The doctoral dissertation is a comprehensive process of intellectual inquiry in which a scholar investigates the significance and ramifications of an idea, project, experiment, problem, or question. The dissertation is the culminating learning process for the PhD degree.
For interdisciplinary environmental studies, a dissertation may cover several branches of knowledge and may include a variety of forms and methodologies. The research interests of students and faculty vary widely. We encourage research that emerges from professional, personal, scholarly, and community concerns. This includes practitioner research, that is, systematic and comprehensive approaches to the ideas, programs, and concepts that flow from the professional and academic concerns of the student. We encourage research that evaluates environmental issues and suggests comprehensive solutions. Antioch University New England’s Doctoral Program in Environmental Studies places great emphasis on the following aspects of this process:
- Bringing interdisciplinary approaches to a subject of environmental inquiry conveys a sense of depth, complexity, and connection
- Using methodological pluralism allows a subject to be investigated from multiple conceptual perspectives
- Considering the community context of the subject allows the project to contribute to social and environmental knowledge
- Engaging in interpretive analysis allows the researcher to develop an authoritative, respectful, and original academic voice
- Incorporating reflective practice enables the researcher to understand the deep meaning of the project, both for a broader intellectual community and for one’s lifecycle development
The Program believes that in choosing a topic, you are involved in a highly engaged, dynamic, learning conversation with the environmental profession. We encourage research that has direct social, environmental, political, and educational impact. We encourage research that can be used by public and private environmental groups and organizations, and research that contributes to knowledge about urgent contemporary issues.
The dissertation may take a variety of forms, including empirical study (quantitative or qualitative), a theoretical contribution/critique, a program evaluation, an integrative case study, curriculum development, an analysis of a policy issue, design and implementation of an innovative program, or a series of interpretive essays. The major criteria are that the form, design, and methodology of the project be germane to the question under consideration and informed by the literature, and that the final product yield conclusions that are logically consistent with the plan.
The doctoral dissertation embodies the totality of one’s educational training and relevant life experience. It reflects an inquiry that is unique to the life, background, motivations, and values of the researcher. It represents a singular learning opportunity—to understand in depth an issue or idea of great personal and community importance. However, the dissertation should not be viewed as one’s life work, rather as a foundation for the work a person will be engaged in throughout life.
The dissertation process requires support, flexibility, and rigor. Our observation is that dissertation advising must begin at a relatively early stage of the student’s program. Such advising should include the advisor-advisee relationship, the selection of a dissertation committee, peer support and advising, coursework that is linked to the dissertation, and access to appropriate library resources.
During Phases Two and Three, intrinsic to the comprehensive sequence of doctoral learning, the student develops a portfolio of possible dissertation ideas, including topics and concerns that could become the subject of dissertation in be expected to research and write the dissertation during Phase Four. In some cases, because of specific time-bound research requirements, or due to the necessity of further deliberation, the student needs additional time to complete the dissertation.
Each student forms a dissertation committee consisting of two Antioch University New England faculty members and one outside member. The dissertation proposal, which requires the committee’s approval, is submitted between the spring of Phase Three and the fall of Phase Four. The dissertation review represents a two-step process. First, the committee must approve the dissertation’s style and content. Second, the student must organize and participate in a final dissertation review meeting. At this meeting, the committee will make its final recommendations to the student.
Complete guidelines for the dissertation process are available from the Department of Environmental Studies.
Here are some recent dissertation titles:
- Perceptions of Whales and Marine Mammal Conservation: A Case Study of Adolescent Girls in Bequia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines
- The Ability of Post-Normal Science to Reduce Knowledge Conflicts among Stakeholders and Promote Conservation Action: A Case Involving Commercial Fisheries and the Endangered North Atlantic Right Whale
- The Great Egret as a Cosmopolitan Species: The Implications for Biodiversity Education
- Where You Can Hear the Sea and See the Sound: A Novel of First Contact in Colonial New England
- Participatory Ecological Governance: Insights from a Case Study of the Boston Harbor Islands Partnership
- The Ecology of Paradox: Disturbance and Restoration in Land and Soil
- Dialogical Process and the Emergence of Grassroots Polycultures in Southern Mexico
- Community-Based Environmental Education in Madagascar
- Educating Environmental Activists in the Age of Globalization
Click here for a list of selected dissertation abstracts.