Target Population in dissertation

This study utilized the following population, sampling method, and related
procedures to conduct the study:

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Target Population
The population that was suited for this study was coming from higher education
faculty and had at least 7 years of experience in the capacity of dissertation advisormentors
and committee members for PhD researchers. They had article and academic
text publications. They had earned their PhD degrees in a variety of disciplines in higher
education. Educational research practice in schools of education is guided by academic
mentors who are serving as advisors, instructors of research practices and may serve as
dissertation examiners.

Sampling Method

Purposive sampling is part of instilling authenticity, through selection of
participants who have that insider-knowledge (Cook, 2012), and given that this study’s
topic was grounded in a social-constructive framework, describing the mentoring
relationship for the dissertation as undertaken through the writing journey (Wolff, 2010),
the use of email interviewing as method was appropriate as the research setting. In the
online dissertation degree program, asynchronous email and document sharing online are
typical ways that communication takes place during writing of the dissertation.
The context for exploring the dissertation mentor and mentee-researcher
communication as a cognitive apprenticeship was focused on discussions and guidance
that take place during development of conceptual and theoretical frameworks for study.
Literature reviewing as a central activity in developing a researchable problem for study
is an iterative and selective process requiring deep critical thinking and evaluation of
research literature. Advisor-mentors and mentee-researchers regularly discuss
foundational conceptual and theoretical frameworks that lead the researcher towards
selecting the literature for the dissertation. Those PhD advisors who had mentoring
experience with these phases of the dissertation process were selected. Their insights and
best practices were explored through building on concepts that were related to research
processes and the guidance provided to mentees.

Sample Size

This study’s researcher sought 15 participants from the specific population of
faculty serving in degree-granting online or on-ground university institutions. However,
the specific permission for participants to be included was confirmed through the
research setting of email, not the on-ground institutional setting. Email as the research
setting has been used and permission to participate is the decision to participate, thus not
requiring institutional permissions (Best & Krueger, 2004; Gubrium et al., 2012; Cook,


The participants were those who serve in the online or on-ground university
setting. Three rounds of in-depth email interviews were administered through faculty
mentor emails exchanged with the researcher and provided for a virtual data collection.
Nowadays, the use of qualitative email interviewing provides for rich in-depth critical
reflections rendered into narrative interpretations, through the asynchronous interview
method (Akmehmet, 2008; Bowden & Galindo-Gonzalez, 2014; Gubrium et al., 2012;
James & Busher, 2012). The research site was the interview medium of email, not the
institutional setting. The research participants for this study were professionals, holders
of PhDs, who gave their consent by email, and their authenticity for identity was verified
by their research publications and insider knowledge (Cook, 2012; McKeown, et al.,
2010). Authenticity as an important question for method validity is understood to mean
that a respondent participant to the email is who they say they are, and participant
‘insider-knowledge’ is a test for authenticity (Cook, 2012; Mann & Stewart, 2000).


The selection of participants for this qualitative study was guided by the purpose
to generate a deep understanding of a central phenomenon. The purposive sampling
procedure known as concept and theory sampling was outlined by Creswell (2008) as
useful when a researcher seeks to study a specific site or population to generate concepts
and theory that can emerge from a phenomenon. Through a context of dissertation
mentoring in the online and on-ground learning environment, the mentoring process is
evidenced through written exchanges of emails, iterative draft submissions and
responding mentor comments, and of literature (such as academic journal articles or
studies as literature suggestions) (Wolff, 2010). This writing journey as a socio-cognitive
apprenticeship is a well-established phenomenon or norm, within the online university
environment. Therefore, the purposive sample of PhD scholars as participants, and data
collection through email interviews (where the mentor and mentee communicate through
written exchanges) were used to apply the concept and theory sampling procedure.

Steps to Selection of Participants

Upon receiving IRB approval, email queries were sent to IRB campus offices in
order to gain permission to contact PhD faculty by email. Permission was also granted to
search for and approach qualified participants through academic publications. While
several U.S. campus IRBs gave positive permission to contact emails openly listed on
their websites, it proved insufficient as a method of approach. Rather, while reading
relevant article and academic text publications, and making notations on important
points, a long period of research was initiated, journal articles read, websites scoured, an
email was sent to PhD faculty mentors as individuals. The researcher introduced the
study, acknowledged their published article, and attached a pdf of the invitation. If they
replied in the affirmative, they indicated they would like to participate, and invited the
researcher to send along the questionnaires. In order to select qualified participants, the
following steps were taken.

First, an email invitation was sent out with an introduction to the research
problem and study framework. Second, permission was established by the faculty’s
decision to participate as evidenced by email responses to the invitation; third, this study
intended to include 15 participants who would reply to three sets of interview questions
that were administered in email as the setting. Finally, a brief introductory Skype
webcam meeting was offered to each participant to introduce the protocol and the
researcher. The following figure summarizes the steps to selection of participants: