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Demystifying the Advisor’s Role in Doctoral Students’ Persistence during the Dissertation Stage

Title: Demystifying the Advisor’s Role in Doctoral Students’ Persistence during the Dissertation Stage.
Name(s): Willett, Brantley Paige, author
Jones, Tamara Bertrand, professor directing dissertation
Roehrig, Alysia D., 1975-, university representative
Guthrie, Kathy L., committee member
Schrader, Linda Bethe, committee member
Schwartz, Robert A., committee member
Florida State University, degree granting institution
College of Education, degree granting college
Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, degree granting department
Type of Resource: text
Genre: Text
Issuance: monographic
Date Issued: 2014
Publisher: Florida State University
Place of Publication: Tallahassee, Florida
Physical Form: computer
online resource
Extent: 1 online resource (174 pages)
Language(s): English
Abstract/Description: The dissertation stage, a time of independent research for doctoral students, is characterized by a lack of interactions with peers and faculty members, including the faculty dissertation advisor, that are typically present during earlier stages of doctoral programs (Ali & Kohun, 2006; Gardner, 2008b, 2009). As a result, students in the dissertation stage may experience isolation. This isolation, a result of a lack of interactions with faculty and peers, can lead to dropout from the doctoral program (Ali & Kohun, 2006). Given that students have the most frequent interactions with the dissertation advisor during the dissertation stage (i.e., Ali & Kohun, 2006), this study aimed to understand how faculty dissertation advisors aid in students' persistence during the dissertation stage. Specifically, the study answered (1) how faculty dissertation advisors define their role during the dissertation stage, (2) general strategies advisors use during the dissertation stage to help students persist, (3) strategies used by advisors to assist different types of students during the dissertation stage, and (4) how advisors facilitate academic and social integration at the dissertation stage. This study utilized a mixed methods research design to understand dissertation advisors' role in students' persistence during the dissertation stage (Fraenkel & Wallen, 2009). Specifically, faculty dissertation advisors from one college of education at a research university in the southeastern region completed a questionnaire and a subset of these faculty participated in a follow-up interview. Consistent with Barnes and Austin's (2009) findings, results showed that participants utilized several functions, including collaborating, mentoring, advocating, and chastising to perform their role during the dissertation stage. Participants also valued several characteristics, friendly/professional, collegial, supportive/caring, accessible, and honest, when performing their role as dissertation advisor. Additionally, participants indicated they use a series of general strategies, which Barnes and Austin termed as helping advisees be successful. Interview findings also identified five categories of threats to students' persistence during the dissertation stage, as well as corresponding strategies participants used to help advisees maneuver these threats to persistence. The themes included advisees' personal responsibilities, psychological concerns, time, dissertation project hurdles, and isolation. While Tinto's (1993) model of doctoral student persistence failed to elaborate on how the dissertation advisor facilitates academic and social integration during the dissertation stage, results indicated that, in general, faculty dissertation advisors do at least encourage advisees' academic integration by helping advisees plan and conduct research, aiding in their professional and workforce development, and encouraging them to publish articles and/or publishing articles with advisees. Additionally, dissertation advisors encourage advisees to connect with their peers and with faculty members inside and outside the academic department. However, less than half of participants encouraged advisees to connect with staff and administrators in the campus-wide community. Results of this study can be used to further research on the doctoral student experience and the advisor's role in that experience. Additionally, findings from this study can be used by dissertation advisors, academic departments, and university administrators in policy and standards of practice to help ensure students' persistence during doctoral programs, especially during the dissertation stage.
Identifier: FSU_migr_etd-9266 (IID)
Submitted Note: A Dissertation submitted to the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Education.
Degree Awarded: Fall Semester, 2014.
Date of Defense: November 7, 2014.
Bibliography Note: Includes bibliographical references.
Advisory Committee: Tamara Bertrand Jones, Professor Directing Dissertation; Kathy Guthrie, Committee Member; Linda Schrader, Committee Member; Robert A. Schwartz, Committee Member.
Subject(s): Education, Higher -- Administration
Persistent Link to This Record:
Owner Institution: FSU

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Willett, B. P. (2014). Demystifying the Advisor’s Role in Doctoral Students’ Persistence during the Dissertation Stage. Retrieved from