Date of Award

Summer 8-1-2019

Degree Type


Degree Name

EdD Education Leadership, Management and Policy


Education Leadership, Management and Policy


Martin Finkelstein, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Robert Kelchen, Ph.D.

Committee Member

John Melendez, Ph.D.


Higher Education, Higher Education Administration, Epistemology


In response to the overwhelming presence of professional practice doctoral degrees in the early 2000s, universities offering Doctor of Education (EdD) and/or Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degrees in higher education studies began to question the purpose and value of each degree. These universities asked: What is the value of academic research if it does not aim to improve the condition of what is being studied? This led to a theory-practice debate among departments offering the EdD and the PhD from the perspective of the goal of the dissertation research: Truth or improvement. To address this tension, the Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate (CPED) was formed in 2007 with 22 founding members increasing to 100 by 2017 to examine the EdD critically. To assess dissertation development over the 10-year period of CPED’s existence, through content analysis, this study examined 761 EdD and PhD dissertation abstracts in higher education studies from 2007 and 2017. The goals were to understand how the theory-practice tension is reflected in higher education dissertations and to assess the degree of differentiation between EdD and PhD dissertations. Boyer’s (1990) expanded definitions of scholarship served as the theoretical framework, and the coding form designed by Melendez (2002) captured a range of dissertation characteristics for analysis. Results indicated more applied research characteristics focusing on improvement for the EdD from 2007 to 2017. In contrast, PhD dissertations in higher education studies exhibited more applied scholarship in 2007, but they had reverted to more traditional discovery- or truth-oriented research goals in 2017. These findings suggest greater differentiation between the EdD as application- and the PhD as theory-based over the 10-year period since the establishment of CPED.