Dissertation Research Questions: Do’s and Don’ts

Dissertation research questions are glue, and where the rubber meets the road for doctoral inquiry as they reflect the problem and purpose, then drive the associated research method and design for study completion. As such, properly formed research questions are imperative to study success!

Dissertation research question look different depending on whether they are qualitative or quantitative. Here’s a few tips, with examples, for each:

Qualitative

  • Key Points:
    • Focus on open-ended “how”, “why” or sometimes “what” questions
    • Avoid yes/no questions, e.g., “is”, “are”, etc.
    • Avoid personalizing questions, e.g., “you” as these are lower-level questions reserved for data collection, such as interviews

To illustrate:

  • How do managers decide who to promote?
  • Why are men promoted more often than women?
  • What criteria do manager’s apply when making a promotion decision?

Quantitative

  • Key Points:
    • There must be at least one predictor/independent and one outcome/dependent variable for each quantitative research question
    • The DV reflects the problem to be studied and the IV(s) reflect the gap in the literature requiring further (quantitative) research
    • Variables must be measureable, and typically from a pre-validated survey or secondary-data (avoid creating your own survey instrument, if possible)
    • Generally, data types for parametric testing, both the IV and DV are either ordinal (e.g., 0-7), interval (measureable between digits), or ratio (interval including zero) data types. However, for causal comparative, the IVs are generall nominal (e.g., yes/no, male/female, etc.)
    • For correlations, use the form: “To what extent does [IV] relate to [DV]?”, or similarly, “To what extent does [IV] predict [DV]?”. or similar
    • For causal comparative, use the form: “To what extent does [DV] differ, based on [IV]?”, or similar

To illustrate:

  • To what extent does the manager’s years of experience relate to the percent of females promoted within the organization? (correlational)
  • To what extent does the percent of females promoted within the organization differ, based on the manager’s gender? (causal-comparative)



Is this something that you would like assistance with. Let’s talk! Contact Dr. Lonny today and let’s put a plan together for your doctoral success.

Dr. Lonny has extensive experience in helping doctoral-level students through all phases of their dissertation, including writing, methodology, and all phases of the dissertation process and deliverable. Contact Dr. Lonny today to setup a free initial consultation and to discuss your dissertation topic, status, challenges, along with services offered and pricing options.

Best success,

Dr. Lonny

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Dissertation APA Formatting Basics

APA formatting can be very challenging as there are many (some obscure) rules to remember. I wanted to point out a couple nuances regarding APA reference formatting that you may not be aware of.

Here are some of the more common errors I see on a daily basis for my students and clients:

  • For each periodical (journal), there must be either a DOI or “retrieved from” URL. The DOI takes precedence over the URL, if present. To locate the DOI, search for the title at crossref.org. If a DOI is not available, use the journal’s homepage URL as the retrieved from source – not the database (e.g., Proquest).
  • The inclusion of an issue number implies that each issue begins on page 1, if not, omit the issue #. However, to determine this, multiple issues must be observed at the journal homepage – this takes work!
  • Only capitalize the first word of the title and sub-title.
  • Italicize the journal name and volume number, or the book title.
  • Only use the authors first and middle initials – not their full names
  • Use a number for units of measure, e.g., “5 years”, even if less than 10
  • Always use past tense for cited sources, e.g., “Smith (2019) stated…”
  • Avoid anthropomorphisms/personifications, e.g., “The study asserted…” Note here that the author(s) asserted, not the study!

Do any of these look familiar?  How does your paper align?  Also, do have the APA Manual?  Have your read it from front to back – with highlights?

APA Manual, 6th Edition

Here’s a link for further research regarding locating the DOI: 

http://blog.apastyle.org/apastyle/2009/12/how-to-find-a-doi.html

Is this something that you would like assistance with. Let’s talk! Contact Dr. Lonny today and let’s put a plan together for your doctoral success.

Dr. Lonny has extensive experience in helping doctoral-level students through all phases of their dissertation, including writing, methodology, and all phases of the dissertation process and deliverable. Contact Dr. Lonny today to setup a free initial consultation and to discuss your dissertation topic, status, challenges, along with services offered and pricing options.

Best success,

Dr. Lonny

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Dissertation Topic Selection: A Critical Choice Toward Doctoral Success or Failure

I was advising a student today in an introductory doctoral course about the importance of dissertation topic selection and thought I would share my thoughts here…

The reason why I say that topic selection is critical towards doctoral success or failure is that one’s dissertation topic involves numerous factors, including:

  • The phenomenon studied (e.g., business, IT, education, psych, etc.)
  • The method (qualitative or quantitative – avoid mixed!)
  • The population
  • The geography
  • …and more!

Parenthetically, per APA, the topic title should be within 10-12 words. Quite a feat to get all the above in within such a limit space – but it can be done! For more detail on the elements of the topic, check out my lesson topic selection and development

Beyond the topic elements, the key point for this blog post is the importance of choosing a dissertation topic that will ultimately and successfully facilite graduation within one’s expectations for time and cost. The key for success? DATA COLLECTION!!! Really? YES!!! Why? Great question!

Several topics involve difficult to obtain data, for several reasons. Here’s a few:

  • Too narrow of a topic, population, or geography – resulting in too few participants to satisfy the criteria for sampling
  • Too sensitive of a topic – restricting participate participation and/or responses. An example is unethical business practices – who wants to admit to being unethical? Another example is a protected population, such as minors, pregnant women, and prisoners.
  • Potential human harm – resulting in IRB delays or non-approval
  • Highly expensive data collection – count the cost!

Is it impossible to complete a dissertation given the above caution areas? Certainly not, but it does potentially make it much more difficult with lengthy time delays and cost. I’ve coached many students who breezed through proposal development and IRB only to hit a road block once data collection started – in some cases requiring extensive research design changes and re-approval through committee, school, and IRB to restart data collection. This should, and can be avoid early in the process by carefully choosing the dissertation topic and understanding the associated population and data collection criteria.

Is this something that you would like assistance with. Let’s talk! Contact Dr. Lonny today and let’s put a plan together for your doctoral success.

Dr. Lonny has extensive experience in helping doctoral-level students through all phases of their dissertation, including writing, methodology, and all phases of the dissertation process and deliverable. Contact Dr. Lonny today to setup a free initial consultation and to discuss your dissertation topic, status, challenges, along with services offered and pricing options.

Best success,

Dr. Lonny

Plagiarism versus Originality: Causes and Solutions

Originality is how unique one’s writing is. In academic circles, this is known as having your own “voice”. Originality is measured by the similarity score, between 0 and 100, with 100 meaning 100% similarity – meaning that the writing was completely copied from another source, or sources, which is not good and should be avoided.

Common software used to check for originality (and plagiarism) by universities are Turnitin (turnitin.com) and SafeAssign (a service of the learning management system – BlackBoard), as well as others. These are typically integrated into designated assignments, but can also be used by both professors and student to check similarity scores and sources – either in draft or final mode, with the latter adding the paper to the repository for subsequent use in checking future submissions.

As scholarly writers, we tend to focus on plagiarism – using your own or someone elses work without proper attribution (i.e., reference + citation). However, plagiarism isn’t the only writing offense! Less aggregious, but equally frowned upon is having a high similarity score – meaning, whether cited, or not, someone elses words are being used. If not cited, then that’s plagiarism; however, if cited (which most are), then it is simply not your own work and is considered subpar for academic writing.

The penalty for plagiarism is typically a failing grade for the assignment after the first offense, with possible expulsion from the program for repeated offenses. Conversely, the penalty for high similarity (typically over 20%), can result in a grading deduction – up to a failing grade for the specific assignment.

Here are some steps to take to help avoid plagiarism and to improve originality:

  • Cite EVERYTHING! Ensure that EVERY assertation and statement of fact is cited. If it is your own opinion or knowledge, say so. Otherwise, provide a citation.
  • Avoid quotes. Paraphrase the work of others in your own words – with citations.
  • Use software and services to check papers prior to submission. Time is critical. Plagiarism and high similarity often result when students do not allow enough time to properly complete assignments/papers.

As mentioned, your university likely offers a similarity/plagiarism-checking tool, but here are some that you can use on your own:

  • Grammarly – Grammarly’s plagiarism checker detects plagiarism in your text and checks for other writing issues
  • Plagiarism Checker Software – This online plagiarism checker guarantees you that it runs a thorough plagiarism test for your content to verify that the content is 100% percent plagiarism free.

Is this something that you would like assistance with. Let’s talk! Contact Dr. Lonny today and let’s put a plan together for your doctoral success.

Dr. Lonny has extensive experience in helping doctoral-level students through all phases of their dissertation, including writing, methodology, and all phases of the dissertation process and deliverable. Contact Dr. Lonny today to setup a free initial consultation and to discuss your dissertation topic, status, challenges, along with services offered and pricing options.

Best success,

Dr. Lonny



Using Editing Software vs Hiring an Editor

In this blog post, I will discuss the use of editing software versus hiring a professional editor for improved academic writing, grammar, and formatting (i.e. Word, APA, etc.). As a dissertation coach, I also offer high-level editing services. My secret to great editing and feedback – superior software, plus extensive expertise. While most doctoral students lack expertise, they can certainly gain an advantage by utilizing top-notch editing/grammar software, such as Grammarly and Stylewriter.

Leading Grammar and Editing Software Providers:

The #1 Writing Tool

Grammarly’s key features include:

  • Compose bold, clear, mistake-free writing with Grammarly’s AI-powered writing assistant.
  • Get corrections from Grammarly while you write on Gmail, Twitter, LinkedIn, and all your other favorite sites.
  • From grammar and spelling to style and tone, Grammarly helps you eliminate errors and find the perfect words to express yourself.
  • Grammarly’s plagiarism checker detects plagiarism in your text and checks for other writing issues.
StyleWriter 4 writing software

Stylewriter’s key features include:

  • StyleWriter’s editing advice shows you how to transform your writing into clear, concise and professional writing style.
  • StyleWriter highlights jargon phrases, difficult words and acronyms and abbreviations to help you write in a jargon-free style.
  • StyleWriter’s Smart-Spell technology checks for spelling errors and spelling inconsistencies missed by other programs.
  • StyleWriter uses a revolutionary 200,000 graded word list to offer meaningful statistics and ratings you can use to become a better writer.
  • StyleWriter is the only writing aid you can fully customize to your writing needs. Organizations can computerize their existing house style rules.
  • StyleWriter lets you select from 20 writing tasks and three audience types, including academic, advertising, legal writing, memos and more.

Both Grammarly and Stylewriter are great tools for improved writing and grammar, but work very differently from each other – with different feedback provided, based on varying criteria. Therefore, I recommend that clients and mentees purchase both. With reasonable pricing – especially as compared to the cost of tuition, they are well worth the investment!

As a writing coach and editor (as part of my dissertation coaching services), I use these products (along with expertise), but always advise these for my clients and university mentees for two reasons: (a) they are empowered to produce better quality writing and work, and (b) they save money and time! Isn’t that what you want too? Of course!

Other benefits a professional editor provides are:

  • Microsoft Word formatting (headings, TOC, pagination, etc.)
  • Writing style (e.g., MEAL Plan)
  • Writing/formatting convention compliance (APA, and others)
  • Fine-tuning – While software can identify errors, making corrections is entirely another matter. An editor can assist with corrections such as
    passive voice, anthropomorphisms, vague terms, wordiness, and others.

In conclusion, my advise for all academic students, as well as writers, in general, is to purchase one or both of the above software packages, but then also consider use of an editor, like Dr. Lonny with Dissertation101 to help with the finer points. If interested, contact Dr. Lonny via any of the methods available on this website to discuss further.

Best success,

Dr. Lonny