Work with your chair to determine any specific instructions or guidance that he or she may have for you.
The topic you are refining and the problem (gap) you are analyzing can often be stated as an umbrella question. An umbrella question is the big picture that guides your research. It is your high-level research question. Think of it this way: Your topic selection has led you to a gap in the literature. The gap in the literature can be stated as a question. Your research will need to stay on task to answer that question. In other words, it helps you understand the purpose of your study.
Let’s consider an example again. Previously, sample topic refinement emerged by adding the subtopic “ethics” to a main topic “transformational leaders.” Suppose that your preliminary review of the literature discovered several statements touting the idea that transformational leaders raise the ethical values and behaviors of followers. However, also suppose that you have been unable to locate any empirical research testing the proposed relationship between transformational leaders and the ethical behaviors of followers. Accordingly, you may have located a gap in the literature, a problem, or research that needs to be conducted (which your problem research work explained and justified in the previous task). Thus, your umbrella question might be: “Do transformational leaders influence the ethical values and behaviors of followers?”
You will need to design and conduct your research to answer the question. The umbrella question clarifies your research purpose.
Remember the Note of Caution: Let the literature speak! In other words, as your refine your topic, look for the gap, build the umbrella question, and (eventually) construct your theoretical frame, be careful not to make the literature say what you want it to say. Stay disciplined. Stay open. Let the literature lead you to your conclusions.
Note: A successful dissertation requires self-directed behaviors. To successfully pass each dissertation course, you must successfully complete (pass) each milestone presented in the course materials. Additionally, you must complete the milestones in the order they are presented in the course. The tasks in some milestones may take you more than a week to complete. Finish each milestone before you move on to the next milestone. In your planning, also allow time for feedback from your dissertation chair/committee and revisions as part of completing each task.
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