“The student retention committee should formulate a plan to increase retention.” A review of as much as I could take of Jill Biden’s Ed.D paper.

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Wikimedia commons.

I was interested in the media frenzy about this document (I’m loathe to call it a dissertation) and so I looked it up. There are two litmuses that I use when first considering a thesis, exegesis, or dissertation: I look for a clear research question and I check methodology. What I found was a grab bag of sentences and assumptions generally unframed by a clear research question, arising from no gap in knowledge I could identify, lacking a clear methodology, and with a poor conclusion that to me seemed like a compilation of some of what those studying retention have known for years.

Here are my observations about the section titled Methodology, and these aren’t all of my comments but I got cranky by the time I’d written these up an I couldn’t bear any more reading of this thing.

  • “Methodology” is confused with “method.” The author called surveys methodologies. This is a rookie mistake. A survey is a method. Group discussion, also listed, is a method. It is unclear what sort of group discussion was used or how the data from any method it was collected and coded.
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Creative Commons
  • “Approximately 85 percent of the student body felt that a student center might encourage friendships among students.” How much more vague can this get?
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Creative Commons
  • It appears the discussion is mixed up with the methodology section, which in turn leads to hardly a conclusion before recommendations are offered.

By this time I’d had enough. I found no evidence of coding data but instead found instances of assumptions based on survey results without cited research backing up the assumptions. The paper’s research question attempts to be: “The paper focuses on four areas of students’ needs: academic, psychological, social, and physical.” There isn’t a clearer one that I found, and it shows. This dissertation is in my view a mess, with many, many problems and frankly, I’m surprised it was accepted. But I knew that going into the writing of this because I’d skimmed the dissertation. I wrote this while attending a meeting because the problems were simply so obvious. My final grade: Yikes!

Novelist, poet, a post-studio visual artist, and the founder of The Invisible Art Collective International. Recent novels include “Sundre” and “Garbage Head.”

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