Dr. Dave Schwandt's Big Five of Dissertation Research

Dr. Schwandt refers to the "big five" of dissertation research (his big five have changed over time). They are 
  • Introduction,
  • Problem Statement,
  • Conceptual Frame,
  • Research Question, and
  • Definition Table.
1 - The Introduction (not one of the Big Five originally). The introduction sets up the context of the study. Contributions to the context can come from many places (practice, popular press, research press, etc). This kind of material belongs up in the introduction. It includes the research question. You probably cannot see this now, but when you get to Chapter 5, the conclusion, of your dissertation, it goes back to the context: "I started withthis contextand these conclusions are part of that context."

The rest of chapter 1 is "funneling" from the large context of your inquiry to what you are going to explore/research. You use the Big Three on the way.

2 - Problem statement. It comes from the context and problem. A good Problems Statement should take just a page or two: "I am taking this context to focus on this problem, which leads to this problem statement." At the end, Dr. Schwandt likes to see one simple statement, "in conclusion, the problem statement for this particular study is …"

3 - Conceptual Frame. This bounds the theoretical base for your study. There are a couple of missions for the Conceptual Frame: 

* define for reader the concepts/constructs you will use, 
* possibly address antecedents and variables related to the focus of your study. 
* you want to draw a theoretical picture that supports/explains the measurement of the variables you are going to be involved with (this gets to the operational frame for your study).

4 - Research Question. Just from the diagram alone, you should be able to link the problem statement to the CF to produce a very "operationalized" version of your problem statement, the RQ.

5 - Definition Table. Part of the delimiting process coming to this step comes from two points. One, "how can I operationalize this?" and two, "how are my definitions allowing me to deal with that?