Introduction to Doctoral Studies

Summer, 1998

School of Education

University of Missouri-Kansas City

J. Douglas Toma

Assistant Professor

Urban Leadership and Policy Studies


I.          Introduction and Overview

The course will introduce new doctoral students in educational administration to:

ˇ        the basics of doctoral study and the requirements and processes doctoral program in education administration at UMKC

ˇ        the basics and processes of scholarly research in educational administration

ˇ        the current state of research in the discipline and how to find and analyze it

ˇ        best practices in academic writing

ˇ        strategies for making doctoral work relevant for professional practice, both for individuals and in general

The course will provide the cohort of new doctoral students with a springboard to the rest of the program.  It is thus essentially a prerequisite for all future coursework in the program.  At the end of the course, students will know what they need to know to successfully navigate their doctoral-level coursework, their comprehensive examination, and their doctoral dissertation.

II.         General Information

A.         Class Meetings and Enrollment

We will meet at Maple Woods Community College, Student Services Building, President's Conference Room on these dates and at these times:

            Friday, June 5                                       4:00 - 5:00 p.m.

            Monday, June 15                                   2:30 - 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 - 8:30 p.m.

            Tuesday, June 16                                  2:30 - 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 - 8:30 p.m.

            Wednesday, June 17                             2:30 - 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 - 8:30 p.m.

            *Thursday, June 18                               2:30 - 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 - 8:30 p.m.

            Friday, June 19                                     2:30 - 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 - 8:30 p.m.

            Saturday, June 20                                 9:30 a.m. - noon and 1:00 - 3:30 p.m.

            Thursday, September 3              4:30 - 7 p.m.

* meeting at UMKC Miller-Nichols Library, Rockhill Road and 51st Street 

We will begin all class sessions promptly at the times indicated.  Students who believe that they will be unable to arrive on time or who believe that they will not be able to attend all class sessions are discouraged from taking the course.

Students should enroll in the course through Continuing Education at the School of Education.  A representative from Continuing Education will be at our June 5 meeting.

B.         Addresses and Telephone Numbers

You may reach me outside of class by visiting my office, via telephone, or through electronic mail.  My preference is that you contact me by e-mail, whenever possible.  I check for both voice and e-mail messages at least daily.  My office is located on the third floor of the School of Education in Suite 328 (Urban Leadership and Policy Studies).  My address is:

School of Education

University of Missouri-Kansas City

5100 Rockhill Road

Kansas City, Missouri  64110

My telephone numbers are:

816-235-2451, office

816-235-5270, fax

816-531-8980, home

My electronic mail address is:


Roz Powell is the secretary assigned to my office suite (235-2716 or 2236).

C.         Office Hours

I will hold office hours by appointment.  Please contact me via electronic mail to schedule an appointment.

III.        Text

There will be one assigned text in the course:

Creswell, John (1994).  Research Design:  Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches.  Thousand Oaks, CA:  Sage.

The book will be available at the first class meeting on June 5 for $26.81.  (You should expect to spend closer to $100 on books for doctoral-level courses in the future.  I was able to keep costs low in this course because we will be doing so much work with library books.)

IV.        Assignments and Expectations

A.         Reading

Prior to the beginning of the course, students are expected to complete the Creswell book, the Lincoln and Guba article, and the UMKC Graduate Studies notebook.  Students are also expected to complete any reading assigned for any session prior to the beginning of that session.  I reserve the right to quiz the group on any reading or set of readings if it becomes clear that a number of students have not adequately prepared for class.

B.         Paper

Each student will produce a 25-30 paper (double-spaced, 12 point Times or equivalent type, no extra spaces between paragraphs, 1 inch margins) based on a research topic of his or her choosing.  The project will be due to my office no later than Friday, July 31.  We will discuss the projects at our September meeting.  The project will include three parts: 

            1.         Literature Review

The first two-thirds of the paper will be a review of the research literature on the topic.  The review must include a minimum of 30 research articles, chapters, or books of a scholarly nature.  It must be organized and synthesized into themes.  It is not enough to summarize one article and then move on to the next and the next and the next.  The various articles must be grouped in a meaningful manner and linked one to the next.   I will distribute models of effective literature reviews in class.

            2.         Research Design

The paper must also propose a research design to study the topic.  The design must include a description of:  (1) a sample or cases that could be studied and how you arrived at them; (2) a method or methods that could be used to collect data; (3) a method or methods that could be used to analyze the data; (4) the potential influences that your stance as a researcher and position as a practitioner would have on the data collection and analysis that you proposed; and (5) the limitations of your hypothetical study.

            3.         Bibliography

Finally, you must include a bibliography of your sources in APA format.

C.         Book Review

Using the Review of Higher Education reviews distributed in class as a model, you are to write a critical review of 10 pages (same rules as above) on three books of your choosing on a current topic in higher education or education administration.

Like the research design, the book review will be due to my office no later than Friday, July 31.  We will discuss the reviews at our September meeting.

D.         Attendance and Behavior

All class meetings are mandatory and all deadlines are firm.  Excused absences or extensions will be granted only in emergencies or upon notification in advance of the beginning of the course for professional travel obligations.  Unexcused absences or habitual tardiness will be grounds for failure of the course.

 Students who miss a class must arrange to have the session taped and must arrange to write a 7-10 page paper on the readings and class activities for that session due one week from the session missed.

Finally, I will enforce University of Missouri System and UMKC policies on plagiarism and student academic conduct.

E.         Class Participation and Evaluation

Your final grade will be determined by your:

1.         written work

2.         participation in class activities

3.         participation in class discussion

4.         attention to reading 

I define participation broadly to include your careful attention to discussions, as well as your direct contributions to our discussions.  I do not apply a formula that weights the four areas above in determining your final grade.  If you receive a grade lower than "B+" at the conclusion on the course, you will be strongly discouraged from continuing doctoral study.

V.         Course Content

1.         Organizational Meeting

            Friday, June 5, 4:00 - 5:00 p.m.

2.         Navigating the Doctoral Program and Dissertation

            Monday, June 15, 2:30 - 5:00 p.m.


            the entire Creswell book prior to the first meeting (be prepared to answer general questions)


            UMKC Graduate School notebook (distributed June 5)

Discussion Questions:

ˇ        what is doctoral study; how is it different than what I have done before and how is it similar?

ˇ        why the cohort approach and how is it going to work for us?

ˇ        what is the difference between an Ed.D. and a Ph.D.?

ˇ        what courses will I be taking and what should I expect from them; what is a program of study?

ˇ        what is a dissertation, what does one look like, and how long does it take to do one?

ˇ        what is a comprehensive examination and how will mine look?

ˇ        what are the procedures and practices at UMKC that I will need to know to finish the program?

3.         The Basics of Education Research

            Monday, June 15, 6:00 - 8:30 p.m.


            Lincoln and Guba (1995) article (distributed June 5)

Discussion Questions:

ˇ        what does social science research attempt to do and what does it look like?

ˇ        what are research methods and what are the different research methods available for educational researchers?

ˇ        what are the differences between qualitative and quantitative research and which tradition(s) should I use?

ˇ        what are inquiry paradigms and why is it so critical to understand and express my own ontological, epistemological, and methodological stances as a researcher?

ˇ        how can I make my own research relevant to professional practice in my field?

ˇ        how do I make what I am learning and writing about relevant to my own professional practice?

ˇ        how should I structure my own program to maximize its relevance?

4.         The Current State of the Discipline

            Tuesday, June 16, 2:30 - 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 - 8:30 p.m.


            Creswell, Ch. 1

Discussion Questions:

ˇ        what are the subfields of knowledge in educational administration?

ˇ        what is the current state of research within these subfields in educational administration?

ˇ        how can knowing what is currently "hot" in the discipline help me to come up with a research question?

Classroom Activity 1:

Working in groups of 2 and 3, we will do a content analysis of the major scholarly and practitioner journals in educational administration or higher education in order to highlight the current "hot" issues in the field.  Several questions will guide the process and our discussion of our findings:

ˇ        what substantive areas are scholars addressing?

ˇ        what research methods are they using?

ˇ        what questions should scholars being addressing?

ˇ        are scholars addressing the needs of practitioners in their work?

Classroom Activity 2:

Using what we have learned about the state of research in the discipline, we will brainstorm to find a class-wide research topic that we will use as the basis of our group activities and class discussions for the remainder of the class.

5.         The Process of Education Research

            Wednesday, June 17, 2:30 - 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 - 8:30 p.m.


            Creswell, Chs. 2-7

Discussion Questions:

ˇ        how do I come up with a topic to write about in my dissertation and how do I reduce that topic to a specific set of research questions?

ˇ        how do I use what others have written on my topic or on similar topics to inform my study?

ˇ        how do I synthesize what others have written?

ˇ        what is a conceptual or theoretical framework and how will I use it to structure my data gathering?

ˇ        how do I choose a group to study and how do I choose a method to use to study them?

ˇ        how do I go about gathering data?

ˇ        how do I make sense of my data and report it so others can understand it?

ˇ        why is it so important that I suggest the implications of my study and come to a set of conclusions about my data?

Classroom Activity:

Using our class-wide research topic, we will sketch out both a qualitative and quantitative research design to address the research questions that we have formulated.

6.         Finding Research and Reading Critically

            Thursday, June 17, 2:30 - 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 - 8:30 p.m.

            class meeting at Miller-Nichols Library

Discussion Questions:

ˇ        why is it important that I look at what others have written on my topic?

ˇ        how do I find the articles, chapters, and books that I will need to begin to address my topic?

ˇ        how do I evaluate an educational research article once I find it?

ˇ        how do I organize and synthesize these articles into a literature review?

ˇ        how many articles do I need to read and include in a literature review?

Classroom Activity 1

In groups of 2 or 3, we will search the available databases for articles on a subtopic of our overall class-wide topic, find the articles in the library, and photocopy them.

Classroom Activity 2

Again working in small groups, we will skim and evaluate the articles and code and sort them by theme, making the beginnings of a literature review.

7.         Academic Writing

            Friday, June 17, 2:30 - 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 - 8:30 p.m.


            Creswell, Ch. 11

            three articles (distributed in class on June 15)

Discussion Questions:

ˇ        how is academic writing different than other sorts of writing?

ˇ        why is strong analysis the key to making an effective argument?

ˇ        what are some examples of good academic writing?

ˇ        what are some good ways to present both qualitative and quantitative data?

Classroom Activity:

We will critique the three articles distributed on June 15 both in small groups and as an entire group.  We will use the evaluation form used by the Research in Higher Education to organize the critiques.

8.         Putting it All Together:  The Research Design

            Saturday, June 20, 9:30 a.m. - noon and 1:00 - 3:30 p.m.


            Creswell, Chs. 8-10

Discussion Questions:

ˇ        what are the relative advantages and shortcomings to qualitative, quantitative, and mixed research designs?

ˇ        what is an example of a qualitative design and a quantitative design?

Classroom Activity 1:

Jim Gillham and A.H. Sia will present their dissertation research designs and preliminary findings for approximately one-hour each.  Jim is doing a quantitative dissertation on the impact of block scheduling on high school students' advance placement test achievement.  Sia is doing a qualitative dissertation on informal off-campus support networks established by international students.  We will question both presenters and offer a critique of their designs.

Activity 2:

During the second half of the session, we will discuss as a group the research topic under consideration by each student and work to identify relevant research literatures and potential research designs for that topic.

9.         Review and Synthesis

            Thursday, September 3, 4:30 - 7:00 p.m.

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