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The Qualitative Dissertation

The Qualitative Dissertation
A Guide for Students and Faculty

Second Edition
Edited by:

Foreword by Frances Schoonmaker

June 2009 | 328 pages | Corwin
Written primarily for doctoral students in education and related fields, the purpose of this book is to assist practitioner-scholars in crafting and conducting a qualitative dissertation by using practical issues to help them understand what it means to do a dissertation and what it means to do qualitative research. Rather than an instruction manual on qualitative research methods or a recipe, formula, or template for preparing dissertation-related documents (e.g., proposal, final report), this book guides students through the issues and questions that arise as students struggle to learn about qualitative dissertation research. Comprehensive, it guides the student through the process of preparing for the dissertation journey, rethinking the concepts of method and data, working through the proposal process, defending the dissertation, and living life after the dissertation.
Foreword by Frances Schoonmaker
Preface to the Second Edition
About the Authors
Part I. Facing the Dissertation Journey
1. Coming to Study
2. On the Deliberative Nature of the Dissertation
3. Meanings of the Dissertation
4. Facing the Dissertation
Part II. Preparing for the Dissertation Journey
5. Orienting Oneself to Interpretive Inquiry
6. Situating Oneself in the Inquiry
7. Rethinking the Concept of Method
8. Rethinking the Concept of Data
9. Moving From the Experiential to the Theoretic
Part III. Entering Into and Living Through the Dissertation Journey
10. Developing Ideas for the Dissertation Proposal
11. Crafting an Interpretive Dissertation Proposal
12. Proposing the Dissertation Study
13. Living With the Study
14. Entering Into Public Discourse: The Dissertation Meeting
15. Life After the Dissertation
Part IV. Case Examples of Interpretive Dissertations
Case Example 1. Problematizing Educational Inclusion: A Practice-Based Heuristic Inquiry
Case Example 2. Pictures in Our Minds: A Narrative Study of the Incorporation of Creative Dramatics as Pedagogy in Elementary Classroom Content Areas
Case Example 3. A Narrative Study of Three Levels of Reflection in a College Composition Class: Teacher Journal, Student Portfolios, Teacher-Student Discourse
Case Example 4. Promises Made, Promises Broken: A Literary Criticism of the Pennsylvania Lead Teacher Experience
Case Example 5. Our Changing Town, Our Changing School: Is Common Ground Possible?
Case Example 6. A Special Program for Gifted Female Adolescents: A Conceptual Case Study for Planning Curriculum

"The book is chock full of very practical advice and strategies for doing qualitative dissertation studies. But, unlike any other research methods text I know, it also exudes concern and support for those embarking on the research journey. The authors metaphorically hold the reader’s hand as they tell the reader how to produce a coherent, comprehensive, and rigorous document. Bravo!"

Robert Donmoyer, Professor of Leadership Studies
University of San Diego

"The authors coach students through processes of conceptualizing the dissertation, treating it as an integral dimension of the journey of living. Moreover, they enable students to develop the dissertation into a line of inquiry that evolves and enriches a career in academe or practical leadership. Those who teach qualitative courses will find this book a guide that organizes and enriches their own strengths in guiding students through the qualitative dissertation experience.”

William H. Schubert, Professor of Education, University Scholar, Director of Graduate Studies
University of Illinois at Chicago

"While a number of books have appeared in the last few years to help students know about approaches to a qualitative dissertation in the social sciences and particularly in education, this book seeks to help staff and students know these processes in a different way: to know them as lived experiences. This text conveys what doing a dissertation in search of deep rather than surface learning is actually like, what it takes, and what it leads to."

Peter Willis, Senior Lecturer of Adult, Vocational, and Workplace Learning
Centre for Research in Education, Equity and Work, University of South Australia

"Piantanida and Garman provide an invaluable set of intellectual, experiental, and practical resources for both students and advisers to use to think about the complex tangle of doctoral text and identity work. They avoid formulaic prescriptions and offer instead an engaging and eminently readable guide to the interrelated processes of forming a scholarly self and a clearly situated and focused inquiry."

Pat Thomson, Professor of Education
University of Nottingham, United Kingdom

This book did serve as a good reference; however, the Bloomberg and Volpe 2016/7 book came out as we were making our decision and we favored the latter for our purposes.

Professor Iris Johnson
Education, Louisiana State University Shreveport
March 13, 2016

Excellent book

Dr Peter Gossman
Education, Glyndwr University
January 10, 2014

Comprehensive and tremendously helpful for advanced qualitative student working on dissertations.

Dr Trena Paulus
College Of Education, University of Tennessee
March 20, 2013

This is an easy to understand, well-written text which will be of great use to our students.

Mr Zedias Mutema
Business Administration , South Essex College
February 25, 2013

Excellent read! Practical & useful, especially Chapters 4 & & 7

Ms Yvette Summers
Youth Studies, Gloucestershire University
March 17, 2011

Thorough and excellent review of writing a qualitative dissertation. I adopted this while working with doctoral students at my previous university. Unfortunately, I no longer teach doctoral students since my current university is master-level only. However, I recommend this book to every doctoral student I mentor or teach.

Dr Brett Zyromski
Counseling, Social Work, and Leadership, Northern Kentucky University
March 3, 2011
Key features
  • Emphasis on self as instrument of inquiry reflects the perspective that research is a process of meaning-making embodied within the self of the researcher
  • "Reflective interludes" in each chapter pose questions meant to encourage readers to relate key concepts to their lives and sense of self as researchers
  • Short examples of student work illustrate the concepts in each chapter 
  • Six longer case examples of student work in Part IV illustrate concepts and issues
  • Boxed "sample reference lists" serve as starting points for further reading on specific aspects of qualitative research

The second edition of The Qualitative Dissertation is a major revision of the book with the addition of new material, substantial reorganization of information, and the incorporation of new features.

The concept of "cycles of deliberation" served as the organizing principle of the first edition. While the recursive nature of interpretive inquiry remains an important message of the book, greater emphasis has been given to the concept of "self as instrument of inquiry" and the centrality of constructing texts in interpretive inquiry. Information has been added to clarify the nature of knowledge claims generated through interpretive studies. Additionally, more emphasis is placed on encouraging doctoral students to relate concepts of qualitative research to their own experience, beliefs, talents, and sensibilities. This has led to several new features in individual chapters as well as some reorganization of the book.

The contents of the book have been organized into four sections. The first three highlight phases of the dissertation journey—facing the journey, preparing for the journey, and living through the journey. Case Examples of interpretive dissertations have been removed from individual chapters and consolidated into a fourth section for easier reference. A key to the Case Examples is also included on the inside of the front cover. Many chapters have been given new titles to clarify the conceptual content being presented. In addition, the content of the book has been divided into shorter chapters to make complex concepts more accessible.

New features within chapters include a preliminary listing of key concepts to be discussed. The reference list has been updated and sidebars have been added in many chapters to help readers locate references of relevance to particular topics. A key feature is the addition of "Reflective Interludes" which prompt readers to think carefully about their own assumptions about, conceptions of, and capacities for interpretive dissertation research. Textboxes highlighting criteria for judging the merits of interpretive dissertations have been added. The Index has been greatly expanded and refined.

Sample Materials & Chapters


Chapter 1

For instructors

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ISBN: 9781412951081