The Email Questionnaires in dissertation

The three email questionnaires were created after the completion of chapter 2
literature review. Given the range of subtopics that were generated in the literature
review surrounding how Ph.D. mentors help their mentees: a) during the entire process of
formulating their research questions; b) selecting and reviewing relevant literature; c)
preparation of the literature review; and, d) the dissertation writing journey as a cognitive
apprenticeship; it was necessary to question on the generally accepted parts of
dissertation product and process. Therefore, subtopics included conceptual and
theoretical frameworks, philosophical assumptions, worldview (of the researcher),
paradigm lens (structure, community), and interpretive strategy. How the mentor offered
encouragement to the mentee to explore the literature in relation to their methodology
selection, and how it related to their worldviews and personal research interests, were all
part of the communication process for helping with the development of professional level

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The overarching topic of Ph.D. mentoring was explored in relation to literature
reviewing and dissertation writing, defining that relationship as a cognitive
apprenticeship in order to be inclusive of topics related to professional development and
scholar-practitioners. It was also important to highlight processes that mentors and
mentees discussed when zeroing in on selecting appropriate literature for reviewing,
which could help situate the mentee’s research ideas within a framework for interpreting
the literature. In email questionnaire 1.1 (question 1), the overarching question was asked
to summarize what participants might generally consider when first beginning a new
mentoring relationship:

When embarking on a new mentoring relationship with your research mentees,
what do you present and discuss with your mentees in terms of drawing upon their
worldviews, their research study interest for the PhD dissertation, and the
formulation of their research questions; and how do these discussions direct the
mentees to research and write their literature reviews? (Appendix A: Email 1.1)
While writing the email questionnaires, the problem statement was a primary
reference. The problem and issue studied by Lesham and Trafford (2007) was
concerning their surveying of more than 600 faculty mentors, dissertation chairs, or
committee members, for their knowledge and use of conceptual and theoretical
frameworks when helping doctoral learners with their dissertation studies. While
considering the construction of questions that would include specific keywords related to
that issue, it was important to ask this study’s participants for their perceptions on, and
use of, conceptual and theoretical framing for research problems. Keywords were
included in some of the questions, italicized for emphasis, with the intention of drawing
upon their knowledge about the subtopics. Several questions were focused on the
perceptions of participants regarding how doctoral study addresses these components of
dissertation writing:

Please share your insights on the centrality of conceptual and theoretical
framework’s place in doctoral study, and provide any explanation for how you
have your research mentees share their framework design (visual mapping, table,
write a paper). (Appendix A: Email 2.2)

Another subtopic referred to in the email questionnaires related to the mentor’s
help with a mentee’s selection of methodology. Methodology was considered as
inclusive of quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods. Some participants discussed
how some mentees were more independent or self-directed in selecting their own
frameworks and methodology, whereas, others needed more attention through
communication to make a plan, outline, or interpretive strategy. The second research
question for this study was aimed at finding out how mentors help mentees develop their
conceptual frameworks, yet combined with the need to focus on reviewing the literature
base. Review of literature, selection of relevant literature for writing of chapter 2, would
begin with discussions about finding exemplars that may have used methodology or
theory which could be utilized in the mentee’s study plan.

Please share how you interview your research mentee to draw upon their interest
in an issue or problem, and include your guidance for looking into the background
of an issue, in terms of the necessary literature to search. Please provide some
examples. (Literature that will work to situate the potential research problem
within a theoretical and paradigmatic foundation) (Appendix A: Email 2.1)
Finally, email questions that addressed broader subtopics were constructed to be
inclusive of keywords such as globalization, online doctoral programs, professional
practice (for research), scholar-practitioner, and future of doctoral programs. Answers
given showed a variety of opinions, some indicating the PhD dissertation process to be a
stable international formula, while others considered its value overall when thinking
about outside career paths. Some indicated that an increase in online doctorates might
lower the quality of current onsite programs, while others considered further development
of high quality online doctorates might improve completion.

Email questionnaire 3 sought to find a broad perspective from participants on the
state of doctoral studies today, and whether professional practice in research was a goal
for today’s adult learners. The delivery of doctoral programs in an online setting was
discussed as both practical for the dissertation mentoring relationship, in terms of
communications in writing, as well as for the writing of the dissertation itself (a writing
journey); the process of writing, and the final product benefitted from the online setting.
However, some participants were concerned about the differences in today’s adult
learners; considering how many are part-time doctoral learners, and have much less time
to dedicate to research when compared with full time learners who attend to a campus
(on-site), and dedicate more hours to research and writing. Keyword phrases of
professional practice, context of globalization, beyond the degree, and future of doctoral
programs, were aimed at focusing participants upon dissertation writers’ lives beyond the
PhD degree. “Finally, what are your views on the future of doctoral programs as to
professional practice (beyond the degree) and the context of globalization, in terms of
making improvements?” (Appendix A: Email 3.3). Given the wide range of participant
experiences for teaching and mentoring at the doctoral level, as well as publication
record, participants shared concerns about the current trend of academic institutions to
limit appointments for postdoctoral graduates.

Concerns were raised about the competitive nature of landing an academic
position in order to be able to continue with research. Also, concerns were raised about
the connection between formal institutions creating high quality online doctoral programs
in partnership with outside organizations; and, rankings for U.S. research compared with
international community standards. Partnerships with professional organizations or
business corporations to create quality curricula were suggested by a participant as a
solution to improving doctoral programs in order to become more inclusive of the adult
learner population; those who will graduate and return to career work outside of
academia, and for those who will find themselves unable to enter an instructor’s post.
Wishes for the future aspirations of mentees were shared by participants, who
hoped mentees would be lifelong learners, scholar-practitioners, problem-solvers, and
remain inquisitive about learning, rather than (just) teaching. Improving one’s practice as
a scholar-practitioner was thought to be helped by having an online ‘presence’, including
the use of online profile, website, and blogging for presenting scholarly research or
papers to the community. Considerations for improving U.S. standards of research
inclusion for those outside of academia, included suggestions for needing to look at
international ranking institutes, and aligning with them. Overall, the participants
responded with practical and future-oriented insights, closing the three email interviews
on a positive note.