CCE Theses and Dissertations

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Date of Award


Document Type

Dissertation - NSU Access Only

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Computing Technology in Education (DCTE)


Graduate School of Computer and Information Sciences


Martha Snyder

Committee Member

Steven Terrell

Committee Member

Michael F Lohle


Approximately 50% of doctoral students in social science, humanities, and educational doctoral programs fail to earn the Ph.D. This number is 10% to 15% higher for students enrolled in online or limited-residency programs. Using in-depth interviewing and qualitative data analysis techniques, this study examined participants' recollections of their experience as students in a limited-residency doctoral program and their reasons for withdrawal. The study addresses the following question "What is the nature of the participants' experiences of doctoral attrition in a limited-residency doctoral program?"

The use of a grounded theory analysis helped identify obstacles that ultimately cause students to withdraw from limited-residency programs. The elucidation of these barriers led to the development of a theoretical model comprised of three components; each clarified relationships between attrition and a support issue (i.e., advisor support, dissertation support and program support). These components were then combined into a single theoretical model that identified the nature of participants' experience of attrition. The theoretical model helps identify steps faculty and administration could take in order to reduce attrition. The study's findings are presented in a discussion of themes found throughout the participant's narratives.

Recommendations for effective doctoral education practices from existing literature are supported in the findings of this study. The limited-residency doctoral program may consider offering several forms of support to improve doctoral retention. Additionally, the program should give close attention to the relationship between the advisor and the student. Recommendations were made regarding significant program factors, accountability measures for dissertation committees and chairperson, improved monitoring of attrition, and improving the overall communication with the dissertation students. The concluding chapter includes implications of the findings and recommendations for further research regarding doctoral student attrition.

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