• Tuesday, October 16, 2012 12:31 PM | Amina Abdullah, PhD (Administrator)

    Designing Your Dissertation Downtime (Part 2 of 3)

    ~by Amina Abdullah-Winstead, PhD
       Author/Founder (IPSA)

    Beforestarting the next phase of your doctoral journey, make sure you share your good news with your friends, family, and of course your PhD Sisters, celebrate passing the comprehensive exam, and reflect on your accomplishments thus far. Reflection is a useful skill that aids learners as they continue to move forward in their program. Depending on your school, your next steps may include writing a prospectus, completing a scientific merit review (SMR) form, an institutional review board (IRB) application, or a combination of all of the above. Most schools require completion and school approval of the prospectus or SMR prior to submitting the proposal, chapters one through three of the dissertation, for IRB.

    Prospectus. A dissertation prospectus describes your area of research and provides an overview of the study. As always, you should follow your schools guidelines for specific items to cover in your prospectus but here are a few suggestions:

    • Introduction
    • Thesis statement
    • Literature review
    • Statement of primary sources
    • Methodology
    • Research plan
    • Chapter outline
    • Bibliography

     A prospectus can range from 7-10 pages or as vast as 25-30 pages not including the bibliography. The length will depend on the amount of information covered in the literature review and the methodology. While waiting on feedback on your prospectus you can gather articles that will assist with developing the literature review and recently published dissertations from your school with a similar topic.

    Scientific Merit Review (SMR). The SMR form assists in making sure your proposal meets specific criteria and has merit for the IRB evaluation. The reviewers examine the following elements for demonstration of scientific merit, the research problem, purpose, significance, research questions, research design, approach, methodology, and rational for the design. As scientific merit centers on the proposal for the SMR process, you should factor in this element throughout the entire study. If you are a member of the Sisterhood (, review the qualitative and quantitative samples of the SMR form.

    While waiting on SMR approval you can work on creating correspondence forms necessary for the study such as the consent form, opt in/opt out, permission slips, structured interview guide, flyer to recruit participants, email notification, consent form, participant checklist, or demographics form. You will also want to arrange the forms as appendices and save the appendices as PDF files into a folder labeled “IRB materials” for later inclusion with your IRB packet. Take a deep breath and Celebrate!


  • Saturday, August 11, 2012 9:34 PM | Amina Abdullah, PhD (Administrator)

    Unlocking the Chains to Publishing

    ~by Amina Abdullah-Winstead, PhD
       Author/Founder (IPSA) 

     Lock and chain Lock and chainLock and chainLock and chain

    Traditional methods of publishing can take years to achieve especially when submitting information for peer review. Self-publishing is an up and coming alternative to traditional methods. This service allows your information to be available in many forums for immediate discussion and debate. Below is a guide to help you in your search for publishing your writing.

    Review Your Writing
    Assemble a team to review your work for feedback. Try gathering individuals with professional experience to review the material for clarity, poor phrasing, redundancies, and vocabulary choice.  Create codes that correspond with the item in question when marking needed corrections. For instance, NC can represent not clear and PP for poor phrasing, while RD could stand for redundant. For academic articles, ask members of the academic community who have expertise through either research or experience working in the area of your topic to review your writing. You can never have too many eyes checking your work and a fresh set of eyes may discover minor mistakes previously overlooked.  

    Edit Your Writing
    When submitting the final version for publication you want to make sure that your writing is free of errors. If you type your work in Microsoft Word, use the spelling and grammar checker tool. This function captures common mistakes made with spelling, punctuation and grammar, but not all of them. Proofread your work to capture additional grammatical and spelling errors, as well as punctuation, sentence structure, and colloquialisms. Similar to the review process, assemble two or three individuals to read your writing and highlight mistakes as a final step before submitting your work.

    Make Final Corrections
    You may question why this is necessary. Believe it or not, you may miss a correction after having several people review and edit your document. The best way to make sure this does not happen is to make a matrix listing the suggested corrections from each person and then check each one off as you make changes to your writing. Taking the time to perform this process ensures that you put forth clear and consistent work.

    Publish Your Writing
    If you are writing an e-book, think about allowing an independent publisher, such as Hawthorne Press, to assist you with publishing your work. An independent publisher can assist you with creating a book cover, establishing a price point, obtaining the required identification codes, registering your copyrights, and organizing your manuscript for the proper e-book or print format. Compared to traditional publishing, you can receive higher royalties for your work with independent publishing and self-publishing. Take not that independent publishers can place your e-book for sale with major distributors like Amazon or Barnes and Noble just as easily as major book publishers.

    Promote Your Work
    There are many ways to display and promote your work. You can create a website or blog, post messages on Facebook and Twitter, or use social media widgets and gadgets to drive people to your work. Whichever method you choose remember always to brand your work as a link for future endeavors.

    These are suggestions that serve as a guide for getting your ideas from your mind to production. Whether you take this approach or use another way to publish your material, get started on preparing your first work. You can always decide on publishing later. However, if you start with an independent publisher from the beginning, they can steer you through the process to ensure that you have a publishable product.


  • Monday, June 04, 2012 7:13 PM | Amina Abdullah, PhD (Administrator)

    If You Are Rich, Does Your Child Deserve A College $cholarship?

    ~by Carmen Jones, Ed.D. c.
         IPSA Contributor

    As I was doing my usual homework routine and checking twitter, I came across a message stating that Sean “Puffy” Combs’ son Justin does not deserve a $54,000 scholarship to University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) because of his father’s worth of over $450 million. The author indicated that he could easily afford to send his son to college with no problem. Immediately, I began to think that this does make absolute sense based on my understanding of scholarships that the requirements are usually for those in financial need. Looking back on my younger years, I also received full-ride scholarships because of the financial distress my parents faced. They were unable to afford two daughters going to college at the same time. However, I also realize that the reason why I was awarded the scholarship was that I earned it.

    According to National Public Radio (NPR), Justin Combs defended his self by taking his frustrations to twitter. He stated, “I put that work in!!!!...PERIOD." This is when I began to feel empathy for the junior Combs and realized that he put in the work just like I did when I was doing all that I could to attend the best college. UCLA awarding Justin a $54,000 scholarship is similar to the situation that happened with Master P’s son Romeo when he attended Southern California University (SCU) in 2008. I guess the question we need to ask ourselves is, “What are we learning from this?”

    Scholarships from colleges are to not only award those who are in financial need, but also those who exemplify the importance of working hard and deserving of a rewarded for their hard work. If scholarships were awarded to only those in financial need, we would have a problem, because now universities would have to seek out those in financial need. Those who work hard would not receive any kind of financial reward.
    The UCLA representative, Ricardo Vazquez advised the Los Angeles Times that the scholarship awarded to Justin Combs would not affect the scholarships awarded by the university in anyway. Students from UCLA also feel that the scholarship was well deserved to Justin Combs and “…If his athletic ability deserves it, then more power him”. This statement comes from the Undergraduate Students Association President, Emily Resnick. Like Resnick, students understand the politics of how universities work, and what better way to get the best and brightest for the athletic department then to seek out superstars.  
    We live in a world where people want to be rewarded for their good deeds, hard work, and valuable insight to making the world a better place. Awards are around us everyday. They can be found in places such as American Idol, NBA Championships, Spelling Bees, and toddlers going through graduation ceremonies to Kindergarten. We cannot ridicule something that we put there in the first place.  But, oh wait, we do live in a country that loves to ridicule anyway! No matter how rich or poor you are, there should never be anything wrong with receiving a pat on the back for your efforts.



  • Thursday, May 17, 2012 9:10 AM | Amina Abdullah, PhD (Administrator)

    Designing Your Dissertation Downtime (Part 1 of 3)

    ~by Amina Abdullah-Winstead, PhD

       Author/Founder (IPSA)

    This three part series explores activities in which a learner can engage while waiting for feedback or approvals at various stages of his or her PhD program. Part 1 will cover items associated with the comprehensive exam. Part 2 deals with downtime during the SMR/Proposal/IRB milestones. Part 3 explores actions that learners can take in-between the final chapters of the dissertation. Understanding that the dissertation process differs among universities, learners should find these suggestions useful for any program.  

    Part 1
    You have completed your coursework and now you are about to embark on the next phase of your dissertation journey. After you submit your responses for the Comprehensive Exam, make productive use of your time as opposed to sitting and wondering when you will hear back about your performance. Instead of obsessing over potential rewrites, try completing a few of the steps below to keep the process moving along. Regardless of whether you pass, fail, or have to do rewrites, you will feel a sense of accomplishment knowing that you have made progress toward your goal of preparing for the dissertation.

    1. Select a Mentor: Start thinking about the type of person that you would like to serve as your dissertation mentor. A good place to start is with professors that you have had throughout your program particularly ones from your research courses who are well versed in the type of research that you plan to conduct (qualitative or quantitative). If your school participates in residencies or colloquiums this is a goldmine for networking with potential mentors. You may meet other candidates who may recommend faculty or provide advice about the mentor selection process. You may not realize but Proquest database is another great place to look. You can search for recent dissertations for your school that have a similar topic and/or research method to find out who mentored the dissertation.

    2. Stay on Track: Create a timeline and a to-do-list to lay out the dissertation process. The timeline should include important milestone/due dates for the various phases of the program. Use whatever you are comfortable with, however a few useful tools include creating Excel spreadsheets, starting a Google calendar, placing reminders in your cell phone, or using software apps with calendars or listing features. A great web based tool is Todoist, which allows you to create detailed lists and provides reminders via email.

    3. Get Familiar With the Guidelines: Download and familiarize yourself with the appropriate manuals, guides, and templates provided by your school related to the dissertation process (Hint: if your school does not provide a dissertation template for formatting, use a recently published dissertation from your school as a guideline).

    4. Join a Support Group: Once you pass comprehensive exams, search for a support group to participate in as you complete your dissertation. If you are a women-seeking support during your journey, join the PhD Sisters Group on Facebook. Within this group, you will find amazing women who are at various stages of the dissertation process as well as women who have completed their program and are now doctors. These women engage in constructive (positive) discussions about the Ph.D. process, strategies for completing the program, and balancing life in terms of home, work, family, and school. 



  • Wednesday, April 25, 2012 8:09 AM | Amina Abdullah, PhD (Administrator)

    Bringing Life Into Your Classroom

    ~by Carmen Jones, Ed.D. c.
         IPSA Contributor

    When I first started teaching college courses, I found myself facing the board the majority of the time. Writing, writing, and more writing was what I felt was best to get the information out to the students. What made it worse was that I am left-handed and it was difficult for students to take notes and watch what I would write next. Being a college professor for the first time, I wanted to make sure that students captured everything I said.

    Everyday, when walking through the halls I would pass other classes. I caught glimpses of professors flipping through PowerPoint presentation as they spoke about accounting principles, cultural perspectives, or math equations. The lights were dim in these classes to allow for a clear view of the PowerPoint slides on the board. I would say to myself, how boring that must be sitting in a classroom, watching a screen, listening to the voice of the professor, and wanting to fall asleep because the feeling of the classroom resembles that of relaxing in you living room watching television in the evening.  

    I never thought about the possibility of a disconnection between my students and the information I was sharing through my writing until a one of my students complained. The student expressed a concern for the board writing and the lack of connection with the material taught. Taking a proactive position, I requested to have a peer observe my class and review my teaching.  The school scheduled a visit with one of my peers so they could observe my class and uncover areas of opportunity with my teaching.

    After the observation, my colleague congratulated me on how well I was able to demonstrate each topic and engage the students. He also commented about the constant writing on a board. He believed that since the majority of these students were adults who were coming to class after working an eight or nine-hour shift that they may become disengaged or sleepy watching me write on the board. He suggested that I think of way to keep them alert and ready to learn in an evening class after coming from possibly a boring job.

    His comments helped me realize that even with the similarities and differences between the student’s perception of my teaching style and my actual teaching style, my style was good. In addition, I received information on books that covered practical ways to teach college courses. His useful feedback helped me realize that I need to bring life into my classroom and wake people up. I discovered that students could participate and have a good time doing it as long as you keep them engaged.

    I found information in the books that helped me develop better teaching practices. The material focused on three strategies that professors can use in the classroom to keep students focused, engaged, and awake! These strategies included the following:

    The board can be your friend.  Writing on the board does not have to take up the entire class. Use this space to post important points before using PowerPoint or as an area to post the objectives for the lesson. Another use is as the bridge to the next subject, if there is more than one topic discussed for the day. The board could be a compass that helps direct the class throughout the day in connecting topics.

    PowerPoint makes a good point. This style is great for those students who have different learning styles. Note taking may not be their strength but they retain more information with their visual perception. PowerPoint can give you a break as well as a moment for the rest of the class to catch up in note taking. Another good point with PowerPoint is that if a student misses information you can always go back to capture it whereas in comparison to board writing, once the information is erased, it is gone. This medium can bring more attraction to the eyes of the students with the use of sound, pictures, and animation, which could make it even more interesting. PowerPoint also comes with a slideshow that has presenter’s view, which is great tool for timing your presentation and using note techniques that come with the program instead of using note cards.

    Classroom activity puts your words into action. Engage your students with activities. One example is to include small class projects that justify the principles of the subjects taught. This technique allows students to stretch their minds and reinforces their learning through demonstration as well as allows professors to see their learning in action. Activities cause teamwork and the breaking down of walls that hinder communication. Professors gather a real-sense of the students and their individual learning. In addition, the students gain knowledge from the experience of working out real-life situations.


  • Monday, April 02, 2012 2:42 PM | Amina Abdullah, PhD (Administrator)

    Ten Questions to Ask Yourself When Considering a Membership in a Professional Society

    ~by Audrey Donaldson, Ed.D. c.
        IPSA Contributor

    There are an number of professional societies, both national and international, in existence. Some are well known, but many others exist that may support your interests.  It is important to take time to investigate the professional society that your are considering joining so that you are satisfied with your decision. Below are 10 questions that you can ask yourself.

    1. Is the purpose or mission statement aligned with your professional goals?
    Do not be misled by the name of the organization, nor by its popularity. Locate the mission statement to identify the purpose of the professional society. Then do some research to see if the activities and accomplishments match-up to reflect the mission. These should be in alignment with your own goals.

    2. Where do you fit in the organization, now and in the future?
    No one knows you better than yourself, so perform a self-assessment to determine where you may fit into the organization. The organizational structure may help you to identify a path, especially if you are interested in filling a leadership position. You may be able to identify a specific role to serve to enhance the organization in the provision of services or to support its functions. Activities, events, and special projects may also highlight how you can be an asset to the society.

    3. Are the meeting locations feasible for you to attend?
    Although you may decide that a professional society is an ideal fit, the location for meetings may pose a great challenge. Make sure you are clear about the organizations meeting locations. Sometimes conference calls, Skype, and other options may afford opportunities for attendance, especially for committee meetings and during inclement weather.

    4. Based on the frequency of meetings, will you be able to attend on a regular basis?
    Meeting dates and requirements for attendance are also critical. This includes your availability for additional meetings when you serve on committees. E-meetings or other asynchronous formats may alleviate the pressure of real-time meetings. This is especially critical for those who may travel on a regular basis or when busy, irregular schedules limit the ability to commit to attending meetings.

    5. Must a member of the organization recommend you for membership or can you join on your own?
    Membership drives take place for some professional societies, but not all. When professional societies require that current members submit candidate names for membership consideration you may not feel that you have an opportunity to join. However, if you contact the organization identifying yourself with a statement about your interest in the organization, and the role you intend to fill, you may be contacted to join.

    6. Which committees do you see yourself joining?
    Review the list of committees operating within a professional society. You may identify one or more to join. Your service and contributions may support your ideas for new committees of interest as you prove your value and commitment over time. Finding the best fit cannot be over-emphasized so do not overlook committee work as a vital feature of membership.

    7. Can you identify any significant contributions that you can make as a member of this organization?
    Knowing what you do about your own talents and interests, seek to discover the possibilities for you as a member in a professional society. Based on the organization’s activities and goals, identify specific actions that may be perceived as valuable contributions. When you can clearly see that a professional society can benefit from your membership, you may want to add this one to the list of professional societies to consider.

    8. How important is it to seek diversity?
    In addition to the considerations for local, regional, national, and international memberships are options for gender-specific and/or cultural-specific organizations.  If there is a woman's society in your field, or one specific to ethnicity or culture, you may want to balance membership in this organization with one that is more inclusive. On the other hand, if you seek to establish a special branch, local chapter, or new society, membership in a similar organization may serve to prepare you and perhaps support you on this mission.

    9. Which professional societies are most suitable?
    Burnout can be avoided with careful selection. Know yourself and how to balance your schedule.  In some cases, one membership may serve your needs. Make sure that you benefit as well as the organization. However, multiple memberships may provide a good balance to support your interests.

    10. How much should I expect to pay as a member of a professional society?
    This is a good question. The best case scenario is to find out before you are considered as a candidate. If you are unable to discover the fees: membership fees, assessments, conference registration, special projects, etc. be concerned. This is an important question and your decision not to ask may result in a costly endeavor.

    Here is a list of various professional societies within the field of Education.

    Enjoy your search in discovering the many professional societies. Investigate thoroughly before investing your time, energy, and money. Best of luck in your search!


  • Sunday, March 11, 2012 9:03 AM | Amina Abdullah, PhD (Administrator)

    Did Someone say Doctor? The Debate Over the PhD Doctoral Title.

    ~by Amina Abdullah-Winstead, PhD
       Author/Founder (IPSA)

    Students enrolled in a PhD program may wonder what title they can use at different stages of the PhD process. Usually this question arises as students near the completion of their program, when they update their CV/resume, or when they update their signature on electronic emails. Potential titles vary based on the school’s common use of specific titles.

    While there are universities that discourage students from using any title before they graduate, others allow students to classify themselves as PhD students, learners, or candidates. A few schools have policies that state explicitly the use of PhD in any form prior to the actual conferment of your degree is a violation of the university code of conduct. This type of policy does not follow the developmental progress that students achieve as they complete the academic milestones associated with their program. Some schools consider students as PhD learners throughout the entire process, i.e., course completion, comprehensive exam, and the dissertation.

    The accepted use of PhD student and learner is in reference to students who are currently enrolled in a PhD program and are either taking classes or working on completing other requirements such as their residencies. Once a student successfully passes the comprehensive exam or other qualifying assessment, they become a PhD candidate (PhD c.). This symbolizes that they now qualify to conduct original research by participating in the dissertation process. It should be noted that there are some exceptions to the rule where students start their dissertation while still completing course work.

    A more common term that has developed over the years for students who find themselves in the same situation as a PhD c. is the all but dissertation or PhD (ABD). While the origins of this term are unknown, the term is commonly used by employers in both academia and corporate settings when seeking out qualified candidates as well as by students wishing to distinguish themselves during the application process.

    Upon completing all the requirements of the dissertation and defending it in the presence of the dissertation committee, students receive official recognition of their status as a PhD or D. Phil (Doctor of Philosophy). This is when graduates can also add the title of Doctor (Dr.) as a prefix to their name. The dissertation process is challenging enough without having this additional element to decipher. Since most programs include guidelines for the dissertation process, which involves writing four to five chapters consisting of an introduction, literature review, method, results, and conclusions, they should also provide a guide on the proper suffix throughout the process. It would benefit academia and students to have a universal standard to designate appropriate title(s) at various stages of the process.


  • Wednesday, January 18, 2012 11:13 AM | Amina Abdullah, PhD (Administrator)

    Six Strategies for Sailing through Comprehensive Exams

    ~by Amina Abdullah-Winstead, PhD
       Author/Founder (IPSA)

    1. Follow the Comprehensive Exam Manual

    As learners, we naturally have questions and concerns about taking any exam let alone the “dreaded” comprehensive exam! However, schools offering a doctoral program want to see you pass the exam and move into the dissertation phase of your program. They are not out to get you.J With this in mind, many colleges and universities provide an instructional guide to follow for the comprehensive exam process. This guide contains ample information about writing the exam, rubrics for grading and scoring as well as sample exam questions, time-frames, and goal statements. The comprehensive exam guide provides answers to the most common questions regarding policy and process for successful completion of the comprehensive exam. As a first step, thoroughly read this guide and make your own notes of important deadlines and other useful information.

    2. Demonstrate Bloom’s Taxonomy

    At this point in your program, you should have a fresh recollection of Bloom'sTaxonomy from writing assignments in your research classes. Not only will you need to have an understanding, but also you must be able to demonstrate through your writing the principles of Bloom’s Taxonomy. These principles consist of a higher level of knowledge and intellectual skill, which includes the ability to analyze, synthesize, and evaluate information. There are certain action words that are associated with this higher level of thinking. Many times the wording of the questions on the comprehensive exam provides language that serves as a direct link to one of the top three levels of Bloom’s (hint, hint). Being able to recognize which level the question targets will assist you in forming the direction of your answer.

    3. Get Organized 

    Read your exam questions. Okay now really read your exam questions. For the finale, read them one more time! The point here is to dissect each question systematically while identifying and highlighting key words and phrases regarding what you need to answer. Much of the weight for grading the comprehensive exam centers on answering every part of the question. From these words and phrases, you can create an outline to make certain that you address each piece of the question. Start searching for scholarly articles and other sources to cite in support of your answers. If you have not done this already, set preferences in Microsoft Word to check your spelling, grammar, style, and readability statistics as well as to do automatic saves of your work. Choosing to answer the hardest question first is one approach that students found helpful in staying motivated by knowing that they can get through the remaining questions. ALWAYS backup your work on a separate USB drive, in cloud storage, or email a copy to yourself.

    4. Manage Your Time

    There are typically set time limits associated with the completion of your comprehensive exam. Periods can range from one to six weeks. No matter how much time you have, the following points represent tips for creating a good time management schedule:

    • Estimate a specific time frame for each question ~ For example: one question per week
    • Clear your schedule for the scheduled writing times  ~ This includes no phone calls or personal interruptions except for emergencies
    •  Leave time at the end for editing and rewrites
    •  Use all allotted time provided by the school ~ Most schools will not review until the due date
    •  No clock watching ~ Set alarms for when you want to take a break
    • Be flexible with your writing times ~ Try not to let unexpected disruptions throw you off-track. Adhere to Murphy's Law and plan accordingly.

    5. Proofread and Edit

    Proofreading and editing your work are important components of the exam process. Besides finding common errors in grammar, punctuation, and spelling you may also find misused words, improper citations, American Psychological Association (APA) formatting mistakes, and redundancy in your writing. Scholars highly recommend the APA Publication Manual as a resource to follow. Proofreading and editing will not only reveal flaws but also help you improve your overall writing for your future publications. To avoid ethical issues, check with your school about having an outside source proofread or edit your exam. Many schools do not allow assistance or review of the exam from outside sources. Therefore, you will most likely be on your own when it comes to reviewing your work. Another recommended resource for APA formatting and style is the Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL).

    6. Take Care of You

    Finally yet importantly, do not forget about YOU. While passing the exam is a significant milestone in your Ph.D. journey, avoid losing yourself in the process.  Remember to take breaks on a regular basis, stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, and celebrate your accomplishments as you answer each question and while waiting for feedback about your exam. If asked to do re-writes, know this is part of the process and do not stress about it. You are not the first nor will you be the last to have to do re-writes. Look at the re-write as an opportunity to polish your writing prior to entering into your dissertation phase. Ask family members to pitch-in and pickup additional responsibilities at home. You can also join the PhD Sisters Group on Facebook at any point in your doctoral journey for support and encouragement from our sisterhood. For those who are spiritual and find solace in prayer, by all means, pray.  



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