Reflections of the First Half Marathon in Preparation to Complete a Dissertation Using Q Methodology

Reflections of the First Half Marathon in Preparation to Complete a Dissertation Using Q Methodology

Melissa Lynn Lyon
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9707-0.ch008
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This chapter provides the perspective of a current Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) student in the dissertation phase of an Educational Leadership program at a historically Black university in the southeastern United States. The author reflects upon key stepping-stones along the journey that were impactful to her in hopes of inspiring other students. The chapter begins with the author's reflections on making the decision to apply and beginning the program. The author's reflections on navigating the journey includes developing support systems, overcoming internal blocks, and finding balance. The author also reflects upon the benefits and pitfalls of choosing to implement Q methodology, a non-traditional research methodology, in her dissertation. As the author continues the journey to completion of her program, she looks forward to the opportunities that the future may hold.
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The narrative of this chapter is based on the conceptualization of the pursuit of a doctorate degree being made up of two half marathons: the first half marathon begins with admissions through comprehensive exams and the second half marathon begins the dissertation journey through to completion. The author’s educational background influenced the choice of doctoral program. The author earned her undergraduate degree in Sociology with minors in Women’s Studies and Statistics at a predominantly White institution in the midwestern United States. After moving and having difficulty finding employment using her undergraduate degree, the author returned to school and earned a graduate degree in Sociology at a Historically Black College or University (HBCU) in the southeastern United States.

As a first-generation doctoral student, the author’s family is emotional supportive of her decision to continue to pursue her education. First-generation students tend to be “defined as individuals whose parents did not earn an undergraduate degree” (Gardner & Holley, 2011, p. 77). According to the National Science Foundation (2018), 68.8 percent of parents of 2017 doctorate recipients held a bachelor’s or advanced degree. Overall, approximately one out of three doctorate recipients in 2017 were first-generation students (National Science Foundation, 2018).

In the author's experience of discussions about her consideration of pursuing a doctoral degree, there was a focus on the differences and values of a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Sociology or a Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Educational Leadership. The author’s decision was greatly influenced by the fact that the institution of employment only offered an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership, while pursuing a Ph.D. in Sociology would require travel, although manageable. The author’s familiarity with the institution and faculty members was reassuring and comforting. The transferability of the Ed.D. in Educational Leadership was important to the author in hopes of expanding future employment opportunities.

A student could pursue either an Ed.D. or a Ph.D. in Education both are terminal degrees and implicitly have equal value (Andersen, 1983; Leist & Scott, 2011). Although similar, Ph.D. programs may be considered scholarly degrees focused on conducting research and Ed.D. programs may be considered professional degrees focused on preparing a practitioner (Andersen, 1983; Leist & Scott, 2011). Andersen (1983) noted that Ph.D. recipients were more likely to work in the higher education sector, and Ed.D. recipients were more likely to be employed in the K-12 education sector but both degrees prepare students to work in either sector.

Key Terms in this Chapter

First-Generation: Students whose parents do not have an undergraduate degree.

Learning Management System (LMS): Online educational software for course content information.

Procrastination: Unnecessarily putting off tasks.

Imposter Phenomenon: Feeling like a fraud with anxiety related to the fear of being found out.

Q Methodology: Scientific study of subjectivity using both quantitative and qualitative research techniques.

Bibliographic Management Software: Software used to create a database of bibliographic citations and assist with inserting references into documents.

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