Ad wk 7 ques 1 and 2 discussion question

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use attached articles for source to provide cited reference 


Topic 7 DQ 1

Your textbook presents information about the components of scholarly argumentation and the expectation that doctoral learners are able to argue positions supported by evidence. Your Position is focusing on Bias Minority Women deal with in the workplace. Why is it important to defend your position about female employees and females in leadership? How does an argument allow for a scholarly conversation?

Topic 7 DQ 2

Since most doctoral learners are novice researchers, it is often difficult to understand how a researcher provides a compelling argument for why a study needs to be conducted.

Your Dissertation topic is- Is Shifting identities a technique utilized by minority women to aid their progression into leadership roles?

Using your potential dissertation topic, read the attached articles. How does your your potential topic emerge from an important problem that needs to be investigated, that is, what is the benefit of studying this specific problem? How do the empirical sources that you have read argue why the problem needs to be investigated? How does the literature review process influence the development of the argument for your potential study?

Research in Higher Education Journal Volume 37

Experiences of African, Page 1

Experiences of African American Superintendents in Texas

Milton R. Fields, III, Ed.D.

Judson ISD

Don Jones, Ed.D.

Texas A&M University – Kingsville

Kathryn Korelich, Ed.D.

Texas A&M University – Kingsville


The topic of African American superintendents has been largely neglected in society.

Research studies revealed that an underrepresentation of African American superintendents

exists. This ethnic disparity is a valid concern. This study was based on the premise that

additional research studies are needed to understand the climate, culture and leadership

experiences of African American superintendents in Texas. Although African American men and

women are pursuing careers in the superintendency, there is still a shortage of available research

data that explores their experiences. This basic interpretive qualitative research study explored

the overall experiences and perceptions of six African American superintendents in Texas. In-

depth, semi-structured interviews provided rich, thick descriptions, feelings and an interpretive

perspective of this purposive and snowball sampling. The researcher served as the instrument to

data collection. The method of triangulation was employed to ensure trustworthiness, credibility

and member checking where the participants confirmed that the data were interpreted correctly

by the researcher to improve the quality of the research. This study contributed new knowledge

from an African American perspective. Social Cognitive Theory was the theoretical framework

for this qualitative study (Bandura, 1986; Bussey & Bandura, 1999). The results of this

investigation reflected the personal experiences, views and perceptions of six African-American

superintendents as they obtained their desired positions. The findings revealed there were some

barriers and challenges facing aspiring African American superintendents: (a) lack of

networking, (b) lack of mentors, (c) lack of school district pool of potential African American

candidates and (d) lack of professional educational and equity associations. Recommendations

that resulted from this investigation included that as aspiring African American superintendents,

they must learn to develop professional and personal network of contacts. As aspiring African

American superintendents seek superintendent positions, they need to research the

demographics, culture and needs of the district, stakeholders and board members. Finally,

professional educational associations need to be inclusive and expand their membership pool to

include underrepresented African American educators.

Keywords: Superintendent, African American, Leadership

Copyright statement: Authors retain the copyright to the manuscripts published in AABRI

journals. Please see the AABRI Copyright Policy at

Research in Higher Education Journal Volume 37

Experiences of African, Page 2


This qualitative study investigates six African American superintendents and obtains an

improved comprehension of the perceptions and experiences of African American

superintendents. Chapter I contains an overview of research as a foundation for this study. It

describes the overview of the investigation, the problem statement, the purpose of the study, the

research questions that guided this study, the theoretical framework, significance, assumptions

and limitations of the investigation.


The goal of this investigation was to explore and interpret (Dillard, 1995) the overall

experiences, perceptions and leadership experiences and practices of six African American
superintendents in the state of Texas school districts.


1.How do African American superintendents in Texas describe their overall experiences

regarding climate, culture and leadership?

2.How do African American superintendents in Texas successfully navigate the path to

the superintendency?


The review of literature examines the vital concepts, characteristics and necessary

dimensions of African American superintendents as leaders, and the overall phenomena in this

naturalistic inquiry qualitative study as a means of successful reform. This research study was

timely and of current importance in understanding the climate, culture and leadership perceptions

of six African American superintendents in order to gain a better understanding of the issues that

contributed to and or hampered their ascent to the superintendency, in an attempt to expand the

number of African American superintendents in Texas.

Historical Perspective

Superintendents as a teacher-scholar was dominant from 1865 to 1910 (Spring, as cited in

Smothers, 2012). They functioned as lead educators who were subordinate to board members but

were considered superior to principals, teachers and students (Kowalski, 2006). The

superintendent as a business manager emerged after 1910. Some school boards placed more

emphasis on a superintendent’s managerial skill than they did on his or her teaching skills. Prior

to this time, there were neither courses nor academic degrees offered in educational

administration (Cubberly, 1924).

Minority Representation

The United States of America has faced a significant shift in demographics and

population over the past 20 years. According to the U.S. Census Bureau (2010), the numbers and

Research in Higher Education Journal Volume 37

Experiences of African, Page 3

diversity in the U.S. population will continue to grow, especially among minority students. The

racial composition of superintendents, teachers and student populations appears to be facing the

same changes but at a much slower increase (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2005).

The President of the Association of California School Administrators (2008) advocated that “it is

important to address the needs of African American education leaders and students because we

want all members of our society to achieve” (para. 8). A disparity in the number of

superintendents in districts where the majority of the population consists of minority African

American and Hispanic students creates a serious setback in the success of these students

(Campbell, 2015). Domenech, Executive Director of the School Superintendents Association,

stated, “we are nowhere near representing the population that is in our schools” (as cited in

Campbell, 2015, para 4). He further stated that “these students need role models. When they see

a brown or black face walk into their classroom, especially as the superintendent, they think and

say ‘wow’ that could be me” (Domenech, as cited in Campbell, 2015, para. 4). According to

Carpenter and Diem (2014), as of today, African American superintendents continue to struggle

for employment in districts. Educational theorists have stated that not unlike the principal, the

superintendent’s impact on learning is facilitated through the establishment of climate and

culture and the direct impact of the district/school. Therefore, having superintendent populations

reflective of the population of the district is the key to learning and student achievement. As

noted by Bandura (1986), equitable representation ensures students will identify and model

themselves after other successful educators, mentors and superintendents.

Significant Research Studies

Research inquires have been conducted concerning various aspects of the school

superintendent over the previous years. The American School Superintendent: 2010 Decennial

Study (Kowalski et al., 2011) is an expansion with inquires that have been organized every 10

years and was developed in 1923. However, there were matters that were the main points of

specific time epochs such as the 1933 investigation that included the role that public schools

would have in changing economic and social expansion after the Great Depression. The 1952

investigation concentrated on the difference between urban and rural superintendents. The 1960

investigation concentrated on superintendent readiness, and the 1971 investigation included

around 100 questions about attributes of the position, the individuals in the position and the

school districts employing them. The NABSE (2011) mentioned that there are around 13,893

school districts in the United States. Nevertheless, only 361 or 2.5% are African American male

and female superintendents. Ethnicity of the superintendency appears not to be a thing similar to

that of the population of students and teachers those superintendents serve and supervise (Volp,


Leadership Practices

As leaders of change, school leaders must therefore engage strategies favorable to

comprehensive practices among the elements such as shared vision, collaboration and effective

support, to play a central role (Salisbury & McGregor, 2002). It is imperative that school leaders

participate in a balancing act where issues of improving achievement, equity and social justice

are on the front lines of their agenda (Devecchi & Nevin, 2010). However, school leaders

regardless of ethnicity are evaluated by what they do. According to Boyatzies and McKee

Research in Higher Education Journal Volume 37

Experiences of African, Page 4

(2005), successful African American school leaders of change are “resonant leaders” who inspire

their stakeholders to recognize a problem and find solutions to solve it. When school leaders are

able to innovate, they are able to achieve transformative changes (Hallinger & Heck, 1998).

Heifetz (1994) stated that the most important benefit of a leader is the capacity to achieve an

activity where conflicts due to competing perspectives are addressed. Nevertheless, school

leaders must “engage people in facing a challenge, adjusting their values, changing their

perspectives, and developing new habits” (Heifetz & Laurie, 1997, p. 134).

Successful Leadership

According to Vargo (2005), the terms “visionary,” “integrity,” “academic excellence,”

“bridge builder,” and “understanding of different cultures” (p. 2) are some of the major attributes

that are necessary to becoming a successful and effective superintendent. According to Kirst

(1993), a successful superintendent has an intellectual image of what exceptional instruction is

and is aware of how to accomplish schedules that will enhance teaching and learning. The

majority of the studies on the responsibilities of the superintendent furnish unclear suggestions of

successful leadership attributes. Therefore, leadership styles are not linked to district or student

achievements. However, a successful educational leader can occur in all ethnicities, dimensions,

age groups and mentalities. Differences are discovered when one looks at two particular physical

attributes of educational leaders: gender and race. The Texas Education Agency (2015) stated

that student populations across the state are 51.8% Hispanic, 29.4% Anglo, 12.7% African

American and 3.7% Asian. Texas has 1,025 school districts, of which 27 are African American

superintendents and 7 are female African American.

Current Trends

Currently, the issues of African American men in school leadership may seem somewhat

outdated. These concerns are placed in the far parts of our minds because we are now dealing

with other important things such as social issues, at-risk students and reduced resources. a

successful superintendent is able to have a political acuity that includes being able to handle and

balance contradictory interests, guiding school boards and community stakeholders, clear

dialoguing, sharing credit with others, accountability and knowing how to negotiate among

different community stakeholders and ethnicities. Superintendents should be able to handle

complicated organizations, insist on high standards, maintain financial integrity and recognize

the power of expertise and capability of staff and position them in employment where they will

be more effective and successful.

Role of the Superintendent

Superintendents serve as board CEOs on educational affairs and as district educational

leaders. They are accountable for assuring the school board is notified concerning district

business, activities and district requirements. They create administrative plans required to

supervise district day-to-day business properly and in agreement with board policy. These

procedures must be in compliance with all laws, rules and regulations that pertain to the district

(Reeves, 2009).

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Experiences of African, Page 5

Six superintendent standards and excellence are required to ensure student success:

1. Setting a wide-shared vision for learning;
2. Developing a school culture and instructional program conducive to student learning and

staff professional growth;

3. Ensuring effective management of the organization, operation, and resources for a safe,
efficient, and effective learning environment.

4. Collaborating with faculty and community members, responding to diverse community
interests and needs, and mobilizing community resources;

5. Acting with integrity, fairness, and in an ethical manner;
6. Understanding, responding to, and influencing the political, social, legal, and cultural

contexts. (Council of Chief Staff School Officers, 2008, p. 19)

Leadership, Learning, and Gender Development

In an effort to develop successful predicators to leadership, Evers and Lakomski (1991)

divided organizational leadership into three sections: (a) the behavioral scientific approach, (b)

the scientific management and (c) the human relations approach. The origin of this system was

first addressed as early as 1918 and as late as 1945. They have evolved into other major theories.

Kowalski’s (2006) book, The School Superintendent: Theory, Practice and Cases, provides

answers to questions about the superintendency by providing personal experiences, theory and

practical knowledge to encourage others.

Shakeshaft (as cited in Bandura, 1986) claimed that in general, men and women’s approaches or

attitudes toward the position of school administrator were different. “As a group, women tend to

have a different administrative style than men do and that effectiveness for a female may depend

on this altered approach” (Shakeshaft, as cited in Bandura, 1986, p. 190).

Bandura (1986) maintained that new behaviors were learned. The type of learning was

one of the essential procedures by which cognitive competencies were initiated and diversified.

“Sex-typing is promoted through a vast system of socialization practices beginning at birth, with

infants clothed in pink or blue apparel depending on their sex” (Bandura, 1989, p. 33). Eagly’s

(1987) social role theory confirmed Bandura’s (1986) theory and claimed that the expectations

and the roles that society generally assigned to men were definitely different than those assigned

to women. Merriam and Brockett (1997) maintained that the lack of access and training affected

women’s learning in adulthood. This is important because the lack of training placed women in a

disadvantaged position when seeking promotion. However, the literature is not consistent.

Merriam and Brockett (1997) revealed that African American female superintendents were more

qualified and better trained than their male counterparts. Additional research studies according to

Shakeshaft (1989) attributed the underrepresentation of women superintendents to societal norms

and beliefs regarding leadership were not necessarily a result of their inexperience or lack of

training. These studies revealed that women are experienced and well trained. Yet, a disparity

still exists in the workforce; there were only seven African American women superintendents in

Texas out of the 1,025 districts.

Research in Higher Education Journal Volume 37

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Research Design

This investigation was a naturalistic inquiry with prominence on crucial subjects

(Creswell, 2003). According to Baxter and Jack (2008), the methodology of a qualitative study

implements instruments for researchers to investigate a convoluted phenomenon within its

setting. Therefore, when this method is done accurately, it transforms into a vital process.

According to Bloomberg and Volpe (2008), a qualitative study has its concentration of

significance, discoveries and explanation; its theories are centered with the removal and

explanation of significant knowledge. Thus, researchers bring their attention in the interests,

events or single motives (Creswell, 2005).

A qualitative investigation is a parasol theory topping several designs of investigations

that will allow the researcher to comprehend the significance of a social phenomenon with brief

disruptions of the normal surroundings (Merriam, 1998). In naturalistic inquiry, the interviews

will think about purposeful discussions (Dexter, 1970; Erlandson, Harris, Skipper, & Allen,

1993; Terkel, 1972). The motive was to introduce a candid dialogue between the researcher and

the participants. Therefore, this investigation brings specific attention to the perceptions of six

African American superintendents as they communicate problems of climate, culture and

leadership within their districts.

A methodology for setting this investigation involved two steps: (a) categorizing and

revising the information into manageable folders and (b) composing a narrative that relates a

story (Patton, 2002). As applied to the qualitative investigation (Efeoglu, Ilerten, & Basal, 2018)

the information gathered for this consisted of six interviews, observations, field notes and

documents. Every piece of data gathered provided rich details that impacted and nevertheless

formed each participant’s investigation.

Setting, Population/Participants

The criterion-based sampling procedures were utilized to determine the district site for

this investigation. The process of participant selection was involved soliciting six African

American superintendents using the purposive and snowballing sampling methods in different

districts in the state of Texas. The setting for interviews, field notes, observations and documents

were the superintendents’ respective district offices.

Data Collection, Coding, and Analysis

The six African American superintendents served as data sources for this qualitative

study. Data was generated by the six superintendents through interviews, observation, field notes

and documents. In a naturalistic inquiry, interviews assist the researcher to understand and seek

circumstances of the interpersonal, social and ethnic features of the environment (Fetterman,

1989). The researcher selects questions that allow the participants to reflect on their experiences

and explain to the researcher what is going on in the participants’ worlds (Merriam, 1998). The

superintendents who were interviewed for this study focused on the questions drawn by the

researcher (Appendix B). Field notes were utilized to confirm and nullify the interview

information method. After deciding the patterns and themes that emerge from the 10 interview

Research in Higher Education Journal Volume 37

Experiences of African, Page 7

questions, the researcher reviewed and contemplated each concept and sought to determine

whether the researcher had seen the same themes in the documents. The last stage of the data

collection is the gathering and evaluating of the district records. The requested documents were

included the mission and vision statements, goal statements, district-wide assessment plans,

district enrollment, demographics and information from the district stakeholders. Responses from

participants were transcribed verbatim. Transcripts were coded for key words and phrases. The

information was read multiple times to ensure understanding. The information and location of

each interview was recorded. All of the reactions by the researcher were documented in the

researcher’s field notes. All transcripts were coded by emerging themes. Data analysis was

utilized to prepare and categorize the information obtained. However, the interview information

was decreased into themes through a process of coding, condensing, synthesizing and

interpreting. All interviews were tape recorded with a digital voice recorder. Every participant

voice recording was downloaded onto a compact disc, checked for clarity and transcribed. The

framework for this investigation was the focal point for managing the information. The

information was examined for the conclusion of this investigation that filled the gap and

contributed to the body of knowledge by providing the climate, culture and leadership

experiences, perception and feelings of six successful African American superintendents in

Texas. Thus, data analysis began with the first interview and continued to the sixth interview,

until the research project was completed. Field notes were maintained by the researcher and read

and reviewed on a consistent basis throughout the entirety of the project. After each one-hour

interview, the taped responses were transcribed verbatim in a Microsoft Word and Excel

documents. This study allowed a template inquiry strategy (Marshall & Rossman, 2006),

meaning that a particular group of pre-determined codes was used to theme the information. The

six participants provided numerous options such as (a) open-coding, (b) axial coding and (c)

selective coding. Columns were generated using attributes as categories to assist the information.

The common themes and patterns were derived from the data obtained from the interviews, field

notes, observations and documents, while being positioned in the relevant qualitative categories.

The categories and themes were generated to specifically examine the large amounts of data by a

series of editing and crosschecks (Huberman & Miles, 1994). To increase the trustworthiness of

this investigation, three strategies were utilized: (a) triangulation (Rolson, 2018; Seale, 1999; &

Tracy, 2010) (b) member checking and (c) rich thick description. However, it entails the use of

collaborating conformation from a variety of sources to shed light on a theme of perspective

(Creswell, 2007).



This basic interpretive qualitative research study explored the overall experiences and

perceptions of six African American superintendents in Texas. In-depth, semi-structured

interviews provided rich, thick descriptions, feelings and an interpretive perspective of this

purposive and snowball sampling.

Research in Higher Education Journal Volume 37

Experiences of African, Page 8

Descriptive Data

Naturalistic qualitative data collection methods were utilized in this study to assess the

six participants’ perceptions and experiences as African American superintendents and how this

affected their ascension to the position of superintendent in the state of Texas. This qualitative

research was inherently multidimensional; therefore, multiple forms of data were collected

throughout this study (Trochim, 2006). The data also included interviews, observations, field

notes and documents collected from the participants beginning in 2015 and through to 2016.

Obtaining a variety of data allowed a triangulation approach, permitting the researcher to

recognize themes consistent with the study.

Conceptual Framework

This investigation examined their perceptions and leadership experiences, along with

their vision toward equity concerning positions within the state and their description on how they

navigated to, and remained in, the superintendency across the state. The significance of these

African American superintendents’ navigation to and continuation in their position is to

contribute to the body of knowledge concerning their underrepresentation in the superintendent

position within Texas and the United States (Hodgkinson & Montenegro, 1999; Tillman, 2009).


The study consisted of six participants: two females and four male African American

superintendents. All six participants were Texas certified at the doctorate degree level. The

superintendents had varying years of experience, in and out of the state of Texas. The

participants were given pseudonyms to disguise their identity. Participants were introduced

individually as participants A, B, C, D, E, and F. There were 28 African American

superintendents in Texas during the time of this study.

Superintendent A

Superintendent A appeared most confident causing him to stand out from the other

superintendents interviewed. Superintendent A is an African American male. He has served as a

superintendent since June 2009. He became a superintendent at the age of 37. He received his

undergraduate degree in 1994, his master’s degree in 1996 and his doctoral degree in 1998. He

has served in an education capacity as an elementary teacher, assistant principal, principal,

director, and assistant superintendent of curriculum. The school district went from Low

Performing to Recognized status under his superintendency. The district has made substantial

progress in student achievement under his leadership. Dr. A is in an urban school district in

South Texas with a student enrollment of 25,000, more than 10,000; 99.4% of the students were

Hispanic, 0.1% were African American and 0.4% were Caucasian. This was Superintendent A’s

seventh year as a superintendent.

Research in Higher Education Journal Volume 37

Experiences of African, Page 9

Superintendent B

Superintendent B was very polite, courteous and professional with strong confidence. Dr.

B began her career as a middle school 8th grade English language arts classroom teacher in

1999. After three years, she became an assistant principal and served for two years, next she

became a principal at an intermediate level campus, and then moved into the principalship in the

same middle school she served as a classroom teacher and assistant principal. Eventually, she

was approached with the possibility of applying for superintendent and was offered the position.

She served as a superintendent in the small district for five years before becoming superintendent

in her present district where she has served for the last three years. Dr. B was a female

superintendent of an urban school district in East Texas with a student enrollment of 8,322, less

than 10,000; 29.0% of the students were African American, 39.3% were Hispanic and 27.7%

were Caucasian. This was Superintendent B’s fifth year as a superintendent.

Superintendent C

Superintendent C was amendable, with a quick wit and a sharp sense of purpose. Dr. C

began his educational leadership experience as the principal of a middle school for four years

and then served three years as the principal of a high school. He served as a superintendent for

three years, three years as superintendent in another district, one year as a deputy superintendent

and presently completing eight years as a superintendent. Dr. C was a male superintendent of an

urban school district in South Central Texas with a student population of 23, 771, more than

20,000; 55% of the students were Hispanic, 26.8% were African American, 16.4% were

Caucasian, and 1.8% Asian and 1% were Asian/Pacific Islanders. This was Dr. C’s eighth year

as a superintendent.

Superintendent D

Superintendent D was very open, honest and willing to share his perception and personal

experiences. Superintendent D began his educational experience as a 6th grade math classroom

teacher for four years before entering administration. His second position was an assistant

principal for five years and then as a high school principal for two years. After applying for

several jobs in the same school district and not getting them, he decided to pursue other things.

He was hired in another district where he was an assistant principal at the high school for one

year. After a year, he became the principal at the high school and served for five years. After

learning that the superintendent was retiring, the superintendent asked Superintendent D whether

he was interested in the job. The board offered him the position of superintendent and he

accepted it. He entered the superintendency with no central office experience. He is swerving in

his seventh year as superintendent. Dr. D was a male superintendent of an urban school district in

South Central Texas with a student enrollment of 1,054, less than 10,000; 16.4% of the students

were African American, 27.1% were Hispanic, 41.0% were Caucasian, 1% were Native

American and 4.4% were Asian/Pacific Islanders. Dr. D was serving in his sixth year as a


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Experiences of African, Page 10

Superintendent E

Superintendent E was intense, focused and self-assured throughout the interview,

answering questions and responding to the questions with clarity and conciseness. Dr. E’s

leadership experience began as a high school assistant principal where he served for two years in

the ninth grade and two years in a middle school serving as an assistant principal. He elevated to

principal at the middle school level with the assistance of a mentor, then to high school principal

where he served for four years. He relocated to a different state as assistant superintendent

primarily responsible for secondary schools and chief negotiator with the unions, community and

all other entities that engage with the district. He then relocated back to Texas and became the

district superintendent where he has served for the last six years. Dr. E was a male

superintendent of an urban school district in North Central Texas with a student enrollment of

6,536, less than 10,000; 75% of the students were African American, 18% were Hispanic and 3%

Caucasian. This was Dr. E’s seventh year as a superintendent.

Superintendent F

Superintendent F was a female who is soft-spoken and reserved in demeanor, and she

answered questions concisely. She shared some personal experiences encountered as she sought

a position in the superintendency. She began her leadership experience as an elementary

principal where she served for four years, then moved to another district as principal at another

elementary school, where she served for three years. She decided to move to another district as a

middle school principal for three years. Her promotion to the assistant superintendent position

relocated her to another district where she served for five years. Her accession to the

superintendency took her to yet another district where she served for five years. Dr. F was a

superintendent in a new district where she has served for the last three years. Dr. F was a female

superintendent of an urban school district in Northeast Texas with a student enrollment of 1, 971,

less than 10,000; 29.6% of the students were African American, 40.95 were Hispanic and 25.1%

were Caucasian. This was Dr. F’s fifth year as a superintendent.

Emergent Themes

Therefore, after reviewing the participants’ interview transcripts, field notes and

documents, five prevalent themes emerge:

1. Ascension to the superintendency
2. Barriers and challenges
3. Leadership
4. Networking
5. Mentoring

The data gathered from the six interviews were examined and scrutinized. The procedure

involved living with the data, constantly comparing new patterns and themes as they emerged.

The procedure was completed when repetition and saturation of the data revealed new

information. This segment will deliberate each of the five emerging themes.

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Ascension to the Superintendency

Data revealed that the participants shared similar attitudes, beliefs, values and personal

experiences that were instrumental during the ascension and prior to obtaining the position of

superintendent. It was understandable from the information obtained that each of the

superintendents believed that their professional positions and educational background assisted in

their preparation for the superintendency. The prior positions that they held propelled them

forward with experiences that would provide valuable insight into the superintendency. Their

educational experiences afforded them the opportunity to gain knowledge that would be essential

to the success of the superintendent’s role.

Superintendent A was a high school principal recruited for two different leadership

positions in the Central Office. However, Superintendent A decided early in his career to pursue

his goal of becoming a superintendent:

This has been a focused effort . . . fast track and I knew I wanted to be a superintendent. I

established my goal right out of college just because I wanted to be Dr. A ever since

becoming a teacher . . . . I was 37 years old when I became a Superintendent.

Superintendent A believed that the experiences and positions he held in education allowed him to

hone his leadership skills.

Superintendent B knew why she wanted to be a superintendent. “There is no question,

whatsoever, from anyone, any district, or any campus in which I’ve served that I’m all about

kids.” She was anxious, well prepared and knew the obstacles she was facing as a female and as

an African American in order to become a superintendent.

Many superintendents ascend to the superintendent’s position in divergent ways.

Superintendent C was approached to apply for the position because of serious stability issues

with that particular position.

I believe I was promoted because of my work ethic and the belief of others in my abilities

and my passion to educate. My greatest assets are having a good belief system, good

morals, good ethics and good leadership skills; and the fact that I use prior leadership

experience to help kids excel.

Challenges and Barriers

Common challenges and barriers were revealed as the date was uncovered such as

ethnicity, stereo-typing and lack of leadership opportunities. In addition, establishing a network

and getting connected to organizations that “can see your potential to move through and up the

following the policies and procedures when some stakeholders are used to the “good old boy’s

system” and operating according to “how business has always been done.”

Traditionally, African-American superintendents simply were few and far in between;

therefore, these superintendents feel that they have to “pave the way”. Superintendent D stated:.

Sometimes the opportunity is not always present for African American superintendents, because

people are just not used to African Americans in high leadership positions. Superintendent F

expressed, “another great challenge is breaking barriers in districts and organizations that have

not had a history with African American leaders in top administration.” Throughout reviewing

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Experiences of African, Page 12

all of the data, the barriers of race kept rising to the surface. Superintendent A stated that

ethnicity is the greatest challenge African American candidates face in advancing to the position

of superintendent.

Stereotyping is a definite barrier in becoming a superintendent in many districts. The idea

that African Americans are not an appropriate fit for the superintendent positions is very

prevalent in many public school districts . . . would like to think it’s not stereotyping, but

statistics report that 95% of the superintendent positions across the state are held by

Anglo Americans and they are usually paid more compared to individuals of other races.

Superintendent B appeared to revert to the disadvantage of being an African-American,

“The big challenge for African American superintendents is to be twice as good because all eyes

are always on you,” and “for leaders of color, there is no room for deviation, no forgiveness, no

anything.” She added that once and African-American does succeed in obtaining a

superintendent job then, “We are under a huge microscope”.

That data suggests reciprocal preconceived stereotypes. The majority of superintendents

in Texas are white, African-Americans are not given the opportunities to advance and this

presents a trust issue with both ethnicities. Superintendent D feels that he is always trying to

prove himself whereas non-African-Americans are not confronted with this challenge on the

same level. In addition, the issue of trust arose with regard to search firms, “An immense barrier

to overcome, is relying on the search firm’s advisers to be your only communication between

yourself and the school board. superintendent candidates, when ethics and trust are not truly

present, depend on the advisers to be open, trusting and ethical.


The research showed that leadership occurs in conversations, actions, directives,

guidance, procedures and professional development in any district, comes with speedbumps and

primary the role is to influence the positive change.

Superintendent A defined superintendent as the Chief Executive Officer of the school

district. They coordinate everything within the school system, period. He believed that leadership

motivations employed by administrators and leaders were to ensure equality occurs within his

district. His experience as an African American and what he knows about other African

American leaders are the same. He stated: “It is strength, fortitude and ganas. It’s a historical

perspective that only African Americans really have.”

Superintendent B believes a leader is one who leads and manages all things. “As a leader,

I am someone who serves in the capacity of superintendent I am always leading. Leadership is

someone who sets the course and provides the vision. It’s almost a ministry that changes lives

literally.” She is passionate about what she does as a leader:

As a teacher, I taught students. If it had not been for a teacher, you wouldn’t be

interviewing me today because education is what changed the total trajectory of my life.

Superintendents paint a vision and convey the fact that all students can learn with the

assistance of teachers, principals and other leaders.

Research in Higher Education Journal Volume 37

Experiences of African, Page 13

Superintendent C believes leadership is about kids exceling and hiring the best teachers.

A superintendent is “a manager, an instructional leader,” and “it’s not about teaching African

American kids; it’s about teaching every kid.


A fourth emergent theme was discovered from this investigation. The majority of the

superintendents interviewed believed that networking was important in their obtaining of a

superintendent position, not only the superintendency but also for any of their educational

positions. Therefore, all six superintendents expressed through their responses how their

informal connections were vital in learning about available positions and in getting their current

positions. A superintendent alluded that the good old boy network was still pertinent in getting a

position; however, the informal networking that comes from connecting with others in

administration and through professional organizations and connectivity with search consultants

or recruiters is still how the majority of them learned about available positions. Superintendent A


The good old boy network is still prevalent. However, organizations like the Texas

Association of School Boards, Texas Association of School Administrators, and Texas

Association of Secondary School Principals are excellent organizations that will help

people make the needed contacts . . . . If anyone is going to be a superintendent, you have

to have contacts.

Superintendent B was approached with the possibility of applying for a superintendent

position and was offered the position with the assistance of networking:

So, we’ve got to continue to provide support to work in professional communities and

networks and make sure that we support each other. It is of great importance and wise to

belong to organizations such as TABSE and NABSE organizations. These are excellent

organizations that will help people make the needed connections. Therefore, if you are

aspiring to be a superintendent, get involved.

She highly recommended that aspiring professionals have to be advocates for themselves and

continue to apply for jobs. “If you see an advertisement for a job, apply for it, sell yourself and

allow people to know what you have to offer and that you have an interest in those positions.”


Mentoring is important because it serves as the socialization for the success of aspiring

superintendents. Without the proper mentorship, aspiring African American administrators will

find it problematic to advance their careers. According to the preliminary research, the focus

concerning National Alliance of Black Educators (NABSE) and Texas Alliance of Black School

Educators (TABSE) was the concentration of statistics concerning the number of African

American superintendents in Texas. Superintendent A stated, “After the interviews, it became

apparent that the majority of networking and position opportunities for all African American

superintendents in Texas was created from these two organizations.” The research devised by the

Research in Higher Education Journal Volume 37

Experiences of African, Page 14

NABSE (2014), African American superintendents usually focused on the number of

superintendents employed nationwide and in Texas. All of the six participants interviewed stated

they had a very strong relationship with these two organizations and have been mentored by and

provided mentorships from being members of the organization.

Superintendent D believes that mentoring is definitely a challenge. “I think probably the

biggest challenge is getting your name and who you are out there so people get to know what

you can do.”

Superintendent B is committed to being there for others as a mentor. She had a professor

who encouraged, and inspired her:

So, in return, I am doing those things, and I am committed to doing what was done for

me. A mentor is one who shares the different opportunities and encourages you to try and

apply for a position. I think many times what I’ve seen, since being in the position and

encouraging others, they think like I thought that you had to have this experience and this


She feels she is the exception; she is the reality of the hard work that her many teachers,

principals and others who believed in her and the power of education. She stated: “Because of

that, I owe it – I have to pay it forward.”

Superintendent F’s question is: How can she assist other African American

superintendents who want to lead in the state of Texas? She stated, “Be a great mentor, be

transparent, be open, be available to communicate, be honest and positive about the job because

it’s a great responsibility.”

The superintendents in this investigation understood the importance of networking and

mentoring each other and how it advanced the profession. Many job opportunities are

communicated through word of mouth; therefore, many aspiring superintendents are in a better

opportunity and belong to a network and have mentors.


This investigation was limited to six African American superintendents who were

currently serving as superintendents in Texas. The results of this investigation reflected the

personal experiences, views and perceptions of those six African American superintendents and

how they obtained their desired positions. The purpose for this investigation was to contribute to

the body of knowledge concerning African Americans in the Caucasian, male-dominated

educational position of superintendents. The findings revealed there are barriers and challenges

facing aspiring African American superintendents that include the following: (a) the lack of

networking, (b) lack of mentors, (c) school district need to widen their pool of potential

candidates by reaching out to African American professionals and (d) professional educational

organizations and (equity) associations and districts need to reach out more and mentor aspiring

African American candidates. By networking and mentoring, it can assist African Americans in

obtaining educational positions. Professional educational organizations need to be inclusive and

expand their membership pool to include aspiring African Americans in gaining access to the

superintendency. The study revealed school districts need to widen their pool of potential

candidates by reaching out to more African American superintendents.

Research in Higher Education Journal Volume 37

Experiences of African, Page 15

After reviewing the literature and findings from this investigation on African American

superintendents, it is the researcher’s opinion that additional research is needed in some areas.

Aspiring African American professional educators could greatly benefit from the potential

valuable information in obtaining an improved comprehension of the perceptions and

experiences of African American superintendents and how they affected their ascension to the

superintendency. With the information garnished from this investigation, it is the hope of this

researcher that it could lead to more African Americans ascending to the superintendency.


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By Stacey Bridges, Charles Banaszewski, Seanan Kelly, Renee Wozniak, & June Maul

A researcher must able to make

an argument with the support of

academic literature and without

personal bias.


Essential Questions

1. What is an academic argument?

2. How are inductive and deductive reasoning used in a dissertation?

3. How is argumentation used in a dissertation?

4. How should doctoral learners evaluate the arguments of the articles they read?

5. When should doctoral learners start working on their literature review?

Many doctoral learners enter a program with great enthusiasm and a passion for a topic of personal interest.

Novice researchers choose a topic for personal reasons; they have a desire to correct something perceived as

requiring signi�cant improvement. For instance, a novice researcher may want to �x the educational system,

change discriminatory practices, or initiate new policies. Passion and personal attachment can lead doctoral

learners to argue that their issue deserves to be addressed, and they are the person to take on that

responsibility. What they discover is that their original topic does not lend itself to becoming a feasible

research project.

There are many reasons why a project cannot move past the initial stage. The primary reason is that the

doctoral learner cannot support the argument for the project with academic literature. As doctoral learners

become more adept at locating, reading, and analyzing peer-reviewed, empirical research articles, they

become increasingly cognizant of the �aws in their thinking about the initial research ideas. Delving into the

research on a topic may reveal that the idea has already been addressed by the research of another. In this

case, reading research allowed the learner to con�rm or deny the original concern or answer the personal

question. Other learners may �nd that the topics of interest are too broad or too narrow. For these learners,

focusing the topic will often lead to a feasible study. In the worst-case scenario, learners invest in a topic not

relevant to the degree. This becomes time wasted, as it is vital that the dissertation topic is aligned to the

degree program of the learner.

The most important and most challenging aspect of being a researcher is being able to make an argument

with the support of academic literature and without personal bias. The discovery process can be �lled with

numerous unknowns that can cause inexperienced

researchers to become preoccupied with meaningless

endeavors. A quality researcher develops the ability to survey

the literature, identify potential problem spaces, and then

make a concise argument that can be supported with existing

academic research.

The Grand Canyon University (GCU) doctoral learner will be required to develop a proposal that is the �rst

three chapters of the dissertation. In this document, Chapter 2 has multiple functions. It introduces the need

for the study, contextualizes that need with background information, identi�es and defends the problem space,

discusses the theoretical foundations that will be applied, and provides a review of the literature. These tasks

lead to a problem statement that will propel the study. A successful Chapter 2 will demonstrate that the

doctoral learner is well versed in the literature on a topic and is able to make a convincing argument for the

need for the study.

The following text will discuss the types of arguments that researchers use to construct a proposal and will

illuminate common mistakes in argumentation. The six sections of the dissertation literature review and the

means by which each of these sections supports the argument of the researcher will also be discussed.

Academic Arguments
An academic argument is an informed position or claim that a researcher takes on a topic. This argument in a

study is a contribution of the researcher to the existing body of literature surrounding the topic. A well-

developed argument helps readers better understand position, perspective, and/or point of view of a researcher

on a topic. An academic argument must be supported with evidence found from preexisting research.

Published research is a collection of substantiated arguments that contribute to the current narrative of a topic;

this approach is called evidence-based research.

Some topics have many completed studies sharing a variety of positions using different kinds of

methodologies and research designs, whereas other topics may have only a few positions because the topics

are relatively new to the �eld or the interests of researchers were focused on other aspects of the �eld. Some

research may support previous �ndings while other research could contradict previous �ndings and move the

�eld in a different direction entirely. All studies present an argument to the reader and support it with existing

research from previous studies. Being able to effectively situate a study within the body of existing research

demonstrates the objectivity of the researcher regarding a topic.

Where novice researchers and learners go awry is believing that academic arguments are either grounded in

opinion or simply a collection of unsupported claims intended to create controversy. The use of existing

research helps researchers to avoid this practice, and the peer-review process ensures the accuracy of the

positions and �ndings of researchers.

Structure of an Argument

Before beginning to construct an argument, the doctoral learner must �rst assure a correct mindset. For most

people, the goal is to win an argument, but that is not the objective in research. A researcher is attempting

neither to win something nor to write research to compete against another. The objective of a researcher is to

demonstrate expertise in and legitimacy of research by using evidence from previous research to support a

position. Doctoral learners should ask themselves whether they have spent enough time with the literature to

identify enough material to adequately support the need for the study. If the answer is yes, then they will

organize their materials in a way that allows them to synthesize the research and frame their arguments. If

the answer is no, these doctoral learners will need either to spend more time reviewing the literature or to

change the focus of the research project to more aptly re�ect the available problem spaces found in the


The task of synthesis writing is one of the major skills of academic argumentation (Cumming et al., 2016). It

involves stating a position, compiling information from multiple sources, and effectively organizing the

information into an argument to support the position. To be succinct, information unrelated to the argument is

not included, keeping the focus on providing evidence for the main claim.

Structuring an effective and compelling argument requires both synthesizing ideas and organizing the

discussion to provide supporting evidence where it is needed. Thus, doctoral learners must learn to synthesize

past research �ndings and organize clearly supported discussion to formulate a compelling argument. The

critical feature is the integration and organization of multiple sources to support a position rather than just

listing or summarizing content sequentially.

One common mistake of doctoral learners is to provide a series of consecutive summaries without providing

an overall argument (Boscolo et al., 2007). Summarizing multiple studies without framing the argument leaves

the reader with little direction regarding what path to follow. The reader is forced to infer what the writer

meant, which can lead to misinterpretation and/or criticism directed toward the writer. Simply put, the

doctoral learner needs to ensure the reasons provided in the argument support the stated position.

Difference Between an Argument and an Explanation

An argument is a combination of assertions supporting a central claim along with the

necessary evidence from prior studies. An explanation is a description of the circumstances

or an interpretation of the given information. An explanation cannot support a claim.

Consider the following assertion:

I believe that daily drinking of alcohol must be stopped because it will lead to major health

problems and premature death in young people and adults.

As written, this assertion is an opinion with an explanation of that opinion. Now, consider

this revision of the above assertion and explanation:

Daily drinking of alcohol should be avoided because it can lead to social and health issues as well

as premature death (Root, 2018). There must be more awareness created to inform people of the

dangers of alcohol.

This statement is better because it supports the claim that drinking has social and health

consequences, but the statement is still an explanation. However, to be considered an

argument the writer must provide empirical evidence to support the claim because an

argument must be situated in and supported by previous research. A key aspect of

understanding the structure of academic argumentation is comprehending the relationship

between the claim and the evidence organized to support the claim.

Consider the following argument in support of the initial assertion above:

Alcohol abuse is a condition that affects families directly or indirectly in the United States

(Wilson, 2017). Key indicators of alcohol abuse have steadily increased for the past 10 years,

demonstrating a rise in alcohol abuse (Smith, 2019). The number of alcohol-related deaths among

young people is disheartening. According to Silk (2020), the number of alcohol-attributed

accidental deaths involving motor vehicles is “200% greater” than it was 10 years ago despite

concerted efforts to raise awareness through state-sponsored media campaigns and the

implementation of legal deterrents such as �nancial penalties and incarceration (p. 164). At the

same time, the number of alcohol-related illnesses has increased leading to premature deaths in

adults. Worth (2018) has noted a spike in liver disease among adult males ages 45-60 years old.

The increase in deaths from both populations is both preventable and an issue that must receive

more attention to ensure the health and safety of individuals using alcohol.

Note: All citations are �ctitious and, therefore, do not have requisite counterparts in the

reference notes to this chapter.

Evidence-Claim Relationships

Arguments in scholarly writing include both a claim and evidence (Wallace & Wray, 2011). If either the claim or

the evidence is missing, the writing is not an argument. In practice, this means that the claimant must

support all assertions (statements of fact or opinion) with scholarly citations of either seminal works or

research that is relevant and current. Writers must cite ideas and claims either by referencing a scholarly

article that has made this claim or by citing research in support of the claim. Opinions must be supported with

academic literature. Even if the writer bases an opinion on personal experience, the type of proof necessary for

scholarly writing remains peer-reviewed, scholarly research. The use of scholarly sources of evidence allows

the argument to become more complex and informative, integrating the ideas of other authors into an

argument that possibly began from an opinion. The doctoral learner might decide to highlight �ndings from

these articles for discussion as further evidence in building a stronger argument.

Claims supported by evidence (e.g., descriptions of �ndings, scholarly citations, or quotations) must also

include an interpretation of that evidence to connect it to the claim. A common error is stringing together

citations or describing a study without also explaining its relevance to the argument being made. The writer

must clearly connect the claim and evidence for the reader to understand why it is part of the supportive


Quotations, if used, must be used sparingly and include an interpretation that links the evidence (the quote)

and the claim (the assertion of the writer). A review of high-quality, peer-reviewed sources quickly reveals

that scholarly writing seldom uses direct quotations. Instead, scholarly writers paraphrase the information

and cite the source. This means that the scholarly writer restates information from a source in a way that

serves the present argument while maintaining the accuracy of the original idea.

By thoughtfully using claims and evidence, a writer creates an effective argument. This argument can be an

end in itself (e.g., a review article or policy recommendation), or can form the basis of an empirical research

study. A dissertation or empirical research paper is based on an argument formulated from research �ndings

and published theory. As Boote and Beille (2005) argued, “to be useful and meaningful… research must be

cumulative; it must build on and learn from prior research and scholarship on the topic” (p. 3).

Further, the claim and the evidence must match. This means the actual content of the supporting citation

must match the claim made, and the interpretation must logically connect to the content. Practically, this is

important for making a logical and well-articulated argument, and it is useful for readers to quickly assess

past research if they wish additional information. Ethically, each article cited within parentheses in a

sentence must contain the information in the sentence. Matching claims and evidence is both a logical and

ethical imperative.

Examples of the Evidence-Claim Relationship

Claim Without Evidence (No Scholarly Support for the Claim):

Children who learned through the act of “play” are smarter compared to children who

learned through rote memorization.

Claim With Evidence:

Children who learned through the act of “play” are smarter compared to children who

learned through rote memorization, as measured by the higher scores on third-grade

standardized tests, speci�cally in the areas of reading comprehension and math word

problems (Marquette, 2020).

Evidence Without Claim (Summarized but Not Connected to an Argument):

Children who learned through the act of “play” scored higher on standardized tests in third

grade, speci�cally reading comprehension and math word problems (Marquette, 2020).

Evidence With Claim:

Children who learned through the act of “play” can perform better on portions of third-grade

standardized tests measuring reading comprehension and math word problems as

compared to children who learned similar material through rote memorization (Marquette,


Mismatch Between Claim and Evidence (Information Provided Does Not Match the Source):

Children who learned through the act of “play” performed higher on the reading

comprehension and math word problem sections of third-grade standardized tests. Adult

children of divorce face socioeconomic hardship and aggression (Marquette, 2020; Bradley &

Pulcher, 2011).


Marquette (2020) examined the differences in standardized test scores between children

who learned through the act of “play” and children who learned through rote memorization.

Bradley and Pulcher (2011) studied children (14–16 years old) who wrote poetry in creative

writing electives in high school.

Note: All citations are �ctitious and, therefore, do not have requisite counterparts in the

reference notes to this chapter.

Types of Arguments

Deductive, Inductive, and Abductive Reasoning

There are three main types of reasoning that scholars use when developing an academic argument: deductive,

inductive, and abductive. Deductive reasoning applied to research tests an existing theory while inductive

reasoning applied to research develops a theory. Learners will be most familiar with deductive arguments

because deductive reasoning is the basis for the scienti�c method, but the other two types are equally


Deductive reasoning moves from the general to the speci�c and

results in clear statements. To conceptualize deductive reasoning,

consider descending a �ight of stairs to reach a destination. The

researcher begins with the theory. Hypotheses are developed, and

data are collected and analyzed using structured methods. In the

end, theories are con�rmed or not supported. A logically accurate

deductive argument is described as “valid.” An example that is

both valid and true is “All plants perform photosynthesis. Cacti are

plants. Therefore, cacti perform photosynthesis.” Using deductive

reasoning, both premises need to be true for the conclusion to be

true. A simple example of a �awed deductive argument is “All

birds can �y. A penguin is a bird. Therefore, a penguin can �y.” For deductive reasoning to be sound, the

hypothesis must be correct. In this case, the conclusion that “a penguin can �y” does not logically �ow from

the hypothesis “all birds can �y” because the hypothesis is incorrect.

Deductive arguments in research are generally associated with quantitative research because it begins with a

hypothesis that is either supported or refuted by the data analysis. When using deductive research, theories

are used to explain the variables being investigated; in quantitative research the theory guides the data

collection and analysis leading to a speci�c conclusion.

Inductive reasoning moves from the speci�c to the general, as it

involves deriving a theory from speci�c examples and, thus,

results in statements that are more or less likely to be true rather

than a �xed absolute response. Inductive reasoning and research

are conceptualized as ascending the stairs to reach a destination.

The researcher starts with an observation then looks for patterns

after engaging in a structured form of data collection. Tentative

hypotheses are drawn based on themes or patterns that emerge

from analysis of the data. Finally, theories or generalizations are

developed based on the data (Sinnot-Armstrong & Fogelin, 2015).

An inductive argument is evaluated as strong or “cogent” rather

than valid. In other words, an inductive argument is intended to

be strong enough that if the premises were to be true, then it would be unlikely that the conclusion is false.

The strength of an inductive argument is a matter of degree unlike deductive arguments. Returning to the

earlier example, using inductive reasoning, “Robins can �y. Parrots can �y. Robins and parrots are both birds,

therefore all birds can �y.” This is a cogent argument because if the premises are true, it is unlikely that the

conclusion is false. An inductive argument can be affected by introducing a new premise or by illuminating

new evidence, but a deductive argument cannot. For instance, if “A penguin is a bird” is added to the argument,

the conclusion that “All birds can �y” becomes false.

Inductive arguments are associated with qualitative studies because these studies generate a conclusion (or

theory) based on research data. Qualitative studies begin with an observation that generates a research

question. Data are collected, and the result at times is a theory. More often, the �nding is a set of tentative

propositions based on themes or patterns that emerge from analysis of the data.

Abductive reasoning begins with an incomplete set of observations and proceeds to the most likely

explanation for the set of observations. Hypotheses are tested using the best information available. This is

similar to the process of a doctor rendering a diagnosis based on patient symptoms or a jury reaching a verdict

based on the evidence presented in a trial. Abductive arguments will not generally be used in developing the

argumentation required for Chapter 2 of the dissertation. However, abductive reasoning may be used after

results/�ndings have been determined in order to interpret the meaning or implications of those

results/�ndings. As such, this type of reasoning is more commonly seen in Chapter 5 of the dissertation.

Evaluating Arguments

One advantageous practice for doctoral learners to improve their argumentation skills is to begin noticing the

arguments put forth in the scholarly sources they read. Every published research article is like a mini-

dissertation. Although the headings may differ, making it dif�cult to locate each of the �ve chapters of a

dissertation, every article includes this material. This means that as doctoral learners read and annotate a

source, careful consideration should be made to understand the argument presented in the article justifying

the need for the research. Rather than simply providing general facts about a study, a critical writer will

include important evaluations of the argument for the study.

Critical readers do more than simply skim a text; they analyze and evaluate to achieve deeper understanding.

Critical reading involves not only applying higher order thinking skills during the review of an article but also

evaluating the argument of another writer. Doctoral learners are expected to critically assess everything they

read, whether resourcing a class assignment or preparing the literature review of the dissertation. Simply

having a sense of what might be lacking with an argument is not enough; learners must be able to identify

precisely why an article is weak. Critical readers and writers �rst must learn how to identify and then to

evaluate an argument.

A style of argumentation was developed by philosopher Stephen E. Toulmin (2003) in which an argument is

broken down into six parts: claim, grounds, warrant, backing, quali�er, and rebuttal. Toulmin asserted that all

arguments contain the �rst three parts as the foundation of the argument. As addressed earlier, a claim is a

position or main argument that the author is making in the research. The grounds are evidence the researcher

uses to support the claim. A warrant is the logical reasoning or assumptions used to connect the evidence to

the claim. Generally, the stronger the claim, the stronger the evidence must be to support it. It is one thing to

claim that lack of education contributes to poverty, but it is something entirely different to claim that lack of

education causes poverty. The latter would require stronger evidence to substantiate the claim than the


The quali�er, rebuttal, and backing are not fundamental to the Toulmin (2003) method but can and should be

used when appropriate to strengthen the quality of an argument. Backing is additional support of the warrant

that often manifests itself in the form of speci�c examples that validate the warrant. The quali�er helps a

writer to avoid faulty logic by disclosing a claim may not be valid in every scenario. A shift in vocabulary to

from “all” or “every” to terms, such as “some” or “many” helps reveal where a claim may be invalid. All research

has limitations, and in some circumstances, a researcher must acknowledge limitations of the argument

(rebuttal) because there could be valid interpretations that indicate the warrant is not applicable in these other

situations. In a dissertation, this would manifest in the limitations and delimitations sections.

The method outlined by Toulmin (2003) is a sound approach to construct and to deconstruct an argument.

Understanding the parts makes it easier for a writer to align their argument and avoid errors that can weaken

their position. A doctoral learner who understands the parts of the model will be better able to identify an

academic argument. Practice evaluating arguments can quicken the evaluation process and help learners to

identify faulty logic and mistakes in the argument for their dissertation.

Common Mistakes in Argumentation
Doctoral learners embarking on their dissertation research projects are usually passionate about their topics

and the arguments that they are presenting to readers. Sometimes this passion can lead a doctoral learner

with the best of intentions to errantly use and/or interpret evidence thus creating �aws in the logic of the

argument. A sound argument presents a set of reasons supported by evidence to support a position. In other

words, a doctoral learner will construct a thesis, collect evidence, consider key objections and

counterarguments, and construct an argument concluded by con�rmation of the original thesis. The process

sounds simple enough and has been repeated by countless scholars who have successfully completed

dissertation projects. Nonetheless, many doctoral learners struggle with this approach and fall into the trap of

presenting faulty logic, making readers, speci�cally a dissertation committee, question the legitimacy of the


Common mistakes in argumentation can manifest themselves in ways that are revealed during the writing

process. The mistakes can range from emotional appeals to shortcomings in reasoning. Doctoral learners need

to avoid faulty logic when it comes to interpreting evidence.

Common Logic Flaws

Ad Hominem (Latin for “to the person”): A researcher ignores the issue or topic by shifting

focus to an individual who presents an oppositional viewpoint. For example, “Nothing can be

trusted from Team member #7 because that person is a self-proclaimed extremist.”

Appeal to Ignorance: Making a statement that claims something must be false because

research has not proved otherwise. For example, “Show me one study that proves…”

Appeal to Pity: Appealing to the compassion of the reader by using excuses to ask for

leniency. For example, “Imagine the hardships the learners went through as they tried to

meet the expectations of the course.”

Bandwagon: Appeals to the need of wanting to belong or to be accepted. For example,

“Everyone has taken up this practice, so you should too.”

Broad Generalization: Inductive conclusions that do not include exceptions. Supportive of

stereotypes by generalizing everyone from a group to a practice or identity. Using words

such as “all” and “everyone.” For example, “All young people are addicted to technology.”

Circular Thinking: Restating a position in different words as evidence for the claim. “Theater

classes are not that important because there are more important courses to take.”

Either-Or Logic: Reducing a conclusion to an extreme dichotomy that eliminates all the

possibilities in between. For example, “The �ndings were either smart or stupid.”

Half-Truths: Omitting a part of the evidence that does not support your claim. For example,

sharing how Group A responded to a question in a focus group, but not Group B.

Non sequitur (Latin for “it does not follow”): A conclusion derived illogically or erroneously

from a premise. For example, “Children are too young to drink alcohol, so they should not be

taught about it.”

Oversimpli�cation: Simplifying complex ideas and topics down to a simple statement with a

simple conclusion. For example, “Gun control all boils down to protecting people from each


Post Hoc (from the Latin post hoc ergo propter hoc, meaning “after this, therefore because of

this”): An assumption that something happened must have caused the result of something

else. For example, “After public schools sports programs budgets were reduced, the

incidences of teen violence increased.”

Slanted Language: Selecting words that have strong positive or negative connation in order

to distract the reader from valid arguments. For example, “People would be crazy to support

such an insane idea.”

Testimonial: A person who is recognized as an authority being used as authority to support

evidence in a much different �eld. For example, a theater scholar quotation being used to

support a statement related to research on science, technology, engineering, and

mathematics (STEM) education.

Exaggerating or Minimizing the Facts: A researcher exaggerates or minimizes the

magnitude of a fact. Example of exaggerating, “The majority of the players do not want to

return to play during a pandemic.” The fact, “The survey revealed that 51% of the players did

not want to return to play during a pandemic.” Example of minimizing, “There was little

interest in exploring the caves.” The fact, “Several of the participants refused to explore the

caves because of the risk of a cave-in, while the remaining participants would only enter the

cave after an of�cial inspection. None of the participants were willing to enter the cave


Using a False Cause: A researcher makes a claim about two separate things being connected

but does not use evidence to support that position.

If Only Logic: Using evidence that cannot be tested. The writer makes a statement but

cannot con�rm whether it would happen. If statement: “A person uses an umbrella if it is

raining.” If only statement, “A person uses an umbrella only if it is raining.” Is there other

evidence that could support or contradict this statement?

The examples in the sidebar “Common Logic Flaws” demonstrate several pitfalls a writer can make when

supporting an argument. It is important for researchers to remain patient and objective when trying to

interpret the data. Researchers must avoid making quick judgements because something appears to agree

with the claim. They must investigate and ensure the evidence indeed is supportive instead of simply being

desirous of it being supportive. It is important for researchers not to simplify a subject when it comes to a

complex, multifaceted topic with many moving parts. Rather, researchers must examine all the relevant

literature and synthesize the data accurately.

As a doctoral learner, one of the ways to become better at building strong arguments and avoiding faulty logic

is by being aware that faulty logic can exist even in peer-reviewed research. All research has limitations. In

other words, research is a narrow question con�ned to a speci�c set of variables or conditions. Focusing on

how effectively a researcher supports an argument will reveal the quality of the piece of literature.

Misinterpreting Articles

Dissertation chairs working with learners in the dissertation phase sometimes �nd learners misinterpret the

sources they have found to justify the need for their dissertation studies. There are a few ways this can

happen, but the most prevalent ways are simply misreading or misinterpreting a fact or �nding for a study.

The following is an example from Gardner (2009) the facts of which are used incorrectly by a �ctitious doctoral


In the introduction for a study examining how disciplinary context and culture in�uence the understanding of

success in doctoral education Gardner (2009) wrote:

Note. Adapted from King, Erickson, & Sebranek (2012); Sebranek, Kemper, & Meyer (2000); and Sebranek, Meyer, & Kemper

In doctoral education, the study of success is also prevalent. To be sure, understanding doctoral

learner success is particularly important as only 50% of those learners who enter doctoral education

actually complete the degree (e.g., Council of Graduate Schools, 2004; Nettles & Millett, 2006). To this

end, scholars have sought to understand how factors such as advising (e.g., Baird, 1972; Schroeder &

Mynatt, 1993), learner characteristics (e.g., Cook & Swanson, 1978; Nettles, 1990), and particular

measures such as grades and test scores (e.g., Burton & Wang, 2005; Girves & Wemmerus, 1988;

Lannholm & Schrader, 1951) in�uence the concept of success in doctoral education. In each of these

cases, “success” can mean anything from year-to-year persistence and high grade point averages to

degree completion. Therefore, although multiple scholars have studied the concept of success from

nearly every imaginable angle, its de�nition remains elusive. What is success? How does one

differentiate a successful learner from one who is unsuccessful? Does the de�nition of success vary by

disciplinary culture?

Without a coherent view of what it means to be successful in doctoral education, the measurements

and outcomes expected of learners remain ambiguous. This study sought to understand the concept

of success as de�ned by 38 faculty members in seven disciplines at one research-extensive institution

through in-depth interviews about their experiences in doctoral education. The paper begins with a

brief overview of relevant extant literature and the conceptual framework guiding the study. I then

provide a description of the methods used, summarize the �ndings, and provide implications for

future policy, practice, and research. (pp. 343–344).

After reading this article the �ctitious doctoral learner synthesized the following sentence in a paper about

doctoral identity:

Gardner (2009) reported that about half of all doctoral learners never obtain their degrees and argued

that doctoral identity is something that disciplinary cultures contribute to feelings of isolation.

The learner makes several mistakes in synthesizing Gardner’s work. First, the learner suggests that the

Gardner’s �ndings included information about the graduation rate of all doctoral programs. This is not

accurate because Gardner examined only seven disciplines at a single university. This would be an example of

a broad generalization.

Second, the learner incorrectly attributed a secondary source to Gardner, making it appear as though Gardner’s

�ndings included information about a 50% failure rate of learners in doctoral programs. Gardner introduced

the study using citations from the Council of Graduate Schools (2004) and Nettles and Millett (2006). The

Council of Graduate Schools (2004) source directly measured and reported the attrition rates for Ph.D.

programs, and Nettles and Millett (2006) is a book that included information from a large survey of doctoral

learners. The statement from the doctoral learner above makes it sound as though Gardner conducted

research to measure the graduation rates of doctoral programs, which was not the case.

Third, the quality of the citation is weakened because the learner is using a secondary source instead of a

primary source to make this statement. While there is a correct method for citing a secondary source, no

secondary citations are allowed in GCU dissertations. Learners must be reading and citing original and

primary sources.

Fourth, if facts are going to be used to help support an argument, then it is important to ensure those facts are

current. Gardner’s research was published in 2009 and used two citations from 2004 and 2006. Gardner using

those sources was current; however, the doctoral learner wrote the paper in 2020, so the two sources are out of

date. The Council of Graduate Schools produced another report in 2010, which would have been a more current


A stronger approach would be to show a trend in the current literature. A trend could support whether the

original claim that only 50% of those learners who enter doctoral education complete the degree has remained

consistent over time. For example, the learner could have investigated what the current retention rates are and

added analysis of current sources to show the trend: About 14% of those who enter a doctoral program leave

without a degree (NCES, 2019) with four factors (marital status, master grade, research �eld, and funding)

appearing to be the most in�uential in affecting attrition (Wollast et al., 2018).

Fifth, misinterpretation of Gardner’s research takes place in the second half of the statement which claims,

“Gardner (2009) argued that doctoral identity is something that disciplinary cultures contribute to feelings of

isolation.” From the earlier excerpt the purpose of the study was provided as, “This study sought to understand

the concept of success as de�ned by 38 faculty members in seven disciplines at one research-extensive

institution through in-depth interviews about their experiences in doctoral education” (Gardner, 2009, p. 383).

This purpose statement does not mention the variable of doctoral identity. Looking to the �ndings section in


From the analysis of the interviews conducted, it was evident that disciplinary culture and context

greatly in�uenced the faculty members’ conceptualizations of success in doctoral education. There

was a clear distinction among disciplinary constructions of success and among departments with the

highest and lowest completion rates. I discuss these �ndings below by highest-to-lowest completion

rate for the departments included in the study, also differentiating by the Biglan (1973b) disciplinary

classi�cation. (p. 391)

Again, in this summary of the �ndings, there was no mention of the variable doctoral identity. Gardner’s article

never used the phrase doctoral identity. The learner cannot say that Gardner argued anything about doctoral

identity. A stronger interpretation of the �ndings could be stated as, “Gardner (2009) found that the

conceptualization of success by doctoral faculty members was in�uenced by disciplinary culture.”

As the example above demonstrates, the learner misinterpreted the literature and could have taken some steps

to strengthen the analysis with additional research. More importantly, the learner confused the difference

between the purpose of a literature review section and a �ndings section. A literature review is not a

statement of the �ndings of the researcher. The literature review provides contextual information about

previous research related to the topic to reveal a problem space in the literature. The learner internalizes the

literature review and treats the �ndings found in the literature review as though they are part of the research

�ndings. This is an overreach because the literature review and �ndings sections are distinctly different in

content and purpose.

As doctoral learners are gathering sources for their dissertation, they should be wary of confusing a literature

review for �ndings in an empirical article. In the dissertation, these are separate chapters. Chapter 2 of the

dissertation presents the literature review where the researcher presents what needs to be studied within the

boundaries of prior research. Chapter 4 of the dissertation presents the data analysis and �ndings/results

where the researcher summarizes the data collected, discusses how it was analyzed, and presents the �ndings

from the analysis. Using information from only the literature review or abstract of an article is likely to lead to

misrepresenting information or misinterpreting the �ndings of the study.

Argumentation in Chapter 2 of the Dissertation
Independent effort on the part of the learner is needed throughout the coursework phase of the doctoral

journey. Learners will have to develop the arguments and rationales for their studies on their own, outside of

the content- and research-oriented courses. In RES-815 and RES-820, learners will practice the beginning steps

of developing the argument they must produce to substantiate a problem space. Following are steps the learner

will need to complete to substantiate a problem space.

Section 1: Introduction and Background to the Problem

The Introduction section describes the overall topic to be investigated. Included are an orienting paragraph, a

description of how the chapter is organized, and discussion of the strategy and process used to survey the

literature. The survey strategy refers to the databases and search terms the learner uses. This section also

describes the historical evolution of the problem and de�nes the problem space in the literature to form the

“Background of the Problem” section.

The Background of the Problem must describe what is currently known about the research problem that the

researcher proposes to study for the dissertation as well as what is not known and what needs to be further

researched. Once a researcher identi�es and justi�es what still needs to be known about the proposed

dissertation topic, the researcher then uses this information to develop the one-line problem statement that

provides the focus for the research. However, there is a scholarly process the learner must use to identify the

research that still needs to be done. The learner must avoid being biased by a personal current view of the

world or a personal agenda. In addition, the researcher must avoid choosing a topic at random. At times,

learners may be tempted to select a topic because of an identi�ed point they want to prove. For example, the

researcher may want to do a study on narcissistic leaders in an organization having observed leaders

demonstrating this behavior and come to believe the behavior negatively impacts the workplace culture. In

this example, the focus is to prove a personal belief about one or more speci�c leaders. However, the purpose of

research is to explore important research questions with the focus on discovering answers to those questions

rather than proving a point or furthering a personal agenda. Research focused on proving a point or furthering

a personal agenda is considered biased and will not obtain formal university approval. Instead, the researcher

must use scholarly literature to identify the research needed to de�ne the focus for the study. The value of and

need for the study must be clearly demonstrated from within the literature. Thus, the problem space is formed

from the need de�ned in the literature.

Prior to de�ning the research topic, the learner should �rst ensure possession of the skills and knowledge to

pursue research on the selected topic. The learner should have gained the skills and knowledge needed to

pursue the topic within content courses during the �rst two years of the program. The topic should be relevant

to the degree program and area of emphasis. For example, someone in the organizational leadership program

with an emphasis in higher education should be exploring a topic relevant to leadership in the higher

education setting rather than one in counseling psychology, cognition studies, or sports psychology. For a

learner is pursuing a Doctor of Business Administration (DBA), it is meaningful and appropriate to explore

business topics in any organization including educational institutions. However, the DBA research topic must

emanate from the business �eld and journals within the business �eld.

The need for the proposed research is often referred to as “the gap.” Often, novice researchers assume that the

term gap means a void implying the topic has not been studied in the past, an assumption that is not correct.

The gap is not a topic for which no research exists. As such, GCU has adopted the term problem space to

differentiate what is known on the topic and what is not yet known. This difference between the two points

de�nes what still needs to be known and should, therefore, be researched further. The researcher develops a

problem space through the process of studying the scholarly research on the proposed topic, identifying

potential research needs or future research agendas de�ned in this scholarly research, and using these needs

or agendas to develop a set of arguments to justify a research need exists. The proof or evidence for each of

these arguments comes from citations identi�ed in the scholarly literature. The researcher uses this set of

arguments and citations to justify the proposed topic and to create a one-sentence problem statement for the


The background to the problem requires a historical structure. A historical structure or approach provides an

outline of the research completed on and/or related to the proposed topic. One approach to providing a

historical overview includes a description of the �rst research conducted, a discussion of how the research

evolved over time, and �nally, the summary of the focus of the research for the past 3 years. Table 7.1 presents

the structure, �ow, and questions to ask to ensure a clear focus for this section. This section in the proposal

should be three or four paragraphs (at most) in length. To synthesize the literature into these three to four

paragraphs requires a clear understanding of the research on and related to the proposed dissertation topic.

Step 3 in the table provides the information to develop the one-sentence problem statement for the proposed


The researcher develops a set of arguments to justify the need for the proposed dissertation topic using the

information synthesized during Step 3. This information requires synthesizing the literature directly and

indirectly related to the proposed topic. For example, if researching a topic on ways negative and positive life

situations may in�uence doctoral learners completing the program, there may be a need to examine related

Table 7.1

Structure and Focus for the Background of the Problem Section

Structure Questions to Answer

Step 1:
Describe the earliest research on and related to the
proposed research topic.

Looking at the earliest research:
What were the few most meaningful studies?

Who completed these original studies on or
related to the proposed topic?

What drove the need for this research?

What did they discover?

What remained as a need for the future?

Step 2:
Describe how the research evolved over time after
the initial research.

After the initial period of research:
What were the most meaningful, distinct areas
of focus for the research?

What drove the need for this research?

What did they discover?

Step 3:
Describe current research, and use it to develop the
arguments to identify and prove the defined problem
space or defined need for the proposed research

Looking at the research in the past 3-5 years:
What are the primary studies related to the
proposed topic?

What drove the need for this research?

What did they discover?

What still needs to be researched or
discovered based on recommendations for
future research from these current articles,
limitations identified in the studies, current
societal needs, and synthesizing needs across
related topics?

factors, such as resilience, as described in the “Background of the Problem” section for an existing study

focusing on what enabled the successful graduation of nontraditional doctoral-level learners. Looking at the

related and relevant literature helps to frame the problem statement and further narrow down the topic.

When doing research on a proposed topic, the researcher should present both sides of the issue being

researched. For example, if researching a topic such as why a minority or ethnic group does not graduate at

the rate of other groups, it is also important to do the research on the factors that enable all groups to graduate.

By looking at both perspectives, the researcher may �nd a topic to help contribute to society and the various

stakeholders by �nding solutions to the problem rather than further de�ning the issues causing the problem.

In addition, organizations that conduct research may be more willing to support the work of seeking what

leads to success.

In the examples in Table 7.2, it is possible to keep this section to three paragraphs. To keep it to the three

paragraphs, the researcher outlines the structured approach, develops a clear topic sentence that de�nes the

focus of that paragraph, identi�es the critical pieces of information and arguments made in the section, and

identi�es a supporting citation for each argument. The researcher does not add any information not directly

relevant to the criteria and arguments to justify the de�ned problem space and need.

Section 2: Identi�cation of the Problem Space

Multiple Approaches to De�ning the Problem Space or Need for the Study

Researchers select from multiple approaches to identify and de�ne the problem space and need for the study.

The critical part of de�ning the need is to present a logical set of arguments supported by citations. Several

different approaches to de�ning the need appear below. Combining two or more of these approaches typically

provides a thorough justi�cation for the study. For example, the researcher may �rst identify a societal need

such as a global demand to continue developing learners with capabilities of engineers, scientists, and

mathematicians. Second, the researcher identi�es recommendations from research published over the past

three years to determine a need to provide simulations for learning engineering skills.

Societal, Community, and Professional Needs as Powerful Research Drivers

Table 7.2

Two Possible Historical Approaches for Structuring the Background of the Problem Section

Structure Pure Historical Approach
Historical Approach Based on

Societal or Social Problem

Step 1:
The Beginning

Describe the earliest research on and
related to the proposed research topic.

Define an emerging social or societal

Step 2:
Emerging and Evolving

Describe how the research evolved
over time after the initial research.

Describe a broad area of research that
has emerged from this need or may be
related to the need.

Step 3:
Current Research

Describe current research, and use it
to develop the arguments to identify
and prove the defined problem space
or defined need for the proposed
research topic.

Describe current research, and use it,
the social or societal need, and the
broad area of research to develop the
arguments to identify and prove the
defined problem space or defined
need for the proposed research topic.

Scholarly literature often uses societal, community, and/or professional needs to justify a need for future

research. Societal needs can emerge from economic, social, or environmental needs as well as other areas of

concern. Researchers conduct these studies on a global or national basis. On a more local basis, a community

may have speci�c needs that apply not only to itself but also to similar communities. Some societal needs may

be speci�c to a profession. For example, current research speci�c to the professional areas within science and

technology has emerged as a broad area of research entitled science, technology, engineering, and

mathematics (STEM) research.

Replication as a Part of Scienti�c Inquiry

One potential approach to de�ning the need for a study is to explore research on the topic to determine

whether multiple pieces of scholarly literature recommend replication of a study. Researchers support the

need by citing multiple articles that independently recommend future research on the topic. For instance,

Laerd Dissertation ( focuses on quantitative research and provides detailed

arguments that can be used to justify replication of a study. Although many people believe replication is

merely duplicating other research, replication also includes generalizing or extending prior research.

Generalization might involve identifying a part of the study to replicate using a different population in order to

extend the �ndings. Replication may also involve a new design with different research questions to extend the

study to circumstances different from the original study.

Recommendations from Prior Studies and Published Literature Reviews

When using this approach, the researcher �rst identi�es studies from within the past 3 years that make

recommendations related to the problem they want to examine further. Generally, the research should identify

at least three articles that make recommendations relative to the proposed research. The next step involves

the researcher synthesizing these articles to develop a set of logical, supported arguments that clearly de�ne

the stated need or problem space for the proposed research.

Adding to a Broadly Researched Area

Within research in general, there are several broad areas of research. Researchers commonly consider these

broad areas to identify the need for future research. When using this approach, the process involves �rst

identifying the broad areas of research, then �nding and justifying a general topic area. The researcher then

develops arguments to justify a speci�c topic, explaining how the work will contribute to the general topic area

and the broad area of research identi�ed.

Reframing Problems to Create More Innovative Research

Human beings tend to take a negative view of the world when examining problems. For example, when

examining retention of college learners, there is likely not a research question beyond a social problem

because the factors that prevent learners from graduating are already known. However, if the researcher

reframes the problem statement by looking for the solution rather than exploring the causes of the problem,

the study might focus on factors that support learner graduation from college. Restating problems from a

solution perspective leads to more innovative research because, in many areas, no one has reframed the

problem to a solution focus. In addition, the topic may be more appealing to organizations, thus making it less

dif�cult to get permission to conduct research within an organization.

Synthesis of Areas of Research to De�ne a New/Innovative Area of Research

Another approach to developing a new area of research is to synthesize existing areas of research to develop a

new problem statement. In this case, the researcher de�nes the proposed topic and problem statement by

synthesizing recent studies including trends, limitations, and stated future research needs. By examples, a

researcher interested in exploring social intelligences, a new focus/topic/model evolving from research on

emotional intelligence (EI), might include considering engagement, a broad area of research across business,

psychology, and education. Social intelligence may provide cognitive capabilities and resulting behaviors that

in�uence engagement. Both EI and engagement might in�uence individual and organizational performance.

The theoretical framework

includes the laws, theories,

models, and/or concepts the

researcher will use to develop the

research questions and/or

hypotheses for the speci�c study.

Synthesizing these themes, then, the researcher develops the qualitative problem statement: It is not known

how or why the social intelligence of leaders in�uences the level of engagement on teams and ultimately team

performance. For a quantitative study, the researcher uses a problem statement such as: It is not known if or to

what extent the social intelligence of leaders in�uences the level of engagement on teams and ultimately team


Section 3: Theoretical Foundations

This section identi�es theories or models from seminal sources that provide the foundation for the research,

guide the research questions, justify what is being measured (variables), and describe how the variables are

related (quantitative) or the phenomena under investigation (qualitative). In this section, the learner should

cite the seminal source along with references re�ective of the

foundational, historical, and current literature in the �eld, and

should demonstrate overall understanding of the related

theories or models and their relevance to the proposed study.

Additionally, this section describes how the dissertation

research will add to or extend the theories or models. For

example, Rutledge (2015) conducted a quantitative study to

determine correlation between registered nurse’s perceptions

of leader-empowering behavior and self-reported burnout in

one North Texas hospital. Kanter’s (1983) structural empowerment theory, Conger and Kanungo’s (1988) model

of empowerment, Thomas and Velthouse’s (1990) cognitive model of empowerment, and Maslach and

Jackson’s (1981) burnout model comprised the theoretical foundations of the study. These were aligned to the

two variables under study: leader empowerment behaviors and nurse burnout. Selecting an appropriate theory

is important to help deepen understanding of problems, contexts, or even the theories themselves (Varpio et

al., 2020).

Incorporating Theories and Models of Research

A dissertation presents the theories, models, or concepts that provide the foundation or building blocks for

developing the research questions and hypotheses as well as for collecting the data. Having identi�ed the

theories, models, and/or concepts that will provide the foundation for the research, the researcher then uses

this information to develop the research questions (qualitative research) or research questions and hypotheses

(quantitative research) that provides the focus for the research.

The theoretical framework considers the problem statement for the research as it identi�es the theories,

models, and/or concepts the researcher will use to develop the research questions (qualitative) and/or

hypotheses (quantitative) for their speci�c study. In addition, these theories, models, and concepts help the

researcher identify or create instruments to collect data and to select data collection approaches. Researchers

de�ne the concepts of theories, models, and laws differently. Table 7.3 provides de�nitions and examples.

Table 7.3

Description of Building Blocks for the Theoretical Foundations Section

Some researchers go beyond describing the theories, models, and concepts used to develop their research

questions and/or hypotheses. They identify additional related theories, models, and concepts. When using this

broader approach, this section becomes a conceptual framework. In the “Conceptual Framework” section, the

researcher contrasts the various theories, models, and concepts, ultimately justifying the ones most relevant to

the research.

Developing the “Theoretical Foundations” section requires a step-by-step approach as described in Table 7.4.

To begin, researchers identify the models, theories, or concepts that are relevant for the problem statement. For

a quantitative problem statement, researchers identify a model or theory for each variable. It is also important

to ensure a validated instrument or data source exists to collect the data for each variable. The researcher

commonly �nds this information in the same literature in which the theory, model, or concept was found. If

the researcher were trying to determine whether there is a relationship between spirituality in leaders and the

organizational climates they develop, the researcher would need one model for the variable, leadership

spirituality and one model for the variable organizational climate. For a qualitative study, researchers identify

one to three models that will help provide the basis for describing the phenomenon under study. If the

researcher were studying how effective change leadership in�uences an organization, they could use a change

leadership model.

Types of Building

De�nition of the Building Blocks Examples of the Building Blocks

Theory A concise and coherent broad
explanation for an observed
phenomenon, which is predictive. For
a theory to be accepted, it must be
supported in multiple forms or
evidence or research. The evidence
can include different observations and
tests and may come from different
fields of study.

Scapegoat theory

Planned behavior theory

Game theory

Goal-setting theory

Model A visual display of a theory, showing
the relationships between a set of
concepts or a list of steps in a

Resilience model

EI model

Change leadership model

Balanced scorecard model

Concept or Idea A general notion or idea; conception.
An idea of something formed by
mentally combining its characteristics
or particulars. A construct. A directly
conceived or intuited object of thought
(, 2017). Concepts can
be measured.






Table 7.4

After selecting the theories, models, and/or concepts, researchers discuss how each relates to the problem

statement. For a quantitative study, this means discussing how the theories, models, and/or concepts de�ne

the variables of the study. In a qualitative study, the researcher discusses how the model frames research on

the phenomenon. Finally, researchers develop the research questions for the study using the models.

The problem space addresses what the researcher will study, and the paradigm, the theoretical foundation,

speaks to how the study approaches the research problem. In other words, the theoretical foundation explains

the way the researcher shapes the study as he or she has.

Steps for the Theoretical Foundations Section

Steps Focus of the Step

Step 1:
Identify theories, models, and/or concepts.

Review the literature, particularly from the
“Background of the Problem” section, and
identify potential theories, models, and
concepts used in similar or related research.

Search Google Scholar and Google for terms
from the problem statement. Name and
describe the ones planned for use in the study.

Step 2:
Relate the theories, models, and/or concepts to the
problem statement.

Describe how the selected theories, models,
and/or concepts are relevant to the problem

Quantitative: Focus on variables defined in the
problem statement.

Qualitative: Focus on the components of the
phenomenon explored through the problem

Step 3:
Develop the research questions and hypotheses
based on the problem statement and the selected
theories, models, and/or concepts.

The selected theories, models, and concepts
help frame the research questions differently
for qualitative and quantitative research.

Quantitative: Identify a theory, model, or
concept that describes each variable. Develop
the research questions and hypotheses using
the variables that are based on the selected
theories, models, or concepts.

Qualitative: Identify one to three theories,
models, or concepts that are related to the
phenomenon being studied. Develop research
questions based on those one to three
theories, models, or concepts.

Section 4: Review of Literature

The “Review of Literature” section provides an overview and synthesis of existing literature and research

studies related to the dissertation topic. It de�nes topics, themes, trends, and con�icts in research

methodology, design, and �ndings. Research variables are described and related to prior empirical research

(quantitative), or phenomena being explored in the study are described and related to prior research

(qualitative). Themes and topics are de�ned, synthesized, and related to the proposed dissertation topic, and

the methodology and instrumentation of the study are justi�ed with citations from the literature. The

important goal of this section of Chapter 2 is for the learner to synthesize information from within the

literature and demonstrate how speci�c information highlighted in the review of literature informs and relates

to the dissertation study.

An Argument or List of Summaries

The review of the literature serves as the evidentiary portion of the much larger scholarly argument for the

dissertation. Chapter 3 of this textbook addressed the importance of synthesizing literature and Chapter 6

addressed the need for aligning the problem statement with a problem space in the literature and the

theoretical foundation. This chapter addresses how to present the evidence that supports the argument in

support of the study. In other words, it is as though the problem space is on trial and the doctoral learner must

provide a compelling argument for why the study needs to be discharged. The evidence must identify where

and how a problem space in the literature exists and de�ne the paradigm or approach for the research.

Emerging scholars often mistakenly provide only a litany of facts and related studies pertaining to problem

space without assimilating that content into a reasoned, overall point that highlights a need for a study.

Unfortunately, simply listing related studies and facts (much like a book report) does not achieve the purpose

of the literature review in supporting the argument for the study, much like a list of materials does not build a

tower. Instead, doctoral learners must strive to synthesize the researched content by analyzing, contrasting,

and ultimately synthesizing ideas in an overt manner so that readers conclude the study advances the body of

knowledge in a speci�c �eld (see Table 7.5).

Table 7.5

Academic Argument vs. List

Speci�cally, the review of literature addresses �ve questions while pointing out the problem space and

establishing the paradigm or approach for the study:

1. What is known in the literature?

2. What is not known or needs to be studied in the literature (problem space)?

3. What is the phenomenon or variable to study?

4. What method/design addresses the problem space?

5. What population and sample are germane to the study?

Concisely answering these �ve questions in the context of a scholarly argument poses a challenge. Overall,

doctoral learners must keep in mind these differences between academic discussion and a book report-like

list in order to gravitate toward the former while eliminating the latter. Learners will be expected to develop a

compelling argument to substantiate a need for their studies to be conducted. This process requires an

extensive amount of effort to identify quality articles that can be synthesized to support a problem space

within the �eld. Understanding the sections of the proposal will help direct the selection of articles for the

literature review ultimately resulting in the learner writing Chapter 2 of the dissertation.

Section 5: Problem Statement

The problem statement is a one-sentence statement of the problem addressed by the proposed research. The

problem statement emerges from the de�ned research need or problem space. The researcher re�nes the

problem statement after deciding whether to use a quantitative or qualitative methodology to structure the

research. The researcher further re�nes the problem statement after choosing the research design. Table 7.6

shows how the development of a one-sentence problem statement emanates from a stated problem space or

need. The table also shows in�uence of the selected methodology and design.

Academic Argument List

Describes similar or relevant studies and provides
detailed information about their findings.

Includes mention of multiple studies but fails to
provide details about findings.

Identifies specifically how the findings of one
researcher support or refute those of another. In
doing so, a specific point is highlighted, which
evidences the overall purpose of mentioning the
other studies.

Comparing and contrasting of studies is missing.
Reordering the list of studies in the document fails to
impact the readability of the section because it is
only a list.

The phrase “the problem space” is used in the
document relevant to making comparisons and
contrasts between other research and the
dissertation study.

The phrase “the problem space” is missing from the

Overt connections are made. Overt connections are not made leaving the reader
with questions such as:

This is good information, but why is the
learner sharing this?

What is the connection of this information to
the current study?

What point is this supposed to make?

Table 7.6

Development of a Problem Statement

Problem Statement Section Structure and Criteria

Steps Resulting Version of the Problem Statement

Summarize the stated
research need or problem

Various studies have identified emotional intelligence (EI) in leaders’ influence
on the climate within their organizations. However, a synthesis of the research
identifies a more in-depth understanding of which aspects of EI may influence
the climate within an organization. In addition, prior research identifies a need
for more studies looking at the role of EI of leaders as they set up very small

Frame the initial, broad
problem area for research.

Influence of leader’s EI on the climate when starting up a very small business.

Develop a broad problem

Correlational Design (Quantitative) Case Study Design (Qualitative)

It is not known if and to what
degree the level of EI of the leaders
of very small start-up businesses
influences the level of the quality of
climate developed in the business.
(Underlined items reflect the
statement is quantitative because
they imply measurement of the

It is not known how EI behaviors of the
leaders of very small start-up
businesses influence the climate in their
business. (Underlined items reflect the
statement is qualitative because they
imply developing a broad understanding
of the nature of the phenomenon.)

Refine the problem

It is not known if and to what
degree the level of EI of the leaders
of very small start-up businesses
correlates with and predicts the
quality of climate developed in the
business. (Underlined items reflect
the statement is for a correlation
design because correlation designs
examine correlation and/or
prediction between variables.)

It is not known how EI behaviors of the
leaders of very small start-up
businesses influence the nature of the
climate during the first year in their
business across 10 start-up businesses
from the perspective of the leader,
employees, and customers. (Underlined
items reflect the statement is focusing
on a series of 10 cases with clearly
defined boundaries in terms of the first
year of the start-up, and from the
perspectives of the key stakeholders.)

Delve deeper into EI by
looking at how the
subcomponents of EI
influence the
organization’s climate.

It is not known if and to what
degree the level of EI, and the level
of its subcomponents, of the
leaders of very small start-up
businesses correlates with and
predicts the quality of climate
developed in the business.
(Underlined items reflect the study
will go beyond the two variables
and research the relationship of
each of the subcomponents of EI
with climate.)

It is not known how EI and its
subcomponent behaviors demonstrated
by the leaders of very small start-up
businesses influence the nature of the
climate during the first year in their
business across 10 start-up businesses
from the perspective of the leader,
employees, and customers. (Underlined
items reflect the study will go beyond EI
overall and explore the subcomponents
of EI in the 10 cases.)

The “Problem Statement” section comprises two areas of focus. The researcher �rst presents the one-sentence

problem statement then proceeds to discuss why it is important to solve this speci�c problem. It is critical for

doctoral learners to read the description of the section as well as the criteria table in the dissertation template

prior to developing this section. The section should begin with the one-sentence problem statement. Within

the �rst paragraph, the researcher further explains the focus of the problem statement. The second paragraph

in the section identi�es the importance of solving the problem.

Using the Stated Need to Develop the Problem Statement

The one-sentence problem statement is developed from the research need synthesized from the literature. As

discussed in Chapter 4 of this text, the researcher uses the literature from the past few years to de�ne the

stated need for a proposed study. Researchers identify this stated need developed from the research as the

problem space. Developing this stated need or problem space requires the researcher to synthesize the

literature to identify potential research needs. The primary information for this synthesis comes from speci�c

parts of an empirical article. Within most empirical articles the author(s) will recommend areas for future

research toward the end of the article. The author(s) also identify limitations associated with the published

research study; these limitations often require future research. In some cases, the author(s) will propose a

broad area for future work based not only on the conducted study, but also on synthesis of other research

articles. At the beginning of an empirical research article, the author(s) synthesize the literature to justify the

need for the research. Synthesis of this information from empirical articles related to the topic area often leads

to different and related topics. The process of synthesizing these sources of information not only leads to the

proposed problem space or need for a study, but also enables consideration of other potential areas of focus for

research in terms of the problem addressed.

There exist additional sources of scholarly research information beyond empirical articles from which to

develop recommendations for future research and frame the problem statement. For example, large studies

completed by government agencies, foundations, and universities often make recommendations for future

research. Within empirical journals, comprehensive literature reviews report the research done in the past 10

or more years. These literature reviews often conclude with recommendations for future research agendas or a

series or research topics. Researchers synthesize information from these sources and from prior empirical

research to justify future research. Throughout the process of synthesizing literature, the researcher considers

what problem(s) this stated need or problem space suggests for further research.

Once the researcher synthesizes the information from the literature to identify the research need or the

de�ned problem space, this information yields one or more potential problem statements for the proposed

research. The problem statement de�nes the area of focus for the research. The researcher, in addition to

developing the problem statement, also needs to identify whether to use a quantitative or qualitative

methodology for the proposed study. Once the researcher identi�es the methodology for the study, then the

proposed design for the study is identi�ed. The methodology and design in�uence the structure and wording

of the problem statement. Alignment of the problem statement means the statement emerges from the stated

research need or problem space. The learner should review with their chair and methodologist to ensure

correct wording and proper alignment across study components.

Section 6: Summary

The “Summary” section of Chapter 2 of the dissertation restates the key points, synthesizing information from

all prior sections. The problem space, theories or models, design, variables or phenomena, population to be

studied, and data-collection instruments or sources are described. In the “Summary” section, the learner builds

a case (argument) for the study, discussing the value of the research and its speci�c relation to the literature. It

should be evident as the literature review is summarized that the learner has done due diligence to synthesize

the existing empirical research and write a comprehensive literature review. In general, due diligence re�ects

the inclusion of approximately 100 references in this chapter as well as writing that conveys deep

understanding of the literature and research studies related to the topic under examination.

Doctoral learners often mistakenly believe that a feasible research project can be developed based on personal

experience or an attempt to solve a problem that is personal. Although passion for the project is important to

the impetus of the discovery process, ultimately a dissertation topic must emerge from problem spaces that

emerge in empirical research literature. Scholarly argumentation provides a vehicle for justifying value and

contribution of new and original research and knowledge.

The de�ning characteristic of scholarly writing is well-researched claims supported by evidence from within

the wider scholarly literature. All assertions must be supported by citations, all evidence must have an

associated explanation, and the evidence provided must be represented accurately and honestly. The scholarly

writer integrates and logically orders these claims and evidence to provide a well-supported argument.

Independent effort on the part of the learner is needed throughout the coursework phase of the doctoral

journey. Learners must develop the argument and rationale for completing the study independently outside of

the content courses. In RES-815 and RES-820, learners will practice the beginning steps of developing the

arguments that they must produce to substantiate a problem space. The rest of the chapter will discuss steps

the learner will need to complete to substantiate a problem space, and Chapter 8 will detail the different

sections of Chapter 2 of the dissertation.


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