School of Education
Ed.D. in CTHE EPP Guidelines
The doctoral thesis in the Educational Leadership program consists of the “Executive Position Paper” (EPP). The EPP identifies a problem of significance to you and your organization, analyzes the problem thoroughly, and develops a feasible plan to solve the problem. The aim of the EPP is a detailed and well-documented plan that will help your organization improve. When the paper is complete, it is presented and defended at a meeting of your thesis committee.
What kinds of problems deserve study? We use the term “problem” to refer to several situations: the organization may be questioning the effectiveness of current policies and practices, facing external pressures to change, or deliberating the implementation of new programs, but is unsure of the best decision(s) to make. In all cases there is a need, issue, or concern central to the mission of the organization that warrants serious attention and should be resolved. The kinds of problems that deserve study must be of some consequence. Trivial or routine problems are not suitable for the papers; they do not require graduate study for their resolution.
The major tasks of the EPP include the following: defining and clarifying the problem; identifying and communicating clearly the purposes of the EPP and the questions that drive it; gathering reliable information to understand the problem in more depth and to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of different solutions; and formulating a specific set of recommendations that promise to eliminate or reduce the problem and improve the organization’s performance.
Organization of the EPP
You and your advisor will decide the specific organization of your EPP, with input from the EPP committee. Here are some general guidelines. The EPP should begin with a short “overview” section organized in the same way as the EPP proposal: a statement of the problem; the “bottom-line” organizational improvement goal; and a list and explanation of the questions, information, and analyses that will guide the project. This introductory section should also provide some background and contextual information on the organization.
The next major section of the EPP will present and analyze the information gathered. This section should have a clear and logical organization and should be based on the questions that drive the study (the questions formulated in the introductory section above, which gives an overview of the EPP). These questions guide the gathering of information needed to study the problem and improve the organization. Some of the questions will focus on understanding the problem/need better, while other questions will focus on the identification and evaluation of solution strategies. Addressing these questions will require new information – that is, information beyond what is already available in existing institutional knowledge. This information may come from organizational databases, investigations you carry out, policy documents from the workplace, interviews, and academic and professional literature.
The final section of the EPP sets forth specific recommendations – an improvement plan aimed at eliminating or reducing the problem motivating your study. The recommendations will flow from the analyses of the information previously presented. This section should propose strategies for implementation, give the case for their plausibility, discuss their costs, and outline how an evaluator in the future would gauge the effects of the actions.
Standards of Quality for Writing, Organization, and Analysis
The EPP must conform to standards of writing, reasoning, and argumentation consistent with doctoral level scholarship. These include, but are not limited to, the following: prose that is clear, concise, and free of grammatical and typographical errors; paragraphs that are coherent and express a single, main point clearly; a consistent and logical system of headings to organize the EPP; and the American Psychological Association format for referencing.
The analysis of the problem and the formulation of solutions will draw on both data and literature:
- Data. Some of the information gathered will come from administrative records, documents, and people from within the organization (or connected to the organization, such as customers, external colleagues, etc.). In all cases the information must be systematically collected, analyzed, and presented. If surveys or interviews are used, questions must be designed thoughtfully and clearly to provide useful and trustworthy information. This requires careful analysis of the kind of information needed and how it can be used as evidence.
- Literature. Other information will come from books, academic and professional journals, and reports from government or other agencies. Your EPP will analyze what others have thought and written on the issues you are investigating. Whatever literature is used, it is essential that the findings or ideas of others must be linked directly to questions and purposes of your EPP. Delving into the literature on a topic is useful to the extent that it helps answer the EPP’s key questions. It must be clear that the literature is a means to an end, not an end in itself.
Finally, the EPP must demonstrate clear thinking and in-depth analysis. The EPP is not simply a descriptive report; it is a report of an analysis – an analysis that includes formulating a clear and persuasive problem statement, reviewing and compiling evidence, and proposing a specific and feasible set of plans to solve the problem in a way that advances the organization’s mission. In writing the EPP, quality of analysis is what counts; not quantity of pages. “Quality” is reflected in such ways as appropriateness and consistency in use of terminology, clarity and specificity in definitions of concepts, the scope and precision of claims made, the logic in the construction of arguments, and credibility and validity of evidence marshaled for and against key propositions made in the paper. “Quality,” of course, is not something that can be explained in a few sentences. Your coursework is aimed at helping you understand more clearly and achieve doctoral level standards of quality in writing and analysis.