.
  • Results: include the appropriate presentation of the data and results from the research

Chapter 5: Conclusions

  • Introduction: a short paragraph identifying the sections that are to follow in this portion of the dissertation
  • Analysis - Literature Links: the candidate provides an analysis of the major findings and makes linkages back to the literature about the topic.
  • Addressing the Gaps: woven into the analysis, it is appropriate to identify if and how the findings address the gaps identified in the rationale for the study and its significance. 
  • Limitations: address the limitations of the study
  • Revisiting the Conceptual Framework: The themes addressed in the conceptual framework should be revisited in the Conclusions. What did the study find in relation to these themes?
  • Implications: the implications should be clearly linked to the data and findings. State the implications of the study for various stakeholders and audiences. Be specific about which implications are directed toward which audiences. What do you want readers to take away from your study?
  • Recommendations for Future Research: suggest future research that is clearly linked to the findings and perhaps the limitations identified with the process.


All references should be typed in APA style. Only those references cited in texts should appear in the reference list.