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Applied Degree
Dissertation Proposal and Dissertation Manuscript

The Graduate School
Version: January 2013
© Northcentral University, 2013
Milestone document templates are pre-formatted to conform to Northcentral University dissertation requirements. Templates include the required section headings for each milestone document. Refer to the corresponding Applied Degree Guidebook for supplemental information for each chapter and section.
Northcentral’s Milestone Document Templates represent the standards of the research and academic communities for research writing. The template serves as a valuable guide to the logical flow of the document, ensuring alignment among the problem, purpose, and methodological design and analysis, allowing the reason for, and the nature of, the study to be fully clarified. Adherence to the milestone templates in terms of content, organization, and format will greatly facilitate the development of acceptable milestone documents throughout the dissertation process.
Enter text directly into the template. Eliminate template instructions and example text. Do not change the format, section headings, margins, page numbering or font. Exceptions to APA 6th edition (e.g., 1.5 inch margin on the left, single-spaced references) unique to dissertations are reflected in the templates and take precedence over APA format. Refer to the Dissertation Center for current resources. Milestone documents submitted to the Graduate School that are not formatted using the template will be returned without review.
Submission of a milestone document for Graduate School Review indicates that the dissertation chair, student and committee have read the Dissertation requirements described in the Doctoral Candidacy Resource Guide, guidebooks and templates. Additionally, submission for Graduate School Review indicates that the dissertation chair and committee have carefully read the student’s milestone document and attest that it meets all of the requirements set forth.
Dissertation Proposal
Submitted to Northcentral University
Graduate Faculty of the School of XXXXXXXX
in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of
Prescott Valley, Arizona
Month Year
Guidelines: Left justified. No indents. No citations.
Maximum length is 350 words. A proposal abstract includes items 1-4, and is in the future tense. The final version is in past tense and includes items 1–6.

Introduce the study topic briefly.
Clearly articulate the study problem and purpose
State the research method (quantitative, qualitative, mixed method).

Quantitative research identifies the design.
Qualitative research identifies the typology/strategy of inquiry.
Mixed Method research identifies both design (for quantitative aspect) and typology/strategy (for qualitative aspect).

Identify the participants.
Present key results (for quantitative studies include relevant test statistics and p values).
Present conclusions and recommendations for future research.

Here you may place an optional acknowledgements page.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Introduction. 1
Background. 1
Statement of the Problem.. 1
Purpose of the Study. 2
Research Questions. 3
Nature of the Study. 4
Significance of the Study. 4
Definition of Key Terms. 5
Summary. 5
Chapter 2: Literature Review.. 6
Documentation. 6
Theme/Subtopic [repeat as needed] 6
Summary. 7
Chapter 3: Research Method. 8
Research Methods and Design(s) 8
Population. 9
Sample. 9
Materials/Instruments. 10
Operational Definition of Variables (Quantitative/Mixed Studies Only) 10
Data Collection, Processing, and Analysis. 11
Assumptions. 12
Limitations. 12
Delimitations. 12
Ethical Assurances. 12
Summary. 13
Chapter 4: Findings. 14
Results. 14
Evaluation of Findings. 15
Summary. 16
Chapter 5: Implications, Recommendations, and Conclusions. 17
Implications. 17
Recommendations. 17
Conclusions. 17
References. 18
Appendixes. 19
Appendix A: Title. 20
Appendix B: Title. 21
Appendix N:…: Title. 22
List of Tables
[Use Word’s Table of Figures feature (using caption style = “table”) to create this section. Note that each table title needs to be created as a caption style format above the table. The List of Tables entries should mirror the APA format of table titles within the body of the paper. Consult the APA manual to ensure that all tables and table titles conform to APA format. See APA6, Chapter 5 for guidance and examples.]
List of Figures
[Use Word’s Table of Figures feature (using caption style = “figure”) to create this section. Note that each figure caption needs to be created as a caption style format below the figure. The List of Figures entries should mirror the APA format of figure captions within the body of the paper. Consult the APA manual to ensure that all tables and table titles, figures and figure captions conform to APA format. See APA6, Chapter 5 for guidance and examples.]

Chapter 1: Introduction
[Text… Dissertation topic is introduced in one or more paragraphs (2 pages maximum). The study topic is briefly described to establish the main ideas and context and include recent, scholarly, peer-reviewed sources to support each assertion. The Introduction should orient the reader to all of the concepts presented in the sections that follow.
Note: Do not describe the study purpose or method in the introduction as these belong in later sections.]
[Present an overview of why this research topic is currently of interest. Describe the facts and relevant context as a background leading up to the study problem and purpose. Focus on the area of research interest, briefly laying the groundwork for what has been done in the area and why the area is of important social or practical concern, or of theoretical interest. Include appropriate, recent, scholarly sources to support each assertion. There are no specific length guidelines; however the Background should be sufficient to provide context for the problem statement that follows. A detailed review of the literature will be provided in Chapter 2.]
Statement of the Problem
(Approximately 250 to 300 words) Articulation of a concise problem statement is the key to a successful proposal/dissertation manuscript and typically requires many revisions before the proposal is approved. The problem statement is a brief discussion of a problem or observation succinctly identifying and documenting the need for and importance of the study. Clearly describe and document the problem that prompted the study. Include appropriate published or relevant primary sources to document the existence of a problem worthy of doctoral level research. A lack of research alone is not a compelling problem (many things are not studied but do not necessarily warrant research).
The documented problem identified may be a practical problem or issue in the profession or study context for which there is not already an acceptable solution. In defining the problem a clear discrepancy must be drawn between that which exists currently and that which is desired. Although an applied study design does not necessarily require generalizability beyond the study site, worthy problems must be relevant and documented beyond any particular study site. To identify and articulate a problem, consider the potential negative consequences to the field or stakeholders if the proposed research is never conducted.
[Text… Present a general issue/observation that is grounded in the research literature and leads to the need for the study (in most cases scholarly citations within the last 5 years are required to document the general and specific problem). Follow with a focused, documented problem that directly reflects and leads to the need for a research response.]
Note: Ensure that the concepts presented in the problem statement lead to and align directly with the Purpose Statement. Use of a “logic” map is highly recommended in order to ensure direct alignment and avoid “surprises” among the key elements: problem à purpose àresearch questions à proposed method and design.
Purpose of the Study
[Text… Begin the purpose statement with a succinct sentence that indicates the study method and overarching goal.
“The purpose of this [quantitative, qualitative, mixed method] study is to… (describe the study goal that directly reflects and encompasses the research questions). Follow with a brief, but clear overview of how, with what instruments/data, with whom and where (as applicable).”]
Within the purpose statement:

Research method is identified as qualitative, quantitative, or mixed method.
Stated purpose reflects the research questions: Variables/constructs and/or phenomenon/concept/idea are identified.
Research design is clearly stated and is aligned with the problem statement.
Participants and/or data sources are identified.
Geographic location of study is identified (as appropriate).

Before moving forward, ensure that the purpose is a logical, explicit research response to the stated problem.
Research Questions
[Text…Brief introductory text. Note: Avoid redundant text. Ensure that the Research Questions directly align with the stated purpose and that quantitative hypotheses correspond with the research questions.]
Additional questions as needed.
Hypotheses (Quantitative/Mixed Studies Only)
H10. [Null Hypothesis Text…]
H1a. [Alternative Hypothesis Text…]
Nature of the Study
[As appropriate, use text from the Concept Paper “Research Method” to present a brief overview of the study design, variables/constructs, instruments and analyses (as applicable). Relocate detailed discussion of sampling method, sample size determination, instrument, measurement and analyses to Chapter 3. Discuss the proposed research method (quantitative, qualitative, or mixed).
Discussion is not simply a listing and description of the chosen research design; rather, elaboration demonstrates how the proposed method and design accomplish the study goals, why the design is the optimum choice for the proposed research, and how the method aligns with the purpose and research questions. Provide a brief discussion of the proposed study design, data collection and analysis procedures (detailed descriptions should be provided in Chapter 3). Provide appropriate foundational research method support for the proposed study design; for example, refer to Moustakas and other appropriate authors to describe a phenomenological design and Yin to describe the appropriate application of a case study design.]
Significance of the Study
[Demonstrate why the study is important and describe the contribution(s) to the field of study. This section should reflect the need for the study and the benefits of an answer to the proposed study purpose and research questions. The discussion should align with the problem statement in that, the problem statement articulates the negative consequences if the study is never conducted, whereas the significance indicates the positive results of completing the study.]
Definition of Key Terms
[Text (optional)… ]
Term 1. Definition (APA citation).
Term 2. Definition (APA citation).
Term n. Definition (APA citation).
[Text…Briefly restate the key points, study purpose and proposed research plan.]
Chapter 2: Literature Review
Approximately 40-80 pages, pending topic area. The literature review will contain several sub-headings that will be specific to the dissertation. Approximately 85% of references must be peer-reviewed, scholarly sources published within the last 5 years.
[Begin with a summary of the purpose statement that leads to a brief explanation of the logical organization of the literature review.
Note: Conduct a thorough literature search based on a variety of relevant key words and databases. It is extremely rare for there to be no existing literature on a topic worthy of doctoral level study. Lack of references is typically the result of a too narrow or faulty library search.]
[Include a paragraph that explains the literature search strategy and describes the library and search engine sources. The documentation section may include an APA formatted table that describes the nature and sources of references.
Theme/Subtopic [repeat as needed]
Replace “Theme/Subtopic: with an appropriate heading that describes the discussion to follow.
[Present the theoretical or conceptual framework(s) related to the study. Present historical research as well as research related to the topic of study within the last 5 years. Include appropriate scholarly source citations for each assertion. Ensure the discussion has depth and presents a critical analysis and synthesis of the literature that provides a context for the dissertation study. Discuss conflicting findings and/or theoretical positions causing intellectual tension in the field. Ensure the discussion is comprehensive, organized, and flows logically. Use themes and/or subtopics as headings. Note: A literature review is discursive prose, not a list describing or summarizing one piece of literature after another. Avoid stringing together articles and beginning every paragraph with the name of a researcher. Instead, organize the literature review into sections that present themes or identify trends, including relevant theory. One should not attempt to list all the material published, but rather synthesize and evaluate the relevant scholarly research according to the guiding concept of your thesis or research question. Continue to expand and update the literature review up through the final dissertation.]
[Summarize key points presented in Chapter 2 and include supporting citations for key points. Highlight contradictions and uncertainties that support the need for the proposed study.]
Chapter 3: Research Method
[Begin with an introduction and restatement of the research problem and purpose.

Quantitative – research questions and hypothesis(es) clearly stated and clearly aligned with each other and with the problem and purpose statements.
Qualitative – research questions clearly stated and aligned with problem and purpose statements.
Mixed Method – includes all of the above.

Note: This section should be identical to wording used in Chapter 1.]
Research Methods and Design(s)
[Accurately describe the research method and design(s). Substantiate the appropriateness of the method and design(s); include a statement about why the method/design(s) was/were chosen over others.

Elaborate on the chosen research design (e.g., case study, phenomenology, comparative, correlational, quasi-experimental, etc.) appropriateness to respond to the study purpose.
Clearly describe the design steps. Ensure the discussion is not simply a listing and description of research designs. Provide appropriate support for the use and application of the chosen design.
Demonstrate why the design will accomplish the study goals and why design is the optimum choice for the research.

Describe in sufficient detail so that the study could be replicated.]
[Provide a description of the population (as appropriate), estimated size and relevant characteristics with appropriate support. Depending on the study design, populations may reflect a group of people, a set of organizations, a set of documents, archived data, etc. Describe why the population is appropriate to respond to the study problem and purpose. Clearly distinguish between the population and the sample drawn from the population.]
[Identify the sampling method and explain selection of participants or relevant sample, including known population characteristics and recruitment or selection strategy. Describe and justify the sampling method and minimum sample size:

Quantitative studies include probabilistic selection approach and a supporting power analysis for statistical significance of responses. When determining a minimum sample size, consider sampling error, representativeness and the assumptions of the proposed statistical tests.
Qualitative studies include references that support the proposed number of participants. Qualitative samples are typically relatively small. Refer to primary qualitative research sources to support the sampling size and method.
Mixed Method studies include both of the above.

As appropriate: Describe how existing data were originally collected and for what purpose.
Describe how participants will be selected and solicited. Access to potential participants, such as email lists from professional organizations must be described. Sampling procedures (e.g., “random”, “random stratified”, “convenience”) must be described in sufficient detail so that the process could theoretically be replicated. ]
[In this section, include a description of data sources such as (a) archived data and include a description of how the data were originally collected and for what purpose along with information regarding validity and reliability; (b) published instruments (adequately describe constructs measured, coding schemes, and psychometric properties (include both indices of reliability and validity) – include as an appendix, if possible, or include sample items); (c) materials (including survey/instruments) developed for study (adequately describe the development process and final product (include as an appendix)); (d) interview protocol, including a description of how the interview questions were developed with appropriate qualitative research method support (include interview questions in an appendix); (e) apparatus (adequately describe any apparatus including model/make, how it is used, and outcome(s) it provides).
Note: Instrument self-development is strongly discouraged. If an appropriate existing validated instrument is not located after a thorough search, the development process and tests for instrument and construct reliability and validity must be described in detail within Chapter 3 and the resulting validity/reliability measures reported in Chapter 4.]
Operational Definition of Variables (Quantitative/Mixed Studies Only)
[Text…Identify each of the primary constructs associated with the proposed topic, problem, research question(s), and hypotheses. Include a brief overview of how each will be operationally defined for the proposed study. Describe the nature of each variable (e.g. ordinal Likert type response scale ranging from 1 – 5) and how it will be/was measured and collected. The nature of the data must be consistent with and appropriate to the purpose, research design and proposed statistical analyses. Use terminology associated with the chosen statistical test (e.g., predictor and criterion variables for regression).]
Construct/Variable 1. Description/Operational Definition.
Replace with variable label and repeat as needed.
Data Collection, Processing, and Analysis
[Describe the collection, processing and analyses in enough detail so that the study could be replicated. Describe the steps that will be taken to carry out the study. Provide specific details relative to the execution of the design in each appropriate section. Describe the types of data to be collected, and how the data will be coded, and what statistical analysis and software will be used as appropriate.

Quantitative: Describe the analysis strategy used to test each hypothesis. The discussion must be sufficiently detailed so that the appropriateness of the statistical tests chosen is evident (i.e., the statistical tests are appropriate to respond to the hypotheses and the variable constructs meet the assumptions of the statistical tests.
Qualitative: Describe how the data will be processed and analyzed (including any efforts for triangulation). Provide primary qualitative design support for the proposed analytical strategy. Explain the role of the researcher.
Mixed Method: include all of the above.]

[Discuss the assumptions about the population and design along with corresponding rationale and support for the assumptions (e.g., if an adequate response rate or participant honesty are assumed, refer to the steps that will be taken to make these reasonable assumptions).]
Describe the study limitations (potential weaknesses to interpretation and validity) within the context of the study design. Discuss any measures taken to mitigate limitations. Review any potential threats to validity (specific to the study design) and how they will be addressed to the extent possible. The limitations will be revisited within Chapter 5.]
Describe the study delimitations (specific choices made to narrow the scope of the study). Discuss the scope of data used in the study in this section.]
Ethical Assurances
[Discuss compliance with the standards for conducting research as appropriate to the proposed research design. Describe the informed consent procedures and how you will maintain confidentiality of the participants (as appropriate). Describe how you will obtain assurances for formal approval of the study. Indicate appendixes that include additional information as needed.

In the proposal, state that IRB approval will be sought prior to any data collected.
In the final dissertation, state that IRB approval was obtained prior to any data collection conducted].

[Summarize key points presented in Chapter 3 and provide supporting citations for key points.]
Note: When the proposal is approved and after the research is carried out, revise text to past tense to reflect the completed study. Revise and expand as needed to reflect how the study design was applied. For example, if parametric statistics were proposed but, upon data collection, the responses did not meet the assumptions and non-parametric tests were conducted to respond to the hypotheses, the author should describe the circumstances and rationale for the change within the Chapter 3 data analysis section.
Chapter 4: Findings
[Begin the discussion with a brief overview of the purpose of the research study and provide a brief overview of the chapter. Organize the chapter around the research question(s)/hypotheses. Review the APA manual and published, peer-reviewed, empirical research articles for examples of how to report results of various research designs. ]
[Data analyses – Report results without discussion (interpretation, speculation, etc. appears in the next section):

For Quantitative analyses,

Give appropriate descriptive information,
Present the results in a logical fashion, answering the research question(s)/hypotheses as stated and appropriate to the type of data collected,
Identify assumptions of statistical tests and address any violation of assumptions,
Make decisions based on the results of the statistical analysis (for example: Are the results statistically significant?). Include relevant test statistic and p
See the APA manual regarding how to present results in text, tables and figures,
Present sufficient information so the reader can make an independent judgment regarding interpretation.

For Qualitative analyses

Present results logically and in a way that answers the research question(s) by distillation steps of the discernment process,
Present sufficient information so the reader can make an independent judgment about your interpretation,
Review published articles that use similar designs for examples of how to present qualitative, thematic findings,
Ensure that no potentially indentifying information is published.

Mixed Method include all of the above.

Note: Table and figures, where appropriate, are necessary and referred to in the text. Ensure compliance with APA format of tables, table titles, figures and figure captions. See APA, 6th ed, Chapter 5 for guidelines on displaying results.]
Evaluation of Findings
[This section is used to briefly report what your findings mean. The discussion will be expanded in Chapter 5. Interpret results in light of the context and/or the conceptual framework(s) you have identified. Describe whether the results obtained were expected given the literature and provide potential explanations for unexpected or conflicting results.
Provide a brief interpretation within the study context and profession (for example, corporate or academic leadership). Identify and discuss findings in terms of the originality of the contribution (incremental or revelatory). Findings should/can include programmatic results, results of a change intervention, or implementation and should discuss the findings in terms of the practical utility. It should be clear how the profession and/or field of study are affected by your inquiry. Expand on the discussion in chapter 5. Take care to avoid drawing conclusions beyond what can be interpreted directly from the study results.]
[Discussion summarizes key points presented in Chapter 4.]
Chapter 5: Implications, Recommendations, and Conclusions
[Begin the discussion with a brief review of the problem statement, purpose, method, limitations, and ethical dimensions, and conclude the introduction with a brief overview of the chapter.]
[Discuss each research question and (when appropriate) hypothesis individually, and draw logical conclusions. Note: support all conclusions with the research findings and avoid drawing conclusions that are beyond the scope of the study results. Discuss how any potential limitations may have affected the interpretation of the results. Place the results back into context by describing how the results respond to the study problem, fit with the purpose, demonstrate significance, and contribute to the existing literature described in Chapter 2. Describe the implications of the study results in light of the literature described in chapter 2 and place in the applied study context and profession/field of study. Discuss the contribution of practical utility in terms of potential ways of applying conceptual frameworks, models and processes directly in real contexts, specifically related to the particular study context and to the broader social context.]
[Present all recommendations for practical applications of the study. Note: support all recommendations with the research findings. Present recommendations for future research.]
[In this section, summarize all key points in Chapter 5.]
Reference 1
Reference 2
Reference n…
Instructions: All resources cited in the dissertation must be included in the list of references.
List all references in APA format with the exception noted below. For each reference listed, there must be at least one corresponding citation within the body of the text, and vice-versa.
Formatting: Single space each reference citation, along with a .5 inch hanging indent; double space between consecutive references in the reference list (See the Doctoral Candidacy Resource Guide located in the Dissertation Center for NCU exceptions to APA format).
Tips: Sort in alpha surname/title order. Only capitalize the first word of the title and of the subtitle, if any. Do not bold the title. Know when to italicize and when not to (i.e., periodical/non-periodical/publication versus book/report/paper). Italicize volume (i.e., Journal Name 4, pp. 12-22.). Please refer to the APA Manual, 6th edition and the Writing Center for additional APA guidance.
Note: APA6 requires a Digital Object Identifier (DOI) be provided, if one has been assigned (see page 187-192).
Example (note single-space references, with double-spacing in-between):
Ahn, J. (2004). Electronic portfolios: Blending technology, accountability and assessment. T.H.E. Journal, 31(9), 12-18.
U.S. Government Printing Office. (2006). Catalog of U.S. Government publications: New electronic titles.
Winslade, J., & Monk, G. (2001). Narrative mediation: A new approach to conflict resolution. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
[Each Appendix referenced in text should appear in this section at the end of the manuscript. Appendixes should be listed in the order in which they are referenced in the text. ]
Appendix A: Title
[Insert/type Appendix A content here]
Appendix B: Title
[Insert/type Appendix B content here]

Appendix N…: Title
[Insert/type Appendix N… content here]

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