Critical Thinking and the Dissertation Process
Written by Candace Bloomquist, MS, PhD
The culminating learning experience of the EdD in Interdisciplinary Leadership Program is the dissertation in practice. This is an original, independent scholarly research project that all students in the program must complete and defend. Yet, students' understanding of the word "independent" may be unclear.
Social science research is collaborative by nature, so how can it be considered independent research as well?
The dissertation is a platform for students and committee members to collaborate and better understand how to address real-world problems. The committee serves as a team of peer reviewers that evaluates your work and points out any biases or low-quality research.
Moreover, we all stand on the shoulders of giants. There are other researchers who have been studying the same topic, using the same paradigm, theory, or method you might plan to use. Consider this a challenge to research rigorously to advance our collective understanding. The committee will help you apply, process, interpret, and articulate the original research and use its results.
How do you balance the independent writing and defense of a dissertation while working with the committee and taking cues from past research?
Remember: The dissertation is a shared endeavor, within which each collaborator respects the roles and responsibilities of the others. Students bring their emerging research skills and knowledge. Committee members bring their advanced research experience and skills or related content knowledge. The dissertation collectively showcases the cooperation and practical action aimed at addressing a complex, real-world problem.
To achieve optimal results, this undertaking should strengthen both the cooperation, shared responsibility and coordination skills of everyone involved. This process requires clarifying issues, taking the proper follow-up actions, facilitating dialogue, and articulating objectives.
The continued preparation, advancement, collaboration, and original research of scholar-practitioners ensures the public can engage in the marketplace of ideas. They must play a role in communicating new approaches and practices that emerge from the evaluation and translation of scholarly work.
Why is the ability to self-correct essential to writing a dissertation?
In addition to being able to collaborate, students (and committee members) need to be able to make self-corrections. These unlock the ability to follow the rules of logic through discussions and feedback from others.
The dissertation in practice is an opportunity for students to apply critical thinking to demonstrate well-founded reasoning and judgments. This takes place by constructing their own claims that make proper conclusions about the central issues. It is also important to draw attention to relationships identified from the data collected.
The EdD in Interdisciplinary Leadership program dissertation in practice helps students think carefully, reason well, and make self-corrections. They also, where needed, unlearn privilege, exclusion, discrimination, prejudice, and violence. They collaborate with the committee to address the most pressing and complex problems facing the world today.
Candace Bloomquist, PhD
Assistant Professor, EdD