It may be possible that there exist one or two brave souls in the world who do not quail when faced with the task of writing a dissertation, but for most students the task can seem gargantuan – an experience between having root canals performed without anesthesia and being locked in an Arctic cabin with a fiendish psychoanalyst who demands that one perform ever more probing self-analysis. However, while it is always true that the planning, researching, and writing of a dissertation is a lengthy and labor-intensive process it need not be a traumatic one if the student enters into the process with a sense of purpose and a plan of action. This paper, using the excellent templates from Leedy & Omrod (2000), outlines a plan of action for outlining the research problem that lies at the heart of a dissertation.
Leedy and Omrod (2000) break done the process of identifying a research problem into five steps – and then elaborate how each one of these steps may be accomplished. The first step – and this can for many students be the most intimidating is to come up with a rough idea of what one wants to do research on and then complete a background check on this topic. While this might sound easy to accomplish (after all there are thousands of interesting topics about which to do research and to write) it can often be very difficult to decide which topic one wants to make a long-term commitment to. Deciding what to write about is analogous to having someone instruct one to begin at the beginning of a story: All of the sudden there are a dozen different possible starting points.
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