Ty synthesis

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Assessment Description

In Topic 3, you read three articles about the skills of the researcher. In this assignment, you will identify three themes common to the articles and write a synthesis paper about research skills using evidence from the articles to support your themes. Use the skills you developed in RES-815 while completing the Emerging Writer Worksheet in which you identified themes, supported them with evidence from the articles, built a thesis claim, and outlined your paper.

General Requirements:
Use the following information to ensure successful completion of the assignment:

· Review the articles by Lindsay (2015); Lee, Chang, and Bryan (2020); and Klocko, Marshal, and Davidson (2015) located in the Topic Resources.

· This assignment uses a rubric. Please review the rubric prior to beginning the assignment to become familiar with the expectations for successful completion.

· Doctoral learners are required to use APA style for their writing assignments. The APA Style Guide is located in the Student Success Center.

· Refer to the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association for specific guidelines related to doctoral-level writing. The manual contains essential information on manuscript structure and content, clear and concise writing, and academic grammar and usage.

· You are required to submit this assignment to LopesWrite. A link to the LopesWrite technical support articles is located in Class Resources if you need assistance.

Directions:

Write a paper (1,000-1,250 words) that synthesizes the Lindsay (2015); Lee, Chang, and Bryan (2020); and Klocko, Marshal, and Davidson (2015) articles. Your paper should include the following:

1. An introduction that introduces and provides context for the topic. This includes presenting a clear thesis statement.

2. Identification of and support for three themes with evidence from each article. Synthesize your discussion of the topic to support your thesis.

3. A conclusion that demonstrates support of your thesis statement, briefly summarizes the main points from your three themes, and makes recommendations for future research on the topic.

What works for doctoral students in completing their thesis?

Siân Lindsay*

Department for Learning Enhancement and Development, City University London, London, UK

(Received 7 February 2012; final version accepted 4 September 2014)

Writing a thesis is one of the most challenging activities that a doctoral student must
undertake and can represent a barrier to timely completion. This is relevant in light of
current and widespread concerns regarding doctoral completion rates. This study
explored thesis writing approaches of students post or near Ph.D. completion through
interviews. The study’s aim was to highlight factors identified by participants as
helpful or hindering thesis writing. The analysis revealed ‘helpful’ factors were related
to students’ intrinsic behaviours and supervisory support, particularly support that
adopted a ‘project-management’ style. Additionally, a subgroup of participants
discussed the merits of a continuous-writing approach which is further explored in
this paper with reference to the notion of writing to develop knowledge; this is
recommended for timely Ph.D. completion.

Keywords: doctoral; thesis; writing; Ph.D.; student; supervisor

Introduction and rationale

This study set out to identify, explore and understand the positive and negative factors
that can directly or indirectly enable doctoral students to write their thesis in accordance
with the recommended completion time for Ph.D. study at a UK university. The findings
presented are derived from interviews with doctoral students who were completing, or
had just very recently completed their doctoral programme. Two relevant theoretical
frameworks in the area of Ph.D. study were used to underpin the design and analysis
stages of this research, namely that of Latona and Browne’s framework for predicting
timely completions (Latona and Browne 2001) and Lee’s concepts of doctoral research
supervision (Lee 2008). The findings are examined to argue the case for a continuous
thesis-writing model, with reference to writing as a knowledge-producing activity
(Wellington 2010), and should prove applicable to most doctoral programmes in the
UK and beyond.

The rationale behind this study originated from conversations with five Senior Tutors
for Research (STR) to initially understand the impact factors that affect the rate of
progression and completion of Ph.D. study. Most STRs admitted that the Ph.D.
completion rates in their school or department were not ideal. When asked why, all
STRs talked about the writing up of the thesis as a phase which represented a major
stumbling block for Ph.D. students. In English doctoral programmes, writing up of the
thesis is typically the last major activity that a Ph.D. student does before the viva voce
examination (the ‘live voice’ examination whereby a doctoral student must successfully

*Email: [email protected]

Teaching in Higher Education, 2015
Vol. 20, No. 2, 183–196, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13562517.2014.974025

© 2014 Taylor & Francis

argue and defend their thesis). ‘Writing up’ of the thesis is usually a highly concentrated
task during which no further research or data collection is undertaken. Based on the
perspectives of the STRs, this study therefore sought participation from doctoral students
who were writing or had just recently written their thesis in an attempt to understand what
enables or hinders this decisive stage of doctoral study.

Brief review of the literature

Doctoral completion rates and times-to-completion have been an ongoing concern for
higher education institutions (HEIs) across the world (Elgar 2003; Park 2005), despite
different countries adopting different programme structures. In the USA, for example,
doctoral students must undertake oral exams prior to being permitted to start writing their
thesis, and after passing these are called ‘ABDs’, meaning ‘All But Dissertation’.
Doctoral students in the UK are encouraged to write their thesis continuously throughout
their study prior to their viva voce examination. However, in reality thesis writing is
frequently seen as ‘a mopping-up activity at the end of a research project’ (Richardson
1998, 345). In recent years the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE)
has published research degree qualification rates (RDQRs) for HEIs in England, for both
full-time and part-time Ph.D. students studying for the recommended period of time of 4
and 7 years, respectively. The RDQRs are used to positively discriminate English HEIs
for funding if they achieve timely completions. In addition to their financial impact,
doctoral completion rates are also important to consider for their impact on students’
emotional, mental and financial well-being.

During the last 20 years, various studies have focused on situational factors and
characteristics of doctoral students, using these as indicators of timely completions. Many
of these studies have used quantitative research methods to identify the following factors
that can have an impact on completion rates: discipline of study (Elgar 2003; Park 2005;
Wright and Cochrane 2000), gender (Martin, Maclachlan, and Karmel 2001), mode of
study (Rodwell and Neumann 2008), age (Park 2005) and whether home or overseas
(Park 2005). In 2001, Latona and Browne published a literature review examining such
studies and suggested that impact factors associated with the completion of research
higher degrees fall into one of three categories: (1) institutional/environmental; (2)
individual supervisory arrangements; and (3) student cohorts and characteristics (Latona
and Browne 2001). Whilst useful as a starting point for analysis, focusing on situational
factors may be problematic, with Manathunga (2005) arguing that some of these studies
are contradictory and may promote a risk-analysis approach amongst HEIs in selecting
students for doctoral study. Focusing on situational factors in this way also ignores the
larger, complex picture of the doctoral journey, especially when nearing the end.

Some studies have tried to identify key stages in doctoral study where Ph.D. students
are most at risk of attrition or are more susceptible of not completing. Lovitts and Nelson
(2000) suggest that attrition happens early on, with more than one third of doctoral
students leaving during their first year of study. Interestingly, little work has been done to
focus on the writing up phase of doctoral study as a critical point in leading to on-time
completion, or if it represents a significant risk leading to attrition. This is surprising since
writing up is a fundamental component of the doctoral journey, as Kuther explains: ‘The
dissertation is often the most difficult academic requirement a doctoral student faces;
many students exhibit delay in completing it’ (Kuther 1999, 1). Lee and Aitchison (2009)
argue that capacity-building for writing pedagogy is crucial as writing remains ‘neglected

184 S. Lindsay

as a central component of doctoral education’ (87) and ‘problems and struggles with
writing can be seen as an impediment to efficient completion’ (89). Yet students are often
left on their own to learn the rules of writing according to the styles and nuances of their
particular academic discipline (Lee and Aitchison 2009), with Ph.D. supervisors
assuming that their students are able to write their thesis appropriately (Johnson, Lee,
and Green 2000). A study by Wellington (2010) explores the affective domain in the area
of doctoral student writing to show that the intrinsic feelings of students can impact their
approaches to writing and so need to be acknowledged. Wellington adds that the notion of
writing up as a detached phase of doctoral study should be rejected, and writing should be
viewed as a way of developing knowledge rather than just ‘knowledge telling’
(Wellington 2010, 148). Linked to this is the central message to Murray’s self-help
guide for Ph.D. students entitled How to Write a Thesis (2011) – Murray recommends
that students write their thesis from the start of their Ph.D. and throughout their research,
and advises a model of continuous writing that she terms ‘serial writing’ in which the
thesis is written in instalments, meaning that writing occurs regularly and with clear
intervals between instalments. Serial writing allows the writer to work to a pattern that
ideally suits their working and social environment, with the latter sustaining the writing
process and not undermining it. Further, Murray argues that serial writing is ‘critical for
the development of our thinking through writing’ (Murray 2011, 179).

In terms of completing on time, several studies have acknowledged the integral role
of the Ph.D. supervisor (Lovitts and Nelson 2000; Seagram, Gould, and Pyke 1998). A
few studies such as that of Bargar and Mayo-Chamberlain (1983) highlight the
importance of supervisory support for the essential activity of thesis writing, offering
recommendations such as encouraging students’ initial efforts, withholding criticism (in
the beginning) and undertaking a critical analysis of the writing throughout. Murray
(2011) builds on this and argues that supervisors should motivate their students to start
writing their thesis and to maintain writing throughout their research, highlighting the
mistake that some supervisors could make if they suggest deferring writing until the end
of the project.

In terms of approaches to Ph.D. supervision, these have been explored widely in the
literature with Lee’s eminent 2008 study that identified a framework for five concepts of
research supervision:

(1) Functional: supervisors encourage a rational progression through tasks
(2) Enculturation: supervisors act as ‘gatekeepers’ to their students becoming a

member of the disciplinary community
(3) Critical thinking: supervisors challenge their students to question and analyse

their work
(4) Emancipation: supervisors act as mentors, supporting their students to develop

themselves
(5) Developing a quality relationship: supervisors use emotional intelligence to

enthuse and care for their students

It is interesting to hypothesise the approach that supervisors may take to support their
students as they write their thesis, as little has been published in this area. One might
expect that a critical thinking approach would feature strongly, as a thesis essentially
forms an argument that must show evidence of careful consideration and analysis.

Teaching in Higher Education 185

A review of the literature has found that few studies have focused exclusively on the
student experience of thesis writing to identify factors that students believe enable or
hinder the process and subsequently may have an effect on doctoral completion rates.
Furthermore, little has been done to explore the approaches that doctoral supervisors may
take as their students embark on thesis writing. The purpose of this study was to fill these
gaps in knowledge.

Methods and data analysis

Institutional context

This qualitative study was undertaken at a London university in the UK. The university
has a large population of international postgraduate students, where 15% are from
European Union (EU) and 30% are from outside of the EU. The university ranks fourth
and tenth largest in terms of numbers of postgraduate taught-, and postgraduate research-
students, respectively, in relation to 40 universities and HEIs in London.

Research approach

This study was undertaken using a case study approach, in the form of eight semi-
structured interviews with currently registered doctoral students who were actively going
through or had very recently gone through the experience of writing up their thesis.
Because case studies are typically small in the number of participants involved, there are
limitations in terms of how strongly any conclusions can be applied to a wider
population. However the merits of a case study approach lie in the richness of data that
can be gained from in-depth discussions and analysis of the data, which was felt to be
essential in helping to answer the research question. To circumvent the limitations of the
approach, selection criteria were applied to sample participants and as much as possible
avoid large deviations in the data. Therefore this study did not ask former doctoral
students for their insights to avoid problems of memory bias. Only currently registered
doctoral students in or beyond their ‘writing up year’ were approached. Within the
student records system at the university, the ‘writing up year’ is defined as year 4 of Ph.D.
study for full-time students, and year 7 of Ph.D. study for part-time students. Some Ph.D.
students do start writing up earlier than is required, whilst others choose to defer their
writing up year if they require more time to research. Doctoral students who are writing
up are no longer deemed ‘research active’ by the university and pay (often reduced)
write-up fees to remain registered as a Ph.D. student. Writing up doctoral students who
had recently withdrawn, or who had recently passed the viva voce examination were
excluded from the research sample to avoid overly negative or overly positive
experiences from skewing the study’s findings. Based on these selection criteria, the
resulting population was 183 doctoral students in or beyond their writing up year.
Approximately 15% of these (i.e. 30 students) were selected at random and sent a
personalised email inviting them to participate in the study. The email briefly set out the
purpose of the study, which was followed up with a more in-depth explanatory letter prior
to interview. Participants were told that their experiences would be used to help enhance
and inform the support mechanisms for future Ph.D. students. It was anticipated that
students having a particularly difficult experience of writing their thesis might view an
interview as akin to a ‘talking therapy’ session and their experiences might dispropor-
tionally represent problem cases (as described by Manathunga 2005). To avoid this, the

186 S. Lindsay

invitation text was written in a neutral way, being careful to equally appeal to students
that had had or were having positive and negative experiences. Over a 4-week period
following the email invitations, 10 doctoral students offered to participate, though the
eventual number of interviews carried out reduced to 8 since 2 students withdrew from
the study.

Prior to undertaking the interviews, ethical approval was sought and granted by the
university’s ethical approval committee. This ensured that participants were fully aware
of its purpose and intended benefits, its intention to maintain their anonymity, keeping all
data pertaining to them secure, and clearly setting out their right to withdraw at any time.
Informed consent was gathered for all students prior to the interview. Further, students
were contacted by telephone prior to interview to ensure that they were comfortable with
the types of interview questions that were to be asked. Writing up can be a stressful
period for some doctoral students and it was important to ensure that the interview
questions asked did not exacerbate this stress.

Study participants

Eight doctoral students volunteered to participate in semi-structured interviews and their
details are shown in Table 1. Pseudonyms have been used to protect identities. Most
students interviewed began their Ph.D. study on a full-time basis, with two students
(Natasha and Sofia) transferring to a part-time mode of study during the research/data
collection stages of their study, both for financial reasons. Six students had also only
recently completed their viva voce (within the past 6 months or less). It is interesting that
most students had also completed their Ph.D. study within the recommended period of
time as required by the university and by HEFCE (4 years for full-time students and 7
years for part-time students). The amount of time it took for the students to write varied;

Table 1. Participant details.

Name Status TTC TTWU Funded?
In employment during

thesis write-up?

Jennifer FT 4 years 9 months Self-funded No
Tom FT 10 years 5 years Self and

department
Full-time employment for
5 years

Natasha FT then
PT

6 years N/A as writing
continuously

Self and
department

Part-time employment for
6 years

Evan FT 4 years 8 months Self-funded Part time employment for
3 years

Lilly FT 4 years 8 months Self-funded Part time employment for
3 years

Samantha PT 7 yearsa 2 yearsa Self-funded No
Sofia FT then

PT
7 yearsa N/A as writing

continuouslya
Self-funded No

Luke PT 7 years 7 months Self-funded Part-time employment for
7 years

FT, full-time; PT, part-time; TTC, time to completion (from start of Ph.D. until viva voce examination); TTWU,
time taken to write-up thesis; N/A, not applicable.
aIndicates still writing thesis during time of interview.

Teaching in Higher Education 187

some took as little as 7 months, others as long as 5 years, with the median length of time
being around 8–9 months. Two of the students interviewed had written their thesis on a
continuous basis. All Ph.D. students interviewed were self-funded, with 2 also receiving
financial support from their department. Four students were international, which helpfully
reflects the proportion of international postgraduate students across the university as a
whole. The students interviewed were from a variety of departments within the Business
School, the School of Arts and Social Sciences and the School of Health Sciences. Five
of the students were in some form of employment (part-time or full-time) during their
writing up year.

Data collection and analysis

The data from this study was derived from semi-structured interviews with 8 doctoral
students, where a total of 11 questions were asked. The first 7 questions were quantitative
in nature, with yes/no, numeric, list-option answer types, whilst the remainder were
designed to be more open-ended and in keeping with discourse about doctoral student
completions, using the help/hindrance scale by Kluever (1997) and Latona and Browne’s
(2001) framework for predicting timely completions to guide question design and/or act
as prompts during the interview. Questions were designed to focus dialogue and doctoral
student reflections towards the writing up stage of their Ph.D. study.

The semi-structured interviews were recorded on an mp3 recorder and transcribed
by the author. Thematic analysis was carried out on interview transcripts using Latona
and Browne’s 2001 framework of three groups of influences for predicting timely
completions (institutional and/or environmental; individual supervisory arrangements;
individual intrinsic). A further category of ‘individual factors (non-psychological)’ was
added based on Wright and Cochrane’s (2000) literature review to initially guide
identification of the themes. A random first transcript was analysed and used to
identify initial themes which were categorised as either ‘helping’ or ‘not helping’.
Subsequent analyses of the other transcripts added to the themes identified. Then,
common themes were re-analysed and differentiated according to their correlation to
Latona and Browne’s framework. Supervisory support themes were further analysed
in relation to their connection with Lee’s five concepts of doctoral research
supervision, namely: (1) Functional (supervisor acts as project manager); (2)
Enculturation (supervisor provides gateway to academic culture); (3) Critical thinking
(supervisor encourages student to think for themselves, solve problems); (4) Eman-
cipation (supervisor as a mentor); and (5) Relationship development (supervising by
experience, developing a relationship with student which is exhibited by high
emotional intelligence; Lee 2008).

Research findings and discussion

Themes emerging from analysis of the interview data are shown in Table 2, where each
theme was grouped according to whether it enabled or hindered the doctoral thesis
writing up process. In the individual supervisory category, themes were further analysed
in relation to Lee’s concepts of doctoral research supervision.

188 S. Lindsay

How institutional and/or environmental factors impact thesis writing

Natasha and Sofia were the only doctoral students interviewed who said that they had
written their thesis on a continuous basis. Natasha attributed her approach to the support
she received from her head of department:

my head of department gave a few talks to us and I remember he said ‘make sure you write
as you go along and write it with methodologies because … by the time you finish it, you are
going to forget’ … I really appreciated this advice … that bit of writing up made such a
difference at the end … I had quite a bit of work done, maybe a third of the thesis more or
less done. (Natasha)

Sofia chose to write on a continuous basis as her department did not encourage her to
move to writing up status until she had ‘a whole draft of everything’.

Unlike Natasha and Sofia, all the other students interviewed had left their thesis
writing until their final year, and clearly demarked research/data collection from the
writing process. Wellington (2010) supports this finding, arguing that the notion of a
‘writing up phase’ still prevails amongst many doctoral students and some universities,
including the university pertaining to this study. For example the central university
student records system categorises doctoral students on the basis of their status as
‘research-active’ or ‘writing up’, with further reinforcement of this categorisation by way
of tuition fee differentials, with writing up doctoral students paying less. Combined with a
relative inconsistency of message regarding continuous writing up across different
departments, it is little wonder that students remain confused and unsure about the writing
up process. Evan explains:

Table 2. Factors that enable or hinder thesis writing.

Enabling thesis writing Hindering thesis writing

Institutional and/or
environmental
factors

. Support from student’s own
department in terms of:
○ Providing adequate space
and resources for writing up
○ Reiterating key message
to write-up continuously
throughout study

. Peer support and encouragement,
peer review of thesis

. Lack of wider institutional
support

. Negative peer pressure

Individual supervisory
arrangements

. Supervisor exhibiting a
supervision model which is
predominantly functional/project
management-focused, and further
enhances the supervisor–student
relationship.

. Supervisor exhibiting a
supervision model which
lacks functional/project-
management, emancipation
and relationship development
concepts

Individual factors
(non-psychological)

. Emotional and financial support
from family and friends

. Being in part-time employment

. Difficulty in balancing Ph.D.
around family and work
commitments

Individual intrinsic
factors

. Motivation

. Organisation
. Lack of motivation
. Lack of organisation

Teaching in Higher Education 189

there was a lot of uncertainty (about the writing up process) … and that kind of fed through
to the students because if staff didn’t know what they were doing in terms of how our study
was structured then how were the students ever going to know? (Evan)

De Valero (2001) has recommended the provision of thesis-writing workshops where
with their peers, doctoral students can discuss their results, share concerns and receive
peer feedback. Findings from this study suggest that workshops like these might be a
good idea for institutions to organise – Lilly, Luke and Evan described the support they
received from their peers as they were writing their thesis, with Evan making use of
online messaging tools:

there were lots of late night chats over the internet: ‘oh what do you think of this sentence?’ or
‘does this sound right because I can’t tell anymore what it sounds like, does it make sense?’ So
there was lots of that and that kept you going because you knew you weren’t in it alone. (Evan)

Yet Jennifer, who progressed very well with her Ph.D., remarked on the negative
atmosphere she felt when she was around her peers:

So there was a lot of (from her peers) ‘how did you manage that?’ and ‘how have you
finished so quickly?’ … it felt like praise, but it wasn’t really … it was like almost veiled
criticism … almost like other people were holding me up as an example of ‘you can tell us
how you did it’. So I spent a lot of time trying to … get away from people saying ‘can you
read this for me’. (Jennifer)

Jennifer’s experience may reflect the fact that she had an excellent relationship with her
supervisor which enabled her to confidently progress in her studies, whereas the others
who depended on their peers had a moderate or less favourable relationship with their
supervisor (Lilly in particular).

Concepts of doctoral supervision during thesis writing up

Most of the doctoral students interviewed had a good to moderate relationship with their
supervisor(s). Due to rapid staff turnover in his department, Luke was supervised by four
different supervisors, which each time caused temporary setbacks in his progress. However
he was ‘saved’ by his final supervisor who worked hard to update herself with Luke’s
research, advise him on what aspects he needed to finish to move onto writing up, and
supported him whilst he wrote up his thesis. Lilly had by far the worst supervision experience
of all students, whereby her relationship with her supervisor was practically absent:

he facilitated me I would say, and that’s probably the full scope of his support. So he ticked
boxes, he signed forms; he got me through the hoops for the University. But he wasn’t too
good on emotional support and he was non-existent in any kind of academic input! … it is
hard to get that sense of confidence in your own work and conviction, because part of this
business is disseminating it and I’m trying to, but on my own … that’s the sadness … that he
(Lilly’s supervisor) didn’t lift a finger to try to help. (Lilly)

Jennifer appeared to have the most ideal relationship with her supervisor, and frequently
spoke highly of him and the support he gave her especially during the writing up process.

Most students identified the importance of their supervisors acting as ‘project
managers’ in terms of chasing up the thesis, and giving final say on when they believed

190 S. Lindsay

their student’s work was ready for writing up or submission for the viva voce. This
approach aligns closely with the ‘functional’ concept identified by Lee (2008):

I saw my supervisor and I said to him, ‘look this is what I have got, I am going to stop at that
point, what do you think?’ And he said to me, ‘go ahead … you know you have enough …
put a full stop here and start writing up’. (Natasha)

she also made me aware of the fact that it’s (the thesis) is not quite there yet … having the
supervisor present throughout the writing up process … checking up on you and following
things through making sure you are on the way … that’s really crucial. (Luke)

Doctoral students also identified the importance of their supervisors providing ongoing,
relevant, constructive and timely feedback on thesis drafts. Students preferred feedback
which was meaningful and encouraging, and also showed that their supervisor believed in
their ability. This supportive approach enables students to develop themselves as
academic writers and is closely aligned to Lee’s mentoring or ‘emancipation’ concept
of supervision:

My first supervisor gave petty remarks … on grammar and sentence construction, stuff like
that … it just left you feeling very negative and … that they weren’t necessarily getting the
bigger picture. And then my second supervisor … she gave copious notes of feedback … it
made a difference … she didn’t mince her words either, which is a bit soul destroying at
times, but I suppose you need that … fact that her feedback was really targeted and you knew
what you needed to work on rather than just kind of an overview of a chapter was great.
(Sofia)

I just have to say that she was absolutely brilliant because she was very critical but very
supportive at the same time and I think that’s a really important balance … also she reassured
me about the quality of my work because, in the last stages you think is it rubbish? Is it any
good? Is it original? (Luke)

All the doctoral students interviewed remarked on the quality of their relationship with their
supervisor and how this was sustained as a critical factor for success in thesis writing:

my supervisor relationship was fantastic; I was really chuffed when I got allocated my
supervisor and we just really clicked, and he realised that I was quite autonomous and he was
quite happy for me to just run with it, as long as I kept him up to date. (Jennifer)

Well first of all that is why I went to this University because of John (Samantha’s supervisor)
… he is internationally well known and a very good person too … he has been really helpful
in setting up conference calls to allow us to chat on a regular basis. (Samantha)

In her 2008 paper, Lee argues that a supervisor may demonstrate a range of conceptual
approaches, yet students may only experience one or two of these. In support of this and
in relation to thesis writing, the findings here suggest that the functional, emancipation
and relationship development concepts dominate, whilst the concepts of enculturation
and, somewhat surprisingly, critical thinking, appear less important or are not used, at
least from the doctoral student’s perspective.

Individual but non-psychological factors

Five of the 8 doctoral students interviewed credited the emotional understanding and
support they received from family and friends whilst writing their thesis. Lilly reflected

Teaching in Higher Education 191

on stories of perseverance and determination in her own family to inspire her to keep
going, whilst living up to the expectations and pride that her family had in her was a
critical motivator for Jennifer. Evan also appreciated that his friends understood why his
social life had to be placed on hold as he focused all his efforts into writing.

Prior to this study, discussions with STRs had indicated that financial support during
the writing up phase might be a key indicator for on-time completion. However, all of the
students interviewed were either self- or self- and department-funded, five of the 8 were
in some kind of paid employment and so most did not identify financial help during the
writing up phase as an important factor. Only Samantha acknowledged that without the
financial support of her husband she would not be in a position to complete her Ph.D..
Interestingly, all the students working in part-time jobs found that rather than being a
hindrance, their employment enabled an anchor to the outside world and provided a
useful schedule around which to write their thesis:

I find the work that I am doing … very inspiring even if it doesn’t directly relate to what I’m
writing … in a way it also gave a sort of framework that I’m working on Wednesday,
Thursday and Friday, so I have to get this done by Tuesday. (Luke)

it (work) broke things up … I did have something else I was focusing on during the week; it
wasn’t just the thesis … that did help. (Evan)

However, Tom, who started working full-time during the writing up stage, explains that
full-time employment was detrimental to his progress:

Well the first time I started writing up I believe it was spring 2005, and then I dropped out of
it somewhere in winter 2006. By that time I’d started to work so that’s when the troubles
started creeping up. By spending too much time at work … I just didn’t push myself in doing
it (the thesis) at all. (Tom)

Factors intrinsic to doctoral students that enable or hinder thesis writing

All students interviewed talked about their own behaviours that helped (or hindered) them
in writing their thesis. These behaviours were analysed and then themed under the
broader processes of ‘motivation’ and ‘organisation’ as shown in Table 3. Doctoral
students were motivated to write their theses when they demonstrated determination,
goal-setting (and self-rewarding), endurance and believed in their writing abilities.
Conversely, students lacked motivation to write if they felt doubtful, uncertain,
overwhelmed, apathetic or tired. Tom’s apathy emerged from his cynicism of Ph.D.
research in that he could not see its value and applicability in the wider world. Some
students such as Jennifer also admitted to perfectionism in hindering the thesis write-up,
whereas Luke claimed his writing ‘phobia’ was the reason for his delay in writing when
in fact he was procrastinating. Perhaps unexpectedly it was found that none of the
students interviewed expressed any notion of fear or apprehension of their impending
viva voce as a factor which could negatively affect their approach to thesis writing.

Students demonstrated good organisational skills by planning their time in advance
and being self-disciplined in keeping to a writing schedule. Students such as Natasha and
Evan structured their writing schedule around immovable deadlines, with some deadlines
leading to a reward such as a holiday which further drove student motivation by
providing an incentive to meet their deadlines. On the other hand, students found that

192 S. Lindsay

Table 3. Doctoral students’ intrinsic behaviours that enable or hinder thesis writing.

Enabling thesis writing Hindering thesis writing

Motivation Determination: Just, grit your teeth and get on with it,
one foot in front of the other, don’t panic (Lilly) Goal-
setting: I found that the only way that I could take this
incredibly daunting, overwhelming project, was to break
it down into small chunks and set yourself goals and
celebrate each goal, you know – even if it was just inside
my head like ‘yes! I’ve done this after all this effort!’
(Jennifer) Endurance: I was quite focused in that if I was
in ‘the zone’ as such, I would just work around the
clock – like some days I would work ‘til like 3 or 4 in the
morning … (Jennifer)
Self-confidence in writing: … just having worked for 20
years or whatever, I have got some understanding of my
level of writing competence, I knew I was going to be
okay (Samantha)

Perfectionism: And so for a long time it felt so massive and so perfect in my head,
this story of my research, that I was scared to get my laptop out, because I thought
I would destroy it (Jennifer)
Procrastination: I have a phobia, a writing phobia (Luke)
Doubt: …initially I was thinking ‘have I got enough data? Have I done enough?’
(Natasha)
Uncertainty: I wasn’t confident as to what a thesis should look like … I had never
done this before in my life – for example can I use the word ‘I’? I know that sounds
really silly … but it was all these little things that no one knew the answer to … my
supervisor said that sounds fine but then it wasn’t your supervisor who was going
to be looking at it (Evan)
Feeling overwhelmed: I wasn’t looking forward to the writing up stage at all … it
was just the length of it (the thesis), knowing there was so much to write (Evan)
Apathy: in my case … you find something you are very excited about, you start
doing it, you will probably have done it, then you think ‘Oh, is that useful, is that
interesting?’… it’s too narrow, extremely narrow … and then you just don’t want to
do anything about it. (Tom) Fatigue: I finished my undergraduate studies when I
was 22, started studying again at 23, I’m still studying 5 years later, come on. I’m
fed up with it. (Tom)

Organisation Planning ahead: I’d have a wall planner in my bedroom
… and I literally planned out – this month I’m going to
do this, this month I’m going to do that – set a lot of
interim deadlines and my supervisor found that hilarious
because I was saying to him ‘right, we need to meet on
this date because then I would have done this’ (Jennifer)
Self-discipline: I am an easily distracted person so there
were certain things that I had to avoid like meeting
friends and my boyfriend … I had to avoid calling
people. (Natasha) Working around rigid deadlines: … in
August I went away and that motivates me, because I was
thinking ‘okay I am going away on that date so before
that date I have to write this part for my supervisor …
Deadlines for me work. If you leave me without
deadlines, that is not good really but with deadlines I am
fantastic.’ (Natasha)

Poor planning skills: I’m probably not desperately good at planning things so that
doesn’t help my case (Sofia) Easily distracted: Too many distractions? – yes – of
any kind. Shall I sit here and write? Or I can go outside and do what I like. (Tom)

Tea
ch
in
g
in

H
ig
h
er

E
d
u
ca
tio

n
1
9
3

poor organisational skills delayed their thesis writing, with students such as Tom being
quite frank about how disorganised he was, which resulted in him becoming very easily
distracted. Although a small sample, the findings suggest that having good organisation
skills facilitates the motivation required for writing a doctoral thesis.

Some of the positive intrinsic behaviours exhibited by students could be attributed to
the good relationship that they had with their supervisor(s). For example Jennifer’s ability
to organise her time well was done in conjunction with her supervisor who willingly
cooperated with her plans to submit draft sections of her thesis. On the other hand Tom,
who credited the academic excellence of his supervisors, exhibited less than ideal
intrinsic factors which appeared to hinder his writing efforts such that it took him the
longest of all students interviewed to write-up. So the link between quality of supervisor–
supervisee relationship and its effect on student intrinsic motivation and organisation
remains to be determined.

Conclusions

This small-scale study set out to investigate the factors that enable or hinder doctoral
students in writing up their thesis. Whilst the factors identified cannot be generalised
across the research population, they can be grouped under the broader themes of: (1)
institutional/environmental; (2) supervisory; (3) non-psychological / individual; and (4)
intrinsic/ psychological. Factors falling into the latter two themes appeared most prevalent
(although a strict frequency analysis of factors was not undertaken). Doctoral students’
motivation and organisation behaviours played a key role in helping or hindering thesis
writing and are consistent with similar findings by Wellington (2010); supporting the
notion that recognising the affective domain in doctoral writing remains an important one
that we need to support students with. In addition it is worth noting that some of the
students who experienced supervisory challenges also appeared to be experiencing
intrinsic/psychological ones (e.g. Lilly); this observation is worthy of a future research
study across a larger research population to give greater it credence.

This study further identified discrepancies and confusion amongst some students
regarding the notion of writing up as a separate phase or as a continuous activity. Most
of the doctoral students in this study waited until after they had completed their research
to begin writing their thesis; yet the minority of students who were encouraged to write-
up continuously positively acknowledged this approach in helping to complete their
thesis on time. Though more research needs to be done, continuous writing of the thesis
could arguably reduce the negative intrinsic factors and behaviours related to
motivation and organisation that students face when they leave the task of writing
until their final year of study. Some would argue that this approach has implications in
terms of how much time students can devote to their research activities (particularly in
experimental, practical disciplines where academic writing tends not to be a major
activity). However both Wellington (2010) and Murray (2011) argue that writing
continuously can actually foster the development of knowledge, which is arguably
better than demoting academic writing to a simple knowledge-telling activity that
merely ‘transfers thoughts from brain to paper’ (Wellington 2010, 148). Given this and
the preliminary findings presented here, future research will investigate a greater range
of empirical data to give further support to the relationship between continuous writing
and knowledge development.

194 S. Lindsay

The findings of this study have indicated that supervisory approaches to supporting
doctoral students as they write their thesis are biased towards being functional and
‘project-managed’ which intuitively would seem to work well in facilitating a model of
‘knowledge-telling’ thesis writing, which is highly focused and somewhat disconnected
from the actual ‘doing’ of research. The findings from this study indicate, at least from
the student’s point of view, that supervisory approaches during thesis writing lack a
critical thinking element, which Lee describes as the supervisor encouraging the
student to question and analyse their work (Lee 2008). Whilst more research needs to
be done in this area, it is hypothesised that a supervisory approach that included a greater
element of critical thinking may emerge in a continuous writing model, thus aiding
knowledge development. In a continuous writing model it is practical to assume that
following completion of doctoral research, students may require some time to modify the
structure of their thesis so that it tells a more coherent story, reflecting on the entire
journey in a written conclusion, for example. However this aspect of writing should be
viewed as making the final touches to a largely-completed thesis – ‘finishing up’ as
opposed to ‘writing up’.

References
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Doctoral Students at One Land-Grant Research Institution.” The Journal of Higher Education
72 (3): 341–367. doi:10.2307/2649335.

Elgar, F. J. 2003. PhD Degree Completion in Canadian Universities: Final Report. Halifax: Report
for Dalhousie University.

Johnson, L., A. Lee, and B. Green. 2000. “The PhD and the Autonomous Self: Gender, Rationality
and Postgraduate Pedagogy.” Studies in Higher Education 25 (2): 135–147. doi:10.1080/
713696141.

Kluever, R. C. 1997. “Students’ Attitudes toward the Responsibilities and Barriers in Doctoral
Study.” New Directions for Higher Education 99 (4): 47–56.

Kuther, T. L. 1999. “Overcoming Procrastination: Getting Organized to Complete the Dissertation.”
In 1999 Annual Meeting of the American Psychological Association, edited by J. Primavera and
T. Kuther, San Francisco, CA: American Psychological Association.

Latona, K., and M. Browne. 2001. Factors Associated with Completion of Research Higher Degrees.
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Lee, A. 2008. “How Are Doctoral Students Supervised? Concepts of Research Supervision.”
Studies in Higher Education 33 (3): 267–281. doi:10.1080/03075070802049202.

Lee, A., and C. Aitchison. 2009. “Writing for the Doctorate and beyond.” In Changing Practices of
Doctoral Education, edited by D. Boud and A. Lee, 87–99. Oxon: Routledge.

Lovitts, B. E., and C. Nelson. 2000. “The Hidden Crisis in Graduate Education: Attrition from
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Manathunga, C. 2005. “Early Warning Signs in Postgraduate Research Education: A Different
Approach to Ensuring Timely Completions.” Teaching in Higher Education 10 (2): 219–233.

Martin, Y. M., M. Maclachlan, and T. Karmel. 2001. Postgraduate Completion Rates. Occasional
Paper Series, Higher Education Division. Canberra: DEST.

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Park, C. 2005. “War of Attrition: Patterns of Non-completion amongst Postgraduate Research
Students.” Higher Education Review 38 (1): 48–53.

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by N. Denzin and Y. Lincoln, 345–371. London: SAGE.

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Rodwell, J., and R. Neumann. 2008. “Predictors of Timely Doctoral Student Completions by Type
of Attendance: The Utility of a Pragmatic Approach.” Journal of Higher Education Policy and
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196 S. Lindsay

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Developing Practitioner-Scholar Doctoral Candidates as Critical Writers

Barbara A. Klocko
Central Michigan University

Sarah M. Marshall

Central Michigan University

Jillian F. Davidson
Central Michigan University

In this study, we sought to understand how students perceived the dissertation as practitioner-scholars
and part-time doctoral students in advanced doctoral programs in educational leadership. The results
indicated that the expectations associated with scholarly writing present major hurdles for doctoral
students, and the dissertation process can be lengthy, filled with anxiety, stress, and doubt. Doctoral
faculty members are often called upon to advise students as they balance their personal and professional
demands with those of the academy. We found that the essential part in this process is supporting
practitioner students as they transform into doctoral level writers.

In the realm of academia, writing skills are imperative to creating a lasting career, putting truth to the
adage of publish or perish (Ferguson, 2009). Since publications are commonly associated with academic
prestige, it is fitting that researching and writing a dissertation is the culminating activity for doctoral
candidates (Kucan, 2011). In our research and experience, we found that the dissertation process is
lengthy, filled with anxiety, stress, and doubt. In particular, the expectations associated with scholarly
writing presented significant challenges to success for doctoral students.

For practitioner-scholars, there are additional stressors to completing coursework and the culminating
dissertation. Graduate students who are also full-time practitioners must carefully pilot the balance
between graduate school, employment and life (Belcher, 2009; Lavelle & Bushrow, 2007; Manalo, 2006;
Nielson & Rocco, 2002; Ondrusek, 2012). Additionally, the need to alternate between the mindset of a
practitioner and that of a scholar impacts both the writing process and the framework with which one
embraces inquiry (Labaree, 2003; Ondrusek, 2012). Doctoral faculty members, and particularly doctoral
dissertation advisers, are often called upon to instruct and advise students as they balance their personal
and professional demands with those of the academy. One key part in this process is supporting
practitioner students as they redefine their identity as doctoral level writers.

BACKGROUND

In 2013, we undertook a study designed to review the writing challenges experienced by doctoral
candidates in an educational leadership department at a Midwestern university. Our original study was

Journal of Higher Education Theory and Practice Vol. 15(4) 2015 21

written in response to the literature base about the stresses facing practitioner-scholars as they advance
through doctoral programs (Belcher, 2009; Ferguson, 2009; Kamler & Thomson, 2008; Nielsen & Rocco,
2002; Ondrusek, 2012; Wang & Li, 2011 ); the concerns for the quality of scholarly presentation by
doctoral candidates (Boote & Beile, 2005; Casanave & Hubbard, 1992; Kamler & Thomson, 2008) and
the possibilities that exist for educational leadership faculty to provide assistance to students with
expanded roles and responsibilities not normally associated with doctoral candidacy (Manalo, 2006;
Wang & Li, 2011).

According to Boote and Beile (2005), a lack of quality research in the field of education can be
attributed to the standards of educational doctoral programs. Graduate level discourse requires writers to
“integrate disparate ideas, synthesize perspectives, and extend theory” (Lavelle & Bushrow, 2007, p.
809). These concepts, which are uncommon in undergraduate coursework, are elusive to practitioner-
students who approach writing assignments from their perspective within their area of expertise.

Becoming a critical writer necessitates the development of a research lens with a focus on critical
inquiry. When analyzing an issue, the researcher’s position can be contrary to that of a practitioner and
therefore practitioner-doctoral students must be encouraged to separate from their professional identity in
the workplace in order to assess the underlying factors at play in education (Labaree, 2003). In essence,
doctoral students must detach from their pragmatism and subsequent practitioner beliefs in order to
develop a worldview with an unbiased lens to productively conduct objective research.

CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK

The importance of scholarly communication is well documented and understood as an influence to
one’s research output, which directly impacts a future academic career (Boote & Beile, 2005; Cafarella &
Barnett, 2000; Ferguson, 2009). Nevertheless, the education of doctoral students on the writing process is
neither a common practice in higher education nor represented in the body of literature (Ferguson, 2009;
Kamler & Thomson, 2006). Since the 1970s, the need for doctoral writing research has been noted and
continues still today (Lavelle & Bushrow, 2007; Manalo, 2006).

Doctoral Level Writing Dispositions

Two underlying stressors experienced by doctoral students when approaching writing include unclear
expectations of writing assignments and underdeveloped writing skills (Ferguson, 2009). Since
undergraduate faculty have different writing expectations than graduate programs, students do not have
the opportunity to learn the grammatical skills necessary to write at an academic level beyond the doctoral
program (Kucan, 2011). When students experience doubt about their ability to complete quality work, the
result can be lower scores on their writing submissions (Belcher, 2009; Lavelle & Bushrow, 2007;
Ondrusek, 2012; Wang & Li, 2011).

Emotional Response to Feedback and Critique

During the course of doctoral studies, students receive varied feedback from peers and professors on
writing projects. Due to low self-confidence of writing skills, students are unsure how to move forward
with the feedback while maintaining their voice (Cafarella & Barnett, 1997; Cafarella & Barnett, 2000).
Furthermore, critiques can be viewed as personal attacks instead of assistance towards a better product
(Nielson & Rocco, 2002). Wang and Li, (2011) noted:

Feedback in doctoral research is a social practice embedded in supervisory relationships.
This demands attention to the interpersonal aspect of feedback, focusing not only on the
what, that is, the text, but also on the how, that is, the way in which feedback is given and
received. (p. 102)

22 Journal of Higher Education Theory and Practice Vol. 15(4) 2015

Overall, the process of editing is not understood by some graduate students; instead of using feedback to
reevaluate the overall strength of the piece, attention is often paid to correcting minutiae such as spelling
and grammar (Ondrusek, 2012).

Writing Efficiency

For practitioner-students, time management can be viewed as an insurmountable hurdle in the writing
process (Cafarella & Barnett, 2000). Nielson and Rocco (2002) noted that many doctoral students are
responsible not only for their studies but also a career or family. Accordingly, the age of students in
educational doctoral students is higher than other fields (Labaree, 2003). Thus, making research and
writing a priority amongst life’s many other duties and responsibilities can prove difficult for practitioner-
scholars (Belcher, 2009; Lavelle & Bushrow, 2007; Manalo, 2006; Nielson & Rocco, 2002; Ondrusek,
2012). The issue of time is more about making the most of limited time resources and prioritizing
coursework amongst life’s other requirements.

Researcher View of Writing

Developing a researcher lens can be challenging for practitioner-students because “writing for their
chosen disciplines requires them to make major adjustments in how they view knowledge, learning,
written expression, and themselves before they reach a comfort level in scholarly writing” (Ondrusek,
2012, p. 180). By changing viewpoints and ways of approaching inquiry, a level of dissonance ensues as
doctoral students vacate their work-life perspective for that of academia (Boote & Beile, 2005; Labaree,
2003). Less likely to be changed by their program in a transformative way through the research process,
many educational doctoral students do not plan to join the academy and publish original research but
desire to work in advanced practitioner roles in education (Labaree, 2003). The role of inquiry is therefore
viewed as a by-product of advanced coursework versus a separate goal.

Anxiety

Issues of time management, doctoral level writing expectations, feedback and critique, and cognitive
dissonance between practitioner and scholar worldviews compound with the pressures of coursework and
elicit feelings of anxiety and a lack of confidence which can prove overwhelming in the dissertation
writing process (Cafarella & Barnett, 2000; Cuthbert & Spark, 2008; Ferguson, 2009; Ondrusek, 2012;
Nielson & Rocco, 2002). Figure 1 provides a conceptual model of the four stressors we examined in this
study.

FIGURE 1
THE FOUR STRESSORS THAT GENERATE ANXIETY FOR DOCTORAL STUDENTS

Anxiety

Emotional
response to

Feedback and
Critique

Doctoral level
writing

dispositions

Researcher view
of writing

Writing Efficiency

Journal of Higher Education Theory and Practice Vol. 15(4) 2015 23

Often, doctoral students have past academic successes which have created high expectations for their
work. It is understandable then when they receive constructive feedback and lower grades in their
doctoral level coursework, why self-imposed anxiety may result (Caffarella & Barnett, 1997; Ondrusek,
2012; Wang & Li, 2011). Additionally, students can become frustrated when the feedback is limited,
contradictory or of low-quality since they are unable to clearly identify their missteps (Cafarella &
Barnett, 2000). However, not all work produces the same emotional responses. Belcher (2009) noted
graduate students experience intense pressure surrounding academic writing which can cause doubt,
depression, or guilt and result in a lack of writing progress. Nielson and Rocco (2002) explained “the
more important the writing, the greater the apprehension” (p. 313). Students experience increased anxiety
in proportion to the importance of the assignment in their courses building to the ultimate project of
dissertation writing. To that end, the purpose of this study was to ascertain doctoral students’ beliefs
regarding critical writing skills and the extent to which professors can alleviate or contribute to student
dissertation anxiety. The research questions that inform this study included: 1) What helps or hinders
practitioner students in their academic writing process? 2) What areas do students feel they need more
instruction? 3) What institutional or curricular changes can be made to increase the number of
practitioner students completing the doctoral program?

METHOD OF THE STUDY

In this mixed-methods study, we systematically examined the beliefs of practitioner-scholars who had
advanced in a doctoral program in a Midwestern state regarding their critical writing expectations and
stressors. We conducted this exploratory study in 2013 to measure differing trends and adjust curricular
practices and expectations accordingly. Specifically we were interested in whether students felt that
doctoral level coursework addressing remedial writing skills would be beneficial to themselves or their
peers. We designed a survey with both quantitative and qualitative inquiry in mind. Consequently, the
researchers were able to facilitate analysis by calculating numerical averages as well as extracting
emerging themes to provide a holistic interpretation of this problem under examination.

Participants

Advanced doctoral students and graduates were invited to participate in this electronic survey. Eligible
participants completed their doctoral core coursework from 2006 to 2013 in a doctoral program in
educational leadership at a Midwestern state (n=97). Participants are part-time doctoral students who
maintain full-time employment within an educational setting. Most serve as administrators or faculty.
Participants (n=47) consented to participate and completed the online questionnaire administered through
Survey Monkey®. This is not a longitudinal study and we only sought to determine generalities based on
the behaviors and attitudes of students and graduates as a cohort, not as individuals through this research
design. The sample size supports a 48% confidence level as ascertained by the responses received by the
researchers. Thus, we present a representative sample from the surveys to adequately make
generalizations about the perceptions of doctoral candidates in a Midwestern state regarding critical
writing skills and associated stress.

Validity

In order to establish construct validity of this survey, the variables were aligned with the literature
base of scholarly writing, the stress of doctoral candidates as defined in the literature, and the descriptors
based on the experiences that we had as researchers and professors. Thus, the researchers determined that
the survey instrument measured the theoretical constructs the instrument was designed to measure—
doctoral students’ beliefs regarding critical writing skills and the extent to which professors can alleviate
or contribute to student dissertation anxiety. Since we studied an array of variables that may be associated
with doctoral candidate stress and writing under the multiple constructs of knowledge, skills, and
dispositions, we anticipated a wide degree of variation in the response. Thus, there was a low but
acceptable level of internal consistency (.59 Cronbach alpha) among the variables.

24 Journal of Higher Education Theory and Practice Vol. 15(4) 2015

RESULTS OF THE STUDY

The final reporting of these data is presented as a descriptive narrative. While generalizable findings
may appear, this research is not seeking universals that exist free of context. Timely feedback from
instructors, thinking critically, and having a strong working vocabulary were essential elements for
success indicated by these doctoral candidates as shown in Table 1. We also found that respondents did
not agree that technology resources were essential to their writing acumen. However, candidates highly
valued the supports provided through the university library in securing literature, but seldom used the
intensive writing support offered by the campus writing center.

TABLE 1
KNOWLEDGE, SKILLS AND SUPPORTS NECESSARY FOR

DOCTORAL WRITING SUCCESS

N Mean Std. Deviation
Timely feedback from my instructor helps me to improve my writing. 46 4.46 .75149
Thinking critically helps me to write in a scholarly manner. 46 4.37 .64494
Documents on Demand is an extremely helpful service for doctoral
candidates.

46 4.30 .83983

I have a strong, working vocabulary. 46 4.22 .72765
It is easy to access the necessary resources for my research at the
Library.

46 4.17 .92627

Good lighting is important for me to be able to write. 46 4.12 .82269
My work/study environment must be free of distractions. 46 4.00 .94281
I have a good working knowledge of APA6 style and formatting
requirements.

46 4.00 .47140

I outline my concepts before I begin the writing process. 46 3.83 .87697
My instructors clearly explained the scholarly writing expectations for
assignments.

46 3.76 1.03676

I read regularly for pleasure. 45 3.56 1.27128
I like to play music when I am writing. 46 3.50 1.36219
I need to have beverages and snacks close at hand. 46 3.48 1.02717
Once I learned APA6, writing is a more pleasurable experience. 46 3.33 .81797
APA6 has helped me to be more organized in my writing. 46 3.28 .83435
I do all my pre-writing notes on the computer. 46 3.24 1.28556
Peer editing and review are helpful to me. 46 3.17 1.25263
I had to learn a whole new style of writing. 46 3.09 1.27934
APA6 has helped me to write with more clarity of expression. 46 3.07 .95224
I use graphic organizers to understand concepts prior to my writing. 46 3.02 1.18301
I use Post-It notes regularly to organize my thinking and writing. 46 2.85 1.15407
I Pads and other tablet devices are helpful tools in my pre-writing
process.

45 2.71 1.12052

I use software to create my citations and references. 46 2.59 1.40754
I need to take frequent breaks. 46 2.52 1.11034
It is important to enjoy writing in order to be an effective writer. 46 2.50 1.00554
My Smartphone is a helpful tool in my pre-writing process. 46 2.20 1.00265
My work/study environment must be neat and organized. 46 2.17 1.01772
Note: 5=Strongly agree; 4=Agree; 3=Neither agree or disagree; 2= Disagree; 1=Strongly disagree

Journal of Higher Education Theory and Practice Vol. 15(4) 2015 25

Peer review provided interesting results in this study. When asked whether peer editing and review
are helpful, 45% of the respondents either agreed or strongly agreed. Conversely 26% either disagreed or
strongly disagreed and 24% of the respondents appeared ambivalent regarding peer editing and review.
When asked how often they asked a peer to review and comment on their writing, one third of the
respondents reported almost never, and only one respondent (2.22%) reported almost daily as shown in
Figures 2 and 3.

FIGURE 2
PERCEPTIONS REGARDING THE HELPFULNESS OF PEER REVIEW

FIGURE 3
PEER REVIEW FREQUENCY ANALYSIS

The overall mean score of 2.4 suggests that students seek peer support once in a while, perhaps one
occurrence per week as shown in Table 2. These data generate questions regarding why doctoral students
value peer review, and yet seldom take advantage of this support.

13%

33%

28%

24%

2%

0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35

Strongly Agree

Agree

Neither Agree nor Disagree

Disagree

Strongly Disagree

2.22

13.33

31.11

20

33.33

0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35

Almost daily

Frequently

Sometimes

Once in a while

Almost never

26 Journal of Higher Education Theory and Practice Vol. 15(4) 2015

TABLE 2
DOCTORAL CANDIDATE DISPOSITIONS TOWARD WRITING

N Mean

Std.
Deviation

Do you proofread an assignment thoroughly before submitting? 46 4.26 .71289
Do you schedule a sustained block of uninterrupted time (more than 2

hours) for writing? 46 3.35 1.09985
Do you read passages from your manuscript aloud as part of your

editing? 46 3.17 1.16054
Do you ever exercise “to clear your head” when writing becomes

difficult? 46 2.85 1.41370
Do you ask a peer to review and comment on your writing? 45 2.40 1.19469
Do you ever encounter writer’s block? 46 2.39 .77397
Do you get papers returned with APA style and format errors? 46 2.02 1.10532
Do you get papers returned with basic grammar errors such as tense,

fragments, agreement, pronoun use? 46 1.85 1.01033
Do you ever give up on writing because you find it too difficult? 46 1.59 .77678
Do you get papers returned with spelling errors? 46 1.46 1.02646

Note: 5=Almost Daily; 4=Frequently (4-5x weekly); 3=Sometimes (2-3x weekly); 2=Once in a while (1x
weekly); and 1=Almost never

This finding also corresponded with reports that 54% of the respondents answered N/A when queried

about the helpfulness of the writing center, suggesting that they had no experience or had never taken
advantage of the writing support offered by the university as shown in Figure 3. The writing center offers
support for editing and development of student manuscripts, and a mere 13% of the respondents agreed or
strongly agreed that this was a helpful support. It is interesting to note that 67% of the respondents
indicated that they agree that doctoral level class time should be used to teach writing skills and yet they
do not avail themselves of peer review, nor did they report problematic behaviors in their writing.

When asked to describe the challenges they face in developing their writing expertise, the respondents
consistently identified time and anxiety, over developing writing expertise. However the mean response
indicates that students schedule sustained blocks of uninterrupted time, more than two hours two to three
times weekly as shown in Table 2. In looking at the distribution, it appears that they are prioritizing their
writing time, but students still are distraught over the time requirements of scholarly writing. If these
practitioner students are indeed regularly scheduling more than two hours for writing daily (15%), four to
five times weekly (28%), two to three times weekly (28%), or even once a week (24%), time should not
pose a barrier to the completion of their dissertation.

As self-reported data from a small population, the qualitative results of this study posed interesting
findings that may inform faculty. The qualitative data were organized around four key themes entitled:
time, feedback and clear expectations, anxiety, and writing mechanics.

Time

The first major finding related to effective use of time. According to the data, students are scheduling
time to complete their writing assignments yet they experience high levels of anxiety about the amount of
writing required in their doctoral program. If adequate time is being set aside, the efficient use of this
allocated time is called into question (Belcher, 2009). According to one participant, “I need long chunks
of time in my schedule. I need to immerse my brain in my material.” Students set aside sufficient time to
complete quality assignments yet failed to effectively utilize their time. Stress pertaining to writing and

Journal of Higher Education Theory and Practice Vol. 15(4) 2015 27

project completion lead to anxiety as a stumbling block to writing. As one participant commented, “I fear
not writing well. I struggle with writer’s block.” If students felt more capable to do the writing
assignments by improving their writing and researching skills, anxiety could be lessened and the amount
of time allocated for the projects would be sufficient. As one other participant added, “I am challenged by
organization. I never feel that I know enough about a topic to come up with a decent outline.”

Participants offered suggestions for lessoning anxiety associated with writing and time management.
These suggestions included meeting regularly with their advisor and/or faculty members for regular
feedback, writing strategies and encouragement. Participants in this study recognized the vital roles that
faculty play in developing students’ doctoral level writing skills but also in building their confidence.
Second, participants recommended the inclusion of organization tools to assist them in mapping out a
timeline for completion, developing milestones toward achieving their writing goals, and for learning how
to locate and abstract literature. Third, participants also identified the positive impact of peer editing or
peer writing groups. By receiving additional feedback from their peers, students were able to obtain
another perspective on their writing from a less-intimidating peer.

Feedback and Clear Expectations

The second key theme that emerged from the participants was the need to have clear, faculty
expectations and consistent, constructive feedback. Additionally, the expectations and feedback should be
consistent across faculty. For example, one faculty member would have high expectations for the proper
incorporation of and citation of literature and the next would devalue these elements and emphasize
grammar and organization. The contradictory feedback between instructors was confusing and frustrating
for participants. In the words of one participant, “The expectations for each professor and paper have not
always been clear. It would be beneficial for there to be ground rules within the department for grading
and paper component expectations.” The need for faculty consensus on grammar, citations, organizational
preferences, and other writing elements were frequently sought by participants.

Additionally, participants noted incompatibility between student and faculty expectations on writing
assignments. As one participant stated, “It seems each professor has a different hang up on writing…it
seems a common rubric would help… please stay consistent.” Ironically the quantitative data supported
clearly explained scholarly writing expectations on assignments, while the qualitative data spoke to a
clear disconnect between student and instructor expectations on writing assignments. In an effort to
ensure uniform, realistic expectations that are consistent between faculty and students, detailed rubrics
with specific assessment criteria were recommended.

Anxiety

Another theme that emerged from the qualitative data surrounded student anxieties surrounding the
writing process. At times the emotional response to the assignment would appear as writer’s block,
paralyzing even to the most seasoned writers, leading to a student’s inability to complete quality, timely
assignments. An additional contributing factor to their writing anxiety included receiving participant’s
responses to constructive feedback. Rather than appreciate faculty feedback, participants commented on
how the feedback only contributed to their feelings of writing. One student in particular discussed his
struggle after completing the comprehensive exam process, “After comps, I had an extremely difficult
time getting my confidence back. The first time I had to write I sat at the computer for an hour and
couldn’t get a word down. That had never happened to me before.” Rather than recognize the constructive
nature of faculty feedback, participants felt critiqued and their confidence shaken.

Participants offered strategies for reducing the anxiety associated with writing. These
recommendations included the implementation of peer review or peer writing groups where students
could offer support, encouragement and constructive feedback to one another. By supporting one another
through the obstacles associated with writing, participants recognized that they were not alone in their
challenges and could learn from one another.

Additionally, faculty become critical in building writing skills and self-assurance in students. As per
our participants, faculty should consider providing practice examples of quality writing. Additionally, one

28 Journal of Higher Education Theory and Practice Vol. 15(4) 2015

participant commented on how much she appreciated a faculty member who shared a recent review she
received from a journal. The faculty member received extensive feedback and planned to revise and
resubmit the article. The student commented knowing that a faculty member received feedback on her
writing validated the idea that everyone’s writing could be improved. Students recommended creating a
culture of demystifying the feedback process and welcoming the feedback as a way to improve their
writing rather than the feedback serving as an indication of their lack of understanding of scholarly
writing. Additionally, participants reinforced the need for positive, reinforcing feedback to help offset
some of the harsher constructive feedback. For the doctoral students, knowing what they are doing
correctly was just as important as understanding the improvements which needed to be made by providing
a boost to their confidence level. As one participant stated, “when a faculty member wrote ‘that is
doctoral level writing’ on my paper, I was ecstatic. This one comment really boosted my confidence.”

Writing Mechanics

The fourth theme that emerged from the qualitative literature relates to the overall mechanics of
writing. Students noted that they struggled with the fundamentals of writing including proper citations,
grammar, verb-tense and passive voice. Since participants were practitioner-scholars with full-time jobs,
their work settings did not often require academic type writing. As a result, participants recognized the
need for remediation in the fundamentals of writing, citing and basic literature searches.

Participants recommended faculty administer and review practice tests related to writing basics. They
also endorsed allowing students to rewrite papers or submit drafts prior to the deadline. These
opportunities would allow them to improve their writing with each draft. Respondents suggested current
students use the university writing center, if that center has individuals qualified to assess and provide
feedback for doctoral-level writing. Understanding that the dissertation is a major hurdle to completion,
students recommended course assignments be created to specifically demystify the dissertation process
and allow them to prepare for the dissertation (Cuthbert & Spark, 2008). Students did recommend
additional writing support but most agreed that writing seminars or APA workshops should be optional as
not everyone needed remediation in this area.

IMPLICATIONS

As the findings from this study indicated, practitioner doctoral students struggle with efficiently using
writing time, ways to organize their writing projects, and high levels of emotional stress related to
producing writing for critique. Proactively addressing these challenges and infusing strategies for
overcoming these barriers throughout a doctoral program are vital to student writing success. As early as
program orientation, writing strategies should be taught and then reinforced throughout the doctoral
program. By focusing on the process of writing and critiquing to develop academic writing skills at the
beginning phase of doctoral studies, a culture of improvement is established during the initial
socialization of a doctoral program (Cafarella & Barnett, 2000). Training topics should include
establishing writing timelines, how to search the literature, concept mapping and outlining projects,
proper citation and a review of common grammatical mistakes. As evidenced in our findings, despite
being doctoral students, most students needed intentional instruction and practice related to basic
scholarly writing. By emphasizing quality writing throughout a doctoral program, faculty and students
alike have shared expectations for what it means to be a member of the learning body.

Additionally, peer review can be a helpful tool in doctoral writing, but students must first be educated
on how to provide meaningful and constructive feedback. Peer evaluation helps create a culture of
ongoing feedback and insights about what feedback means, how to emotionally respond, and what to do
with the feedback. Since everyone in the writing group follows the same processes and is then critiqued,
receiving feedback becomes de-stigmatized (Cafarella & Barnett, 2000). This is an important process
which can reduce some of the anxiety associated with writing over time when students frequently take
part in peer review assignments or group writings (Cuthbert & Spark, 2008; Cafarella & Barnett, 2000).

Journal of Higher Education Theory and Practice Vol. 15(4) 2015 29

Lastly, faculty members can help by defining writing expectations and holding individual student
conferences. Departmental consensus on writing expectations and priorities is imperative for student
success in learning the elements of scholarly writing. Clear expectations, detailed rubrics, and specific
feedback (Belcher, 2009) are aids in advancing student’s writing skills. When student’s skills improve
and their efficacy increases, they are more likely to view themselves as capable of completing a
dissertation and have the motivation to complete. If improving student writing and reducing writing
anxiety are departmental priorities, faculty must collectively discuss expectations and implement the
necessary changes. Furthermore, students should be encouraged to meet with course instructors and
advisors to receive feedback on their writing and suggestions for approaching writing assignments. By
regularly discussing writing projects with advisors, students will build writing confidence and improve
their writing skills (Cafarella & Barnett, 2000).

This study was intentionally limited to one doctoral program with students who work full-time as
educational leaders. This study is unique because of the lens of practitioner-scholars and their
perspectives on scholarly writing. Based on the findings from this survey, areas for future research
include identifying ways to embrace the diversity of perspectives brought to doctoral programs by
practitioners while prioritizing doctoral level writing. Moreover, further studies could examine how
institutions can strike a balance between creating an environment built to provide students with academic
success while still providing opportunities for transformative learning. Additionally, we have determined
that additional research is warranted regarding the role of the student in the dissertation writing process.

SUMMARY

The ability to write critically is an essential component to becoming a member of the academic
community and, therefore, doctoral programs conclude with the ultimate writing task; a dissertation. For
many practitioner-students, the writing skills they bring to the classroom are reflections of their
undergraduate courses or workplace experiences and do not meet the expectations of doctoral programs.
This gap between skills and expectations, when not met during the initial stages of a doctoral program,
leads to doubt, anxiety and stress. For practitioner-scholars managing multiple responsibilities on top of
their coursework, the emotional duress can result in late assignments, lower scores, and even
discontinuation of the program. From our research, we have learned there are changes which can be made
by students and faculty to bridge the skills gap, create consistency and transparency, and build a program
focused on scholarly expression.

REFERENCES

Belcher, W.L. (2009). Writing Your Journal Article in 12 weeks: A Guide to academic publishing

success. Los Angeles: Sage.
Boote, D. N., & Beile, P. (2005). Scholars before researchers: on the centrality of the dissertation

literature review in research preparation. Educational Researcher, 34(6), 3-15.
Caffarella, R. S., & Barnett, B. G. (1997). Teaching doctoral students writing: Negotiating the borders

between the world of practice and doctoral study. Paper presented at the Annual Convention of
the University Council for Educational Administration, Orlando, FL.

Caffarella, R. S., & Barnett, B. G. (2000). Teaching doctoral students to become scholarly writers: The
importance of giving and receiving critiques. Studies in Higher Education, 25(1), 39-52.

Casanave, C. P., & Hubbard, P. (1992). The writing assignments and writing problems of doctoral
students: Faculty perceptions, pedagogical issues, and needed research. English for Specific
Purposes, 11(1), 33-49.

Cuthbert, D., & Spark, C. (2008). Getting a GRIP; Examining the outcomes of a pilot program to support
graduate research students in writing for publication. Studies in Higher Education, 33, 77-88.

Ferguson, T. (2009). The ‘write’ skills and more: A thesis writing group for doctoral students. Journal of
Geography in Higher Education, 33(2), 285-297.

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Kamler, B., & Thomson, P. (2006). Helping doctoral students write: Pedagogies for supervision.
London: Routledge

Kamler, B., & Thomson, P. (2008). The failure of dissertation advice books: Toward alternative
pedagogies for doctoral writing. Educational Researcher, 37(8), 507-514.

Kucan, L. (2011). Approximating the practice of writing the dissertation literature review. Literacy
Research and Instruction, 50(3), 229-240.

Labaree, D.F. (2003). The Peculiar problems of preparing educational researchers. Educational
Researcher, 32(4), 13-22.

Lavelle, E., & Bushrow, K. (December, 2007). Writing approaches of graduate students. Educational
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Manalo, E. (2006). The usefulness of an intensive preparatory course for EAL thesis writers. Journal of
Research in International Education, 5(2), 215-230.

Nielsen, S. M., & Rocco, T. S. (2002). Joining the conversation: Graduate students’ perceptions of writing
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Ondrusek, A. L. (2012). What the Research Reveals about Graduate Students’ Writing Skills: A Literature
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Wang, T., & Li, L. Y. (2011). ‘Tell me what to do ‘vs.’ guide me through it’: Feedback experiences of
international doctoral students. Active Learning in Higher Education, 12(2), 101-112.

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Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without
permission.

International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning
Volume 21, Number 1

January – 2020

Doctoral Students’ Learning Success in Online-Based
Leadership Programs: Intersection with Technological
and Relational Factors
HyunKyung Lee¹, Heewon Chang², and Lynette Bryan²
¹Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, Seoul, Korea, ²Eastern University, PA, USA

Abstract
This study examines how technological and relational factors independently and interactively predict the
perceived learning success of doctoral students enrolled in online-based leadership programs offered in the
United States. The 73-item Online Learning Success Scale (OLSS) was constructed, based on existing
instruments, and administered online to collect self-reported data on three primary variables: student
learning success (SLS), relational factors (RF), and technological factors (TF). The SLS variable focuses on
the gain of knowledge and skills, persistence, and self-efficacy; the RF on the student-student relationship,
the student-faculty relationship, and the student-non-teaching staff relationship; and the TF on the ease of
use, flexibility, and usefulness. In total, 210 student responses from 26 online-based leadership doctoral
programs in the United States were used in the final analysis. The results demonstrate that RF and TF
separately and together predict SLS. A multiple regression analysis indicates that, while all dimensions of
TF and RF are significant predictors of SLS, the strongest predictor of SLS is the student-faculty
relationship. This study suggests that building relationships with faculty and peers is critical to leadership
doctoral students’ learning success, even in online-based programs that offer effective technological support.

Keywords: online education, online learning success, leadership doctoral program, technological factors,
relational factors

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Introduction
Student learning success (SLS) is everyone’s business in higher education. Learning success among doctoral
students in growing online programs is a particular concern for three reasons. First, doctoral student
completion, an indicator of learning success, is known to be at a lower rate than other educational endeavors.
The PhD Completion Project evaluated doctoral completion rates and attrition patterns across major
universities in the United States and Canada and found that only 56.6% of students completed their
programs with the lowest completion rates occurring in the social sciences and humanities (Sowell, Zhang,
Redd, & King, 2008). Considering that each individual and institution embarking on the PhD journey is
investing significant time, money, and intellectual resources, unsuccessful doctoral learning means a
substantial waste of resources to the students themselves, their families, the faculty and staff of the
institutions, and the intellectual community as a whole.

Second, online degree-granting programs, particularly at the graduate level, are growing significantly in the
United States. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (2018), 31.7% of students enrolled
in degree-granting postsecondary institutions in 2016 were engaged in distance or online education, either
partially or fully. For graduate students, this percentage increased to 36.8%. In 2017, 239 online leadership
doctoral programs were offered in the United States, according to our website search of all 50 state
departments of education. Online programs provide convenience to graduate students who, while
maintaining their work responsibilities, learn anywhere at any time through technology-facilitated tools
such as discussion boards, web conferencing, blogging, and social networks (Alammary, Sheard, & Carbone,
2014; Hill, 2012). Online-based education is regarded as the future of higher education, and an increasing
number of institutions include online programs in their long-term strategic planning (Allen, Seaman,
Poulin, & Straut, 2016; Bayne, Gallagher, & Lamb, 2014). Despite the fact that online-based learning creates
different challenges to the learning success of students than face-to-face learning (Kennedy, Terrell, & Lohle,
2015; Lambie, Hayes, Griffith, Limberg, & Mullen, 2014; Rockinson-Szapkiw, Wendt, Whighting, & Nisbet,
2016), the impact of technology on doctoral SLS has not been fully explored.

Third, although the modality of instruction changes, student learning needs based on relationships do not
disappear even in online environments. For example, social support from family, friends, and peers has a
positive impact on academic self-regulation (Akyol & Garrison, 2011; Williams, Wall, & Fish, 2019) and
student learning even in technology-facilitated environments (Gardner, 2009; Garrison, 2007; Lee, 2014).
Students still seek timely feedback, encouragement, and openness as they explore new concepts through
productive online dialogue with peers and instructors (Bolliger & Halupa, 2012; Kumar, 2014). In addition,
interactions with staff are indicators of service quality and have a direct impact on student loyalty and
satisfaction (Martínez-Argüelles & Batalla-Busquets, 2016; Ravindran & Kalpana, 2012).

Considering these problems, this study intends to explore how technological factors (TF) and relational
factors (RF) predict doctoral SLS in U.S. online-based leadership programs. The purpose of this study is
explored with the following research questions:

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1. How do technological factors and relational factors separately and interactively predict doctoral
student learning success in online-based leadership programs?

2. Which subfactors of the technological and relational factors are the best predictors of doctoral
student learning success in online-based leadership programs?

Theoretical Framework
Three constructs—technological factors (TF), relational factors (RF), and student learning success (SLS)—
make up the theoretical framework of this study. The relationship among these constructs is represented as
follows:

Figure 1. Relationship among the three constructs of this study.

Technological Factors
Colleges and universities use technology at various degrees to create online learning environments. Some
instruction is delivered fully online, heavily relying on embedded technological features, while others use
technology to complement face-to-face instruction. Despite some variations, the common thread is a focus
on technology as an integral means of providing instruction. A review of the literature highlights three
aspects of technology-facilitated instruction: flexibility, usefulness, and ease of use (Arbaugh, 2000; Bures,
Abrami, & Amundsen, 2000; Hart, 2012).

Flexibility, the first technological subfactor, allows students to pursue degrees across geographical, cultural,
professional, and generational borders (Bolliger & Halupa, 2012; Sampson, Leonard, Ballenger, & Coleman,
2010). Although doctoral students in online-based programs require discipline and independence to be
academically successful, these potential challenges are outweighed by the convenience of utilizing
technology to access quality conversations with professors and peers from a distance, while balancing work
obligations and family responsibilities with a flexible schedule of academics (Erichsen, Bolliger, & Halupa,
2014; Garrison, 2007). Arbaugh (2000) argued that online learning transcending time and location

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64

restriction would enable participants to reach levels of relational intimacy comparable to face-to-face
groups, albeit over a longer time period.

Usefulness, the second technological subfactor, refers to the degree to which the technology can enrich and
enhance the learning experience (Davis, 1989). Both usefulness and accessibility contribute to the
effectiveness of technology (Edmunds, Thorpe, & Conole, 2012; Joo, Lim, & Kim, 2011). A study by
Edmunds, Thorpe, and Conole (2012) of 421 university students in the United Kingdom found that the
perceived usefulness of technology predicted the actual use of technology for work, school, and social
reasons. Arbaugh’s (2000) student satisfaction study discovered that graduate management education
students who believed technology was valuable and perceived it to be easy to use were more likely to engage
in technology for their degree work.

Ease of use, the third technological subfactor, refers to the degree to which technology can be used without
undue effort or distraction (Davis, 1989). Ease of use was determined as a critical element affecting student
acceptance of technology. A study of technology as a method of course delivery in a study of 136 students in
a full-time online-based college program found that student attitude was the most important determinant
of the acceptance of technology as a learning tool (Cheung & Vogel, 2013). A positive mindset about
technology as a flexible, valuable, and easy-to-use resource motivates toward intentional use of as a means
of developing relationships (Davis, 1989; Edmunds et al., 2012; Joo et al., 2011).

Relational Factors
Educational theorists have historically pointed to the integration of academics with social involvement and
engagement as critical to student retention up to and including graduation (Tinto, 1999). The community
of inquiry framework emphasizes the importance of social presence even when technology is used for
learning. It is argued that the social, cognitive, and teaching presence interactively create deep meaning in
an academic environment that is mediated by technology (Akyol & Garrison, 2011; Arbaugh et al., 2008;
Garrison, 2007; Lai, 2015; Shea & Bidjerano, 2009). The online delivery of instruction does not negate the
need for building a sense of school community to increase student satisfaction and retention, but simply
changes the methods used to interact (Roach & Lemasters, 2006). As RF, three types of relationships were
examined for this study: student-student, student-faculty, and student-non-teaching staff.

Student-student interaction, the first relational subfactor, is considered critical to the individual cognitive
development of students in an online higher education environment according to Shea and Bidjerano
(2009). A study of graduates’ reflections on an online-based doctorate in educational technology
determined that well-selected readings, open-ended questions, and guided conversations were influential
in promoting interaction between students and critical thinking about the subject matter (Fuller, Risner,
Lowder, Hart, & Bachenheimer, 2014). A quantitative content analysis of discussion board messages from
two groups of college students found that the online discussion board was an effective means of developing
community, which enabled individual members to reason through the topics and construct thought (Lee,
2014).

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65

Student-faculty interaction, the second relational subfactor, has been determined to be the most critical
aspect of student satisfaction. The qualities being sought after by the students included timely feedback and
responsiveness to questions, attentiveness, encouragement, and sincerity (Bolliger & Halupa, 2012). A
study of second-year doctoral students found that 90% of the students credited the instructors for
facilitating productive dialogue and providing timely feedback that encouraged the exploration of new
concepts (Kumar, 2014). In addition, the student-faculty interaction also influences the future enrollment
of the program because their satisfaction is translated into their willingness to recommend the program to
others (Martínez-Argüelles & Batalla-Busquets, 2016).

The last relational subfactor, student to non-teaching staff, was also found to be as important to overall
satisfaction within online-based higher education programs. Contact personnel in departments such as
registration and records are an influencing consideration in student evaluation of the service quality of the
university. This satisfaction in service quality leads to the retention and success of students (Ravindran &
Kalpana, 2012; Sohail & Shaikh, 2004).

Student Learning Success
The success of the doctoral student is typically culminated by the completion of the dissertation and the
attainment of the doctoral degree. However, a deeper exploration of student success addresses academic
achievement; engagement in educationally purposeful activities; satisfaction; acquisition of desired
knowledge, skills, and competencies; persistence; attainment of educational objectives; and post-college
performance (Im & Kang, 2019; Kuh, Kinzie, Schuh, & Whitt, 2010). While educational “success” has been
broadly and often studied, York, Gibson, and Rankin (2015) acknowledged a lack of comprehensive
instrumentation for measuring success outside of academic achievements such as grades, GPA, and degree
attainment. This study created a tool to focus on three specific indicators to predict SLS, or perceived
success, in doctoral endeavors by focusing on the gain of knowledge and skills, self-efficacy, and persistence.
All of these are shown to lead to degree completion, which is the ultimate measure of student success
(Gardner, 2009; Ivankova & Stick, 2007; Lambie et al., 2014).

Beyond the earned degree, success for doctoral programs is defined as the gain of knowledge and skills
which will allow the student to think critically and creatively (Gardner, 2009). A survey of 131 graduate
students found that students who actively engaged in the online learning community both socially and
cognitively had a greater sense of perceived scholarship that contributed to their course success (Rockinson-
Szapkiw et al., 2016). For doctoral students, active engagement in learning, resulting in the perceived gain
of knowledge and skills, is considered critical to developing self-efficacy.

Successful completers of doctoral programs are likely to be students who believe in their own ability to
conduct empirical research and successfully write research findings. An exploratory investigation of PhD
education students found the self-efficacy of students increased with the completion of classes and
involvement in research opportunities (Lambie et al., 2014). Bandura (1997) equates self-efficacy with a
person’s choices, goals, expended effort, and willingness to persist in the face of adversity. Self-efficacy can
cause students to either obstruct their own progress through self-destructive stress or raise a student above

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the academic demands to reach accomplishments beyond what they thought they could do (Bures et al.,
2000; Lee & Mao, 2016).

Persistence, leading to degree completion, is considered a measure of institutional and programmatic
success. The rate of doctoral students who fail to earn their PhDs is approximately 50% in the social science,
humanities, and educational arenas. This number goes 10% to 15% higher for students enrolled in
technology-based programs (Kennedy et al., 2015). In an online-based learning environment, mentoring
and faculty support allow the doctoral student to persist in independently conducting, analyzing, and
presenting research in completion of the doctoral program (Ampaw & Jaeger, 2012; Erichsen et al., 2014).

In summary, the theoretical framework of this study connects three constructs: TF, RF, and SLS. The first
construct, TF, which serves as an independent variable, consists of three subfactors: flexibility, usefulness,
and ease of use. The second construct, RF, also serves as an independent variable and focuses on student-
student, student-faculty, and student-non-teaching staff relationship. Finally, the construct of SLS, the
dependent variable, consists of three subfactors: gain of knowledge and skills, successful completion, and
persistence. The relationship between this dependent variable of SLS and two independent variables—TF
and RF—was established based on the studies discussed in this section.

Methods
This correlational study engaged 210 doctoral students from 26 online-based leadership doctoral programs
in the United States. This section describes the context, participants, instruments, and data collection and
analysis in detail.

Context and Participants
This study involved doctoral students from programs that offer a PhD, EdD, or PsyD with “leadership” in
their degree titles and that deliver instruction in fully or partially online environments. All leadership
doctoral programs in U.S. higher education institutions were identified, drawing upon doctoral program
directories, compiled and shared by individual leadership scholars or organizations, and websites of all 50
state higher education agencies. Website information on each program was examined to determine if
learning was delivered online. If not readily identified, further investigation was done, including an
examination of course catalogs or schedules. It must be recognized that, while extensive, the Web search
was only as accurate as the information provided on the website of each university. The demographics of
the respondents are summarized in Table 1.

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Table 1

Participant Demographics (N = 210)

Category Characteristic Frequency (%)
Gender Male 70 (33)

Female 140 (67)

Age 20-29 15 (7)
30-39 70 (33)
40-49 64 (31)
50-59 53 (25)
60+ 8 (4)

Status First year 54 (26)

Midway through coursework 70 (33)
Dissertation phase 68 (32)
Dissertation completed 18 (9)

Degree PhD 36 (17)

EdD 169 (81)
PsyD 5 (2)

Discipline Education 183 (87)
Business/Management 15 (7)
Other leadership 12 (6)

Delivery 100% online 54 (26)
Blended instruction: 50% or more online 96 (46)
Primarily face-to-face classroom instruction 57 (27)
Other 3 (1)

Instruments
The “Online Learning Success Scale (OLSS)” was constructed, drawing upon nine existing scales listed in
the “References” column in Table 2. OLSS measures three major variables: technological factors, relational
factors, and student learning success with three subfactors for each variable (see the “Factors” and
“Subfactors” columns in Table 2). Some conceptual categories and questions were modified to measure the
constructs intended for the study and doctoral leadership contexts. Cronbach’s alpha was used to measure
the reliability of each variable of the final OLSS (see the “Reliability Coefficients” column in Table 2). The
reliability values of the factors ranged from .936 to .949, and those of the subfactors ranged from .857
to .967.

The first independent variable, TF, consists of three subfactors: (a) usefulness, (b) flexibility, and (c) ease
of use. “Usefulness” refers to the positive impact of the online delivery system on students’ learning and
doctoral experience; “flexibility” to the advantages of using a technological tool to overcome time and
geographic limitations; and “ease of use” to the minimal effort involved in engaging within an online
platform. The second independent variable, RF, consists of three subfactors: (a) student-student

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68

relationship, (b) student-faculty relationship, and (c) student-non-teaching staff relationship. “Student-
student relationship” refers to students’ connectedness with their peers and the feeling of community within
their leadership program; “student-faculty” to students’ connectedness and ability to communicate with
faculty; and “student-non-teaching staff relationship” to students’ connectedness with and perceived
helpfulness of the non-teaching staff.

The dependent variable, SLS, consists of three subfactors, (a) gain of knowledge and skills, (b) self-efficacy,
and (c) persistence. “Gain of knowledge and skills” refers to students’ perceived gain of knowledge and skills
pertaining to leadership; “self-efficacy” to their ability to apply their knowledge and skills to their leadership
practice and to conduct original research; and “persistence” to their commitment to finishing the program
in their current institution.

Table 2

Online Learning Success Scale Information and Reliability Coefficients

Constructs Subfactors References No. of
items

Reliability
coefficients

Technological
Factors (TF)

.949

Usefulness
(TF_US)

Student satisfaction scale (Arbaugh,
2000)

6 .895

Flexibility
(TF_FL)

Student satisfaction scale (Arbaugh,
2000)

6 .887

Ease of Use
(TF_EU)

Student satisfaction with e-learning
instrument (Bures et al., 2000)

10 .901

Relational
Factors (RF)

.948

Student-Student
(RF_SS)

Classroom community scale (Rovai,
2002); Community of inquiry (Akyol &
Garrison, 2011)

11 .967

Student-Faculty
(RF_SF)

Student-faculty communication
questionnaire (Liu, Rau, & Schulz,
2014); Six elements of measuring
relationships (Cho & Auger, 2013)

8 .892

Student-Non-
Teaching Staff
(RF_SN)

Six elements of measuring relationships
(Cho & Auger, 2013)

8 .966

Student Learning
Success (SLS)

.936

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Gain of Knowledge
and Skills
(SLS_KS)

Alavi’s perceived student learning scale
(Alavi, 1994; Williams, Duray, & Reddy,
2006)

6 .857

Self-Efficacy
(SLS_SE)

Foundation practice self-efficacy scale
(Holden, Anastas, & Meenaghan, 2003)

7 .869

Persistence
(SLS_PE)

College persistence questionnaire
(Davidson, Beck, & Milligan, 2009)

11 .901

Data Collection and Analyses
The OLSS was transposed in Qualtrics, an online survey software for collecting data. An introduction,
containing the link to the survey, was sent via email to a comprehensive list of 239 online-based leadership
doctoral program directors in three rounds of distribution with one reminder for each round. Program
directors who accepted the participation invitation sent the survey link to their students and recent
graduates. Directors who did not act on our invitation either did not communicate with the researchers at
all or cited various reasons for their decline, such as institution IRB rules, too many study requests, program
not beginning until the next year, lack of program participation, and lack of online components in the
program.

Initially, 276 respondents participated in the survey. Two respondents did not consent to participate and
39 indicated that they were not currently enrolled in a doctoral leadership program. Of the remaining
responses, 210 fully completed responses from 26 programs were included in the final analysis. Participants
responded to the survey statements using a 5-point Likert scale with the rating of 5 meaning strong
agreement with the statement. Examples of survey statements include: “I can apply critical thinking skills
within the context of leadership practice”; “Small group online activities improve the quality of my
education in the doctoral program”; “Getting to know the other students gave me a sense of belonging in
the doctoral program.”

Descriptive statistics were applied for the initial analysis of three variables: TF, RF, and SLS. The normality
of the data used in the analysis was confirmed, and Pearson correlation coefficients, which are used when
the data are parametric and normally distributed, were analyzed to examine the relationship among these
variables. A multiple linear regression analysis was also used to identify the effects of TF and RF on SLS in
online-based doctoral leadership programs. The statistical analysis of data collected from the study was
conducted with Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) 21.0 program.

Results
This section reports three types of results: descriptive statistics, predictability of TF and RF on SLS, and
effects of technological and relational subfactors on SLS.

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Descriptive Statistics
Various subdivisions of 210 responses to the survey represent slightly different pictures of SLS, RF, and TF.
Table 3 provides means and standard deviations of these three variables by gender, age, instruction delivery
model, and students’ status; however, no statistical significance could be tested due to significantly unequal
sizes of subdivisions.

Although there were no significant mean differences in gender, age, delivery model, and students’ status,
the mean scores of the TF differ by delivery models: 100% online model (4.01), blended model (3.86), and
primarily face-to-face (3.42). In terms of RF, the mean score of 100% online students was 3.87, lower than
the mean score of 4.21 of respondents in blended and face-to-face programs. The similar importance of the
RF for respondents in blended and face-to-face programs was reinforced through text answers provided in
the survey.

Table 3

Means and Standard Deviations of the Three Variables (SLS, TF, and RF)

Group Characteristic Frequency (%)
SLS TF RF

Mean SD Mean SD Mean SD
Gender Male 70 (33.3) 4.40 .48 3.77 .79 4.21 .58

Female 140 (66.7) 4.36 .45 3.79 .66 4.08 .56

Age 20-29 15 (7.1) 4.35 .41 3.64 .70 3.91 .47

30-39 70 (33.3) 4.26 .49 3.67 .74 4.00 .56

40-49 64 (30.5) 4.46 .44 3.86 .66 4.25 .58

50-59 53 (25.2) 4.40 .45 3.80 .71 4.16 .56

60+ 8 (3.8) 4.54 .38 4.26 .49 4.35 .43

Delivery
model

100% online 54 (25.7) 4.28 .48 4.01 .63 3.87 .59

Blended 96 (45.7) 4.39 .45 3.86 .62 4.21 .54
Primarily face-
to-face

57 (27.1) 4.43 .45 3.42 .77 4.21 .54

Other 3 (1.4) 4.48 .34 3.83 .64 4.23 .27

Status in
coursework

First year 54 (25.7) 4.24 .48 3.69 .70 4.14 .55
Mid-
coursework

70 (33.3) 4.38 .43 3.62 .73 4.11 .54

Dissertation
phase

68 (32.4) 4.44 .48 3.92 .66 4.06 .62

Dissertation
completed

18 (8.6) 4.51 .34 4.17 .52 4.17 .48

Note. SLS (student learning success), TF (technological factor), RF (relational factor).

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71

To investigate the relationships among TF, RF, and SLS, Pearson’s correlation coefficients were calculated.
Table 4 presents the correlation coefficients for the subvariables of the three main variables: i.e., TF, RF, and
SLS. The correlational results from the survey indicated that all subfactors in SLS were significantly
correlated with all subfactors of both TF and RF in a positive direction except for two subvariables. Namely,
correlations between the flexibility of TF and the student-student relationship of RF (r = .052) and between
the flexibility of TF and the student-faculty relationship of RF (r = .13) were not statistically significant.
Moreover, stronger correlations were found between RF and SLS compared to between TF and SLS. The most
significant positive correlation was noted between the persistence of SLS and the student-faculty relationship
of RF (r = .777, p <. 01).

Table 4

Correlations of the Three Variables (SLS, TF, and RF)

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

SLS_KS 1 1

SLS_SE 2 .708** 1

SLS_PE 3 .641** .573** 1

TF_US 4 .297** .341** .367** 1

TF_FL 5 .215** .237* .168* .619** 1

TF_EU 6 .282** .321** .259** .784** .730** 1

RF_SS 7 .413** .355** .566** .195** 0.052 .221** 1

RF_SF 8 .438** .391** .777** .295** 0.13 .199** .478** 1

RF_SN 9 .319** .269** .470** .339** .168* .280** .273** .451** 1

M 4.36 4.37 4.39 3.68 3.97 3.69 4.23 4.11 4.02

SD .53 .48 .56 .78 .84 .72 .74 .67 .78

Note. SLS (student learning success), TF (technological factors), RF (relational factors), KS (gain of knowledge and

skills), SE (self-efficacy), PE (persistence), US (usefulness), FL (flexibility), EU (ease of use), SS (student-student), SF

(student-faculty), SN (student-non-teaching staff).

*p < .05, **p < .01

The significant correlations among the variables do not mean that all the variables have casual relationships,
and thus it is necessary to undertake regression analysis to examine the relationships among the variables.

Predictability of Technological and Relational Factors on Student Learning Success
This section presents the results of Research Question 1: How do technological factors and relational factors
separately and interactively predict doctoral student learning success in online-based leadership programs?
Multiple regression analysis was conducted to determine if technological and relational factors affected
student learning success significantly in terms of gain of knowledge and skills, self-efficacy, and persistence.

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According to the results of the multiple regression analysis, TF and RF together significantly predicted SLS
(R2 =.465, F = 89.903, p = .000). Moreover, TF and RF respectively affected SLS significantly. RF (t =
11.382, p = .000) especially affected SLS more significantly than TF (t = 3.209, p = .002). In addition, if a
variance inflation factor (VIF) is 10 or more, it is assumed that there is a multicollinearity (Kutner,
Nachtsheim, & Neter, 2004), and thus there is no multicollinearity between TF and RF (VIF < 10; see Table
5).

Table 5

Effects of Technological and Relational Factors on Student Learning Success

Independent
variables

Unstandardized
coefficient

Standardized
coefficient t p VIF

B Std. error β
(Constant) 1.924 .187

10.271 .000

Technological factors
(TF)

.112 .035 .172 3.209** .002 1.106

Relational factors
(RF)

.491 .043 .609 11.382*** .000 1.106

F 89.903***

R2(adj. R2) .465(.460)

**p < .01, ***p < .001

Effects of Technological and Relational Subfactors on Student Learning Success
This section reports on the results in response to Research Question 2: Which subfactors of the
technological and relational factors are the best predictors of doctoral student learning success in online-
based leadership programs? To identify which subfactors of the technological and relational factors were
the best predictors of student learning success, another multiple regression analysis was performed.

According to the results of the multiple regression analysis, all the subfactors of both TF and RF predicted
SLS significantly (R2 =.500, F = 33.867, p = .000). However, the technological subfactors—usefulness,
flexibility, and ease of use—and one relational subfactor between the student and the non-teaching staff
separately did not predict SLS. Only two of the relational subfactors, namely student-student relationship
(t = 4.436, p = .000) and student-faculty relationship (t = 6.591, p = .000), were statistically significant
regarding the effects on SLS. The student-faculty relationship particularly was the best predictor of SLS (t
= 6.591, p = .000). There is no multicollinearity between the subfactors of the TF and the RF (VIF < 10; see
Table 6).

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Table 6

Effects of Subfactors of Both Technological and Relational Factors on Student Learning Success

Independent variables

Unstandardized
coefficient

Standardized
coefficient

t p VIF

B
Std.

Error
β

(Constant)

1.871 .188

9.972 .000

Technological
factors (TF)

Usefulness
(TF_US)

.066 .048 .114 1.373 .171 2.791

Flexibility
(TF_FL)

.024 .040 .044 .602 .548 2.198

Ease of Use
(TF_EU)

.034 .060 .053 .566 .572 3.611

Relational
factors (RF)

Student-
Student
(RF_SS)

.160 .036 .258 4.436*** .000 1.376

Student-
Faculty
(RF_SF)

.278 .042 .409 6.591*** .000 1.562

Student- .054 .034 .093 1.607 .110 1.356
Non-
teaching Staff
(RF_SN)

F

33.867***

R2(adj. R2) .500(.485)

***p < .001

Discussion and Conclusion
Faced with the increasing importance of distance learning as a preferred means of obtaining a degree at the
graduate levels, including the doctoral level (National Center for Education Statistics, 2018), all higher
education institutions and programs must consider the impact of technology and relationships, individually
and interactively, within the online environment. The intent of this study was to determine how TF and RF
related to the SLS of students engaged in the U.S. doctoral leadership programs.

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An analysis of the data collected from this study found that significant correlations exist, which confirms
the importance of both technology and human relationships in the learning success of doctoral students in
online-based learning environments. Persistence, students’ determination to continue to completion, is
most significantly related to RF for respondents from blended or 100% online programs. This result
corresponds with similar studies that have established connectedness and social integration as critical to
the likelihood of doctoral students persisting within the coursework and candidacy stages of the program
(Kennedy et al., 2015; Martínez-Argüelles & Batalla-Busquets, 2016; Rockinson-Szapkiw et al., 2016).

Another finding indicates that all three RF (student-student, student-faculty, and student-non-teaching
staff) were collectively and separately better predictors than the TF for doctoral SLS. Whether the success
is defined as a gain of knowledge and skills, self-efficacy, or persistence, these results concur with similar
studies (Kennedy et al., 2015; Lambie et al., 2014; Rockinson-Szapkiw et al., 2016). Interviews with doctoral
students at a research-intensive university in New Zealand found that technology was an effective means of
facilitating the development of learning communities to construct meaningful knowledge and share
individual experiences (Lai, 2015).

Technology is important, but it seems to be a means to the end of student learning, secondary to
relationships. Our study found that the student-faculty relationship was the subfactor with the strongest
predicting power to SLS. The instructor is the pivotal participant in the online learning experience, helping
to facilitate productive dialogue, encouraging the exploration of new concepts, and providing timely
feedback (Augustsson & Jaldemark, 2013; Kumar, 2014). An integrated literature review by Hart (2012)
identified connectedness, belonging, and support as important factors that went beyond the content to
motivating students to overcome hardships and persist in the online-based environment. A grounded
theory study of students in a limited-residency program found that the greatest factor for not completing
the doctoral work, especially in the dissertation phase, was a lack of supportive interaction (Kennedy et al.,
2015).

This is not to negate the correlation of TF with student success. Of the three subfactors of SLS, self-efficacy
correlated most significantly with the TF of blended or online learning. One explanation is that this study
surveyed doctoral students who have already experienced academic success. A meta-analysis of within-
person self-efficacy found that self-efficacy was a product of past performance rather than a predictor of
future performance (Sitzmann & Yeo, 2013). The self-efficacy of doctoral students then increases as courses
are completed and aligned with research opportunities (Lambie et al., 2014). The very definition of self-
efficacy involves the ability of an individual to identify the contexts for which the individual has the skills
and ability to succeed (Celik & Yesilyurt, 2013). There is an integration of knowledge and skills that doctoral
leadership programs should be aware of to create successful technology-based learning opportunities that
are associated with increased self-efficacy.

In summary, the results from this study lead to a conclusion that both TF and RF predict learning success
as perceived by students enrolled in online-based doctoral leadership programs in the United States. The
study found that RF predict SLS better than TF, particularly the student-faculty relationship. Distance
education programs must purposefully develop support systems, such as the cohort model, that encourage

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connectedness and social integration (Kennedy et al., 2015; Williams et al., 2019). Administrators, faculty,
and staff of distance education programs must be prepared to facilitate communication using technology,
and understand the importance of timely responses to students at all phases of the doctoral program
(Gardner, 2009; Rockinson-Szapkiw et al., 2016).

This study has several limitations that might have affected the findings. Regarding the program and
participant selection, the study had limited data caused by several uncontrollable conditions. Information
on the individual institution websites was often incomplete or outdated, which made it difficult to accurately
determine the online nature of the programs. This difficulty was compounded by the whole spectrum of
terms that can be used that describe an online program (Anohina, 2005). In addition, a good number of
eligible programs or participants were inaccessible due to their institutional or programmatic constraints
and unresponsiveness of directors or student participants.

While this study found no difference by gender, status, or age, there was a gender imbalance with two-thirds
of the respondents being female. A review of the literature finds mixed results with regards to gender and
relational preference. A study of 12 online-based graduate courses found that female students felt more
connected with their peers and perceived that they learned more than their male counterparts in the courses,
while a study of students in Taiwan found that the differences were related to status in the college program
(Hung, Chou, Chen, & Own, 2010; Rovai & Baker, 2005). Other studies, like this one, found no differences
in the success or satisfaction of students by gender, status, or age (Cho & Kim, 2013; Martin, 2005). Lastly,
this study engaged only programs based in the United States, creating an issue of the difficulty of
generalization. However, similar studies in different contexts also have concluded that relationships are the
critical factor in the success of students in the online-based educational environment (Fuller et al., 2014;
Lai, 2015; Roach & Lemasters, 2006; Sohail & Shaikh, 2004).

Based on these limitations, further study is recommended to engage a more balanced set of participants by
gender, age, and degree type. Secondly, further study could expand the research beyond the leadership
discipline or the U.S. context, between disciplines, or among different contexts. Thirdly, qualitative studies
around online doctoral leadership programs could provide a holistic understanding of programs and
doctoral SLS by gaining multiple perspectives from program directors, faculty, students, and alumni beyond
pre-selected variables such as TF and RF.

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© Athabasca University. Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

Directions:

Write a paper (1,000-1,250 words) that synthesizes the Lindsay (2015); Lee, Chang, and Bryan (2020); and Klocko, Marshal, and Davidson (2015) articles. Your paper should include the following:

APA FORMAT STYLE

Introduction

An introduction that introduces and provides context for the topic. This includes presenting a clear thesis statement.

1. Identification of and support for three themes with evidence from each article. Synthesize your discussion of the topic to support your thesis.

THREE SEPARATE THEMES

THEME 1- WRITING

(READ ALL THREE ARTICLES AND FIND EVERYTHING FOCUSING ON HOW WRITING SKILLS EFFECT THE SKILLS OF A RESEARCHER)

THEME 2- SUCCESS

(READ ALL THREE ARTICLES AND FIND EVERYTHING FOCUSING ON HOW SUCCESS IN THE DOCTORAL PROGRAM CAN EFFECT THE SKILLS OF A RESEARCHER)

THEME 3- EXPECTATIONS

(READ ALL THREE ARTICLES AND FIND EVERYTHING FOCUSING ON HOW ATTRITION AND HAVING TOO HIGH OF EXPECTATIONS CAN CAUSE A DOCTORAL STUDENT TO FAIL AND CAN EFFECT THE SKILLS OF A RESEARCHER)

Conclusion

A conclusion that demonstrates support of your thesis statement, briefly summarizes the main points from your three themes,

Future Recommendations

makes recommendations for future research on the topic.

Introduction

An introduction is thoroughly presented and vividly contextualizes the topic.

Support of Common Themes

Support of common themes is thoroughly presented with rich detail

Discussion of Conclusions

A discussion of the conclusions is thoroughly presented including an overall summary of themes found in the articles and is strongly connected to the thesis statement.

Synthesis and Argument

Synthesis of source information is present and scholarly. Argument is clear and convincing, presenting a persuasive claim in a distinctive and compelling manner. All sources are authoritative.

These Development and Purpose

Thesis and/or main claim are clear and comprehensive; the essence of the paper is contained within the thesis.

Mechanics of Writing and Grammer

Writer is clearly in command of standard, written, academic English.

APA format

The document is correctly formatted. In-text citations and a reference page are complete and correct. The documentation of cited sources is free of error.

Running head: SYNTHESIS PAPER 1

3

ENHANCED SYNTHSIS PAPER

This Is Your Title: It Should Be Descriptive but Succinct

Your Name

Grand Canyon University

RES 820A: The Literature Landscape: Organizational Leadership

Dr. Renee Winter

Date

Synthesis Paper

Student A. Sample

Grand Canyon University: LDR 802

<Date>
<Note: Even though APA does not require the
date on a title page, it is a requirement for GCU papers.>

Title Comment by Renee Winter: Put a title here. Remember this is an example template. You should be filling in your information and content.

The title does not receive bold font, but the rest of the headings do. Provide an introduction that includes a brief description of each article and its purpose (Remember do not include article titles. Use author and publication year of the articles with the studies purpose statements). Identify the three themes that emerged from your reading and how they will be discussed in the paper. Conclude the introduction with your thesis statement. Remember the synthesis paper is a minimum of 1000 words.

Research
Theme One Comment by Renee Winter: Please use the theme chosen as the header title. Please do not use Theme One, Theme Two, or Theme Three as the headers. I provided an example.

Support your identified theme with evidence from each article and provide analysis of these findings to strengthen your narrative.Introduce the topic theme with a sentence for each section prior to jumping into the discussion. For example, the following section presents a discussion of (insert identified theme) presented in each of the studies considered within this synthesis. Support your discussion of key ideas written in your voice using the resources as supporting in-text citations. Please use third person narrative and APA 7th edition formatting.

Theme Two Comment by Renee Winter: State the theme discussing.

Introduce the topic theme with a sentence for each section prior to jumping into the discussion. For example, the following section presents a discussion of (insert identified theme) presented in each of the studies considered within this synthesis. Support your discussion of key ideas written in your voice using the resources as supporting in-text citations. Please use third person narrative and APA 7th edition formatting. Support your identified theme with evidence from each article and provide analysis of these findings to strengthen your narrative.

Theme Three

Introduce the topic theme with a sentence for each section prior to jumping into the discussion. For example, the following section presents a discussion of (insert identified theme) presented in each of the studies considered within this synthesis. Support your discussion of key ideas written in your voice using the resources as supporting in-text citations. Please use third person narrative and APA 7th edition formatting.

Support your identified theme with evidence from each article and provide analysis of these findings to strengthen your narrative.

Conclusion

Provide a conclusions that can be drawn can be drawn when the articles are taken together as a single entity. What is the overall message of the group of articles? Include citations within your concluding paragraph to make a strong connection to the research presented above. Include future recommendations for further studies adding to the current research.

The reference list should appear at the end of a paper (see the next page). It provides the information necessary for a reader to locate and retrieve any source you cite in the body of the paper. Each source you cite in the paper must appear in your reference list; likewise, each entry in the reference list must be cited in your text. A sample reference page is included below; this page includes examples of how to format different reference types (e.g., books, journal articles, information from a website). The examples on the following page include examples taken directly from the APA manual. The word Reference does not receive bold font.

References

American Psychological Association. (2010). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

Daresh, J. C. (2004). Beginning the assistant principalship: A practical guide for new school administrators. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Herbst-Damm, K. L., & Kulik, J. A. (2005). Volunteer support, marital status, and the survival times of terminally ill patients. Health Psychology, 24, 225-229. doi:10.1037/0278-6133.24.2.225

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. (2003). Managing asthma: A guide for schools (NIH Publication No. 02-2650). Retrieved from http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/
health/prof/asthma/asth_sch.pdf

1

4

Skills

of the Researcher Comment by Jake: Hello! I’m Jake, and I’ll be editing your document for you today, as well as performing the Structure and Clarity Checks. I hope you find my revisions and suggestions useful. Comment by Kirsten: Hi Tyrone, I’m Kirsten! I’m excited to review your layout today . Comment by Jake: Structure: A strong title should be informative, striking, and appropriate. Learn how to craft effective titles: https://www.scribbr.com/academic-writing/forging-good-titles-in-academic-writing/

Tyrone Olive

Grand Canyon University

RES 820A: The Literature Landscape: Organizational Leadership

Dr. Renee Winter

March 21, 2022 Comment by Maud – Scribbr: Comment by Maud – Scribbr: Hi Tyrone,
My name is Maud, and I’ve checked your references according to the APA 7th style. I hope you are satisfied with the improvements!


Skills of the Researcher Comment by Kirsten: On the first page of your body text, repeat the title, centered, in bold font. According to the APA Manual, authors shouldn’t use the heading “Introduction.” The text at the paper’s beginning is assumed to be the introduction and doesn’t need to be labeled as such.

Introduction Comment by Jake: Note that APA style states that the introduction should not be given a heading, hence my deletion.

Lower doctoral  pass rates have become a matter of concern for quite a periodsome time. Many students enroll in the curriculumprograms, but only but a few percent finish it within the allotted period. This alarming tendency can be traced back to the challenges that these students face when preparing their theses. Generally, tThe most difficult part is generally having the thesis acknowledged and validated by the institutions because they are often not up to parsufficient. These high expectations for theplaced on candidates can be tough for them to meet, and they regularly cause delays in their candidates’ accomplishments. Lindsay (2015),; Lee et al., (2020),; and Klocko et al., (2015) discussed this subject in their writings and examined some of the potential approaches and solutions to assist dissertation students in completing their work on schedule. Principally, they acknowledge the fact that writing a thesis is a demanding task and a significant barrier to completing a doctorate program;, and they also stated that help from teachers and colleagues is required to assure its the conclusioncompletion of these programs. They also aimed to determine how technology and interpersonal variables influenced overall learning performance among doctorate students enrolled in an online courses. Comment by Maud – Scribbr: If these sources are not listed in a specific order, I suggest listing them in alphabetical order, as in your reference list.
When citing multiple sources parenthetically, sources are listed in alphabetical order. Comment by Kirsten: There should be no extra white space before or after a new heading. Comment by Jake: Structure: According to your assignment description, your introduction should include a clear thesis statement. However, I could not find such a sentence in your introduction. See the following link for help with this: https://www.scribbr.com/academic-essay/thesis-statement/.

This issue has created several other problems, as indicated by my other “Structure” comments.

Writing

This part is about the ability to wWriting ae dissertations and ora thesis is requires a lot ofsignificant work. Each of the three stories is about a doctorate student who hads to conductdo research and write a thesis to finish their studies. The paper by Lee et al. (2020) lookeds at how well students learn, but it focuseds mostly on getting athe attainment of Ph.D. degrees. According to the report, Ph.D. students who finish their studies are good predictors of how welltend to they learn well. In contrastHowever, the report stateays that the number ofvery few people who finish their doctorate studies is much lower than the number of peoplecompared to those who finish other types of higher education. Several years from now, Lee et al. (2020) will look at the problem of doctorate dissertations in addition to theseis and how these processes have made it much morevery difficult for a lot ofmany people who want to getto obtain a Ph.D. to finish them. It turns out that Lindsay (2015) also looks intoexamined what factors that helps most Ph.D. students finish their theses, which is also interesting. Comment by Jake: Clarity: Please check the wording here. As this is the only mention of stories in this paper, I think you might be referring to the three studies by Lindsay (2015), Lee et al. (2020), and Klocko et al. (2015), but I’m not sure. Comment by Jake: Note that the simple past tense is generally used when describing events that began and ended in the past, such as specific previous studies. Comment by Jake: Clarity: It is not clear what specific problem is being referred to here. Consider being more specific here to improve the clarity of this sentence.

Success Comment by Kirsten: Heading levels 3–5 were updated in the APA 7 manual to improve readability, and so I updated the formatting of some of your headings: https://www.scribbr.com/apa-style/apa-table-of-contents/#how-to-generate-a-table-of-contents-in-word

This is a heading level 2.

In the United States, there has also been a rise in online education has become increasingly prominent or learning, including . This has also been seen in Ph.D. programs (Lee et al., 2020). Online learning may be easier than classroom learning for some students, but it also has a lot ofpresents many problems that may not have been therehave occurred in the pastpreviously when most students learned in traditional classrooms. According to Lee et al. (2020), iIt i’s hard to learn online because it has its own set ofunique problems, say Lee and his coworkers in 2020. They also mentioned that According to Lee et al., (2020) for success students still need to make connections in order to learn successfully, even though the methods of instruction have changed. For example, sSupport from friends, family, and even classmates can help students with their academic self-regulation, for example (Lee et al., 2020). Students still need encouragement, quick feedback, and a willingness to try new things through online discussions with teachers and classmates, but they do no’t need all of these things forms of support as much as they used to. Comment by Jake: I might have unintentionally changed the meaning of this sentence by altering the highlighted text. Please ensure that this phrase still portrays what you intended it to mean.

Expectations
that come withof Wwriting for a Cclass Comment by Jake: Clarity: This section lacks a thread to pull everything together. Clearly indicate the interrelationships. You can do this by using linking words, introducing concepts more clearly, and structuring your information hierarchically (i.e., start by discussing the most important information first). Comment by Kirsten: All headings should be in title case. Capitalize the first word and all major words (including all words with four or more letters). Example: The Effects of Pain on Listening Skills.

A lot ofMany people have talked aboutdiscussed some of the things thatwhat people expect from academic writing, like including Klocko et al. (2015), Lindsay (2015), and Lee et al. (2020). According to Lindsay (2015), Ph.D. students must keep adhere to strict timetables and schedules in order to finish their degrees. According toMeanwhile, Lee et al. (2020) claimed that, the high expectations for academic writing are when felt especially intensely for online students learn in an online setting or platform, the high expectations for academic writing are even more so. Students who go to hybrid or all-online schools are more likely than other students to be determined to finish their degree and to be persistent (Lee et al., 2020). In oOther academic research indicates that, people who want to get a Ph.D. have higher expectations when they learn online. The presentis study is in line with that research. Because students do no’t have a lot ofmuch time to talk to their lecturers or professors, they are expected to be more dedicated and work on their ownindependently. Comment by Maud – Scribbr: If these sources are not listed in a specific order, I suggest listing them in alphabetical order, as in your reference list. Comment by Jake: Clarity: This phrase requires a little more information to make sense. For example, I think you might mean to say, “higher expectations of themselves.” Comment by Jake: This sentence mentions the findings of “academic research,” which makes me think there should be a citation at the end of this sentence. Please check.

Klocko et al. (2015) emphasized that iIt takes a long time to write an academic paper or a thesis, Klocko et al. (2015) say. ItThe writing process i’s filled with tension, worry, and doubt. Especially fFor Ph.D. students, the demands of this type of writing can be very difficult (Klocko et al., 2015), and. When it comes to practitioner-scholars, the process of writing dissertations and taking classes can be stressful for practitioner-scholarsthem. Graduate students who are also working full-time must be very carefulconscientious about how they balancebalancing their personal lives, work obligations, and graduate school needs (Klocko et al., 2015). The need to regularly switch between a practitioner’s point of view and a scholar’s point of view on a regular basis has an impacts on both the dissertation writing process and the frameworks within which the student looks atperceives academic research in general (Klocko et al., 2015). Doctoral faculty members, especially doctoral dissertation supervisors, are often called upon to help and train students as they try to balance their professional and personal responsibilities with their academic responsibilities (Klocko et al., 2015). One of the most important parts of this stage is supporting practitioner students as they start to think of themselves as Ph.D. -level authors (Klocko et al., 2015). One of the most common problems with Ph.D. writing is the stress that comes with it. Students’ emotions may show up as a form of writer’s block from time to time, depending on how they feel about the task. Even the most experienced writers can get stuck when they see this happens. Comment by Jake: Clarity: Consider using more specific language here, as it is unclear what stage is being discussed.

Conclusion Comment by Jake: Structure: According to your assignment details, the conclusion should demonstrate support of your thesis statement and briefly summarize the main points from your three themes. However, this has not been done, mainly because the paper is missing a clear thesis statement.

To sum it up, sSince knowing how to write objectively is a prerequisite for being a part ofbelonging to the academic world, doctorate programs end with the a final writing assignment: (i.e., a dissertation). According to the studies reviewed here, doctorate students have a hard timedifficulties managing their writing schedules, organizing their writing assignments, and dealing with the greater substantial emotional stress associated withof submitting writing for review. The effectiveness of lLearners’ writing effectiveness depends on their ability to proactively dealing with these obstacles and incorporateing solutions for to overcomeing these barriers.Recommendations Comment by Jake: I have deleted this heading, as the template you provided does not include such a heading.

Enhancing and cultivating academic writing abilities by emphasizing the writing process and criticismzing during the early stages of doctorate studies is recommended. This guarantees that a culture of growth and progress is developed during a student’s in the first introduction of to theira Ph.D. program, a culture of growth and progress is developed. Moreover, training should enable students to createDefining writing schedules, use effective ways methods forof searching the information, perform conceptual mapping and detailing tasks, correct referencesing and citations, and avoid a critique of typicalcommon grammatical mistakesr faults should all be included in the training. Students should also be taught ways of giving constructive and relevant criticism. As a result, it is necessary to close the competency gaps, establish uniformity and openness, and develop a program centered on scholarly discourse. Comment by Jake: This word choice doesn’t sound quite right. I recommend changing this to “teaching students about the writing process.” Comment by Jake: Please check the use of these terms, as they do not seem relevant in this context. Comment by Jake: Clarity: The terms “competency gaps,” “uniformity and openness,” and “scholarly discourse” are quite vague, which will make it difficult for the reader to extract meaning from this sentence. Can you explain what you mean in more detail?

References Comment by Maud – Scribbr: In APA 7, the section label “References” appears in bold (https://www.scribbr.com/apa-style/apa-reference-page/), but please follow your guidelines.

Klocko, B. A., Marshall, S. M., & Davidson, J. F. (2015). Developing practitioner-scholar doctoral candidates as critical writers. Journal of Higher Education Theory and Practice, 15(4), 21–31. http://www.na-businesspress.com/JHETP/KlockoBA_Web15_4_.pdf Comment by Maud – Scribbr: The name of the journal and the volume number should be italicized in APA 7. Comment by Maud – Scribbr: Great! When an article does not have a DOI, a URL should be added if the document was accessed through a website other than a database (for example, the journal’s own website).
See: https://apastyle.apa.org/style-grammar-guidelines/references/dois-urls

Lee, H., Chang, H., & Bryan, L. (2020). Doctoral students’ learning success in online-based leadership programs: Intersection with technological and relational factors. International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 21(1), 61–-81. https://www.erudit.org/en/journals/irrodl/1900-v1-n1-irrodl05137/1067675ar/abstract/doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v20i5.4462 Comment by Maud – Scribbr: An en dash is used for the page range. Comment by Maud – Scribbr: Always prefer the DOI over the URL.

Lindsay, S. (2015). What works for doctoral students in completing their thesis? Teaching in Higher Education, 20(2), 183–-196. https://doi.org/10.1080/13562517.2014.974025https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13562517.2014.974025

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