2013-2014 Walden University Student Handbook (December 2013) 
    Feb 07, 2023  
2013-2014 Walden University Student Handbook (December 2013) [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Capstone Research: Dissertation or Doctoral Study

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Doctoral Committee Member Roles and Functions

Faculty members in Walden University doctoral programs who accept the duty of serving on a dissertation or doctoral study committee assume a dual responsibility of high importance. One part is service to their students; the other is service to the academic practice, discipline, and professional field to which the dissertation is related. For the first part, expectations concerning the faculty service to be performed are determined by students’ needs, and by university academic policy pertaining to how these needs are to be addressed. For the second, expectations are set both by university academic policy and by policies and practice that frame acceptable work in the discipline and professional field at large.

The committee’s guidance to students will be “team advice.” Any written dialogue between a student and a committee member is shared within the committee. Committee members recognize that issues may be controversial, divide opinions, or otherwise cause disagreement. When conflicts arise, the committee members are obligated to restrict the discussion to only other committee members and the committee chairperson, to avoid involving students in disputes or disagreements among themselves. The committee chairperson will act as a mediator to resolve the situation and obtain a consensus.

Walden intends that dissertation/doctoral study committee members work as a team, directly guiding students through the proposal, research and analysis, and ultimately the final oral presentation. Although the committee members are expected to support and facilitate students’ progress through their doctoral capstone project, students are ultimately responsible for preparing a dissertation/doctoral study that meets the rigors of academic excellence.

Required Roles in Walden Doctoral Committees

All Walden dissertation/doctoral study committees will be comprised of three members: 1) a chair, 2) a second member, and 3) a University Research Review (URR) member.

  1. Chair
    The committee chairperson leads the committee members as they work with students on their doctoral capstone projects. As a result, the chairs are primarily responsible for ensuring that such projects meet all of Walden’s requirements including those pertaining to content coverage, methodology, research ethics, and form and style. Moreover, they are responsible for making sure that the work of committee fulfills expectations of service to the student, the academic discipline(s), and professional field(s) of practice involved. Chairs must lead, monitor, coordinate, and assess the progress of the capstone research from start to finish.

    In order for the chair to provide effective leadership of capstone committees, committee members must individually apprise the committee chairperson of their respective expertise, if not already known or any special knowledge that they may be able to contribute to the student’s capstone project. Committee members must contact the committee chairperson before beginning to work with students.

    Chairs must be from the program in which students are enrolled, with further specificity required from some schools. Students are expected to confirm with their advisor and/or their proposed chairperson that he or she is indeed eligible to serve in that role.
  1. Second Member
    The second member collaborates with chair throughout capstone completion process to provide overall guidance about the acceptability of the capstone taking into account:
    • Walden capstone rubric requirements
    • Norms of program and profession
    • Form and style requirements

In addition, between the chair and the second member, the following functions must be fulfilled. The functions may be split between these two members, or the chair or second member could perform both roles.

Methodology Expert

  • Provides feedback to student on the following:
    • Proposed research design including appropriateness for addressing the problem statement and research questions or for testing stated hypotheses
    • Selection of specific methodology
    • Selection of a sample of appropriate characteristics and size
    • Oversee implementation of the selected methodology, assuring compliance with the following:
      • Program/professional norms
      • Generally accepted ethical and moral principles regarding human subjects
  • Provides constructive criticism about the following:
    • Data collection and analysis
    • Presentation of the data and the conclusions drawn from the analyses

Content Expert

  • Assists students with the following:
    • Conceptualizing the research issues
    • Preparing a literature review that provides a comprehensive summary of current knowledge and identifies the gap therein
    • Identifying all variables and potential relationships
    • Articulating a clearly defined research question
    • Establishing the significance of the topic and the potential of the study to contribute to positive social change
  • Provides feedback on the following:
    • Degree to which assumptions and limitations impact upon the research conclusions
    • Comprehensiveness of the literature review and theoretical base of the study (if appropriate)
    • Potential for research outcomes to contribute to positive social change
    • Overall significance of the research findings or outcomes
  1. University Research Review (URR) Member

Overview of Process
The University Research Review (URR) process is the quality control mechanism for capstone research at Walden University. The goal of URR is to facilitate quality student research through a supportive environment of committee members dedicated to a collaborative enterprise. Below are a description of the URR review role and the URR member assignment process.

The Role of URR Members
The specific role of this committee member will be to collaborate with student, chair, and second member immediately prior to defense of proposal and prior to the final oral defense, and to perform a final review of the completed study to provide a consistent and reliable mechanism for quality management of student research including the following:

  • Insuring the maintenance of a high level of integrity in the research students’ produce
  • Facilitating a level of consistency in the application of university research standards
  • Providing timely and substantive feedback that is within the defined scope of the URR member role:
    • The defined scope includes feedback related to theoretical, methodological, analytical, and organization content. URR members use the capstone rubric as their means for providing feedback on submissions.
    • The defined scope does not include minor form and style and ethical issues; however, URR members are instructed to alert students to such issues when they come across them. On occasion they may make mandatory referrals to the Writing Center or the Institutional Review Board for advice, on such issues.
  • Determining if the proposal or research study is ready for advancement to the next milestone in the process. URR member approval, expressed through scores and comments entered in the appropriate capstone rubric, will be a prerequisite for conducting oral defenses of the proposal and completed capstone, as well as for submitting the abstract to the CAO for final approval.
  1. External, Non-Walden Dissertation/Doctoral Study Committee Member
    In some rare cases, the committee chairperson may conclude that special expertise is needed to appropriately mentor or evaluate a specific aspect of a student’s research topic. In such instances, an external fourth member may be added to the committee. The qualifications of this member shall include all of the following:
    • Expertise on the research topic, not otherwise available within the Walden faculty
    • Possession of the highest academic degree awarded in the field
    • A record of publications in scholarly journals closely associated with the topic area
    • A record of guiding the development of doctoral dissertations in the topic area
    • Evidence of current, active involvement in research related to the topic area

A request for such a member must be accompanied by a copy of the proposed member’s CV, and a letter from the student including all of the points above. An external member of a dissertation/doctoral study supervisory committee has the same rights and responsibilities as any other member. Review and approval of a non-Walden member nominated to a dissertation/doctoral study supervisory committee is in the purview of the program chair and/or dean of the student’s program. Nomination of such a member is initiated by the student, approved by the committee chairperson, and then evaluated by the program chair, who determines if the request shall be approved.

For more information on the specific responsibilities of each capstone committee member at each point in the capstone completion process, visit the Walden Research Center web page and see “URR Steps for Dissertation/Doctoral Students.”

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Selection and Appointment of Committees

Chairs and Second Members

Ph.D. Committees: Chairs and committee members in Ph.D. programs will be selected by students with assistance from their program and the Center for Research Quality’s (CRQ) Office of Student Research Administration (OSRA).

After identifying a chair and a second member willing and able to serve in those roles, Ph.D. students must have their committees approved. This requires the student to complete the Request for the Appointment of the Dissertation Supervisory Committee form. Visit the Office of Student Research Administration web page and select Committee Nomination form (located in each program) and  submit it to the Office of Student Research Quality (OSRA) (research@waldenu.edu).

The university processes all Request for Appointment of the Dissertation Supervisory Committee forms within 1 week of receipt. The program chair of the school makes the final determination on committee appointments. His or her approval will be processed in 10 business days or less. Students may not submit proposal drafts to nominated committee members until the committee has been officially approved. The OSRA will notify students when their committee is approved.

Professional Doctorate* Committees: Students in professional doctorate programs will have chairs and committee members appointed for them. Program coordinators will assign each student a committee, and alert the OSRA staff of the committee’s approval after students have reached specific milestones in their progress within the program. The OSRA staff will then e-mail the student and all committee members of the approval status, and include information regarding the next steps of the doctoral study process. The effective date of students’ committee will be communicated in this e-mail.

*Professional Doctorate programs include: Ed.D., D.B.A., and D.N.P.

For information on changing one’s chair or second member after a committee is approved, students should consult the relevant Dissertation Guidebook or the Doctoral Study Guidebook for the program.

Committee URR Member 

Students are not responsible for recruiting a URR member for their committees. However, if a URR member was not assigned to the committee at approval of the prospectus, the student will later need to complete the URR Request form and submit it with a copy of the approved prospectus to the OSRA. The program director or designee will use that information to make the best match possible based on the URR Members’ familiarity with the research design (i.e., quantitative, qualitative, mixed-methods).

University Research Review (URR) members will be assigned upon completion of the prospectus in the following manner:

  1. The URR member assignment will be conducted by the program director (or designee) of the school/college. A database of URR members’ content and methodology expertise will be maintained by the program to help facilitate the matching process.
  2. The student (with a copy sent to the committee chair) will submit the prospectus and a URR Request form to the OSRA to forward to the appropriate program for URR assignment. Students should send correspondence to the address listed in the URR Request form for their specific degree.
  3. The focus of the match will primarily be based upon research design/methods (qualitative, quantitative, mixed-methods), rather than subject matter, because the focus of the input provided by this committee member will be on issues such as methodology, data analysis, use of primary sources, organization, and so on, that transcend topic areas. Subject-matter feedback will primarily be provided by the content expert of the committee.
  4. All URR members must meet approved requirements for serving in this capacity and must complete the university’s URR Orientation Module.
  5. Should the focus of a student’s project change to a methodology with which the assigned URR member is not familiar, a new URR member can be assigned to the committee at the request of the student, the chair, or the URR member.

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Doctoral Capstone Completion Process

All students enrolled in a Walden University doctoral program will proceed through the following steps as they complete their capstone: 

Step Items to Be Completed
Premise The premise is a short document that is used to identify a preliminary topic and approach for the doctoral capstone, and to help align the student with the faculty member who will guide continued development of the prospectus, either as chair and/or instructor of a prospectus course. This document may have a different name in some programs.
Prospectus The prospectus is a brief document that describes an agreed upon plan for developing the proposal and is evaluated to assure a doctoral-level project. In some programs, this document is completed in a required course; while in others, it is completed under the guidance of the committee chair. An approved prospectus also formalizes the structure of the doctoral committee that will work with the student on completing the doctoral capstone. An approved prospectus is required for doctoral candidate status.

For more information consult the Office of Student Research Administration web page.

Proposal The proposal is comprised of the first three chapters of a dissertation or the first three sections of a doctoral study along with the reference list. These chapters establish the rational for conducting the study and describe the design and methodology it will utilize.
Proposal University Research Review Once the chair and second member are satisfied that the first three chapters of the capstone meet all of the requirement specified in the appropriate rubric, the chair will submit the proposal for review.

The student’s URR member will review the proposal using the capstone rubric, and will either approve the proposal, which enables the student to set up an oral conference, or return the proposal with a set of required revisions.

Proposal Oral Conference

Following URR approval, the student will present the proposal to the chair and second member via a teleconference scheduled with the Office of Student Research Administration.

For more information on this step, see the Walden Center for Research Quality web page, and under Oral Defense, click on “Call Request form” to arrange a conference call.

Following URR approvals, the student will present the proposal to the chair and second member via a teleconference scheduled with the Office of Student Research Support.

IRB Approval

Walden’s Institutional Review Board (IRB) reviews each study conducted by Walden students to determine if the anticipated benefits of the study outweigh risks associated with participation in it.

For more information on the IRB approval process, consult the Office of Research Ethics and Compliance web page.

Completion of Doctoral Capstone Following IRB approvals, students collect, analyze, and report their findings, and complete the remaining chapters or sections of their capstone.
Completed Capstone URR

After the chair and second member are satisfied that the abstract and full capstone meet all of the requirements specified in the appropriate rubric, the chair will submit the complete document for review.

For instructions on submission of a completed capstone for URR, see the Walden Center for Research Quality web page and download the URR Request Form.

Form and Style Review Upon approval of the completed capstone by the student’s URR member, the document will be submitted to the Writing Center for a Form and Style (F&S) Review, a final check for errors in APA style, spelling, grammar, punctuation, and related issues.
Dissertation/Doctoral Study Oral Conference

Following F&S approval, the student will present the complete capstone project to the chair and second member via a teleconference scheduled with the OSRA. The oral conference is a formal discussion of the scholarly content of the capstone followed by an evaluation of your paper.

For more information on this step, see the web page, and under “Student Oral Presentations” click on “Arrange a Conference Call.”

Final URR Review

After successful completion of the oral and committee approval of the final capstone project, the chair forwards the final document along with the appropriate committee rubrics to the URR for review while copying research@waldenu.edu. The OSRA will submit a copy of the F&S review to the URR. At this time, the URR conducts a final review to make sure all methodological, content, and writing issues have been addressed.

In addition, the URR reviews the abstract to make sure it meets university guidelines.

Chief Academic Officer Review When approval from the URR has been received, the OSRA will send the abstract of the dissertation or doctoral study to the university Chief Academic Officer (CAO) or designate. Upon CAO approval, the research component of the degree requirement is officially completed.

Guidance for Walden Students on the Use of External Consultants for Capstone Projects

Although the doctoral capstone project can seem daunting at the outset, the academic programs at Walden are designed to prepare students to complete their own projects. The need for added support is understandable, but completed capstones must represent the students’ work and learning, and demonstrate their skills as a holder of doctoral degrees. Students who choose to utilize support beyond services offered by the university need to be mindful of the pitfalls and potential problems that can arise.

In today’s marketplace, there are some unscrupulous writers, scholars, and statisticians that cross boundaries and interfere with the originality of student work. The information below is provided to give clarity on this subject in relation to student and faculty expectations and support all students in selecting support options.


In working with editors, students should use these resources only for editing and clarifying, not for the synthesis of ideas or the generation of new concepts. Having someone else write parts of the document is a form of plagiarism, and it puts the entire project at risk.

Statisticians and Other Research Consultants

Research consultants’ services should be used for tutoring of statistical concepts and reviewing data analysis strategies; these are not services for designing the research or interpreting the results. To have a successful oral presentation of the capstone, students need to be able to explain and defend every aspect of their work and to demonstrate an understanding of all concepts, synthesis, and analysis.

Caution and Support for Students

Unfortunately, a growing number of doctoral students hire editorial and statistical services from individuals and/or companies who make claims to deliver a product but fail to do so. In some cases, services performed by others may put students in a position that can jeopardize their status at the university. Walden University will not be able to support or accommodate students who become victims of misleading or unscrupulous consultants. Students should apply the guidance provided here when considering an outside consultant. Prior to seeking external resources, students should first consult the menu of support options available at no cost from the Center for Student Success and the Center for Research Quality.

Faculty Recommendations

Faculty members may suggest the use of an advisor or consultant when students display consistent editorial difficulties on document drafts, but they should not require students to use an external consultant and cannot require the use of a specific consultant.