Education Dissertation


The doctoral dissertation is an opportunity for students to demonstrate their ability to bridge theory and practice through research or evaluation. Students are encouraged throughout their coursework to identify salient issues and relevant organizational concerns they might wish to investigate as a basis for producing a dissertation, the final requirement for the doctoral degree.

Description of Dissertation

The dissertation is a scholarly work conducted independently by the student, under the direction of a full-time GSEP faculty member. Our Ed.D. programs follow a scholar-practitioner model which influences how the dissertation research is designed, implemented, and reported. Issues studied are specifically relevant to practice and follow an applied research model. Theoretical support is more focused and implications are directed toward practice. Our Ph.D. program follows the scholar-researcher model requiring more emphasis on existing theoretical frameworks and how research findings will contribute to further theoretical knowledge. The methodology engaged differs based upon the problem being addressed as well as preferences of the student and chairperson. Whatever methods are selected, theoretical support through review of the related literature is necessary. After obtaining approval of a dissertation proposal through the Preliminary Oral, the student implements the methods, produces results, and identifies conclusions and recommendations. A Final Defense is held when the student's committee determines that the student is ready to defend the study conclusions.

Acceptable Dissertation Projects

Acceptable projects include, but are not limited to:

  • An empirical study, using quantitative and/or qualitative methods
    Program or product development and evaluation projects
    An original theoretical analysis of an existing issue
    The development of a new model for organizational and/or leadership interventions
    An in-depth case study with findings which explain the theoretical and/or practical aspects of a phenomenon.

Acceptable Dissertation Structures

Pepperdine faculty commonly use a 5 chapter structure; however, other models are possible with the support of the chairperson. The actual chapter titles may vary depending upon the context of the work.

Ch. 4  Results
Ch. 5  Conclusions / Recommendations
Five Chapter Structure 
Ch. 1 Problem / Issue
Ch. 2  Theoretical Framework / Review of Literature
Ch. 3  Methods

Dissertation Resources

Registered doctoral students have access to the Courses site: Dissertation Success. Details regarding the dissertation process as well as current policies are available. Also, numerous templates, examples, and links to additional resources are in the Resources folder. Note: If you are currently registered in any of our doctoral programs and are not able to access this Courses site, please contact your academic advisor for assistance ( or