Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


College of Education and International Services


Educational Psychology, Ph.D.

First Advisor

Elvin Gabriel

Second Advisor

Jimmy Kijai

Third Advisor

Nadia Nowsworthy


Purpose of the Study

Doctoral students face a multitude of challenges in the process of completing their degree, and barriers to the success of doctoral program completion can occur at many different levels. Many factors contribute to dissertation completion or non-completion. Studying the influence of these factors on the task of dissertation completion may result in enhancing dissertation progress and program completion. The purpose of this study is to investigate the role of self-efficacy, locus of control, perceived stress and student satisfaction on dissertation completion among doctoral students in educational psychology at selected university in the United States.


Survey research method was used as the research platform for this study. Online surveys using Survey Monkey were administered to doctoral student in Educational Psychology from selected universities in the United States. Dissertation self-efficacy was measured with the Dissertation Self-Efficacy Scale (DSES; Varney, 2003). Locus of control was measured with the Responsibility Scale (RS; Kluever & Green, 1998). Perceived Stress was measured with the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS; Cohen, Kamarch & Mermelstein, 1983). Student Satisfaction was measured by a single, straight forward question on how satisfied doctoral candidates and recent graduates were with the dissertation process. Path analysis was used to test the validity of a conceptualized model inter-relating participants’ self-efficacy, locus of control, perceived stress, satisfaction and dissertation/program completion.


Results indicate that participants in this study reported high levels of self-efficacy, low levels of shared responsibility suggesting that participants believe that students rather than the institution should be in control for tasks associated with dissertation progress; and moderate levels of perceived stress and satisfaction with the dissertation process. Also, the model developed to study the relationships and interrelations between the variables explained 17% of the variance in dissertation progress/completion, primarily by the direct effects of self-efficacy, perceived stress and student satisfaction, and indirectly by locus of control. The model suggested that doctoral candidates are more likely to make progress on their dissertation and complete their programs if they report high selfefficacy and greater satisfaction with the dissertation process, and if they report low levels of institutional responsibility versus personal responsibility, and low or optimal levels of stress. High levels of stress appear to decrease both self-efficacy and satisfaction with the dissertation process.


An important finding of this study is the direct positive relationship between selfefficacy and student satisfaction with dissertation progress/completion, with self-efficacy being the most important predictor of dissertation completion followed by student satisfaction with the dissertation process. The more doctoral students believe in their ability to complete their dissertations and the more satisfied they are with the dissertation process, the more progress they make and the more likely they are to complete their doctoral program. In summary, high levels of dissertation self-efficacy, low levels of shared responsibility, moderate or optimal levels of stress, and moderate levels of student satisfaction with the dissertation process could enhance program completion of educational psychology doctoral students. Both students and institutions should focus on increasing doctoral candidates’ dissertation self-efficacy, establishing who is responsible for each task involved in the dissertation process, maintaining moderate or optimal levels of stress and reducing high stress when necessary, and also on increasing student satisfaction with the dissertation process by maintaining program quality and encouraging positive and supportive student - advisor relationships.

Subject Area

Dissertations, Academic; Self-efficacy; Graduate students--Research