Doctor of Philosophy

Dissertation

Doctoral programs and Dissertation Committees must ensure that students acquire knowledge in and competence to use the conceptual and technical tools to conduct research. To accomplish these goals, doctoral students in the Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction: Concentration in Early Childhood Education are expected to work both independently and in collaboration with faculty to pursue rigorous research agendas, publish in scholarly journals, and present widely at state, national and international conferences. Doctoral students are also expected to read widely and deeply, to become active members in learned societies, and to write academic texts effectively.

The Dissertation Process is set in place to ensure students have the proper skills to advance knowledge in the field of early childhood. Under the guidance of the Dissertation Committee, students complete a substantial piece of original research.

Dissertation Process

Two options exist to satisfy dissertation requirements:

OPTION 1

Option 1 is a traditional, single-volume dissertation that is defended before the committee and other members of the academic community and fulfills the research requirement for the Ph.D.

Candidacy

Upon successful completion of coursework and the qualifying exam, the student files the appropriate paperwork with the Dean’s office requesting admission into candidacy. Once the candidacy is approved, the student becomes a doctoral candidate (rather than a doctoral student) and the student is ABD (All But Dissertation).

Beginning with the semester immediately following admission to candidacy, the student must be enrolled for a minimum of 2 dissertation credit hours each semester. Students may elect not to register for dissertation hours during the summer semester if they are not using university facilities or other USF resources, including faculty and staff time. If such resources are being used, then enrollment in a minimum of two dissertation hours during the Summer semester is required. This includes the semester during which the dissertation is defended and the semester in which final submission of the dissertation is made to the Graduate School.

Proposal

During candidacy, the doctoral candidate writes a proposal for the dissertation research. The proposal is an important document that outlines the doctoral candidate’s research plan. The proposal typically includes the first three chapters of the dissertation:

  1. Introduction and Overview
  2. Theoretical Perspectives and Review of the Literature
  3. Methods: Participants, Data Sources, Data Collection Methods, Data Analysis Methods.

Our program encourages candidates to select important research questions and to select the appropriate design and research methodology to answer the questions. Throughout the proposal development process, the candidate should actively consult the dissertation committee members for their expertise and feedback. Typically, the major professor reads and responds to drafts of the proposal as well. When the proposal is completely developed, the candidate first consults with the major professor, and then the other committee members to set a date to defend the proposal. Additional paperwork must be filed with the Dean’s office and USF Graduate School.

Research

Following the proposal defense, the candidate conducts the research, analyzes the data, and develops a written document. The candidate should communicate with committee members regarding the status of the research.

Defense

The dissertation is a summary of the complete research process. A typical dissertation includes five chapters as well as references and appendices:

  1. Introduction and Overview
  2. Theoretical Perspectives and Review of the Literature
  3. Methods: Participants, Data Sources, Data Collection Methods, Data Analyses Methods
  4. Results
  5. Conclusions and Significance of the Research.

As the candidate writes the dissertation text, the major professor typically reads and responds to drafts of the dissertation. When the dissertation is completely developed, the candidate first consults with the major professor, and then the other committee members, to set a date to defend the dissertation. Additional paperwork must be filed with the Dean’s office and USF Graduate School.

OPTION 2

Option 2 is based on established practices in many scientific and education fields and is designed to promote early, significant research publication by doctoral candidates. In this option, the student is apprenticed into research through a series of initial professional development courses and subsequent supporting experiences. During these courses, the student identifies a Program/Dissertation Committee and develops a Program of Study and a Research Plan in fulfillment of the Option 2 requirements.

Overview

The student will identify an area of inquiry and provide an in-depth review of the literature. Next, the student will propose a research plan directly related to his or her research question(s). Within this phase, the student presents the research plan to his or her committee for approval. The plan must include the scope of the research, a timeline for completion, and a list of targeted, peer-reviewed journals with consideration of impact factor, acceptance rate, and readership.

Option 2 requires that the student write three substantive research manuscripts for submission to refereed journals approved by the committee. Two manuscripts must be accepted for publication and the other under editorial review in order for degree requirements to be fulfilled. The research plan is completed early in the program and provides direction for the student’s research experiences. As a result, no other proposal defense is required.

Following coursework, the student will take a qualifying exam to demonstrate knowledge of the field. Upon successful completion of the qualifying exam, the student is admitted into candidacy. The student will register for dissertation hours until he or she is ready to submit the completed dissertation, which includes the products outlined in his or her research plan.

Sample Timeline for Option 2 Dissertation Requirements 

Below is a sample timeline for a student who enters the program with a clear research focus or who enters the program to study with faculty who may have a research project in progress. Students may also select Option 2 at any point in the program provided that (1) their coursework falls within the timeframe established by the USF Graduate School, and (2) they have committee approval.

Fall Semester, Year 1

Spring Semester, Year 1

Summer Semester, Year 1

Fall Semester, Year 2

Spring Semester, Year 2

Summer Semester, Year 2

Fall Semester, Year 3

Spring Semester, Year 4

Performance Expectations

Documents:

  1. Research Plan: The plan must include the scope of the research (including a review of the literature and proposed methodology), a timeline for completion, and a list of targeted, peer-reviewed journals with consideration of impact factor, acceptance rate, and readership.
  2. Qualifying Exam
  3. Dissertation 

Option 2 requires that the student write three substantive research manuscripts for submission to refereed journals selected by the committee. Two manuscripts must be accepted for publication and the other under editorial review in order for degree requirements to be fulfilled. The research or creative activity must answer important questions/issues and have the potential to impact the field. The journals must be peer-reviewed and reflect high levels of excellence. Typically, the student would select research journals, but cases could be made for the inclusion of one manuscript for a practitioner journal, especially in the case of high impact on the field. The student may use the literature review as the first publication, or conduct the literature review in preparation for three other manuscripts. We also suggest a focus on methodology for one manuscript.

Process

Becoming a researcher is a process of apprenticeship. Certainly, collaboration with mentor faculty is expected and encouraged. As a result, students may use established data sets, work on faculty projects, and engage faculty in the collaborative analysis and presentation of research. All products that result from the research process are available for students to submit in partial fulfillment of the dissertation requirements whether they are single or co-authored. The doctoral committee will determine the scope of the research, the publication outlets, and the level of collaboration that is acceptable.

Outside Chair

An outside chair will be appointed to supervise the research plan defense. During this meeting, the student will present his or her plan for the research. The outside chair will poll the committee to determine their approval of the plan. Revisions will be discussed similar to the Proposal Defense Option 1.

An outside chair will be appointed to the dissertation document defense. The committee will ensure compliance between the research plan and the dissertation. The committee will provide suggestions for revisions of the final document. Given that issues of copyright and reprints may come into play, there is a possibility that the student’s dissertation would not include complete copies of the published works. Instead, the student would provide a narrative overview of the process and discuss findings across the body of work.