The prospectus is brief document that serves as a road map for the dissertation. It provides the essential framework to guide the development of the dissertation proposal. The prospectus builds on the 10 Strategic Points (shown in Appendix A) and should be no longer than 6-10 pages, excluding the criteria tables and the appendices. The prospectus will be expanded to become the dissertation proposal (Chapters 1, 2 and 3 of the dissertation), which will, in turn, be expanded to become the complete dissertation (Chapters 1-5). In short, the prospectus is a plan for the proposal. Prior to developing the prospectus, the 10 Strategic points should be reviewed with the chair and committee to ensure the points are aligned and form a clear, defined, and doable study. The10 Strategic Points should be included in Appendix A of this prospectus document.
It is important to ensure the prospectus is well written from the very first draft. The most important consideration when writing the prospectus is using the required criteria specified in the criterion table below each section and writing specifically to each criterion! Also critical is for learners to follow standard paragraph structure: (1) contains a topic sentence defining the focus of the paragraph, (2) discusses only that single topic, (3) contains three to five sentences, and (4) includes a transition sentence to the next paragraph or section. The sentences should also be structurally correct, short, and focused. Throughout the dissertation process, learners are expected to always produce a well-written document as committee members and peer reviewers will not edit writing. If prospectus it is not well written, reviewers may reject the document and require the learner to address writing issues before they will review it again. Remove this page and the sample criterion table below upon submission for review.
1. Read the entire Prospectus Template to understand the requirements for writing your prospectus. Each section contains a narrative overview of what should be included in the section and a table with required criteria for each section. WRITE TO THE CRITERIA, as they will be used to assess the prospectus for overall quality and feasibility of your proposed research study.
2. As you draft each section, delete the narrative instructions and insert your work related to that section. Use the criterion table for each section to ensure that you address the requirements for that particular section. Do not delete/remove the criterion table as this is used by you and your committee to evaluate your prospectus.
3. Prior to submitting your prospectus for review by your chair or methodologist, use the criteria table for each section to complete a realistic self-evaluation, inserting what you believe is your score for each listed criterion into the Learner Self-Evaluation column. This is an exercise in self-evaluation and critical reflection, and to ensure that you completed all sections, addressing all required criteria for that section.
4. The scoring for the criteria ranges from a 0-3 as defined below. Complete a realistic and thoughtful evaluation of your work. Your chair and methodologist will also use the criterion tables to evaluate your work.
Item is Present. Does Not Meet Expectations. Revisions are Required: Not all components are present. Large gaps are present in the components that leave the reader with significant questions. All items scored at 1 must be addressed by learner per reviewer comments.
Item is Acceptable. Meets Expectations. Some Revisions May Be Required Now or in the Future. Component is present and adequate. Small gaps are present that leave the reader with questions. Any item scored at 2 must be addressed by the learner per the reviewer comments.
Item Exceeds Expectations. No Revisions Required. Component is addressed clearly and comprehensively. No gaps are present that leave the reader with questions. No changes required.
The Introduction section broadly describes the research topic that will be addressed by the dissertation and why that focus is worthy of further investigation. The introduction develops the significance of the study by describing how the study is new or different from other studies, how it addresses something that is not already known or has not been studied before, or how it extends prior research on the topic in some way. Using results, societal needs, recommendations for further study, or needs identified in three to five research studies (primarily from the last 3-5 years), the learner identifies the stated need, or gap, for the study. The reason it makes sense to focus on the last three years at this stage is that those sources will still fall within the five-year time frame when the dissertation has been completed. Additionally, the most recent studies on the topic need to be a focal point to show how the research is currently trending. Learners and committee members should also note the following information about the dissertation topic.
1. The College of Doctoral Studies recognizes the diversity of learners in our programs and the varied interests in research topics for their dissertations in the Social Sciences.
2. Dissertation topics must, at a minimum, be aligned to General Psychology in the Ph.D. program, Leadership in the Ed.D. Organizational Leadership program, Adult Instruction in the Ed.D. Teaching and Learning program, Management in the DBA program, and Counseling Practice, Counselor Education, Clinical Supervision or Advocacy/Leadership within the Counseling field in the Counselor Education Ph.D. program.
3. If there are questions regarding appropriate alignment of a dissertation topic to the program, the respective program chair will be the final authority for approval decisions.
4. Specifically, although the College prefers a learner’s topic align with the program emphasis, this alignment is not “required.” The College will remain flexible on the learner’s dissertation topic if it aligns with the degree program in which the learner is enrolled. The Ph.D. program in General Psychology does not support clinically-based research.
This section briefly overviews the research focus or problem, why this study is worth conducting, and how this study will be completed.
The recommended length for this section is two to three paragraphs.
1. Dissertation topic is introduced along with why the study is needed.
2. Provides a summary of results from the prior empirical research on the topic.
3. Using results, societal needs, recommendations for further study, or needs identified in three to five research studies (primarily from the last three years), the learner identifies the stated need, called a gap.
4. Section is written in a way that is well structured, has a logical flow, uses correct paragraph structure, uses correct sentence structure, uses correct punctuation, and uses correct APA format.
NOTE: This Introduction section elaborates on the Topic from the 10 Strategic Points. This Introduction section provides the foundation for the Introduction section in Chapter 1 of the Proposal.
The Background of the Problem section of the prospectus uses the literature to provide the reader with the identification and statement of the research gap and problem the study will address. The first part of the Background to the Problem section includes a brief discussion demonstrating how the gap has been established based on what is known, and not known, in the literature. This should include a clear statement informing the reader of the gap. The second part of this section presents a brief historical perspective of when the problem started and how it has evolved over time.
The gap. GCU defines the gap as a need or opportunity based on the existing body of recent empirical literature. “Recent” empirical literature refers to empirical research articles or dissertations within five years from date of defense. In other words, the gap for the dissertation is the difference between what is known in a field of research and what is not yet known, i.e., what researchers suggest ‘needs’ to be known (that is, needs to be studied), but which is not yet known.
What is not a gap. A gap is not defined as research on a topic for which there is no related research in the existing body of literature (see Grand Canyon University [GCU], 2017). That is, the absence of literature in and of itself does not constitute a gap. Furthermore, a personal agenda or an interesting idea is not sufficient rationale to establish a gap.
How to establish the gap. The gap is created by synthesizing the literature related to a societal need and/or broad topic. The stated need is defined from the literature from recent years, usually within the last 3-5 years. There are a variety of ways to synthesize the literature to define the gap. Below is a set of steps that may be used:
1. First, explore original literature on this “societal” issue or big problem to determine what researchers have discovered and what still needs to be discovered. Then compare and contrast the original literature on this problem and provide an overarching summary of the current state of literature surrounding this problem.
2. Second, while exploring the original literature, identify the broad topics and problems researched. Explore the evolution of the research on the problem. How did the focus change? What findings emerged from these studies?
3. Third, describe the research from the past 2 to 3 years to discover what has been discovered, and elaborate to discuss what still needs to be researched or discovered. Discuss the trends and themes that emerged. What has been discovered? What do researchers say still needs to be researched or discovered?
4. Fourth, define the proposed topic and problem statement, given the syntheses of recent studies, trends, limitations, and defined future research needs.
Once the learner has established a gap from recent empirical literature, the gap then determines the research problem, which will be covered in the Problem Statement section of the prospectus. The research problem establishes how studying this gap will benefit society and/or professional needs. That is, the problem statement addresses the gap. The problem should be discussed as applicable beyond the local setting and contributes to societal, disciplinary, and/or professional needs. The studies referenced should help to justify the need for the specific research study. For further information see GCU (2017) and the DC Network for resources on finding the gap.
Evolution of problem. The second part of the Background of the Problem section should include a very short historical description of when the problem started and how it has evolved over time. This section will be further elaborated in Chapter 2 of the proposal, the literature review. This section must include citations from the past 3-5 years of the literature that clearly present evidence defining the current problem or opportunity that needs to be further researched.or model.