Dissertation Tool Chest – The AQR and DT | By Mark Ellis, Ph.D.

25 02 2012


This article will discuss the similarities and differences of the Dissertation Template and the AQR Dissertation Checklists used in most doctoral programs in the United States and Canada.  It will be further discuss how students can use these documents to better prepare them for success by using them during the dissertation process.  While it is absolutely vital that doctoral learners have mastered the skills of thinking critically (Chaffee, 2009) they must also be able to demonstrate to the committee that they are able to present and defend a viable proposal and ultimately present the completed dissertation (Grover, 2007).

The Dissertation Template

The dissertation template serves as a skeletal outline of the required ingredients to be included in the completed dissertation.  Moreover, the template consists of appropriate formatting, cover sheet, abstract area, introduction, and sections of chapters one through five required for the completed document.  This template will help guide the student as they navigate their way through both the proposal and completed study.

The dissertation template will begin by presenting a cover sheet which will include the name of the dissertation, the name of the student, the committee members, dissertation chair and academic dean of the university.  Chapters one through five will consist of an introduction, literature review, methodology, data collection and analysis and finally summary, conclusion, and recommendations for further study.

Using the dissertation template, the students will have a very clear-cut and concise roadmap at their disposal as they navigate their way through this phase of their program.  The dissertation template can help the student think ahead and also strategically manage the entire process.  One of the major strengths of the dissertation template is that students will be able to assess if their study will be viable with respect to the goals and objectives of what they’re proposing to accomplish.  Getting the chapters to align and connect can be a daunting task. Moreover, it will be crucial that the student be able to align their dissertation topic in accordance with an appropriate methodology (Creswell, 2009).  The template, can assist through this tedious process.

AQR Dissertation Checklist

This checklist also serves as a roadmap to help determine whether not the student is on the right track.  Although the AQR Dissertation Checklist will be used by evaluators to return to the student giving them feedback, it can also serve as a very useful tool to the student as they will have the ability to measure the content of their dissertation documents against the AQR Dissertation Checklist.  This checklist will be returned to the student with comments and feedback provided by the appropriate committee members in the form of a scoring system as well as detailed comments.  Such comments may be acknowledging the strengths of the dissertation while others may identify the weaknesses and recommendations for future improvement.  Unlike the dissertation template itself, this checklist will not become a part of the final draft of the dissertation but is simply a form used by the committee to communicate with the student regarding the content of the dissertation.

Three Similarities

  • Identifies required content.
  • Provides a framework for navigation.
  • Assists the doctoral learner to measure dissertation outcomes.

Three Differences

  • AQR utilizes a scoring system as opposed to the dissertation template which provides none.
  • Unlike the template, the AQR is an internal form not incorporated into final dissertation document.
  • The AQR provides areas for distinct feedback regarding content, corrections, and recommendations from the committee.  While committee members have the option to mark up the dissertation through the rubric, the AQR has its own distinct features.

I would recommend that students regularly consult both of these forms early in the dissertation phase in order to become very familiar with what is actually required.  Having a solid understanding of the requirements will save the student a tremendous amount of headache later on down the road.  Both of these important documents can serve as useful tools for the doctoral learner and should be used as a reference throughout the dissertation process.  It should be noted that both the dissertation template and the AQR checklist should be used concurrently throughout the entire process.  The dissertation template may lack important information at the checklist does provide.  Likewise, the AQR checklist lacks the overall structure set forth by the dissertation template.  As such, both documents utilized by the student will provide all the student needs to ensure that their dissertation is meeting appropriate doctorate level quality standards and will also ensure that all the necessary elements exist in the final dissertation document.


Both the dissertation template and the AQR checklist are useful documents that will greatly aid the student in successfully completing their dissertation.  These useful tools will certainly assist the student in developing a mind of map for the entire dissertation process, but will also ensure that the student’s dissertation needs the basic criteria in accordance with the quality standards of the University.  Used in collaboration, the student will certainly have a better chance of proposing, defending, completing and presenting their final document known as the dissertation.

mark ellis (c) 2011-2012 all rights reserved


Chaffee, J. (2009). Thinking critically. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Creswell, J. (2009). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA:Sage Publications.

Grover, V. (2007). Successfully navigating the stages of doctoral study. International Journal of Doctoral Studies, 2, 9-21.




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