Milestone 1 | Doctoral Dissertation Research Development


Milestone 1: Potential Topic

Work with your chair to determine any specific instructions or guidance that he or she may have for you about your topic selection development document.

One of the first steps in research is topic selection. A dissertation focuses on a very narrow, specific topic. An important element of topic selection is bringing together two or three subtopics or concepts to help you focus your research. For example, simply stating, “my topic is transformational leadership” does not provide enough focus for doing an intentional review of the literature. However, adding subtopics can refine your search. Instead, you could state, “My topic is the ethical nature of transformational leaders.” Just by adding that one extra subtopic, you have created a narrower lens through which to start analyzing the literature. Adding one or two more subtopics to the sentence can narrow your focus even further:

  1. Identify a main topic (two or three keywords) within the domain of organizational behavior.
  2. Identify a subtopic (another keyword or two) through which you could “look at” your main topic.
  3. As needed, you may want to identify another subtopic through which you could “look at” your main topic and first subtopic.
  4. State that combination of topics or subtopics as a topical sentence or topical question . . . “What does the literature say about . . .”
  5. Start reviewing some scholarly literature. What is it saying about your topical sentence? Capture the most important information from each article that informs, clarifies, challenges, or raises questions about the topic you are beginning to develop.
  6. Begin segmenting or grouping the literature. Are there different points of view?
  7. Complete a review of at least four to five articles or other scholarly pieces of literature:
    1. Focus on current literature (last five years).
    2. How has the literature helped you reshape your topical sentence/question?
    3. What are some initial gaps in the existing literature that you are beginning to observe?
    4. How would you restate your topic sentence/question after reviewing some initial literature?

Submission Details:

  • Submit a 3- to 5-page paper that clarifies your refined topic. Support your topic with your preliminary review of the literature.
  • Use APA style in preparing your paper and citing references.
  • Submit your paper to the Milestone 1 Submissions Area.
  • Notify your chair (e.g., e-mail) when you have submitted the topic paper.

Note: A successful dissertation requires self-directed behaviors. To successfully pass each dissertation course, you must successfully complete (pass) each milestone presented in the course materials. Additionally, you must complete the milestones in the order they are presented in the course. The tasks in some milestones may take you more than a week to complete. Finish each milestone before you move on to the next milestone. In your planning, also allow time for feedback from your dissertation chair/committee and revisions as part of completing each task.

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