Doctoral theses provide students with an opportunity to apply their knowledge and insights, as well as their skills in analysis, synthesis, problem solving, and teamwork. The theme of each thesis is a significant curricular, policy, or management problem confronting public or higher education in the U.S. and/or other countries. Within those themes, students will identify more focused issues that have particular urgency to their state, region, district, or institution.

The doctoral thesis represents a rigorous and scholarly approach to investigating a problem of educational practice. Students first identify the problem to be addressed in their thesis before they undertake a rigorous process of inquiry and reflection about the origins, significance, and nature of the problem, as well as alternative ways to address it in practice.

Many doctoral theses culminate in the design, implementation, and evaluation of a research-based intervention. Examples include innovative approaches to teaching and learning among target student groups from pre-K through G16, organizational restructuring plans, new faculty development strategies, new leadership models for higher education administration, policy papers, and program assessments.

The doctoral thesis is the focus of student activity in their third year in the program. However, preparation for the thesis begins in the first term and with the first set of courses. The content and delivery of every course has been tailored to help meet the knowledge and skill requirements of the doctoral theses. Several foundational research courses play particularly key roles. The first two are Theoretical Foundations of Education Research and Practice and Research Processes Based in Practice. By the time students take the second of these courses, typically in the third or fourth term, they are expected to begin framing a draft of their preliminary proposal for their doctoral thesis and to identify other students with similar thesis interests.

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