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How to Create an Effective Thesis Statement in 5 Easy Steps

Creating a thesis statement can be a daunting task. It’s one of the most important sentences in your paper, and it needs to be done right. But don’t worry — with these five easy steps, you’ll be able to create an effective thesis statement in no time.

Step 1: Brainstorm Ideas

The first step is to brainstorm ideas for your paper. Think about what you want to say and write down any ideas that come to mind. This will help you narrow down your focus and make it easier to create your thesis statement.

Step 2: Research Your Topic

Once you have some ideas, it’s time to do some research on your topic. Look for sources that support your ideas and provide evidence for the points you want to make. This will help you refine your argument and make it more convincing.

Step 3: Formulate Your Argument

Now that you have done some research, it’s time to formulate your argument. Take the points you want to make and put them into one or two sentences that clearly state what your paper is about. This will be the basis of your thesis statement.

Step 4: Refine Your Thesis Statement

Once you have formulated your argument, it’s time to refine your thesis statement. Make sure that it is clear, concise, and specific. It should also be arguable so that readers can disagree with it if they choose.

Step 5: Test Your Thesis Statement

The last step is to test your thesis statement. Does it accurately reflect the points you want to make? Is it clear and concise? Does it make an arguable point? If not, go back and refine it until it meets all of these criteria.

Creating an effective thesis statement doesn’t have to be a daunting task. With these five easy steps, you can create a strong thesis statement in no time at all.

This text was generated using a large language model, and select text has been reviewed and moderated for purposes such as readability.


online dissertation completion programs

Online EdD Programs

Question: Are there online EdD programs with an All But Dissertation (ABD) option? Doctor of Education Completion Programs

Answer: Yes. Online All But Dissertation (ABD) Ed.D. programs, also known as Doctor of Education Completion programs, are designed to help students who are ABD status to finish their doctorate degree. A student becomes ABD status when he or she has finished all of the coursework in an Ed.D. program, but has not finished his or her dissertation. Online EdD programs with an ABD option provide an accelerated course of study that focuses primarily on dissertation research and writing skills. They also feature intensive faculty support for students on their dissertation so that they can stay on track with their dissertation completion timeline.

The dissertation remains a cornerstone of almost all Ed.D. programs, and gives students a valuable opportunity to apply the research theories, concepts, and skills they have learned to a topic of deep personal and professional interest to them. However, the dissertation is also a particularly challenging pursuit requiring a great deal of independent research and writing, often without the structure and support of a classroom environment. Students of both traditional and online Ed.D. programs who are unable to finish their dissertation after having completed their doctoral degree coursework end up with the designation of ABD, instead of formally receiving their Ed.D. This can happen when personal or professional obligations conflict with their dissertation work, or when students’ research does not progress as planned.

To help ABD students complete their dissertation and therefore earn their doctorate, Ed.D. programs with an option for ABD students (also known as Doctor of Education Completion programs) provide an accelerated, research-focused curriculum and intensive faculty support to ensure students have the structure and mentorship they need to get their dissertation back on the right track. In order to qualify for admission, students of Doctor of Education Completion Programs must have completed most or all of their doctoral coursework in their previous Ed.D. program. This means that ABD programs are often about one half to one third of the typical course credits compared to a full Ed.D. program, ranging from approximately 20 to 30 credits.

While still relatively in the minority, there are a growing number of online Ed.D. programs with an ABD option, as schools and colleges of education see the increasing need to support ABD students. A list of online All But Dissertation Ed.D. programs is provided below:

  • Gwynedd Mercy University’s All But Dissertation (ABD) Doctorate in Education : This 18-month program builds off of students’ previous coursework to help them lead schools, school districts, educational policies, and non-profit educational programming both in the U.S. and abroad. Students can specialize in one of four tracks, which are Leadership in PreK-12 Schools and School Districts, Leadership in Higher Education, Leadership in Special Education, and Teaching & Learning in Higher Education. Students receive a faculty dissertation advisor from the beginning of their enrollment, and also attend several campus residencies for additional support.
  • Edgewood College’s Online Doctoral Completion Program (Hybrid Program) : This program combines dissertation-specific coursework, curricular and extracurricular research and writing guidance, one-on-one faculty advising, and peer-to-peer support. Students can complete their coursework, which includes classes in advanced research methodologies, Institutional Review Board (IRB) proposals, and guided dissertation writing, over 18-14 months and take both in-person and online classes in a blended format.
  • Manhattanville College’s Doctorate in Education’s Dissertation Completion (ABD) Pathway : This program is a new online option with synchronous instruction (live real-time classes) that emulates the individualized faculty mentorship of their on-campus Dissertation Completion Pathway program. This program has students take a series of seminars that are specifically designed to help them with each chapter of their dissertation. For example, the first seminar students take guides them through writing their literature review, while the last seminar supports their writing of their Findings and Discussion chapters. Students also attend one campus residency in July.
  • Bay Path University’s Online Ed.D. in Higher Education Leadership & Organizational Studies’ ABD Track : This program has students take classes in visionary leadership, organizational development and change, and entrepreneurial thinking before taking focused courses in action research and numerous dissertation seminars. Action research dissertations are distinct from traditional dissertations in that they focus on a specific organizational or community learning challenge, and discuss research that can be directly applied to solving, preventing, or otherwise mitigating this issue.
  • National University’s (NU) Online Doctorate of Education’s Dissertation Completion Pathway : This program acknowledges students’ past academic work and provides individualized support and guidance as students complete their dissertation. Students must take three bridge courses before entering the EdD program as ABD status students. From there, students and their faculty mentors agree on weekly objectives and meet on a weekly basis to discuss dissertation deliverables. NU offers two specializations in its program–Educational Leadership and Instructional Design. ( Note: This Online Doctorate of Education was previously offered by Northcentral University, which merged with National University in 2022.)

Note : In addition to the non-profit colleges and universities listed above, there are three for-profit institutions that offer online Ed.D. programs with an ABD option. These include Walden University, Trident at AIU, and the American College of Education.

Admission Requirements for All But Dissertation Ed.D. Programs

As online All But Dissertation Ed.D. programs can vary in terms of their curricula and dissertation requirements, their criteria for admission can also differ. Students should reach out to the ABD program that interests them to determine whether their completed Ed.D. coursework and any previous work they have conducted on their dissertation meet the requirements for admission to this program.

On a related note, there are ABD programs that require students to have completed all of their Ed.D. coursework prior to admission. Additionally, there are programs that accept students who are not formally ABD status, but who have completed the majority of Ed.D. coursework in their previous program. Students who are admitted under these circumstances are typically required to complete additional courses as part of their Ed.D. completion program.

In general, ABD programs expect applicants to submit the following in order to be considered for admission:

  • Undergraduate and graduate transcripts, including most importantly the transcript of courses the applicant completed from his or her previous Ed.D. program. ABD programs may also have a minimum GPA requirement of 3.0 or higher.
  • Two or more letters of recommendation written by academic and/or professional references.
  • A dissertation prospectus or draft that demonstrates the applicant’s strong understanding of the issue under his or her investigation, the purpose and general methodologies of the study, and a preliminary plan for conducting research, gathering data, and analyzing data to arrive at insights.
  • A writing sample that represents the applicant’s ability to complete and potentially publish doctoral-level education research.
  • A personal statement that discusses the applicant’s leadership goals and experiences, academic and professional strengths, and objectives for the program specifically.
  • A comprehensive professional resume that illustrates a track record of professional excellence and leadership in educational or organizational settings.
  • Some ABD Ed.D. programs/Doctorate of Education Completion programs also require students to complete an interview with the coordinator of the Ed.D. program.

Online EdD Program FAQs

  • Are there any fully online EdD programs?
  • FAQ: Are there any online EdD programs in kinesiology?
  • FAQ: Are there any online EdD programs in TESOL and English Language Learning?
  • Are there any online EdD programs that can be completed in 2 years?
  • Are there any online EdD programs that do not require a dissertation?
  • Are there any online EdD programs that do not require a master’s degree for admission?
  • Are there any online EdD programs that do not require the GRE for admission?
  • Are there any online EdS to EdD degree programs?
  • Are there any schools that offer faith-based EdD programs online?
  • How long does it take to complete an online EdD program?
  • What is an embedded dissertation in EdD programs?

Online ABD (All But Dissertation) Doctoral Degree Completion Program

Are you an experienced educator who is abd (all but dissertion) in an edd or phd program   in any academic discipline, if so, you have the experience. you’ve completed the coursework in a doctoral program. but, you haven’t completed your dissertation. now, you have a path to leave your abd (all but dissertation) status behind with gwynedd mercy university., our innovative accelerated executive doctorate of education degree completion program for abds offers qualified candidates with significant educational experience the opportunity to finish developing the skills, knowledge, and attitudes necessary to earn your edd..

Did You Know?  Program Director Raymond Bandlow, PhD, received this prestigious award for innovation in higher education  from the American Association of University Administrators.

See Program Details

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Complete the form below and an admissions counselor will contact you to answer any questions and help as you assemble all the components of your admissions file.

Program Details

The gmercyu difference.

Prepare for an advanced career in teaching at the college level, school administration, research, or policy analysis. Our Online Accelerated Doctorate Completion Program for ABDs will strengthen your skills in instruction and leadership in:

  • U.S. and international schools
  • School districts
  • Colleges and universities
  • Educational policy organizations
  • Government and nonprofit organizations that support education

In 18 months, our rigorous course of studies will honor your previous experience with the global outlook, research skills, policy analysis capabilities, instructional expertise, and practical executive leadership abilities you need to lead and transform educational institutions to meet the needs of all learners.  You can continue developing your dissertation in one of four areas of interest:

  • Leadership in PreK-12 Schools and School Districts (superintendent letter of eligibility courses may be included)
  • Leadership in Higher Education
  • Leadership in Special Education (special education supervisory certification courses may be included)
  • Teaching and Learning in Higher Education

ABDs in Education may elect any of the above areas of interest. ABDs in any discipline other than education may apply for the Teaching and Learning in Higher Education program.

All of your coursework for the ABD degree completion program, except residencies, will take place online. Those in the degree completion program are only required to take one weekend residency at our Gwynedd Valley campus, just north of Philadelphia.

From the very beginning, you’ll be matched with a faculty advisor who will meet with you in regular dissertation advisement sessions. With GMercyU, there’s no reason to wait any longer — trade up from ABD to EdD and take your place among the next generation of education leaders.

What You Will Learn - Accelerated Executive Doctorate of Education ABD Completion Program

As a GMercyU ABD doctorate graduate, you will be able to:

  • Provide leadership in teaching and learning at the K-12 and college levels
  • Articulate an educational organization’s mission, goals, and guiding principles that distinguish the organization from others
  • Understand the foundational base of organizational theory and demonstrate the ability to bridge theory and practice
  • Given scenarios of conflict, choose ethical courses of action, consistent with Gospel values
  • Synthesize and analyze data to reveal relations and causality and convert raw data into actionable information
  • View problems and challenges through the lens of a scientist, seeking evidence-based conclusions
  • Practice and model steward leadership in transforming organizations to better serve all constituents
  • Demonstrate facility in the application of technology to solve problems, analyze and synthesize data, and manage information

Personal Support for ABD Students from Day One

GMercyU faculty members understand the challenges of ABD completion programs. That’s why they’ve helped us develop a program specifically for ABD students like you. Right away, you’ll join a small cohort of classmates and be matched with a faculty advisor. You’ll take supervised dissertation courses early in the program to keep your research and writing on track. Day in and day out, you’ll have the support you need to pursue research that improves education for students and the educators who serve them.

After graduation, you’ll join our extensive national and world-wide network of alumni. The colleagues, contacts, and friends you meet will inspire you.

Admission Requirements – Doctorate of Education Degree Completion Program for ABDs

To qualify for admission to our EdD in Education Degree Completion program, you must provide:

  • Proof of A.B.D. or Advanced to Doctoral Candidacy or equivalent status from a regionally accredited institution
  • A portfolio of coursework, scholarship, and career evidence for the Prior Learning Assessment
  • Official graduate transcripts
  • A Graduate Record Examination score of 155 or higher or a Miller Analogy Test score of 385 or higher (waived if you had a graduate GPA of 3.5 or greater)
  • A resume showing professional experience and academic scholarship
  • Three letters of reference from persons in leadership roles in your chosen area of concentration attesting that you have the ability to engage in studies at the doctoral level and to conduct research
  • A personal interview with a member of the graduate faculty representing the applicant’s preferred area of concentration (in person or via electronic means, if the distance is a factor) 
  • Evidence that you have received a minimum score of 550 (written), 213 (computer), or 79 (internet) on the TOEFL examination if English is not your first language.

Applicants who cannot meet one or more of the above requirements are encouraged to contact the Program Director for a review of qualifications. After enrollment, you will also need to obtain a Child Abuse Clearance, Criminal Background Check, and Federal Criminal History.

Learn more about GMercyU's online and accelerated   financial aid and tuition. 

You must complete at least 27 credit hours of coursework and practicum experience at Gwynedd Mercy University while completing your EdD with us. We will carry out a Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) before your program begins and develop tailored coursework and practicum experiences that respect your previous experiences.

The credit value of your practicum may vary between 3-6 credits depending upon the breadth and depth of your prior learning. In all, your program will take no more than 18 months to complete.   Required courses for all ABD completion students include:

In addition, you must take three courses in your concentration area:

If you wish to become eligible for a Superintendent Letter of Eligibility, the Pennsylvania Department of Education requires 360 hours of district office practicum. You may also need to take the following prerequisites:

Doctorate in Education: Leadership in Special Education

If you wish to obtain Certification as a Supervisor of Special Education, the Pennsylvania Department of Education requires 360 hours of central office practicum experience. Doctorate in Education: Leadership in Higher Education

Doctorate in Education: Teaching and Learning in Higher Education

To review course descriptions, please refer to the  graduate catalog.

Meet the Faculty

Raymond Bandlow, PhD

Carol Etlen, PhD Associate Professor and Director, Masters in Educational Administration Program Read bio

Doctorate in Education

Looking for a full doctorate in education program? Gwynedd Mercy University's innovative  Online Accelerated Executive Doctorate in Education: Leadership and Teaching and Learning  is a 54-credit program, which can be completed in less than three years. 

Lead in 21st Century Education

Learn more about how you can complete your accelerated doctorate in education with our innovative online ABD completion program. Call   844-707-9064  or send an e-mail to   [email protected]   to contact an admissions counselor. You also can  request information today!  

MSCHE accreditation

Gwynedd Mercy University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Learn more about   GMercyU's accreditation . You can also   view our current accreditation status . 

Related Degrees

Educational Leadership EdD: Teaching and Learning in Higher Education

Educational Leadership EdD

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10 Best All But Dissertation Completion Programs [2024 ABD Guide]

Students who completed their doctoral coursework and received doctoral candidacy but left the program before completing their dissertation may qualify for ABD completion programs.

Best All But Dissertation Completion Programs

All but dissertation programs provide doctoral students with the opportunity to finish what they’ve started.

Editorial Listing ShortCode:

Let’s take a look at how an accredited dissertation only PhD program may help you achieve your academic goals. You can also discover some of the current degree programs available for returning PhD students.

Online ABD Completion Programs

Woman attending an Online ABD Completion Program

If you’re interested in completing an all but dissertation (ABD) or dissertation only PhD program, there are a few steps involved.

The process is different for every school and dissertation completion pathway, but you’ll typically be asked to:

  • Submit an application . You’ll be asked to share your educational history, including doctorate coursework completed. Each school will determine if and how they will offer transfer credits for the courses you’ve taken.
  • Complete coursework . Some schools ask students to complete a few prerequisite courses, often regarding research, writing skills, or communications.
  • Seek mentorship and resources . Many schools provide students with a staff mentor who can provide them with support and guidance during the dissertation process.
  • Complete your dissertation . Finally, you’ll have the opportunity to complete your dissertation.

Generally speaking, you’re often asked to have a proposal for your dissertation at the time of admissions. So, you may want to be prepared to speak with the program and admissions staff about your upcoming dissertation during the application process.

Select jobs require candidates to have a doctoral degree, though many careers do not. At the same time, the Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that professionals who have a doctoral degree experience the lowest average levels of unemployment.

Due to many different circumstances, a surprising number of adult students do not complete their dissertation after finishing their doctoral coursework. As a result, they must often start over to earn their PhD—unless they choose an ABD completion pathway.

Why PhD Candidates Quit

students taking PhD degree

Though you may feel alone on an incomplete educational path, there are many other students who find themselves on a dissertation completion pathway.

There are many reasons why a student may find themselves in ABD status, including:

  • Finances and personal circumstances . Some students need to take a break in their studies due to practical situations. Whether due to the cost of tuition or the amount of time spent working toward a degree, life may interfere with your studies.
  • Intimidation or fear . Dissertations often range from 30,000 to 60,000 words and beyond. Many individuals find researching, organizing, and drafting a document this size to be intimidating.
  • Time management challenges . For some students, losing the structure of a school setting can mean losing sight of writing the final dissertation. Without a school and study schedule, they may fall behind in writing their dissertation.

Though a dissertation isn’t an easy challenge to take on, all but dissertation programs help students who are ready for the final step in their doctoral degree. ABD programs could provide resources, mentors, and guidance throughout the process, such as knowing how to decompose the PhD project into distinct dissertation chapters can help in the writing phase.

ABD PhD Completion Programs Admissions Requirements

Woman preparing requirements for ABD PhD Completion

Schools that offer all but dissertation programs will have their own guidelines and admissions requirements for students. So it’s beneficial to review the admissions process and application for each school carefully.

Some common requirements include:

  • GRE or GMAT scores (only some schools require them)
  • Complete undergraduate and graduate transcripts
  • Doctoral work transcripts demonstrating completion of doctoral coursework
  • Minimum GPA standing
  • Academic writing samples

You may be asked to provide course descriptions or syllabus-level course details for some of your graduate and doctoral degree work. This will help each school determine which credits apply toward their doctoral completion program.

Unlike many educational opportunities, an ABD program often involves working with admissions and program counselors to determine your placement within their program.

PhD ABD Programs Accreditation

University offering PhD ABD Programs

As you review various PhD ABD programs, it’s beneficial to check whether the programs that interest you most are accredited, just like checking online doctoral programs in education without dissertation .

Accreditation is offered to schools and programs that demonstrate a higher level of educational excellence. Organizations such as CHEA, or the Council for Higher Educational Accreditation , provide more information about the regional accreditation process.

There can be many benefits to selecting an accredited program. Many financial assistance opportunities, including federal student aid, are provided exclusively to those who attend accredited schools. Plus, required steps for employment in your field, such as licensing, certification, or membership in a professional organization may require accredited education.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

ABD Completion Programs Financial Aid

For many students, the first step toward receiving financial aid is completing the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid . Completing this application helps determine your eligibility for need-based federal assistance.

You can also research what scholarship or grant opportunities the school you will attend may offer. They might also offer financing or repayment opportunities. Other scholarship opportunities might come from your community, local businesses, large corporations, or private donors. There may be financial aid options specifically for those on a dissertation completion pathway.

Additionally, your employer may offer assistance for those who are returning to school. This could potentially include employer-sponsored scholarships, tuition reimbursement programs, or an educational allowance.

What Does ABD Mean?

PhD students taking ABD programs

All but dissertation (ABD) means that a student has completed every step in their doctoral degree program except the final dissertation. Typically, earning a doctoral degree includes 2 to 3 years of classwork followed by exams. After this, students propose, research, write, present, and defend their dissertation in front of a committee.

ABD status means you’ve done everything but the dissertation step. While there is no “ABD degree,” many schools offer all but dissertation (ABD) programs that help provide you with the structure, environment, resources, and timeframe to complete this important final step of earning a PhD.

How Long Are ABD Completion Programs Online?

Man taking ABD Completion online

All but dissertation completion programs online typically take 1 to 3 years to complete, depending on the university and your chosen specialty.

Some universities require students with ABD status to complete a few courses in order to remain eligible for their degree. These prerequisites often highlight helpful skills for dissertation writers, including research, writing, organization, and communication.

In many cases, students are asked to check in regularly with their mentors or advising staff to consider the scope of their projects and findings.

Is an ABD Completion Worth It?

 Woman pursuing ABD Completion, doing research works

Yes, an ABD completion is worth it for many students. While writing a dissertation can be seem intimidating and stressful, many doctoral candidates find that completing the process is rewarding and beneficial.

Not all careers require a PhD. But the Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that professionals who have earned their doctoral degrees typically earn higher median salaries and experience lower incidences of unemployment.

While a dissertation only PhD program can’t guarantee your professional success, it can be helpful for those wishing to gain employment in the highest levels of their field.

Universities Offering Online All But Dissertation Completion Programs

Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format.

Alverno College campus

Alverno College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

American College of Education campus

American College of Education is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Baker College campus

Baker College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Bay Path University campus

Bay Path University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

Brenau University campus

Brenau University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Centenary University campus

Centenary University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Gwynedd Mercy University campus

Gwynedd Mercy University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Indiana Wesleyan University campus

Indiana Wesleyan University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Manhattanville College campus

Manhattanville College is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Union Institute and University campus

Union Institute & University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Finishing Your Doctorate Degree Online

doctorate student taking ABD programs online

Plenty of doctoral candidates find themselves unable to complete their degree due to the final dissertation. Selecting a dissertation completion pathway can help students in this situation find the structure and guidance they need to finish this last step.

If you are ready to complete your doctorate or PhD degree, you may wish to consider all but dissertation programs to help you conquer this final challenge. Regardless of what caused the delay, you can still complete your terminal degree.

You can explore some of the accredited ABD programs offered online around the country to take this next step in your academic and professional journey.

online dissertation completion programs

Three grads cheering in cap and gown

Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership

Dissertation completion pathway.

*This program is taught online

If you’ve completed all but the dissertation ( “ ABD ” ) for your Doctorate in Educational Leadership , Manhattanville College can help you finish your degree . Our Dissertation Completion Pathway is an innovative degree pathway designed for advanced doctoral students in education leadership (or a related field) who were enrolled in a doctoral program at an accredited university and have completed coursework requirements , but have not completed the dissertation.   

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Designed with flexibility in mind, the Dissertation Completion Pathway can help you finish your doctorate in 2 to 4 years! 

The program is designed for students to complete in two years, but students can take up to four years to complete. Students who are not able to begin the program in July may work with the program coordinator to design an individualized pathway. An individualized pathway allows the student to begin coursework in August or January but does not provide the student with the cohort experience that is often an essential element of student success. Students are strongly encouraged to begin the program in July as part of a dissertation completion pathway cohort. 

  • A customized and individualized course of study, with a focus on current problems of practice, the dissertation process, and research in educational leadership 
  • Coaching toward the completion of a doctoral dissertation 
  • Supportive, cohort-based model of teaching and learning 
  • A flexible schedule and a career-friendly online class format  
  • The ability to transfer up to 39 doctoral credits from an accredited program toward the 59-credit requirement. (Transfer eligibility determined by individual transcript review.) 
  • An optimal two-year timeframe to complete the degree  

This pathway is a cohort-based, online program delivered in hybrid format: Students will receive a combination of synchronous and asynchronous teaching and learning.  A new cohort is admitted each Spring to begin coursework in early July.  

  • Most sessions will be once a week (Mondays) from 7:00 to 8:30 pm to accommodate different time zones
  • Zoom (supplemented with TEAMS/ Blackboard Collaborate) is the platform that will be used for synchronous classes
  • Students will need access to a computer that has a strong internet connection, and are advised to have a headset to reduce echo from speakers

The program is structured as follows: 

Year 1: Summer Term 1 Residency (July 8-10) EDAD 8300: Literature Review course (3 credits) * launches during residency, and extends through end of September, overlapping with fall course

Fall Term 2 EDAD 8183: Research Methods Refresher (3 credits)

Winter 2022 EDAD 8181: Coaching Completion (1-credit)

Summer Term 4 EDAD 8190: Dissertation Supervision

Fall 2022/Term 5 EDAD 8190: Dissertation Supervision

Winter EDAD 8181: APA 101 (1-credit) - optional

Spring Term 6 EDAD 8190: Dissertation Supervision and/or EDAD 8152: Finish Strong Writing Seminar (2 credits)

Final Defense

May Graduation

You must have advanced to candidacy or reached all-but-dissertation (ABD) status in order to be accepted into the Dissertation Completion Pathway. Exceptions may be made as determined by the Admissions Committee. 

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Doctoral completion programs: how to finish your doctorate degree.

Doctoral programs are extremely rigorous. Unlike master’s degree programs, doctorate programs are heavily self-driven and require the highest level of scholarly research and writing. For some students who are balancing work and life priorities with a doctoral degree, this can seem overwhelming.

If you started a doctoral program but didn’t finish, you aren’t alone. Nearly 50% of people who start doctorate degrees never complete their program. 

There are many reasons doctorate students stop their studies. Maybe you took time off for personal, financial or professional reasons. Maybe the doctorate program you attended previously wasn’t the right fit. Whatever the reason you decided to pause your doctoral studies, you may still be able to complete the terminal degree you started.

Doctoral completion programs are specifically designed for students who have some doctoral credit, but didn’t meet the requirements to graduate. Let’s dive into what these programs offer to see if a doctoral completion program is right for you.

What is a Doctoral Completion Program?

A doctoral completion program is not a specific doctorate program in and of itself. In reality, doctoral completion programs are another name for transfer-friendly doctoral programs that offer dedicated support for transfer students.

Doctoral completion programs are designed to meet the needs of students who are restarting their doctoral studies in an effort to accelerate their completion of their degree. These programs are unique because many universities will not accept transfer credit at the doctoral level. 

Let’s look at two of the common pathways you can take when completing your doctoral program. 

Doctoral Completion Programs: Choosing The Right Pathway

There are two stages of doctoral study—the required coursework and the dissertation. If you’re looking to complete your doctorate degree, you need to consider which requirements you still need to meet. 

If you still need to complete coursework and pass your comprehensive exam: Look for a university that accepts significant transfer credit and can help you complete your remaining coursework. Make sure you understand:

  • How many credits will transfer: Most doctorate programs require around 58 credit hours total to graduate. Some transfer-friendly universities, like Franklin University, will accept up to 24 credits, which is about 40% of the total required.
  • Will your credits qualify to be transferred: Doctoral programs typically require credits to be applied directly to the degree, meaning the previous course has to be substantially similar to the required course at the new university. If your previous studies don’t align, you may need to retake coursework. You may also need to meet specific passing grade requirements or time requirements (often credits more than 7-10 years old won’t transfer).

If you’ve reached ABD (all but dissertation) status: Consider a dissertation completion pathway. Some universities will allow you to restart your doctorate degree at the dissertation stage. However, before committing, make sure you understand:

  • You may still need to take coursework: Many advertised ABD programs will still require you to take prerequisites, focus area courses or research and writing foundations courses to complete your dissertation at their university.
  • Admission requirements may be extensive: Universities that offer dissertation-only completion pathways usually require more than just graduate transcripts. Expect to submit additional documentation, including previous doctoral candidacy, portfolio or work samples, resume, letters of reference or other support materials.
  • You need to feel confident about your dissertation topic: Since you will start directly at the dissertation stage, you will need to declare a topic. Some of these programs will require a learning agreement contract to establish milestones for completing your dissertation.

Accelerate your completion time and lower your total tuition cost at every academic level. Download this free guide for tips on maximizing your transfer credit.

How doctoral completion programs work.

Applying to a doctoral program to complete your degree is often very similar to regular doctoral admissions. Here are the steps you will need to take: 

  • Research transfer-friendly universities that accept doctorate transfer credit. Based on your previous educational experience, find the best-fit university that will also accept the most transfer credit.
  • Apply to the university’s doctoral program. Submit an application and all support materials. Most applications can be submitted online and may or may not require an application fee. 
  • Submit official graduate transcripts for the university. You will need to submit official transcripts for all graduate level coursework. It can also be helpful to submit information on the courses you’ve previously taken, including syllabi or course descriptions. These materials can help a university determine whether courses are similar enough to reward transfer credit.
  • Receive transfer credit evaluation. You will receive a determination that shows how many credits you received, what courses they apply to and how many credits still need to be completed.
  • Get started! Meet with your academic and/or faculty advisors to determine your schedule and complete your doctorate. 

5 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Doctoral Completion Program

If you chose to stop your doctorate studies, there was likely a compelling reason. For some, the original doctorate program they chose wasn't a good fit for their needs as a student. You want to make sure that if you return to doctoral studies, the program you choose will set you up for success.

Make sure you ask these questions before choosing a doctoral completion program:

  • How many credits will transfer into the doctoral completion program? You want to ensure as many credits as possible transfer into a new doctoral program, especially if you’re at the ABD stage.
  • How will this program support you in completing your doctorate? Look for programs that offer dedicated faculty advisors, active student associations and extensive online library systems. All of these resources will help you complete your doctorate.
  • Do you feel confident about the dissertation process? Many people fear the dissertation process. It’s why ABD has become a de facto designation for those who stop their doctoral studies before they complete their dissertation. Make sure you understand how dissertation committees work, how to establish milestones and how to defend a dissertation. Knowing all of this in advance can help you formulate a clear plan to finish your dissertation and earn your degree.
  • Will this doctorate program work with your schedule? Some doctoral completion programs have a required in-person component. Others are conducted entirely online. The structure and flexibility of the program you choose will ultimately determine if you can successfully complete it or not.
  • Are you excited and motivated to complete your doctorate degree? Personal drive and determination are two of the top factors in the successful completion of a doctorate degree. If you put your mind to it, you can achieve what you set out to do.

Finish What You Started: Complete Your Doctorate Degree

In the United States, only 2% of the population holds a doctoral degree. Franklin University is here to help you achieve this lifetime accomplishment. 

Our transfer-friendly, online doctoral programs are designed to support students from all backgrounds to complete their doctorate. From start to finish, a doctorate can be completed in as few as three years. If you maximize your transfer credit , it can be completed even quicker. Our no-fear dissertation process, faculty mentorship and peer support will help you stay on track to graduation.

Explore all of our doctoral programs to see if we offer a doctorate that aligns with your goals.

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Those who have already invested time, money, and efforts into pursuing doctoral studies, but haven’t quite finished, now have an accelerated path to degree completion at Marywood University, even if they did their coursework at another institution.

Marywood University Offers Accelerated Path to Doctoral Degree Completion

Those who have already invested time, money, and efforts into pursuing doctoral studies, but haven’t quite finished (also known as “All But Dissertation” or ABD), now have an accelerated path to degree completion at Marywood University, even if they did their coursework at another institution. Set to begin in the fall 2023 semester, the ABD degree completion program is currently accepting applicants.

Marywood University’s Ph.D. Program in Strategic Leadership and Administrative Studies offers those individuals in the ABD category the opportunity to finish their doctoral studies without retaking or repeating the courses already taken. The ABD pathway is specifically designed for professionals who are seeking to complete their doctoral studies and earn their Ph.D. without taking time off from their careers. The fully online program features 18 online credits; 9 credits of coursework and 9 online dissertation credits. 

“Regardless of when or where their doctoral coursework was initially taken, students can pursue the final step of the process at Marywood and earn their well-deserved doctoral degree from an accredited, reputable university,” said Alexander Dawoody, Ph.D., program director of Marywood’s doctoral program in strategic leadership and administrative studies. “In as little as two years of study in our program, they can add a Ph.D. degree to their list of professional accomplishments.”

For more information about Marywood University’s online doctoral program in strategic leadership and administrative studies, including the ABD completion program, visit the Ph.D. Program in Strategic Leadership and Administrative Studies or contact Marywood University Admissions by email at [email protected] or by phone at 570-348-6234.

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  • All But Dissertation (EdD – ABD)


Did you get to your dissertation and then have to put your Ph.D. on hold? Union Institute & University’s ABD or “All But Dissertation” program is perfect for you. This new program provides an opportunity for students who have completed all requirements for a Ph.D. at another institution, except their doctoral dissertation. Union Institute & University welcomes all applicants who have achieved this stature in their graduate education and whose work aligns with one of our areas of concentration. Now is the perfect time to finish earning your doctorate.

Total credits

Cost per credit hour

Next Start Date


A number of factors may have inhibited your program completion - quite apart from intellectual potential. There are only a few programs in the country designed to streamline completion of the Ph.D. program for those who have made it to the dissertation stage.

  • 9-12 credit hour program
  • Full & part-time options
  • *Hybrid program
  • January & July start dates
  • Complete your degree in as little as 3 years

*100% online classes with a one-week residency in Cincinnati at the start of each term.

The successful ABD student will take two advanced courses in their area of concentration - the dissertation literature review and the dissertation proposal. Both are offered in sequential semesters after which students undertake the dissertation, thus enabling completion in as little as two years.

PhD concentrations

Union's Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Studies focuses on four different concentrations described below.

About the Concentration in Educational Studies

Union’s Educational Studies (EDST) concentration is designed to prepare individuals to address the leading education issues through an integrative, holistic, and critical lens. Union’s strength is demonstrated by close collaboration with diverse disciplines engaged in today’s complex problems. The program stands in support of emergent activist scholars by reflecting voices of the global majority (including, but not limited to Black, Brown, Indigenous, Women, Gender fluid, LGBTQIA+, and neurocognitive diversity).

About the Concentration in Ethical & Creative Leadership

Union’s Ethical & Creative Leadership (ECL) concentration is unique in addressing all forms of leadership, stressing values and their application, cultivating one’s creative power and imagination, and connecting leadership philosophies to practical leadership experiences. ECL offers leaders an intellectual grasp of the makings of effective leadership in a diverse multicultural world, equips them with practical strategies and tools for various leadership roles and prepares them to tackle social justice challenges in their institutions and communities.

About the Concentration in Humanities & Culture

Union’s concentration in Humanities & Culture (HMC) allows you to study the human condition, explore creative ways to advance social justice and acknowledge differences among individuals and social groups. HMC draws on a variety of humanities fields – social and political philosophy, history, religious studies, literature, and aesthetics – that relate to social justice and cultural differences.

About the Concentration in Public Policy & Social Change

Union’s Public Policy & Social Change (PPS) concentration prepares students to critically re-examine the principles and values that undergird the public policy process. PPS challenges students to critically interrogate governmental policies through the lens of ethical leadership, creative problem-solving, social justice, diversity, and global interdependence. Students develop multifaceted expertise through courses such as policy processes, policy analysis, conflict resolution, community development, democratic theory, human rights, and global studies.


Applicants must provide:

  • All graduate transcripts from accredited institutions, showing award of the master’s degree and subsequent training.
  • Documentation of doctoral program completion except for the dissertation by the Registrar or a faculty member affiliated with the prior program.
  • Two letters of recommendation, including one reference from someone who holds a Ph.D. (Starting with our January 2022 term, we will require three letters of recommendation).
  • A Statement of Purpose which describes the intended dissertation topic, identifies the preferred concentration (HMS, PPS, ECL, or EDST), outlines the circumstances which led to the interruption in doctoral training, and discusses the applicant’s currency in research topics related to the planned dissertation.
  • Formal course descriptions for all prior training that supports the selected concentration must also be submitted. If the prior program requires a Comprehensive Exam for doctoral students, that step must have been successfully completed prior to making an application to the Union doctoral program.

Applicants should consult the catalog for the area of concentration requirements. Students whose primary doctoral training is in the biological or physical sciences cannot be considered. Students with credits earned outside the U.S. should have their course work reviewed by AICE or NACES.

Admissions Review Process

The application is reviewed by the Admissions Committee. If materials are deemed appropriate for the next step, the applicant will be interviewed by a member of the Admissions Committee or their designee. If admission is recommended, the course history will be reviewed in light of particular concentration requirements. The admission letter will stipulate which of Union's courses must be completed. Admission may be provisional (to be reassessed after one year), or without condition. Initial review will occur within 48 hours of receipt. 


Ordinarily, the successful “ABD” applicant will take 850 and 860 courses in their area of concentration in sequential semesters, then undertake the dissertation, thus enabling completion in four semesters. If core learning areas are deemed insufficient in the particular concentration, additional courses may be required. The applicant who has completed a recent dissertation proposal may petition the Dean to waive the 850-course requirement and begin with 860. Students must attend at least one residency, nominate a dissertation Chair who agrees to serve in that role, form a dissertation committee, pass the proposal defense, conduct the dissertation, and pass the dissertation defense. Academic progress is a condition of subsequent term registration.

Dissertation Information and Examples

The program supports a variety of formats for doctoral dissertations, including theoretical, historical, and interpretive research, social action research projects, empirical research using qualitative, quantitative or mixed methods, and creative dissertations. Below are some examples from each concentration

Education Justice & Equity:

  • Hopson, J. (2021).  Texas A&M university system website analysis: Disability and diversity 
  • Madry, T. S. (2020). Mentoring: A Leadership Tool for Black Greek Fraternities.
  • Maples, G.L. (2019). Surviving the Invisible Wounds of War: As Told by the Unseen Heroes.
  • Bolton, D. (2018).  Motivating African American Male Readers Through Mentorship.

Ethical & Creative Leadership:

  • Crudup, Larry Terrell (2021). Walk Together Children: Black Congregational Leadership-as-Social Ethic .
  • Worthen, Merritt (2020). Showing Faith through Work(s): Examining how Christian-Based Businesses are Practicing Faith in a Materialistic Society .
  • Bradbury, Douglas S. (2019) . Quantum Reconciliation: A Framework for Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Inescapable Mutuality . ”
  • Washington, Michael A. (2019) . Prince Hall Masonic Order Leader and Leadership Development .

Humanities & Culture:

  • François, Emery (2021). The Beauty and the Strife: A Memoir of Haiti and Her Legacy in the United States .
  • White, Tamara (2020). Visually Representing Diabetes Management for Incarcerated Women in California: A Creative Dissertation .
  • Reinstatler, Michelle L. (2019). Becoming Legend: Constructing Paranormal Experience and Cultural Performance in Ghost-Hunting Reality TV shows and Recreational Ghost Hunting .
  • Johnson, Jr., James L.  (2018). Sympathy for the Devil: Thawing the Ego and Fostering Empathy through a Theory of Lacanian Reader-response.

Public Policy & Social Change:

  • Lewis, Jacinda (2020).   Exploring sex offenders’ experiences through the lens of social justice .
  • Nauta, Carmen (2019). Understanding the challenges to lactation initiation and duration among low-income WIC participants in the South Bronx: A phenomenological study
  • Rojas, Gina Augon (2018). Navigating Contested Terrain: A Critical Case Study of Guam’s Chamorro Land Trust Residential Land Lease Program.


All resources available to students who begin the Ph.D. program at Union will be available to “ABD” students unless the length of enrollment at the university is a criterion for a particular scholarship.

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Graduate Theological Foundation

All But Dissertation (A.B.D.) – Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) Degree Completion Program


The GTF has developed an accelerated completion program designed specifically for those individuals who have reached the All But Dissertation (A.B.D.) level at a graduate school of an accredited seminary or university. All But Dissertation (A.B.D.) indicates incompletion. According to statistical reports of the various state and government agencies monitoring higher education in the United States, there is an inordinately high percentage of individuals who fail to complete their Ph.D. work after having successfully sustained the doctoral qualifying examinations, completed language requirements, and fulfilled residency coursework. The phenomenon is particularly and disturbingly high in the cognate fields of theology and religious studies.  The A.B.D. Doctor of Philosophy degree completion program of the GTF is an attempt to address this issue. 

Admission Requirements

  • Appropriate undergraduate and graduate degrees which allow for the pursuit of doctoral work.
  • Completion of all residency requirements for the Ph.D. at a graduate school of religious studies, seminary, or university.
  • Fulfillment of language requirements, if applicable, in compliance with the degree being pursued.
  • Passing of any and all Ph.D. qualifying examinations in preparation for the writing of the thesis.
  • Demonstration of good standing at previous All But Dissertation (A.B.D.) institution.
  • Completion of Application Process . To be included in the application packet is a 3-5 page academic writing sample.

Program Requirements

  • Completion of the Research Methodology non-credit course
  • Nomination and approval of a Thesis Supervisor.
  • Submission and approval of thesis proposal. 
  • Submission of one electronic copy of the thesis and required forms (abstract, personal biography, cover sheet, Thesis Supervisor Report Form).
  • Successful defense of the doctoral thesis.

When degrees first began to be awarded by universities in the twelfth century in Bologna, Paris, and Oxford, the doctor’s degree was recognized as a universal authentication of scholarship. The doctorate was not earned by attending classes but by sustained residency and demonstrated scholarship. The credential was awarded by the faculty of the university on the basis of a thesis which was submitted by the candidate and followed by an oral defense of the document before the gathered academic community.

Times have changed but much of the doctoral process has endured. The Graduate Theological Foundation requires a demonstration of academic research considered by the faculty to be an original work of scholarship and a contribution to the field. After the doctoral candidate has completed residency and language requirements (if required), the development of the thesis is initiated under the direct supervision of the Thesis Supervisor.

The Thesis Supervisor, in this style of learning, is specifically mandated to work closely with the candidate in the development of the thesis topic and through its evolving refinements leading to the finished product. The Thesis Supervisor is nominated by the candidate and approved Academic Affairs Committee, on the basis of academic qualifications at the doctoral level of training and experience.

Selection of Faculty Thesis Supervisor and Nomination Procedure

Students select a faculty member of the GTF to serve as Thesis Supervisor. This enables the student to receive helpful and pragmatic evaluative feedback from a member of the faculty in the developmental process of producing the doctoral thesis. The role of the faculty Thesis Supervisor is responsive and suggestive. The faculty person is encouraged to limit feedback to pragmatically helpful hints and suggestions and not to attempt any censorship of the thesis. The exercise of discretion with respect to time demands is very important for both the student and faculty member. The faculty Thesis Supervisor must give final approval of the student’s work by submitting the Thesis Supervisor Report Form.

  • The student peruses the  Faculty Details page  and makes a selection.
  • The student completes the Faculty Thesis Supervisor Nomination Form ( Forms ).
  • Academic Affairs provides the nominated faculty member with the Faculty Thesis Supervisor Nomination Form.
  • The selected faculty member notifies Academic Affairs of acceptance of student nomination.
  • Academic Affairs informs the student and faculty member of relationship approval and contact information is provided. 
  • Thesis Supervisor
  • Two Defense Panel members
  • Defense Chair
  • Thesis Proposal
  • Thesis Cover Sheet
  • Abstract and Biographical Statement
  • Thesis Supervisor Report Form answering the six key points within the thesis (this form is mailed directly to our offices by the Thesis Supervisor)
  • One electronic copy of the thesis (PDF or MS Word format)
  • Payment of all tuition and fees 
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UBIS University of Business Innovation and Sustainability

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  • Bachelor of Business Administration
  • Master of Arts in International Relations (MA-IR)
  • Accelerated Master of Business Administration (Accelerated MBA)
  • Master of Business Administration (MBA)
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  • Executive Master of Science in Information Technology (E MS-IT)
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Doctorate of Business Administration – All But Dissertation Track

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UBIS all but dissertation DBA program online

All But Dissertation Program: Doctorate of Business Administration

Are you a doctoral candidate on the path to your dissertation but have yet to complete it? Then the Doctorate of Business Administration – All But Dissertation Track was designed exclusively for you. This highly flexible program offers All But Dissertation doctoral candidates a unique opportunity to organize their path to completion. Under this program, candidates can leverage their professional experience and prior academic knowledge. You’ll gain access to seminar-based courses specific to areas where additional support may be necessary, and the opportunity to begin the dissertation track at UBIS immediately .

Program Overview

  • Online course delivery designed with high flexibility for industry professionals.
  • Designed to be completed in 1-1.5 years.*
  • A candidate may elect to take advantage of one or more of the available seminar courses offered in support of preparing for and completing the dissertation process. **
  • Personalized coaching and guidance by doctoral faculty.
  • Flexibility to focus on your desired research topic as long as the research is connected to management.

* This represents an average. Completion times may vary based on a candidate’s elected pace, seminar participation, and movement through the dissertation progression. 

DBA All But Dissertation Pathway

All But Dissertation DBA candidate are eligible to engage the dissertation track immediately. UBIS provides best “All But Dissertation” completion programs online with a high level of flexibility and support for dissertation topics and progression.

  • Research Success Strategies  – Research Topic Scanning and Selection
  • Research Proposal  – Research Work with Support
  • Literature Review  – Research Work with Support
  • Preliminary Dissertation : Methodology – Research Work with Advisory Support
  • Revised Preliminary Dissertation:  Data Collection & Pretests – Research Work with Advisory Support
  • Data Analysis & Findings
  • Draft One of Dissertation
  • Dissertation Defense and Publication

Dissertation Seminars are optional to DBA candidates that enter the program as “All But Dissertation.” A candidate may opt-in to these seminars in order to help their progression in the dissertation track. Electing to take a seminar may increase both the time to complete the program and the cost of completing the program.

  • Seminar One  – General Research Methodology
  • Seminar Two  – Research Methodologies for Business and Management
  • Seminar Three  – Quantitative and Qualitative Research 1
  • Seminar Four  – Quantitative and Qualitative Research 2

Program Objectives

Upon completion of the program, graduates will be able to identify problems related to global businesses and to respond artfully to these challenges. in addition, graduates will be empowered with the knowledge and skills required to work as leaders in business organizations, nongovernmental organizations, and international entities., graduates of the doctorate of business administration can:, research and dissertation overview.

Every student selected for the UBIS DBA program receives rigorous individualized coaching from our doctoral faculty.

The research and thesis portion of the program consists primarily of individual research, under the supervision of internationally recognized professors with a broad range of expertise.

Virtually all topics related to management are accepted. Depending on student needs, the program can cover traditional research topics in fields such as management, finance, marketing, organizational behavior, and non-traditional topics. Each module will contribute to the research for your Dissertation.

Other doctorate programs are based on research alone. Our DBA is skills-based, and we’ll teach you how to perfect your public speaking skills to help you stand out in your professional career.

Throughout the program you’ll be guided by a professor with a deep understanding of the field you will be studying— but at the end of the day, the expert on the particular topic will be you.

Program Duration

All but dissertation - dba program overview, tuition fees.

* Total cost may increase for ABD candidates that elect to take support seminars. 

Program Structure

Degree level, our advantages, international network, close links with the corporate world, international accreditation, dual degree programs, international locations, outstanding selection of professors, online – blended, (transfer between formats), 9 terms per year, flexible schedule, global university, international faculty and student body, 84% study abroad alumni felt their studies abroad helped them build valuable skills for the job market, transfer your credits, ubis welcomes students who wish to continue their studies by transferring to the university. ubis has three 16-week semesters per year and offers students 9 entry dates per year-more flexibility in starting your studies..

Acceptance of transfer credit is always a decision of receiving institutions. UBIS does not guarantee transferability. Any student interested in transferring UBIS credit to another university should check directly with the receiving institution.

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For our standard DBA and Executive DBA programs you can learn more here. 

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