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Sample Chapter 4 Qualitative Dissertation Defense

The Purpose of Chapter 4
Topic 1: Chapter 4

What is the purpose of Chapter 4 or the Findings or Results Chapter?

This chapter should provide the product of your analytic process. Think of it as a “stand alone” chapter that you could hand to a friend and just by reading it, they would know exactly what you discovered through your study. The chapter should reveal the “answers” to your research questions and reflect the design you put forward in Chapter 2. It should also align to the purpose of the study you offered in Chapter 1 as well as demonstrate why the study was important to conduct in the first place. Your findings or results should connect to your literature review and especially your conceptual framework. In some quantitative dissertations the results section presents only the products of statistical analyses that have been conducted. In other quantitative dissertation, the results section also provides a discussion that connects the results to the relevant literature and conceptual framework. 

The chapter represents the best thinking of the student and the advising committee about how to answer the research questions being posed. So you can see that an incomplete understanding of the role of Chapter 3 can lead to a methodology full of gaps, creating the potential for the study to go off track, and not answer the research questions. 

Chapter 4 Considerations
Topic 1: Chapter 4

  • How do you organize your chapter?
    • Your chapter needs to be organized in a way that answers your research questions. The information must be organized in a way that is logical and easy to follow for your reader.
      • You may describe your sample here if this is something that emerged from your data collection and analysis or if you believe it helps provide context for your findings. You may also describe your sample in chapter 3 if it is not a part of your findings and it becomes a distraction from your actual findings.
      • You may organize your chapter in terms of themes or categories or cases or research questions.
  • Use of pseudonyms
    • When presenting qualitative data, all names are masked to provide confidentiality. You made this commitment to your participants during the consent process and in your IRB application.
  • Use of tables, charts, figures
    • You may use tables, charts, or figures in both qualitative and quantitative capstones.
    • Never present a table, chart, or figure that you are not planning on explaining.
      • Tables, charts, and figures should be able to be interpreted without supporting text BUT
      • It is your responsibility to tell your reader what you think is the most important information in the table, chart, or figure.
  • When do you use a table, chart, or figure?
    • In qualitative research, when providing quantitative data that compares different cases or different populations, or different members of a given population. When you have information that is hard to grasp only in text and the reader will have greater insight by seeing it displayed in more than one format.
    • In quantitative research, when presenting important results.
    • Consult APA to ensure that you use the appropriate format for tables, charts, and figures.
You will want to consider what information goes in an appendix as opposed to in the body of the chapter. For example, if you have extra tables representing results that you think are worth sharing with your reader but are not the main substance of your dissertation, you should consider creating an appendix. Similarly, if you have other relevant but not essential information, you should consider adding an appendix. And finally, you may decide to locate the instruments you used for data collection in an appendix.

You may be wondering about any of the following things as you are writing your Chapter 4. Some students worry about the following things:

  • What if I don’t have any significant findings?
    • In qualitative research there is never a risk of finishing without something worth reporting. Qualitative research is about understanding an experience and gaining insight. It is always the case that the data will provide insight into an experience.
  • What if I find something for which I do not have a research question?
    • If the finding is substantial enough to warrant reporting, you develop a research question that aligns to the finding.
  • Under what circumstances do I revise my research questions?
    • Qualitative research questions can and often should be revised up until the dissertation is completed. The research questions match the findings, not the other way around.