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College of Doctoral Studies

Dissertation journey

Welcome to your doctoral journey! We’re so proud that you’ve decided to take this step in your career. Our mission is to develop doctoral leaders who conduct research for creative action and provide guidance to diverse organizations through effective decision-making.

The Dissertation Process

The dissertation process occurs in five phases. Students should use the courses in each phase to build upon each phase deliverable and can dovetail course materials from content and research courses. Students should download a copy of the College of Doctoral Studies Dissertation Guide and Alignment Handbook for further alignment support.

The five phases are:

  1. Prospectus
  2. Précis
  3. Concept Review
  4. QRM: Proposal
  5. IRB Approval, QRF: Dissertation, and Oral Defense

Dissertation Committee Roles

Watch: Dissertation Committee Roles and Responsibilities

Students enrolled in the College of Doctoral Studies at the University of Phoenix are expected to be dedicated, self-motivated, responsible, and independent learners accountable for the development of their dissertation. Doctoral faculty members are dedicated to supporting and guiding students to the completion of the doctorate.

Doctoral seminar courses are writing-intensive classes for students. The faculty provides guidance, review, and feedback on dissertation deliverables to support the student in building a quality, robust dissertation. Students should be in doctoral seminar classes for full reviews.

Doctoral students are accountable for writing all chapters of the proposal and dissertation while enrolled in dissertation classes and independently outside of designated dissertation courses. Students select dissertation topics that reflect gaps in the literature or problems identified from their practitioner experience. Students must choose dissertation topics aligned with their degree programs.

Doctoral students should use work completed in content classes to build Chapter 2: The Literature Review. Using work from prior classes or dovetailing enables them to capitalize on their work without duplicating effort. Doctoral students rely on committee feedback to build robust, cohesive, and quality research projects aligned with the CDS’s mission to enhance their positions as Scholar-Practitioner-LeadersSM (SPL) in their industries.

The Dissertation Committee includes three College of Doctoral Studies faculty members (chair and two committee members, University Research Methodologist (URM) and Panel Validator (PV)), each having a specialized role. The Dissertation Committee is assigned to work with student cohorts at different stages.

The Dissertation Chair is the subject matter expert for content and discipline relevance. The Dissertation Chair leads the research problem development, research feasibility, rigor, and overall quality of the proposal and dissertation phases. Dissertation Chairs facilitate DOC/715, DOC/723, DOC/742, and the DOC/742 respective continuing enrollment courses. The Dissertation Chair leads the Oral Defense.

The University Research Methodologist (URM) leads proposal and dissertation research method and design to ensure alignment of methodological strategies, rigor, and quality. The URM facilitates DOC/741 and DOC/741 continuing enrollment courses. The URM and the Dissertation Chair are assigned to cohorts at the same time. The URM reviews the research problem, purpose, research questions/hypothesis, and research method design at DOC/715 and DOC/723 for alignment. The URM participates in the Oral Defense.

The Panel Validator (PV) is the subject matter expert who reviews Chapters 1-3 for scope and provides feedback to ensure Chapters 4 and 5 offer robust and innovative industry recommendations aligned with the SPL Model. The PV participates in the oral defense and provides final APA and formatting review for the completed dissertation.

Students who selected their own committee members prior to September 2019, will continue to work with those faculty members.  If a faculty member resigns or students wish to change a faculty member, students will be assigned a staff faculty member. There are situations where changes in dissertation committee faculty may delay student progression based on new faculty feedback and incomplete student documents.

Watch: Ensuring Consistent Progression Through the Doctoral Journey

Ensuring Consistent Progression Through the Doctoral Journey

Phase 1: Prospectus (Outline of the Planned Dissertation Study)

Tools for Success


In Phase 1 of the dissertation journey, doctoral students embark on coursework designed to help them develop a researchable topic and problem aligned with their degree and career goals, emphasizing the importance of leadership skills. During the course DOC/714S, students work with faculty members and classmates to refine their research problem, methods, and design, gaining a foundational understanding of how to align the problem statement, purpose, and research methodology. This phase also encourages students to start informal discussions with potential organizations to gauge interest and understand any necessary permissions, while aligning with one of the UOPX Research Centers. The process of dovetailing, or using assignments from previous courses to further develop their topic, is encouraged, enabling a coherent and progressive elaboration of their research over the entire program.


  • BUS/700, EDD/700, DHA/700 (8 weeks)
  • LDR/711A (8 weeks) Leadership Theory and Practice
  • RES/709 (8 weeks) Research Conceptualization and Design
  • DOC/714S (8 weeks) Symposium I
    • Deliverable: Prospectus – Checkpoint Phase Deliverable

Recommendations in the dissertation process

Students identify a topic in the practitioner doctoral programs and develop that topic in research classes and content program courses. Therefore, dovetailing, or using class assignments from previous courses, is permissible as a means of continuing the development of their research topic.The following are recommendations offered to help doctoral students meet challenges inherent in the dissertation process.

1. Prepare to adequately perform all functions required in the research process, including:   

a. Recruiting research participants properly and meeting IRB requirements.

b. Becoming familiar with the Dissertation Guide and Alignment Handbook and Dissertation Criteria Assessment (DCA) provided by the College of Doctoral Studies.

c. Taking extra care maintaining a balance in physical, mental, social, financial, and spiritual health.

2. Select a theoretical model or conceptual framework that will support the planned dissertation study by:

a. Taking a comprehensive approach to the research topic.

b. Systematically addressing all the major components of the study (problem, purpose, method, and design).

c. Identifying the key elements of the methodology and design processes required for the data collection, analysis, and interpretation.

3. Choose a research method and design that:

a. Is understandable and manageable.

b. Can provide trustworthy, valid, and reliable findings.

4. Select a research population that:

a. Will exist in the future.

b. Is located nearby and easily accessible.

c. Promotes forming a professional relationship with potential volunteers.

d. May benefit from the study.

5. Maintain:

a. Strict discipline over the boundaries of the research topic to prevent scope creep.

b. Focus on information only related directly to the research problem, purpose, and questions.

6. Pay attention to details provided in the:

a. College of Doctoral Studies Guide and Alignment Handbook and the College of Doctoral Studies APA Dissertation Formatted template (see phases two through five for the template).

b. Tutorials and resources provided under Tools for Success on each phase’s page.

7. Integrate and respect:

a. Committee feedback and guidance in the proper drafting of all required documents and forms. If you disagree with the feedback, do so with appropriate doctoral demeanor and justification from literature.

b. All suggested revisions and changes.

c. All required deadlines.

(For more guidance on writing the dissertation, please review the College of Doctoral Studies Dissertation Guide and Alignment Handbook and the APA Doctoral Dissertation Template, found in phases two through five.)

Topic Selection

The initial step in achieving dissertation alignment is selecting a topic aligned with the program of study, also referred to as the industry or discipline of study. The topic should reflect an existing problem within the industry. The following information provides brief examples of dissertation topics that align with the various practitioner programs currently offered at University of Phoenix doctoral studies.

Doctor of Business Administration (DBA)

The dissertation topic for the DBA program may focus on various commercial ventures including business startup activities, small to medium business, business operations, business processes, finance, or marketing activities.


Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership (EDD)

The EDD program focuses on K-12 education. The dissertation may focus on broad aspects associated with these educational levels including test scores, dropout decisions, and examining academic success.


Doctor of Health Administration (DHA)

The DHA program is intended to develop executive-level health care professionals. The added program focus is on health administration research within clinical settings, hospital settings, or home health settings. Dissertations often focus on policies, processes, and procedures involved in the delivery of care, leadership of health care professionals and support staff, resources, and cost-effectiveness and efficiency.


Doctor of Management in Organizational Leadership (DM)

The DM program focuses on organizational leadership and management. Dissertation writers may explore leadership behavior, leadership skills, human resources, employee satisfaction, employee engagement, management of organizational resources, operational processes, change management, or business processes and procedures within organizations.

Phase 2: Précis (Draft of Chapter 1)

Tools for Success


In Phase 2 of the dissertation journey, doctoral students focus on refining key elements of their dissertation, such as problem and purpose statements, and aligning their research methodology and design with Chapter 1, the Précis, while also outlining Chapter 2 topics. At this stage, students are assigned a Dissertation Chair and a University Research Methodologist (URM), with whom they will collaborate closely to achieve final approval of their research triad. This collaborative effort emphasizes the integration of coursework into the dissertation research and the importance of preparing for Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval by establishing connections with potential research organizations and accessing IRB submission resources. Précis approval from the Chair is needed to move to the next phase.


  • RES/724 (8 weeks)
  • RES/710 (8 weeks) 
  • Program Content Requirement Course (8 weeks)
  • Program Content Electve Course (8 weeks)
  • DOC/715 (8 week) Year 1 Residency
    • Deliverable: Précis (Chapter 1: Introduction) – Checkpoint Phase Deliverable

Recommendations in the dissertation process

For additional guidance on writing and formatting the dissertation, please review the College of Doctoral Studies Dissertation Guide and Alignment Handbook and the APA Doctoral Dissertation Template.

Doctoral students continue working on research methods, designs, and content course assignments to develop a researchable problem or issue related to their degree program and career goals. Faculty members target feedback in content program courses on trends, best practices, and innovation in the field.

Students are encouraged to make the best use of each course assignment by using each course to dovetail and incorporate the research into the dissertation.

The expectation is that all coursework and assignments by independent and self-motivated doctoral students will apply to the development and enhancement of the dissertation. It is advisable to create a library file such as RefWorks to store research articles from the coursework.

During program content courses, students should use each program content course to write about their topic. Before attending DOC/723, students should have a draft of Chapter 1 and Chapter 2. (Please see Phase 3 for more information on Chapter 2.)

During Phase 1 and 2, students should begin informal conversations with potential organizations to determine whether the research is of interest to the organization and determine the necessary organizational permissions. Students cannot begin recruitment and data collection until they get University of Phoenix’s Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval of the study. Review of students’ research by the IRB begins following Phase 4 and the start of Phase 5. Therefore, it is wise to start investigating potential venues for data collection during Phase 2.

Students should activate an IRB account at and access the forms and templates they will need to have prepared as appendices for their proposal and IRB submissions.  The forms and templates are accessed in the left menu after signing into IRBNet. The READ ME FIRST document in IRBNet provides an overview of what to include in the IRB application and what to expect in IRB reviews.

Phase 3: Concept Review (Draft of Chapter 2: Literature Review)

Tools for Success


In Phase 3 of the doctoral journey, students work closely with their Chairs and University Research Methodologists (URMs) to refine their dissertation's foundational elements, particularly focusing on developing a comprehensive Literature Review in Chapter 2. They are encouraged to use resources such as the SAGE Project Planner for guidance on organizing and writing the literature review with an emphasis on critique, analysis, and synthesis of relevant literature. This phase also includes the completion of the Human Subjects Protection training, a crucial step for ethical research, resulting in a CITI certificate valid for two years. Through the DOC/723 course, students focus on drafting and refining their Concept Review or Chapter 2, incorporating prior research and coursework to strengthen their dissertation framework. Concept Review approval from the Chair is need to move to the next phase.


  • Two Content Program Courses (8 weeks each)
  • DOC/723 (8 weeks) Doctoral Seminar II
    • Deliverable: Concept Review (Draft of Chapter 2: Literature Review) - Checkpoint Phase Deliverable

Recommendations in the dissertation process

Students should review Create a Literature Review and Reviewing the Literature from the SAGE Project Planner to organize and write Chapter 2: Literature Review. Students should focus on developing the literature review as a critique, analysis, evaluation, and synthesis of historical and current literature and completed research on the topic.

During DOC/723, students and chairs focus on the Concept Review (or Chapter 2) of the dissertation proposal. Students can use previously written doctoral content and research course assignment materials focused on their topic (this is dovetailing).

DOC/723 is a writing-intensive course focused on developing Chapter 2, Concept Review. As a best practice, students should work on their Chapter 1 and 2 drafts (from DOC/715) while outside of class and before starting DOC/723.

During Phase 3, students should complete the Human Subjects Protection training required for all researchers before beginning their study. The University of Phoenix utilizes the online training program facilitated by Miami University. A CITI certificate is issued at the successful completion of the training modules and remains active for two years. To access training requirements, go to

Phase 4: QRM: Proposal (or Chapters 1-3)

Tools for Success


In Phase 4 of the doctoral journey, doctoral students aim to gain approval for their dissertation proposal, which includes Chapters 1-3, in the writing-intensive course DOC/741. During this phase, students receive crucial guidance, reviews, and feedback from their Dissertation Chair and University Research Methodologist (URM) to develop a high-quality dissertation proposal. Should students not achieve approval in DOC/741, they are required to enroll in DOC/741A and DOC/741B to refine their proposals. Upon approval by the Chair and URM in TK20, students advance to Phase 5 and are eligible to submit their IRB applications. Students are encouraged not to wait for dissertation proposal approval before completing their IRB application and securing site and data use permissions, but rather to work on these concurrently throughout Phase 4.


  • Two Content Program Courses (8 weeks each)
  • DOC/741 (8 weeks) Doctoral Seminar III
    • Deliverable: Proposal Chapters 1-3 – Checkpoint Phase Deliverable

Recommendations in the dissertation process

Students should screenshot the TK20 approval and attach it to their IRB application.

Students should NOT wait until dissertation proposal approval to begin assembling their IRB applications and applicable research permissions. Students should familiarize themselves with the IRB process and review relevant guidance on how to gather permissions and submit their IRB packages throughout Phase 4.   Please note that while permissions to recruit can be gathered prior to IRB approval, the actual recruitment of participants cannot occur until after the IRB has approved.

For sites requiring a UOPX conditional approval, students should see the guidance documents – Forms and Templates – on Conditional Approvals.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Human Research Protections (ORHP) mandates IRBs in all organizations supporting research. It requires students and faculty members are certified in Human Rights protection.

Phase 5: IRB Approval, QRF: Dissertation (Chapters 1-5), and Oral Defense

Tools for Success


In Phase 5 of the doctoral journey, following approval of the dissertation proposal by the Dissertation Chair and University Research Methodologist (URM) in Phase 4, students move forward with submitting their application to the University of Phoenix Institutional Review Board (IRB). The IRB oversees a Human Research Protection Program dedicated to safeguarding the rights and welfare of volunteers participating in research conducted by the University's faculty, students, and staff. Once IRB approval is obtained, doctoral students are cleared to commence data collection. To end the phase, doctoral students will need dissertation and Oral Defense approval.


  • IRB Review and Approval (occuring concurrently)
  • One Content Program Course (8 weeks)
  • DOC/719S (8 weeks)
  • DOC/742 (8 week) Doctoral Project IV
    • Deliverable: Dissertation and Oral Defense – Checkpoint Phase Deliverable

Recommendations in the dissertation process

The University of Phoenix IRB is guided by The Belmont Report  and focuses on respect for persons, beneficence, and justice. The University holds Federal Wide Assurance filed with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (FWA: 00004202). Students should register for the UOPX IRB at and access the forms and templates within the IRBNet library.

Following IRB approval, doctoral candidates can begin data collection.

For more guidance on writing Chapters 4-5, please review the College of Doctoral Studies Dissertation Guide and Alignment Handbook. Doctoral candidates writing Chapters 4-5 should review all chapters for alignment.

In Phase 5, doctoral candidates should review the following:

DOC/742 is a writing-intensive class for students. The Dissertation Chair, URM, and PV provide guidance, review, and feedback on the dissertation proposal to support the student in building a quality, robust dissertation. For students who do not gain approval in DOC/742, DOC/742A, and DOC/742B are required iterations to continue work on the dissertation.

When the student has permission to submit to TK20 for QRF, the doctoral candidate should work with the entire committee to schedule the Oral Defense. Upon successful completion of the Oral Defense, the dissertation committee scores the Oral Defense within TK20. The Final Dissertation Edit (FDE) is reviewed in Teams 365.

To ensure passage of this stage, the doctoral candidate should review the Dissertation Criteria Assessment (DCA) Final Dissertation Editing Checklist.

Upon approval of the Oral Defense and before FDE Review, students may decide to use a Copy-Editing Service, which is at the student’s discretion and is not mandatory for completion. Costs associated with such service are the sole responsibility of the student.

Following completion and approval of the FDE Review in Teams 365, the student then emails the updated Final Dissertation Microsoft Word Document to – for the routing of the e-signature page. The student should include the following in the email:

  • Subject title: Final Dissertation Document for e-signature page
  • Attachment: The final dissertation document in Microsoft Word® with all completed edits*
  • Cc: The FULL committee on the email

Failure to provide all the required information may result in a delay in e-signature page routing.

As a quality assurance measure, random dissertations undergo a College of Doctoral Studies – Dissertation Quality Assurance Review.