HCBE Faculty Articles

Challenges and Joys of Earning a Doctoral Degree: Overcoming the ABD Phenomenon


Bahaudin Mujtaba0000-0003-1615-3100

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Research in Higher Education Journal



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Earning a doctorate degree is one of the highest honors in one’s journey of academic progress; yet very few candidates actually achieve this rank. Part of the reason for some of the challenges in achieving such a rank can be the time requirement, the rigorous and focused research process, passing the comprehensive examinations, a publication requirement, and successfully finishing the journal of the dissertation. Of course, the dissertation journey can be an unpredictable and an uncertain trip as it involves many uncertainties. Two of the critical elements of successfully completing the doctoral program are to effectively layout the requirements for the comprehensive exam and dissertation process so students begin their work with an appropriate committee in the early stage of their research process. This document, which is prepared for administrators and new doctoral students, provides a review of the demand for doctorally qualified faculty members in tertiary education, discusses strategies for doing well on the comprehensive exam, and highlights some of the main requirements and ingredients for successfully initiating and completing the doctoral dissertation process. The document transitions to comp examinations used for purposes of learning assessment and other such variables that impact the success rate of learners in higher education. Finally, the document provides suggestions and recommendations for students to successfully initiate and complete their dissertation process. Given the fact that about 30-70% of most students who enroll in a doctoral program tend to become ABDs (all but dissertation), successfully initiating and completing the dissertation process becomes very important. The authors, based on their combined thirty years of personal experience with this process, briefly state their recommendations, as well as best practices, and offer suggestions for new doctoral students who are about to begin the dissertation process.





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