Discovering the behaviors that facilitate or impede the dissertation completion of selected doctoral students having the all but dissertation (ABD) status

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Nickolich, David A.
McElhinney, James H.
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Thesis (D. Ed.)
Department of Educational Studies
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The purposes of this study were: 1) to better understand the doctoral experience as participants described the meanings they gave to their experiences, and 2) to increase understanding about the ways in which the meanings attributed to their doctoral experiences enhance our understanding of doctoral persistence and attrition. The descriptions of the behavior of the selected doctoral students interviewed may help current and future doctoral students, university administrators, and faculty in the common goal of having more scholars complete their dissertations. This study contains rich descriptions of the experiences of nine purposively selected doctoral students in Adult, Higher, and Community Education at a Midwestern university who have completed their doctoral coursework and their comprehensive examinations. All participants were in the all but dissertation (ABD) status at the start of the study. Four participants graduated with the doctorate after the evidence was gathered for this study. One participant remains as an ABD in two doctoral programs. The two interviews with each of the nine participants were semi-structured. They generated evidence that answered the research questions, but also generated additional descriptions of behavior over the entire time period of the participants' doctoral programs. These additional descriptions provided a greater richness to this study.This research study was guided by several research questions. The primary question was:What behaviors filled the three years following the completion of the course requirements and comprehensive examinations for the doctoral degree other than completion of a dissertation? The secondary questions were:What decisions accompanied these behaviors? What rewards were gained by completing the course requirements? A systematic phenomenological analysis identified three major themes: 1) "The value of the doctorate program and degree", 2) "The doctoral experience", and 3) "Facilitators, barriers, and distracters". The three themes each had sub-themes.Six recommendations were provided for facilitating the completion of the doctoral degree. Each study participant is a highly successful individual. Each agreed that this doctoral program has been a tremendous help professionally and personally. None are to be considered failures even if they remain an ABD.