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PhD Prospectus Form
Students | Complete your doctoral prospectus within this form. Write your responses in the white spaces using a scholarly tone and include in-text
citations and APA reference entries, where appropriate. You can click on underlined terms and headings for descriptions, resource links, and
examples located in the Appendix. For additional prospectus information and resources, refer to the Doctoral Research Coach. Complete the
Research Design Alignment Table within this form using the information from earlier sections and self-assess your research design alignment.
Submit this completed form into MyDR for formal evaluation and feedback when your committee chair indicates that you are ready to do so.
Student’s Name | Click or tap here to enter text.
Student ID | Click or tap here to enter text.
Program and Specialization* | Click or tap here to enter text.
Submission Date | Click arrow to select a date.
*Remember that your study focus must be within the realm of your program and specialization area.
Evaluators Only | Complete this section and provide feedback on responses and rubric scores in the form where noted.
Committee Chairperson Name: Click or tap here to enter text.
Second Committee Member Name: Click or tap here to enter text.
PhD Program Director: Click or tap here to enter text.
Overall Assessment: Choose score.
Overall Assessment: Choose score.
Overall Assessment: Choose score.
Rubric Standard | Complete > Does the prospectus contain all the required elements? Refer to the annotated outline to see the required parts of the
Dissertation Prospectus document.
Note. Please complete following the directions provided, using the stem sentences, and referring to the examples in the appendix.
Title
Provide a concise (aim for 15 words or fewer) working title for this study. Include the main topic, variables/concepts under investigation, and the relationship
between them. A title should be fully explanatory when standing alone and include the most critical key words.
Mental health of exonerees of racial minorities, before and after incarceration, the need for accountability, and judicial reform in Kansas City
Metro.
Supporting Literature
The first step in developing your prospectus is to search the literature related to the general area you want to investigate (see social problem below). In your
review of recent, empirical literature, what keywords did you search and in what databases?
The keywords and databases searched included Mental Health of exonerees or racial minorities. Judicial reform in Kansas City Metro, Wrongful
conviction, Exoneration, Coercion, False confession. Databases searched: Walden Library, Google Scholar, Local libraries
Provide at least 10 brief summaries of recent, scholarly (peer-reviewed) articles that support/justify a current and relevant problem in your discipline or
professional field. Source(s) supporting your framework should be included. Include the complete, APA reference entry, followed by (a) an in-text citation; (b)
what was studied; (c) what was found; and (d) why this research is important in relation to your study. This evidence provides the justification for your
research problem.
Replace this text with your summaries.
Rubric Standard | Justified > Is evidence presented that this problem is significant to the discipline and/or professional field? The prospectus
should provide relevant statistics and evidence, documentable discrepancies, and other scholarly facts that point to the significance and urgency of the
problem.
Problem
What was the social problem that prompted you to search the literature to find out more? Write in complete sentences using a scholarly tone.
The situation or issue that prompted me to search the literature is
Now that you have read and summarized some of the recent literature to understand your problem, and given what other researchers are exploring, what
meaningful gap have you identified that your study will address? (What have others not yet explored about this problem that you will contribute with your
study?)
Although researchers have investigated this issue, the topic has not been explored in this way: Replace this text with your response.
Based on all of the above information (social problem, literature review, gap), in one sentence, what is your research problem?
The specific research problem that will be addressed through this study is Replace this text with your response.
Rubric Standard | Meaningful > Has a meaningful problem and gap in the research literature been identified? In other words, is addressing this
problem the logical next step, given the previous exploratory and confirmatory research (or lack thereof) on this topic? It is not acceptable to simply replicate
previous research for a Ph.D. degree.
Rubric Standard | Original > Does this project have potential to make an original contribution? The problem must be an authentic “puzzle” that
needs solving, not merely a topic that the researcher finds interesting. Addressing the problem should result in an original contribution to the field or
discipline.
Purpose
To address your stated research problem, what is the purpose of your study? Will you describe, compare, explore, examine, etc.? Complete the purpose
sentence below and be sure to clarify your variables/concepts of interest.
The purpose of this Qualitative study is to
Framework (Conceptual or Theoretical)
What theory(ies) and/or concept(s) support (frame) your study and who are the original authors? Provide an in-text citation with your response, and the
complete APA reference entry with summary in the Supporting Literature section.
The theories and/or concepts that ground this study include
How do these theories and/or concepts relate to your research problem, purpose, and the nature of your study?
The logical connections between the framework presented and the nature of my study include
Rubric Standard | Grounded > Is the problem framed to enable the researcher to either build upon or counter the previously published
findings on the topic? For most fields, grounding involves articulating the problem within the context of a theoretical base or conceptual framework.
Although many approaches can ground a study in the scientific literature, the essential requirement is that the problem is framed such that the new findings
will have implications for the previous findings.
Research Question(s) and Hypotheses (if applicable)
List the question(s) that you plan to use to address the research problem. Your question(s) must align with your study purpose and include the variables
and/or concepts and how they will be examined.
Nature of the Study
What systematic approach/method and research design do you plan to use to address your research question(s)?
To address the research questions in this Choose approach/method study, the specific research design will include Replace this text with your
response.
Reference entry for the work on which this research design is based:
Replace this text with your response.
For your planned research design, what type of data will you need and what data collection tools and sources will provide it?
For my planned research design, I will need Replace this text with your response.
What data points from these sources do you plan to use to answer your research question(s)?
Replace this text with your response.
What limitations, challenges, and/or barriers might you need to address while conducting this study (e.g., access to participants, access to data, requirements
for storing data, separation of roles or other ethical considerations, instrumentation fees, etc.)?
Replace this text with your response.
Rubric Standard | Feasible > Can a systematic method of inquiry be used to address the problem; and does the approach have the potential to
address the problem while considering potential risks and burdens placed on research participants? The tentative methodology demonstrates that
the researcher has considered the options for inquiry and has selected an approach that has potential to address the problem.
Significance
How will your study address the meaningful, discipline-specific issue that you identified and therefore contribute to your field, discipline, professional
practice, etc. contributing to positive social change?
This study is significant in that Replace this text with your response.
Rubric Standard | Impact > Does this project have potential to affect positive social change? As described in the Significance section, the anticipated
findings have potential to support the mission of Walden University to promote positive social change.
Rubric Standard | Objective > Is the topic approached in an objective manner? The framing of the problem should not reveal bias or present a
foregone conclusion. Even if the researcher has a strong opinion on the expected findings, the researcher must maximize scholarly objectivity by framing the
problem in the context of a systematic inquiry that permits multiple possible conclusions.
Partner Site Masking Self-Check
Walden capstones typically mask the identity of the partner organization. The methodological and ethical reasons for this practice as well as criteria for
exceptions are outlined here (link to posted guidance).
? Check here to confirm that you will mask the identity of the organization in the final capstone that you publish in ProQuest.
? If you perceive that your partner organization’s identity would be impossible to mask or if there is a strong rationale for naming the organization in your
capstone, please check this box so that your Program Director can review your request for an exception. If granted, that exception must be confirmed by the
IRB during the ethics review process. The IRB will also ensure that your consent form(s) and/or site agreement(s) permit naming the organization.
Research Design Alignment Table | Using an alignment table can assist with ensuring the alignment of your research design.
Research Design Alignment Table Video Tutorial (YouTube) | Doctoral Research Design Alignment Appointments or Office Hours
Note. At the prospectus stage, not all items in the table below can be identified (e.g., data points, data analysis). Please complete the items that you have
identified in this form. During proposal development, you will revisit this plan to adjust, as needed, and finalize your research design.
Research Problem,
Purpose, and Framework
Research Question(s), Method,
& Design
Data Collection Tools & Data
Sources
Provide one sentence for each.
These must align with all rows.
List one or more RQs, as needed;
select method; identify design. Use a
separate form for additional RQs.
RQ1: Replace text with response.
Method: Choose method
Design: Replace text with response.
List the instrument(s) and people,
artifacts, or records that will provide
the data for each RQ.
Replace text with response.
RQ2: Replace text with response.
Method: Choose method
Design: Replace text with response.
RQ3: Replace text with response.
Method: Choose method
Design: Replace text with response.
Problem: Replace text with
response.
Purpose: Replace text with
response.
Framework: Replace text with
response.
Data Points
Data Analysis
List the variables, specific
interview questions, scales,
etc. that will be used for
each RQ.
Briefly describe the
statistical or qualitative
analysis that will address
each RQ.
Replace text with
response.
Replace text with
response.
Replace text with response.
Replace text with
response.
Replace text with
response.
Replace text with response.
Replace text with
response.
Replace text with
response.
Note. The information in the first column must align with all rows, and each individual RQ row must show alignment across the columns for that row.
Once your Research Design Alignment Table is completed, reflect on your design alignment. Ask yourself:
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
Is there a logical progression from the research problem to the purpose of the study?
Does the identified framework ground the investigation into the stated problem?
Do the problem, purpose, and framework in the left-hand column align with the RQ(s) (all rows)?
Does each RQ address the problem and align with the purpose of the study?
Does the information across each individual row match/align with the RQ listed for that row?
• By row, will the variables listed address the RQ?
• By row, will the analysis address the RQ?
• By row, can the analysis be completed with the data points that will be collected?
Rubric Standard | Aligned > Do the various aspects of the prospectus align overall? The nature of the study should align with the problem,
research questions, and tentative approaches to inquiry.
Appendix
The Doctoral Prospectus
The Doctoral Prospectus is a brief document that provides preliminary information about your dissertation research and is used in two ways:
• It serves as the tentative plan for developing the proposal and is evaluated to ensure doctoral-level work (e.g., feasibility, alignment, etc.).
• It provides information used to assign the committee University Research Reviewer.
Prospectus milestone approval from the committee chair, second committee member, and a program-level designee is required for you to move forward and
work on your proposal. The plan is subject to change, and parts of your research design may need to be adjusted after you complete your exhaustive review of
the literature during proposal development.
…………………………………………………………………………………………………
Title
Titles should be concise (aim for 15 words or fewer), be a statement, not a question, and no colons please. The title should indicate the main topic and the
variables/concepts under study and the relationship between them. A title should be fully explanatory when standing alone and include the most critical key
words (a searchable statement of what the manuscript contains). Avoid words that serve no purpose (such as methods, results, a study of…, or investigation
of…), use full terms (avoid abbreviations), and capitalize any word of four or more letters, and all parts of a verb. For more information, see the F&S Checklist.
Quantitative (QN) Example
Differences in the Quality of Problem Statements Written Throughout the Capstone
Qualitative (QL) Example
How Online Doctoral Students Develop a Dissertation Problem Statement
…………………………………………………………………………………………………
Background Literature
Probably the most important step in the research process is searching recent, peer-reviewed literature and reading articles related to the general area you want
to investigate. The area is based on an identified social problem. As you read and learn, you will narrow your focus. This is how you will identify a disciplinespecific research problem.
[Note: Scholarly, empirical articles and how to find them.]
First, you’ll need to determine your search terms or keywords and the databases you should search. As you conduct your search of the literature, stay organized
by keeping a search log.
Search Log Example
Database
Search Terms
Results
Notes
Thoreau
online doctoral program completion; limited to peer reviewed, 2016-present
1175
Search too broad; Narrow by using multiple terms
Thoreau
online doctoral program completion AND ABD; limited to peer reviewed, 2016present
13
Much better; Several relevant articles found
Education Source Etc.
Example for this Form
The keywords and databases searched included ABD, online doctoral program completion, doctoral capstone completion, online research training, and online
learning in the databases Education Source, ERIC, and SAGE Journals, as well as in a Thoreau multidatabase search.
As you read and evaluate literature, you also need to organize your research. A literature review matrix is one way to help you visualize what has and hasn’t
been done in your field. It will help you understand the scholarly works related to your area of interest. The importance of organizing and recording your review
of literature cannot be overstated. You will refer to your notes as you write, so start on the right track from the beginning!
[Suggestion: If you keep your search log in an Excel workbook, use the second tab in the same workbook for your literature review matrix.]
For this form, include the complete, APA reference entry and (a) an in-text citation; (b) what they studied; (c) what they found; and (d) why this is important in
relation to your study. This evidence provides the justification for your research problem. These sources provide justification that this problem is meaningful to
the discipline or professional field. These references should ideally be from the past 5 years. Reference entries related to the framework should be included
here, too. [Note: During proposal development, you will conduct an exhaustive review and synthesize your sources, rather than summarize.]
Example (for one article; at least 10 are required)
Ismail, H. M., Majid, F. A., & Ismail, I. S. (2013). “It’s complicated” relationship: Research students’ perspective on doctoral supervision. Procedia – Social and
Behavioral Sciences, 90, 165–170. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.sbspro.2013.07.078
(a) Ismail, Majid, and Ismail (2013); (b) focused on the student experience with supervision while learning to conduct research; (c) found three issues of
lack of positive communication, lack of expertise, and power conflicts; and (d) this is important in relation to my study because it may help explain
progress on the development of a problem statement in the capstone process.
Rubric Standard | Justified > Is evidence presented that this problem is significant to the discipline and/or professional field?
…………………………………………………………………………………………………
Problem
Social Problem
The situation or issue being experienced by a population or within your discipline that prompted you to search the literature to find out more is sometimes
called a social problem. It is the issue that students see “on the ground” so to speak. The social problem is often what prompts students to think about a topic of
interest. Usually such a topic is one that students identify with, sometimes having personally experienced some aspect of the problem as it exists in the world.
Example
The issue that prompted me to search the literature is the low completion rate of students in doctoral programs. It is common knowledge in the education
discipline that only about half of the students who enter doctoral programs will complete, and the lack of progress is often due to the dissertation process. A
search in The Chronicle of Higher Education will result in numerous articles about supporting doctoral students with their capstone research to improve the
completion rates of doctoral programs.
Gap
The need to address an identified gap in the research literature must be clear and there must be current relevance to the discipline and area of practice. Keep in
mind that a gap in the research is not, in and of itself, a reason to conduct research. The gap relates to the rubric standard: Meaningful.
Example
Although researchers have investigated this issue, there is very little or no literature on the development of problem statements by students in online doctoral
programs.
Research Problem
A research problem is a focused topic of concern, a condition to be improved upon, or troubling question that is supported in scholarly literature or theory that
you study to understand in more detail, and that can lead to recommendations for resolutions. It is the research problem that drives the rest of the dissertation:
the purpose, the research questions, and the methodology.
QN Example
In one sentence, the specific research problem is that it is not known whether the quality of problem statements written by online doctoral students varies over
time in the program.
QL Example
In one sentence, the specific research problem is that there is a lack of information on how online doctoral students go about developing their research problem
statement for their dissertations.
Rubric Standard | Meaningful > Has a meaningful problem and gap in the research literature been identified?
Rubric Standard | Original > Does this project have potential to make an original contribution?
…………………………………………………………………………………………………
Purpose
To address your stated research problem, what is the purpose of your study? Will you describe, compare, explore, examine, etc.? Be sure to clarify your
variables/concepts of interest. For example:
• In quantitative studies, state what needs be studied by describing two or more factors (variables) and a conjectured relationship among them related to the
identified gap or problem.
• In qualitative studies, describe the need for increased understanding about the issue to be studied, based on the identified gap or problem.
• In mixed-methods studies, with both quantitative and qualitative aspects, clarify how the two approaches will be used together to inform the study.
QN Example
The purpose of this quantitative study is to examine differences in the quality of problem statements written by doctoral students in online programs during the
various stages of their doctoral studies.
QL Example
The purpose of this qualitative study is to improve the understanding of the process by which doctoral students in online programs arrive at a viable problem
statement for their dissertations.
…………………………………………………………………………………………………
Framework
The framework includes the theories and/or concepts relevant to your topic. Align the framework with the problem, purpose, research questions, and
background of your study. This theoretical or conceptual framework is the basis for understanding, designing, and analyzing ways to investigate your research
problem (data collection and analysis). Provide the original scholarly literature (citing original authors) on the theory and/or concepts, even if it is more than 5
years old. Please do not cite secondary sources.
Example Theoretical Framework
The theories and/or concepts that ground this study include Perry’s (1970) theory of epistemological development.
Example Conceptual Framework
The theories and/or concepts that ground this study include Perry’s (1970) theory of epistemological development, focusing specifically on the concepts of
online learning and the pedagogical challenges associated with online learning and dissertation writing.
Next, explain how these theories and/or concepts relate to your research problem, purpose, and the nature of your study. Your topic/approach should align with
the identified framework so that you will either build upon or counter the previously published findings on the topic.
Example Connection for the Theoretical Framework
The logical connections between the framework presented and my study approach include Perry’s theoretical work, which has been used extensively in all
aspects of higher education, albeit more frequently with undergraduates than with doctoral students. The approach provides details on cognitive-structural
changes that emerge as a result of development and learning.
Example Connection for the Conceptual Framework
The logical connections between the framework presented and my study approach include Perry’s theoretical work, which has been used extensively in all
aspects of higher education, albeit more frequently with undergraduates than with doctoral students. Further, subsequent research and application of Perry’s
theory offer guidance on ways to facilitate academic development, thus allowing for insight into the pedagogical challenge of the dissertation.
Rubric Standard | Grounded > Is the problem framed to enable the researcher to either build upon or counter the previously published findings on the
topic?
…………………………………………………………………………………………………
Research Question(s) and Hypotheses (if applicable)
List the overarching question and/or a series of related questions that are informed by the study purpose, that will be used to address the research problem. A
research question informs the research design by providing a foundation for:
• generation of null and alternative hypotheses in quantitative studies,
• questions necessary to build the design structure for qualitative studies, and
• a process by which different methods will work together in mixed-methods studies.
QN Example
RQ1: Based on objective ratings by doctoral faculty, what are the differences in the overall quality of problem statements as students progress through the
doctoral study process?
H01—Based on objective ratings by doctoral faculty, there are no statistically significant differences in the overall quality of problem statements as students
progress through the doctoral study process.
H1—Based on objective ratings by doctoral faculty, there are statistically significant differences in the overall quality of problem statements as students progress
through the doctoral study process.
QL Example
For students with a high-quality problem statement at the dissertation stage, what themes emerge in their reports of the process that they used to develop it?
…………………………………………………………………………………………………
Nature of the Study
Explain the systematic approach/method and research design you plan to use to address your research question(s). Examples of study design are as follows:
• Quantitative—for experimental, quasiexperimental, or nonexperimental designs; treatment-control; repeated measures; causal-comparative; single-subject;
predictive studies; or other quantitative approaches
• Qualitative—for basic/generic qualitative design, ethnography, case study, grounded theory, narrative inquiry, phenomenological research, policy analysis,
or other qualitative traditions
• Mixed methods, primarily quantitative—for sequential, concurrent, or transformative studies, with the focus on quantitative methods
• Mixed methods, primarily qualitative—for sequential, concurrent, or transformative studies, with the focus on qualitative methods
• Other—for another design, to be specified with a justification provided for its use
QN Example
To address the research questions in this quantitative study, the specific research design will include a repeated-measure design (Frankfort-Nachmias &
Nachmias, 2008) with objective ratings of student work products examined across time. This quantitative analysis should help pinpoint the amount of growth
from the beginning to the end of the project.
Reference entry for the work on which this research design is based:
Frankfort-Nachmias, C., & Nachmias, D. (2008). Research methods in the social sciences cd-rom spss cd-rom vol 15. (7th ed.). Worth Pub.
QL Example
To address the research questions in this qualitative study, the specific research design will include a single descriptive case study (Yin, 2014) with interviews
with students and faculty. This qualitative analysis using pattern matching and cross case analysis will improve the understanding of the process by which
doctoral students in online programs arrive at a viable problem statement for their dissertations.
Reference entry for the work on which this research design is based:
Yin, R. K. (2014). Case study research: Design and methods (Fifth edition). SAGE.
Then, for your planned research design, present the type of data you will need, and a list of possible data collection tools and sources that could be used to
address the proposed research question(s), such as test scores from college students, employee surveys, observations of a phenomenon, interviews with
practitioners, historical documents from state records, de-identified medical records, or information from a federal database. At this point, you should have an
idea of the type of data needed to address your research question(s). Explain whether you will be collecting primary data (collected by the you, the researcher)
or accessing secondary data (preexisting or public data collected by others). If you are collecting data, you should present the tentative plan for instrument(s)
and potential participants. If using secondary data, identify the data source, how the data will be accessed. Possible secondary data sources, by program, are
available on the Center for Research Quality website. [Note. This is your tentative plan, so keep in mind that things might need to be modified during the
proposal stage—particularly after you have completed your exhaustive review of the literature.]
QN Example
For my planned research design, I will need to request access to preexisting/secondary data from the W University’s online doctoral program related to problem
statement development of at least 300 students.
QL Example
For my planned research design, I will need to recruit both student and faculty participants for individual interviews. Interview protocols will be developed to
address the problem and purpose of the study.
Next, provide the data points from these sources you plan to use to answer your research question(s). Data points are the specific variables or type of
information that you will use in your analysis. For example, they ma

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