Journal of Educational Research and Practice


Online learning in higher education has become commonplace as more working adults and nontraditional aged students return to pursue advanced degrees. Graduate education, specifically, has grown in recent years (Allen & Seaman, 2014), including doctoral degrees. Pursuing a doctoral degree requires writing a culminating paper (e.g., dissertation, doctoral study, capstone study). Writing and conducting such a study requires support and mentorship from faculty of the program. Establishing a positive relationship in which the student feels supported by the mentor is crucial to encourage dialogue and motivation throughout the process. In this case study, online doctoral students’ perceptions of autonomy, competence, and relatedness were investigated, along with how these connections with their dissertation chair influenced students’ motivation to make progress. Results show that feelings of relatedness were crucial to the students’ motivation to continue in the doctoral study and dissertation process. Also, internal locus of control motivated students to complete their doctoral study and dissertation.