Special Guest Blog: An Excerpt From Recipes for Success -->

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Special Guest Blog: An Excerpt From Recipes for Success

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By Dr. Marilyn K. Simon, with an introduction by Dr. Jim Goes

Faculty member Dr. Marilyn K. Simon outlines a step-by-step plan to help you successfully write your doctoral program dissertation or a full-length book in the third edition of Recipes for Success.

“The research-based dissertation is the hallmark of most doctoral programs and sets doctoral-level study apart from other levels of learning,” explains Walden faculty member Dr. Jim Goes in the introduction to the third edition of Dr. Marilyn Simon’s Recipes for Success (2011). “Dissertation writing is a profound act of original scholarship, involving deep original thought, critical thinking, and creation of new knowledge. Dr. Simon has crafted a process by which anyone can build the pieces of a successful dissertation.”

Recipes for Success is presented in three parts: preparing the menu for your feast; gathering the utensils to collect and analyze data to help you solve the problem you pose; and finally, learning how to put your meal together to ensure a delicious high-quality study to serve at your feast. Here, we’ve excerpted a taste of the book, which teaches you how to knead the critical ingredients together:

The purpose of an introduction is to capture the attention of the reader or set the stage for the courses to follow. It will acquaint the reader with the problem you are studying, the approach that you have chosen to study the problem, and your style of writing. It is the place where you begin to dish out your ideas and whet the appetite of your readers. An introduction gives the reader a peek at your study. It usually:

1. Puts your study in some perspective.
2. Establishes the need for your study.
3. Alerts the reader to what will follow.
4. Catches the attention and interest of the reader.

A literature review is an integrated critical essay that analyzes and synthesizes the most relevant and current published knowledge on the topic under investigation. The review is organized around major ideas and themes. You need to review critically other studies that have tried to answer the questions that you are asking and solve problems similar to the one you framed. You need to summarize these studies, compare them, contrast them, organize them, comment on their validity, and stir similar ones together.

A substantive, thorough, and scholarly literature review is a prerequisite for doing substantive, thorough, and scholarly research. To be useful, scholarly research must be cumulative; it must build on and learn from prior research on the same or related problem under investigation. It must also clarify and resolve inconsistencies and tensions in the literature and thereby make a genuine contribution to the state of knowledge in the field (Boote & Beile, 2005).

You are ready to put together many of the ingredients that you have carefully amassed and create a splendid main course. In chapter three, you will spoon-feed your guests as you elaborate, in great detail, the research design that you selected and how it applies to your study.

Chapter three is where you elaborate on why the paradigm and method you chose are appropriate to solve the problem you posed. If a qualitative design was chosen, an argument about how a quantitative method would not solve the problem should be included, with sources. Make certain to use a germinal book on the method to help justify your selection. Also let your work marinate so all parts come together and tenderize as needed to make your feast palatable to your guests.

Here is where you provide the punch line, or tell the reader what you discovered from your study. Chapter four presents, in sufficient detail, the research findings and data analyses and describes the systematic and careful application of the research methods.

There is no single way to analyze the data; therefore, the organization of this chapter and analysis procedures will relate to the research design and research methods you selected. However, there are general guidelines to follow and components to include. The presentation and analysis chapter of your dissertation usually contains many of the garnishes listed below and provides an affriander (addition to a dish to give it a more appetizing appearance).

Kudos, cheers, and compliments to the chef. It is now time to relax and savor the final moments of your eloquent banquet. Here is the time where you can editorialize about you study and advise future cooks on how to create similar feasts.

Chapter five discusses the findings and expounds on their importance, meaning, and significance. Confirming and contradicting data are thoroughly discussed. Here is your chance to unravel the power and importance of your research.


Dr. Marilyn K. Simon has been actively involved in mathematics and computer education since 1969. She has been part of the Walden community, first as a student and then as a faculty member, for 22 years. She has published numerous books on mathematics education, scholarly research, high stakes test-preparation, and online learning. She is also the president of MathPower, co-founder of Best-Prep, educational consulting firm, and president of the board of directors of Responsibility, a non-profit charity that builds schools for families that live at the Tijuana municipal dump. Dr. Simon joins forces with her esteemed Walden colleague Dr. Jim Goes to provide an open source web page to assist doctoral students and doctoral mentors. The two helped establish many of the social change initiatives that Walden has enacted.

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