Academic journal article College Student Journal

The Role of Dissertation Self-Efficacy in Increasing Dissertation Completion: Sources, Effects and Viability of a New Self-Efficacy Construct

Academic journal article College Student Journal

The Role of Dissertation Self-Efficacy in Increasing Dissertation Completion: Sources, Effects and Viability of a New Self-Efficacy Construct

Article excerpt

Initiated by a concern over a growing leadership shortage, the relationships among education doctoral students' perception of the value of doctoral program components (being in a cohort, being mentored, and dissertation preparation experiences), dissertation self-efficacy (DSE), and dissertation progress were examined. This study of academic motivation explored the issue of whether universities should build into their doctoral programs similar components to facilitate dissertation progress and ultimately completion. Also identified were possible sources, effects, and viability of a new self-efficacy construct, DSE.

Sixty first and second year doctoral students from a small, Midwestern university were surveyed using three scales original to this study, including the Dissertation Self-Efficacy Scale (DSES) to measure DSE.

Results of Pearson product moment correlations showed a significant positive relationship between DSE and Dissertation Progress. DSE construct validity evidence was demonstrated by the results of reliability testing ([alpha] = .97) and an exploratory factor analysis suggesting that DSE, as measured by the DSES, appeared to be a unitary construct. Also, DSE did play the mediational role in performance self-efficacy theory predicts. Overall, this study suggest students who highly valued components of their doctoral program had the highest DSE and made the most dissertation progress.


There is an increasing and soon to be critical need for educational leaders in the first half of the 21st Century. Approximately 45% of PreK-12 educational administrators and university faculty will be retiring over the next 10 years (Cooley & Shen, 1999; Magner, 2000). Institutions of higher learning are going to be called upon to graduate doctorates in programs such as Educational Administration and Curriculum and Instruction in greater numbers to avoid a leadership shortage.

Compounding the problem, as many as 50% of doctoral students are noncompleters or "All But Dissertation" (ABD's) (Bowen & Rudenstine, 1992; Kerlin, 1995; Tinto, 1993), a statistic reportedly on the increase during the past three decades (Parent, 1999). Student attrition from doctoral programs is an important issue from several different perspectives, even though compared to the undergraduate retention-attrition literature, the body of literature examining doctoral attrition is quite small (Haworth, 1996; Myers, 1999).

Although reasons such as unexpected life events, finances, time and personal variables impact completion, these are factors universities have little influence over. Personal variables associated with attrition include age, gender, scholastic aptitude, hometown (Artiga, 1984; Lemp, 1980), and employment status (Pinson, 1997).

Moreover, although many doctoral completion studies exist under the labels of doctoral attrition (Golde, 1995; Kluever, 1995) or time to completion (Pinson, 1997), few researchers have examined doctoral program components that may positively affect dissertation progress, the stage where many doctoral students get stuck and that results in their becoming ABD's. An assumption of this study was that enhancing dissertation progress would increase doctoral graduation rates.

Given the need for more educational leaders possessing doctorates to graduate within the next decade led to this study's overall problem statement: Are there components universities can build into their doctoral programs to facilitate dissertation progress, ultimately enhancing the writing and completing of doctoral dissertations and programs? This problem statement built on and responded to Tinto's (1993) plea for more comprehensive theories and research on the factors that contribute to completion of or attrition from doctoral programs.

Studies pointing to doctoral program components that do appear to be under the influence of universities and that positively affect dissertation progress include effects of being in a cohort (Barnett, Basom, Yerkes, & Norris, 2000; Brien, 1992; Miller & Irby, 1999; Teitel, 1997), mentoring (Alvermann & Hruby, 2000; Kahn, 2000; Li, 1993; Weimers, 1998) and dissertation preparation experiences (Bishop, 1996; Cuetara & LeCapitaine, 1991; Kezmarsky, 1990; Milstein, 1997). …

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