Appendix 1: Dissertation Types Compared

Revised June 2022 

Please note that the Alternative Dissertation Format is still undergoing a review process and the information here is subject to change.

The Department of Learning Design and Technology (LTEC), following other leading departments in our field, now accepts PhD dissertations in an alternative format, commonly referred to as the “three-paper” or “manuscript-style” dissertation. LTEC also has now approved dissertations that use design-based research (DBR) as well. 

Students may choose either of these alternative options or complete a more traditional dissertation. The doctoral candidate decides, in agreement with his/her dissertation chair and committee, on the type of dissertation to be completed. Students may switch among formats at any time with final approval from the dissertation committee. As with any doctoral dissertation, the dissertation chair and committee exercise their judgment in applying these guidelines to individual student projects. 

Published works are critical for those students seeking positions as tenure-track faculty, postdoctoral fellows, or researchers. Published works are also more visible than traditional dissertations to others in the field. While many students eventually publish the research done for a traditional dissertation, the manuscript based dissertation jumpstarts that process. DBR dissertations are focused on developing a product or process that may be used in the field.

Success in the alternative format commonly will require students who are interested to begin planning for the dissertation earlier in the program than for those pursuing a traditional dissertation. This document provides basic guidelines. However, students should consult with faculty, cohort advisors, and PhD program coordinators as they develop their plans. Optimally, the student will have selected a dissertation chair early enough in the program to ensure that the plan to pursue the alternative dissertation format meets with his or her approval. 

The guidelines have been developed in consultation with the UHM Graduate Division and meet all the UHM dissertation requirements.

Dissertation Types Compared

In contrast to the traditional, five chapter dissertation with details on an inquiry project in depth, the three-article dissertation is premised on developing publishable works. The three-article dissertation and the DBR dissertation typically include the chapters noted below:

Option 1: Traditional Option 2: DBR Option 3: 3-paper
Chapter 1: Introduction Chapter 1: Introduction Chapter 1: Introduction and brief description of 3-papers proposed and proposed methodology for each
Chapter 2: Literature Review

(for comprehensive exam)

Chapter 2: Literature Review

(for comprehensive exam)

Chapter 2: Literature Review

(for comprehensive exam)

Chapter 3: Methodology Chapter 3: Description of Product/Process Initial Development Chapter 3: Manuscript #1
Chapter 4: Findings* Chapter 4:  Methodology, including iterations Chapter 4: Manuscript #2
Chapter 5: Conclusion Chapter 5: Findings from 3 iterations Chapter 5: Manuscript #3
Appendices Chapter 6: Conclusion Chapter 6:  Conclusion
References Appendices Appendices
References References

*Traditional dissertations may have more than one findings chapter. This is particularly true of mixed methods research where one chapter may be dedicated to the quantitative results and another chapter to the qualitative results.