Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Richard Hammett


The doctoral student completion rate in the United States is approximately 57% across all disciplines. The purpose of this mixed-methods study was to investigate doctoral students' perceptions of program completion across multiple online doctoral programs at a single university. The quantitative component examined differences in 4 doctoral program completion-related factors between students in 2 capstone completion stages and 6 academic programs. The qualitative component included an analysis of student perceptions of program completion. Attribution theory was used as a framework to understand the ways that personal attributions influence the success of the participants. The Doctoral Completion and Persistence Scale (DCPS) used in this study measured success scales of individual ability to persist, inter-program relationships, program culture, and dissertation preparation. Four 2-way analysis of variances were used to test for mean differences in these scale scores between preprospectus (n = 10) and postprospectus (n = 18) students enrolled in the doctoral programs. Individual ability to persist scores were significantly higher for preprospectus students and there were no significant differences found between programs. The DCPS' qualitative open-ended prompts were also analyzed for themes in reflections. Open coding and thematic analysis revealed that faculty relationships were an important emergent theme for maintaining persistence for all students. A professional development project was developed to provide strategies to assist doctoral stakeholders in their efforts to increase student persistence. Positive social change results when students persist and complete their doctoral programs with the collective support of stakeholders.