Doctoral Study Page Counts…

Every hear this?

What is the minimum page count for a doctoral study?

Doctoral student on any given day of the week

I suspect the average student that asks this question has realized that completing a doctoral study will take an investment of time and effort, and they are mentally working through a Gantt chart to show percentage completion. However, any learned committee member understands that it will take as long as it takes to explore a topic and complete the study.

There are some observations I have made –

  • Introduction – This section should be the same regardless of study type (QUAN, QUAL, or MM)
  • Literature Review – A QUAN study will have a more lengthy literature review than a QUAL study because the researcher has to explore and substantiate the inclusion of each variable of interest. Conversely, a QUAL study will have a less lengthy literature review than a QUAN study because the purpose is to obtain a better understanding of a phenomena than what has already explored. If the topic of inquiry has explored in- depth, the reason to perform a QUAL study may not be justified. A MM study will be longer than a QUAN since it includes both QUAN and QUAL components.
  • Methodology – This section should be the about the same for both QUAL or QUAN, but a MM study will be longer since it includes both QUAL and QUAN aspects.
  • Results – A QUAN study will have a less lengthy results sections than a QUAL study because the focus is on the statistical tests. The section be especially less lengthy if tables and figures are placed in an Appendix rather than embedded in the text. A QUAL study will be larger than a QUAN study because it includes support for the thematic development. To do that, a researcher includes anecdotal quotes from interviews and, possibly, documentation obtained from the data collection phase. Finally, connecting themes to prior research in the area and, if not found, performing a mini-literature review will add more length to this section. It could be extremely more lengthy if transcripts are included in this section (rather than an Appendix). A MM study, obviously, will be much larger since it includes both a QUAL and QUAN component.
  • Recommendations – This section should be the same in size regardless of methodology.

Since I’m looking at doctoral studies published by ProQuest in 2019, I thought I would examine page counts. Based on an M = 158.6, SD = 55.18, Mdn = 147.5, a 100-200 page estimate appears right (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Boxplot of Doctoral Study Page Counts for DBA degrees awarded in 2019 (as reported by ProQuest)

Note the 400 and 600 page count studies….ugh!

Next, I wanted to focus on the Top Five schools that create doctors of business administration to see if they differed (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Boxplot of Doctoral Study Page Counts for the Top Five Universities that awarded DBA degrees in 2019 (as reported by ProQuest)

The 100-200 page guidance appears reasonable…

Note: Boxplots were created using R and the ggplot2 package.

DBA’s awarded by school in 2019

As part of a larger research project relating to the accuracy and quality of student research and committee supervision over DBA degrees, I needed to determine how many degrees were issued. Without an easy way to ascertain that information, I chose the ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database as my source. Through a process of multiple downloads and data manipulation using R, Proquest reported 738 degrees in 2019. Of those degrees, three schools produced over 64% of the graduates –

  • Walden University – 237 (32%)
  • Northcentral University – 168 (23%)
  • Capella University – 69 (9%)

Forty-three schools accounted for the remaining 36% of the degrees stored in ProQuest.

What’s unique about the three schools? All three were classified as for-profit universities for part of 2018, and each has been part of a merger or acquisition since then. Capella University merged with Strayer University in August 2018. Northcentral was purchased by the National University System in January 2019. Finally, Laureate Education, owner of Walden University, began the process of transferring ownership to Adtalem Global Education last month.

I wonder if the quantity of graduates created by these three schools will change in the next few years based on these corporate changes?