Dissertation studies are difficult; they are long, and they take patience and perseverance. They require precise, sound academic writing. Above all, they require clear thinking. So, right now, I am giving you permission to put down the pen, push away the keyboard, and take some time to just think.
Sometimes we get so caught up with putting something on the page that we lose sight of what we should be putting down. Studies do not exist until we build them, so we must make decisions based on research and logical connections to put them together. We need to think about these connections; we need to give ourselves time and permission sometimes to just think about these connections.
For example, you may have a dataset and a way to analyze the data. That’s great! But that is not a study. What theory will you use to help you understand the results? Why conduct the study in the first place? What is the gap or sticking point in the literature your study will be designed to address? How is your study important? How might it inform theory and research? How might it inform practice?
Also, once you have completed your study and have the results, you then need to think about what the results mean, which is not as easy as it sounds. Interpreting your results involves situating your findings in relation to the findings of previous researchers. It also involves extrapolating meaning and making defensible claims based on your findings. Additionally, answering the questions of what your specific findings might mean for research, theory, and practice also takes a good deal of thought.
These are not fill-in-the-blank questions. These are questions that require thoughtful answers specific to your study. There are no right or wrong answers, only answers that make sense and are defensible in relation to the literature and to what you are studying.
Although the components of a study may seem pat—research problem, purpose, theoretical framework, research design, recommendations, and implications—the connections between them are not. The connections between the parts of a study are what you are providing; this is the material or glue you are using to build your study. Without clear and defensible decisions, your study does not stand a chance of getting approved. So, do not be afraid to take some time to think about how the different aspects of your study fit together.
We work with graduate students every day and know what it takes to get your research approved.