Dissertation Options

Dissertation Director Dr. Sandy Balkema (left) announcing the successful defense of Dr. DeeDee Stakely.

The dissertation process begins the moment students are accepted into the DCCL program. As active members of the community college environment, DCCL students face issues, wrestle with challenges, resolve crises, and make significant progress toward continuous improvement for their students, their institution, and for the profession.

For most DCCL students, the topic and focus of the dissertation lies in the work they do every day, the issues and concerns that they are most comfortable with, and those that their career path forces them to understand and manage. DCCL coursework challenges students to look at the issues from a different perspective, delve deeper into their causes, and think more creatively about solutions or resolutions.

Support for the dissertation will begin with the first course and culminate with completion of the dissertation at the end of the third year. All formats require a research base as the foundation for the dissertation.

  • Traditional Qualitative Study — A dissertation grounded in qualitative research methods focuses on the human elements of our work, examining the stories and experiences of groups or individuals through interviews, focus groups, case studies, or observations.
  • Traditional Quantitative Study — A dissertation grounded in quantitative research methods examines the data and measures we use to identify patterns, changes, and results. Essential for sound, data-driven decision making, quantitative analysis helps us define and test our assumptions.
  • Product Dissertation — A product dissertation addresses a specific, significant need by providing a concrete solution, such as a training program, a development guide, a feasibility study, or a practitioner’s guide. Product dissertations are typically grounded in the writer’s experiences and expertise and supported with evidence, data, and previous research.
  • Mixed Methods Study — A majority of dissertations use a combination of research methods to gather data and information from multiple sources to develop a rich view of the causes and effects of a problem and suggest options for solutions.

Materials, workshops, and guidance are provided for both doctoral students and their advisors in designing and implementing a successful and effective dissertation process. As the culmination of the DCCL doctoral program, the goal of the DCCL dissertation is for students to produce a professional, practical, and publishable work that adds to the body of research or provides a valuable service or solution to a specific community college issue.