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Predictors of Doctoral Student Success in a Limited-Residency PhD Program

Grant Winners

  • Steven R. Terrell Ph.D. – Graduate School of Computer and Information Sciences
  • Marissa Stone – Graduate School of Computer and Information Sciences


  • Eric Ackerman, Ph.D. – Graduate School of Computer and Information Sciences


Award Winners

Historically the attrition rate from doctoral programs in the United States is 40% to 50% (Cassuto, 2013; Smallwood, 2004; Winerman, 2008). Non-traditional doctoral programs such as the Computing Technology in Education (DCTE) program at NSU's Graduate School of Computer and Information Sciences (GSCIS) experience attrition rates 10% to 15% higher. Even though these significantly higher attrition rates cost both the university and students a substantial amount of time, money and effort, little is known about its causes. Early research (Terrell, 2005a, 2005b, 2007) showed no relationship between attrition and personal characteristics such as learning style, information perception and personality type. More recent research (Terrell, Dringus & Snyder, 2009; Terrell, Snyder, Dringus & Maddrey, 2012), indicates that students believe a lack of connectivity between students and faculty, especially while writing their dissertation, is a significant reason for leaving the program. Based on these findings, changes in policies and procedures designed to address this problem have been implemented. Understanding why students leave the program, however, is not enough; in order to be proactive as possible, faculty and administrators must understand what makes other students successful. A qualitative grounded-theory approach (Creswell, 2007) will be used to understand the experience of students who completed the DCTE program. A random sample of graduates from within the past five years will be solicited for participation. After completing an Informed Consent agreement, these graduates will be interviewed using a semistructured approach (Appendix A). The recorded interviews will be professionally transcribed and then analyzed using an inductive constant-comparative approach (Strauss & Corbin, 1990), to identify common themes graduates feel supported their success. From this a report will be written; it is expected that administrators and faculty will be able to use this information to develop best practices and procedures directed toward increasing degree completion rates.

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