Dissertation chapters typically follow a logical progression with an Introduction, Literature Review, Methodology, Results, and Discussion. However, when it comes to topic development and formulating research questions, it is advantageous to first consider the logistics of the methodology process.
To those beginning the dissertation journey, I suggest casting a wide net and creating a list of 10 or more potential research questions. After you have a list of questions, you can review articles and journal publications to determine how answering these research questions can potentially fill a gap in the literature. Bring the number of research questions down to three or four essential questions. Then, determine whether the data can be collected through a self-report survey or through analysis of archival records. Often, permission must be requested from the original author of the surveys or the host of archival databases, so it is a good idea to complete this process before reaching the IRB stage.
Keep your committee members (especially your methodologist) informed of what the methodological plan is, that way they can provide guidance for the most feasible direction. Once the core ideas for the methodology are set in stone and supporting literature is found for the topic of interest, the rest of the dissertation should begin to fall into place.
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