The Road to the Thematic Dissertation in Leadership Practice

Part I: The Road to the Thematic Dissertation in Leadership Practice
Part II: Ethical Responsibilities in Doctoral Research
Part III: Forms and Graduation Procedures

Part I: The Road to the Thematic Dissertation in Leadership Practice

Introduction:

The Thematic Dissertation in Leadership Practice (TDiLP) is a culminating activity demonstrating professional leadership and inquiry skills that are significant in scope and directly relevant in practice. The goal of Education and Organizational Learning and Leadership doctoral program is develop scholarly practitioners: 

“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 because they understand the importance of equity and social justice. They disseminate their work in multiple ways, and they have an obligation to resolve problems of practice by collaborating with key stakeholders, including the university, the educational institution, the community, and individuals.” (CPED website)

The Education and Organizational Learning and Leadership (EOLL) program at Seattle University includes a team- based Thematic Dissertation in Leadership Practice (TDiLP) research component, requiring students to conduct inquiry focused on problems of leadership practice.

Thematic Dissertation in Leadership Practice (TDiLP) research component, requiring students to conduct inquiry focused on problems of leadership practice. Students form and work in TDiLP teams led by a qualified inquiry supervisor who typically is a faculty member in the College of Education (COE) at Seattle University. The TDiLP is a team-based project that involves groups of students in developing expertise on an overarching topic/problem under the guidance of a TDiLP inquiry supervisor for real-world impact. Particularly, TDiLP projects focus on issues that advance social justice or address pressing social problems toward bringing about change for the common good.

The dissertation is a document that a student writes in partial fulfillment of the requirements for a doctoral degree. The doctoral dissertation should (a) reveal the student’s ability to analyze, interpret, and synthesize information; (b) demonstrate the student’s knowledge of the literature relating to the project or at least acknowledge prior scholarship on which the dissertation is built; (c) describe the methods and procedures used; (d) present results in a sequential and logical manner; and (e) display the student’s ability to discuss fully and coherently the meaning of the research to both as an independent investigator and a research team member.

Types of Dissertations:

The dissertation is the capstone, or culminating, event of the Ed.D. and the PhD. As a work product, the dissertation represents a synthesis of your skills, knowledge and abilities related to leadership, learning, diversity and accountability in the form of problem solving. It is always accompanied by an oral “defense” of that work – which serves several purposes. It allows students to demonstrate their abilities to communicate learning verbally, and gives students and their dissertation committee an opportunity to refine the final product through a discussion.

Grounded in the mission of Seattle University and the Education and Organizational Learning & Leadership Program, TDiLP projects also should focus on issues that advance social justice or address pressing social problems toward bringing about change for the common good.

The EdD dissertation focuses on a problem of practice – understanding elements of it so that practice can be improved. The Carnegie Project on the Educational Doctorate (CPED), of which SU is a member, continues this refinement of EdD programs and dissertations, nationally (http://cpedinitiative.org).

Understanding the purpose of the thematic dissertation in leadership practice (TDiLP), several approaches to the problem-solving dissertation are emerging: (a) the traditional inquiry approach; (b) the evaluation approach; and (c) the problem-solving approach. 

The traditional inquiry approach includes the case study and best practice types of dissertations. These types of studies may look at a particular site to understand some aspect about how that site works, or they may take the same problem and look across multiple sites.

The evaluation approach asks to what extent an “intervention” (a program, policy or practice) is working or how it might be improved. It can look at a single site, or across multiple sites using the same intervention.

The problem solving approach typically helps a site determine what it could do about a particular problem by exploring possible causes and solutions.

Why dissertation type matters to you:

The implications about the type of dissertation chosen appears in the method used to explore the research question and in the structure of the dissertation document, itself. While the three types vary from one another in method, the problem solving approach also varies from the other two in written format. This guide was created to accommodate all three types, so students will see topics that may not apply to the type of dissertation. Your Chair will help distinguish which topics to focus on (although all could be helpful).

Group Dissertation Models

In the SU doctoral program employs a thematic group process.  This format was created both for reasons of efficiency but to build on the social nature of learning and collaboration skills which will be needed in future career work:

Some of the current configurations are outlined below: