A mixed research investigation of factors related to time to the doctorate in education

Hesborn O. Wao, Anthony J. Onwuegbuzie

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72 Citations (Scopus)


Students, educators, employers, and other stakeholders are concerned by the continued lengthening of time to attainment of the doctorate (TTD). A sequential quantitative-qualitative mixed research design was utilized in this study to understand what factors influence TTD. In the quantitative phase, discrete-time event history modeling was employed to analyze secondary data on 1,028 Education graduates between 1990 and 2006. The qualitative phase included interviews with students and graduates and focus groups with faculty members. Findings from both phases suggest that factors related to TTD are intertwined and involve a complex interplay of institutional and personal factors. TTD, according to the proposed integrated conceptual scheme of TTD, is influenced by the level of integration in five domains: academic, social, economic, personal, and external factors. Of these domains, academic integration seems to have the greatest connection with TTD, whereby, in the quantitative phase, student-related factors (e.g., master's grade point average [GPA]) and institution-related factors (viz., proportion of female students, the mean graduate record examination [GRE] quantitative score, the size of the department housing the program and, in the qualitative phase, institution-related factors (e.g., how the program is structured, levels of academic preparation, and whether a student is enrolled full-time vs. part-time) were associated with TTD. This is followed by social integration factors, particularly the nature of advising and of dissertation topic chosen by students (qualitative phase). The impact of economic factors including work and financial support is moderate, whereas personal attributes such as the level of motivation and external factors such as family obligations also have some association with TTD (qualitative phase). Limitations and implications are addressed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)115-134
Number of pages20
JournalInternational Journal of Doctoral Studies
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Doctoral persistence
  • Event history modeling
  • Focus groups
  • Frequency/intensity effect size
  • Hierarchical linear modeling
  • Time-to-degree

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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