What is a Dissertation and Applied Doctoral Project?

The dissertation or the applied doctoral project (ADP) is the final scholarly paper of a doctoral program. Both require you to conduct rigorous research in your field of study.

The dissertation is for those working toward a PhD and is designed for you to contribute to the body of scholarly research on your chosen topic. The dissertation requires original research on your topic that is grounded in existing literature.

The ADP is for those working toward a professional doctorate degree and is designed for you to use existing knowledge to make an original contribution to solving a real-world problem in your field. The ADP requires designing and conducting a study with an applied focus on presenting a solution.

Developing a Problem Statement or Project Justification

Whether doing a dissertation or ADP, you will need to provide reasoning that will serve as the center of your research or applied study. For the dissertation, this is called a “problem statement”; for the ADP, this is called a “project justification.” This must be approved by your doctoral chair before you can proceed.

For a dissertation, the problem statement must be one that is research-worthy and contributes to the scholarly literature that has already been published on your topic of study. Where are there gaps in the scholarly literature and what is the significance or importance in filling these gaps? Your drafted and submitted problem statement will require significant, detailed information about your proposed research study.

For the ADP, the project justification must illustrate a current real-world problem in your field where you can contribute to a proposed solution. What is the unresolved problem, why does it justify being resolved, and how will your study benefit practitioners or scholars in your field? Your drafted and submitted project justification will require significant, detailed information about your proposed applied study.

Specifics on what should be included in the problem statement or project justification, how each should be formatted, and a sample of each can be found in the UAGC doctoral Research Resource Center (RRC) in your student portal.

How are the Dissertation and ADP organized?

As an extensive scholarly paper, there are many parts to every dissertation and ADP. While not every dissertation or ADP will include all the following items, the organization of the included items should be:

  • Title page
  • Abstract
  • Acknowledgements and Dedication
  • Table of Contents
  • List of Tables
  • List of Figures
  • List of Appendices
  • Introduction
  • Literature review
  • Methodology
  • Results (Findings or Observations)
  • Discussion
  • Conclusion
  • References list
  • Appendices

UAGC doctoral students will find the Dissertation Handbook, ADP Handbook, Institutional Review Board (IRB) Handbook, and other valuable and critical resources within the doctoral Research Resource Center (RRC) in your student portal, including answers to:

  • What steps should I follow to prepare, begin, develop, and complete the dissertation or ADP?
  • What content is expected in each chapter and other areas? 
  • What are the formatting and style requirements?
  • Can I view samples?

Editing the Dissertation and ADP

While researching and drafting are obviously large processes of the dissertation and ADP, the revision and editing process is just as large.

At the end of your program, you will have created several drafts of your dissertation or ADP. Each draft of each chapter will be reviewed by your doctoral project chair as you develop them. Review the Scholarly Writing Guidelines to ensure you have carefully edited for each item.

Once your chair has approved a final draft, your dissertation or ADP will be reviewed for the required formatting and style guidelines by a publication editor and may need to have the formatting corrected. The process of meeting the formatting and style requirements is something that your doctoral program adviser can guide you through. The Writing Center does not serve as an APA or formatting and style editor for the dissertation or ADP.