One of the core components of earning a doctoral degree is truly embracing, understanding, and implementing the practice of research. The idea of research can be daunting to a student embarking on this path for the first time. Most importantly, students shouldn’t be afraid of research. Many students learn to love research once they dive in.

Why is research so important in a doctoral program? 

Preliminary research shows readers what has come before and why a topic is crucial and worth studying. Rather than learning content (like in traditional courses), research allows a student to analyze a subject in depth from many points of view. Students spend adequate time searching for and reading many articles contributing to their topic. Ultimately, they will then collect and analyze the research on a particular subject – contributing to the field in that specific topic.

What kind of research?

In short, a doctoral student will learn about the many different types of research. Broadly, there are two types: qualitative and quantitative. There are also mixed methods that combine the two. Within all, there are many topics – both elementary and advanced. Quantitative topics include inferential statistical tests and topics like correlation and modeling. Qualitative research comprises collecting descriptive data such as what they can discover in a focus group discussion.

Students are sometimes afraid of research because it’s new to them. The best advice is to embrace the opportunity to learn the various research components to pick the most appropriate methodology for the study. Some students prefer to answer a research question by statistically analyzing data. Other students need to investigate more in-depth behavior using techniques such as observations or interviewing. Students shouldn’t choose their research methods based on what techniques are the easiest – instead, they should decide what’s most appropriate to answer the research question best.

What is the goal of research?

The goal of research and, ultimately, the dissertation is to investigate an aspect of a particular topic that may have yet to be thoroughly analyzed. Sometimes, this may be specific to an area where a student works; other times, it’s more generalizable to a broader audience. The most important goal is that the research contributes to the body of literature and understanding of a particular topic so that others will learn and benefit from what was discovered or analyzed.

What happens after the research concludes?

The first thing is to congratulate yourself on a job well done! It’s a challenging task to move from a typical classroom student to an independent scholar directing your work. This concludes as a complete dissertation and presentation of what you learned. After that, consider disseminating your findings to a broader audience. Think about presenting to your colleagues or at a conference. Push yourself to publish your results in a journal. The hard work from your dissertation should benefit others and serve as your culminating project for your doctorate.

In the end, you’ll be happy you are finished, but you’ll also hopefully be pleased with the process and reflect on how much you learned as an independent scholar.

What’s next?

Are you interested in continuing education? If so, consider learning more about what the Doctorate of Education in Leadership program can do for you and your goals.