Chapter One: Introduction to the Study
The aims of research in this particular doctoral program are to examine a complex
problem of practice, generate knowledge from data gathered at the research site, and provide
context and strategies for introducing and evaluating systemic change to help resolve or clarify
that problem of practice. [Before you begin writing, please review your work in the research
courses. After you review your work begin this section with an introduction to your study and
then follow the guidelines in the following paragraphs.] The purpose of this (Phenomenological, Case, Narrative, Interpretative
Phenomenological) study is to (understand, describe, develop, discover) the (central
phenomenon of the study) for (the participants) at (the site). At this stage in the research, the
(central phenomenon) is defined as (a general definition of the central concept). Knowledge
generated is expected to inform (aspect of higher education practice).
This chapter begins with a statement of the problem with evidence from the literature
supporting prior studies on your topic. The significance of the study is discussed next, drawing
connections to potential beneficiaries of the work, followed by your research question. Finally,
the theoretical framework that serves as a lens for the study is introduced and explained.
Statement of the Problem
Provide the context and background of your study. You will be pulling in information
from literature reviews you have already conducted on your problem of practice to establish the
context. [End this section with]: Therefore, this study seeks to understand/examine/investigate
(phenomenon under study).
Significance of the Research Question
The rationale for this study is the researcher’s interest in expanding research on (x, y, or
z) to address/clarify/resolve [the Problem of Practice]. In this section, discuss why your problem
is important. This section should also address why the literature demonstrates that action or
resolution of this problem may create change in your context. Think through why this research
problem is significant and how your work may be impactful towards change.
Research Problem and Research Question
Clearly delineate the research problem [the issue that narrows your research topic],
include the purpose of the study [The purpose of this study with (participants) is to
(investigate/explore/understand phenomenon)], then identify the research question(s) that the
study will seek to answer:
Definition of Key Terminology
The following section of this chapter will include a description and discussion of
(theoretical framework) which will serve as the theoretical lens for this study.
Discuss the theoretical framework and provide traceable connections between this
lens/perspective and your research strategy. Opening paragraph identifies the theory and
connects it to your research area and planned research approach. After a full exposition, set up
three level two subsections and let the reader know how your theory is critiqued by other
theorists; why, based on the material presented, you are using this framework, and then describe
how this theory applies to your study. Appropriate scope and depth is usually achieved through
10-12 pages of concise, well written prose.
Critics of Your Theory
You will discuss critics of this particular theory or theorist. Critics may include competing
Rationale [for using this theory in your study] You will provide a rationale given the material you presented above why you selected
this theory for your study.
Applying theory to your study
You will describe how this theory applies to your study and segue into chapter two.
Pull Chapter One together by a good paragraph or two and segue the reader into Chapter
Chapter Two: Literature Review
Indent (tab) five spaces and begin your introduction. There are six basic sections in the
introduction. You should be able to have this completed in less than two paragraphs since it
follows the material in Chapter 1—-a quick, brief overview that includes the six basic sections
which are 1). Opening to the literature review, 2). the study topic, 3). the context, 4). the
significance, 5). the problem statement, and the 6). organization of the literature review. Identity
the reference data bases that match the focus and content of the literature you are studying.
Then, start with your first strand of literature. Follow the instructions below for proper use of
levels of heading.
Levels of Heading (see APA 6th manual, p. 62). Typically you will use at least two levels
of heading: Levels 1 and 2. Rule: just like an outline, you should have two or more subsections
to use a lower heading level. Do not label your introduction – it is implied by its position – and
then each major section in your paper is Level 1. Appropriate scope and depth for a proposal is
First Literature Theme or Strand
Write a brief paragraph to explain the scope of this section and introduce the subsection
Subsection Title [Level 2 heading] Subsection Title [Level 2 heading] Conclusion [Level 2 heading] This is where you draw a conclusion based on the first strand of literature.
Second Literature Theme or Strand Name
Draw a conclusion based on the literature synthesized in this section.
Third Literature Theme or Strand Name
Draw a conclusion based on what you have learned from review and synthesis of the
material in this section.
Now, review each of the conclusions you have drawn on your strands of literature and
draw an overarching conclusion based on all the existing literature you have reported on in each
of the three strands of literature. This is your thesis statement and where you segue into Chapter
Three. Your thesis statement is the conclusion you have reached based on existing literature,
sound evidence, and a reasoned argument. It is the rationale for your doctoral research study.
This section should be used to let the reader know that the limitations of the existing literature
provide support for your investigation.
Chapter Three: Research Design
The aims of research in this particular doctoral program is to examine a complex problem
of practice, generate knowledge from data gathered at the research site, and provide context and
strategies for introducing systemic change to help resolve the problem of practice. This section
should include the purpose of your study, your research question, and an organization statement
explaining what the chapter is about. Appropriate scope and depth may be accomplished in 15-
Qualitative Research Approach
Start from general to the specific. Discuss qualitative research, in general, first. Start
with the constructivist-interpretivist paradigm [qual. folks] and then make sure you have
provided some background how the particular approach you are taking falls within that paradigm
and why it is a good strategy for your research. This section should include the following:
1. The specific strategy of inquiry to be used with references (e.g., narrative,
phenomenology, case study, interpretative phenomenological analysis).
2. Some background information about the strategy (e.g., applications of and brief
definition for discipline origin). For instance, if you are using IPA or van Manen, how does
interpretative phenomenology differ from descriptive phenomenology?1
If you are using IPA, it
is important to bring out for the reader that IPA is a methodology that focuses on an in-depth
If you are intending to use IPA, please review, among other articles, Wagsaff et al (2014). The accordion and the
deep bowl of spaghetti: Eight researchers’ experiences of using IPA as a methodology. The Qualitative Report, 19
Article 47, 1-15 and articles that discuss the difference between descriptive phenomenology and interpretive
phenomenology. Connelly, L. (2010). What is phenomenology? MEDSURG Nursing 19 (2), 127-128 is one. Search
for articles in Snell using descriptors “descriptive phenomenology” and “interpretive phenomenology.” The more
you review the more prepared you will be for Smith, Larkins, and Flowers text and Shaw’s chapter in Forrester’s
book on Doing Qualitative Psychology.
view of a specific experience on a personal level. In IPA, “voice” is given to a particular
perspective. In IPA and other interpretive approaches, you are not seeking to establish the
eidetic structure, or essence of experience. If you are using IPA, explain the role of the double
hermeneutic, and why a small number of participants is the norm [as contrasted with descriptive
phenomenology]. What is the role of the double hermeneutic?
3. Discuss the intended outcome from this type of strategy.
4. Discuss the source of this strategy.
5. Discuss why it is an appropriate strategy.
6. Identify how the use of this approach will shape the type of questions asked, the form
of data collection, and the steps of data analysis.
This section should include the following elements: (a) the participants should be
defined, consistent with the purpose statement and the research questions (this should also
include demographic information such as age, gender, and ethnicity) and (b) a discussion of
the type of sampling with reference citations (e.g., purposive, criterion, snowball sampling
technique). This is the area in which you explain your rationale for your sample number2
Use general guidelines found in qualitative research books, as one method; defend your
2 The participants in this study will be between 8-y adults who [insert the phenomenon]. This sample size is
commensurate with current studies which have used IPA (then identify studies that you have looked up and cite
them). Go to Snell and search Academic Search Premier; keyword in ABSTACT— Interpretative
Phenomenological Analysis. You will find several studies. Review the studies for the number of participants used
and make a determination on the number of participants you will recruit. The majority of students recruit between
8-12 and there is always some drop off for various reasons. Other beginning readings include Baker, S. E., &
Edwards, R. (2012). How many qualitative interviews is enough? Expert voices and early career reflections on
sampling and cases in qualitative research. University of Southhampton, UK: ESRC National Centre for Research
Methods. Retrieved from http://eprints.ncrm.ac.uk/2273/4/how_many_interviews.pdf
sample size by precedent within your specific methodology. Make sure you are defending
your sample size. Remember, in most phenomenological studies, you are interviewing
participants three times. Therefore, 8-12 participants results in 24 to 36 interviews. Use this
element in your discussion of your findings in chapter four and in all your presentations.
This section should contain a discussion about participants and the site, including the
following: (a) the setting, (b) the participants (who will be interviewed), and (c) the type or
types of data that you will collect (e.g., focus groups, observations, interviews, documents,
audio and visual material; be specific about the strengths and weaknesses of each type).
The procedures section will be based directly on the research questions (central and subquestions). Specifically, you are reporting the “how-to” section of the study: how the data was
collected based on the questions of interest. This section should read like a step-by-step guide of
how the study, beginning with IRB approval, will be conducted.
Name the steps involved in how you anticipate conducting the analysis of your
qualitative data. Describe how the data will be organized and transcribed. Discuss the
coding/analytic procedures of the transcripts or text files. If you are planning to use it, discuss
specific qualitative software you will use for your analysis. Develop a detailed qualitative
description. Make sure that the approach used for the study is reflective in the language used
when describing the analysis. For example, an interpretative phenomenological analysis study
has specific language when describing the stages of analysis.
Criteria for Quality Qualitative Research
Additionally, review Lincoln and Guba (1985) and Tracy’s (2010) Qualitative Quality:
Eight “Big-Tent” Criteria for Excellent Qualitative Research. Specifically focus on ethical
considerations, credibility, transferability, self-reflexivity and transparency [your positionality
statement] and your own internal audit. Identify the limitations of your study.
This section should describe how you will maintain ethics of the study. Preserve
anonymity and keep the documents secure.
How are you determining the credibility of your study? Use specific examples in each of
the following areas, such as member-checking and sustained engagement with your participants.
Most will do three interviews [modified Seidman approach]. Explain these elements here.
What specifically have you thought through and how are you accounting for
transferability. Thick description needs to be explained here and how thick description enables
the conclusions that will be drawn can be transferable to other contexts. If you are using IPA
emphasize IPA’s idiographic focus.
I am suggesting that you maintain an internal audit so that you can convey to the reader a paper trail of evidence.
Any reader should be able to follow the chain of evidence that leads to your final report. This audit trail would
include your research question, research field notes/research journal/memoing, audio tapes, annotated transcripts,
tables of themes, draft reports, other devices, as well as the final report. Use an audit trail so that an independent
Self-reflexivity and Transparency
In this section, describe your own bias of the topic, whether personal or professional.
Also, you should explain the plan to manage potential bias. This is your positionality statement.
Include any limitations, restrictions, or constraints that may affect your research study
outcomes. Limitations often include the theoretical framework, transferability to like institutions
only, among other elements. If you conducted an IPA study indicate that IPA emphasizes the
importance of an idiographic focus and your work is intended to reflect some of the experiences
of x amount of participants who experienced the phenomenon under study.
auditor could review your activities. For IPA studies, see Shaw’s chapter in Forrester’s text and include an audit
trail identify excerpts, to emerging themes, to superordinate themes as an appendix.