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Writing a doctoral dissertation in the Thomas Jefferson University School of Business is conceived to be a complicated but linear and sequential endeavor within a well-structured and orderly context. The implication of this is that progress is made by completing a list of measurable goals based on the structure of a dissertation such as a literature review or description of research methodology. These goals are listed by doctoral candidates at the start of each semester in which writing takes place, then assessed by the faculty advisor at the end. According to the Graduate Student Handbook, failure to meet the goals during the term will result in the student receiving a failing grade and subject them to the probation policy.

I argue that absent from this mode of thinking is that the context for writing a doctoral dissertation may be volatile, complex, non-linear, and poorly structured. I also argue that because contexts vary, writing a doctoral dissertation is better conceived as a challenge that is both complicated and complex. Assessment of progress, consequently, should include methods and tools that enable faculty advisors and students to describe and discuss not only quantitative but also qualitative progress such as improved conceptual integration and synthesis. This is intended to help students, faculty, and the institution to reframe how writing doctoral dissertations may be conceived, how an expanded meaning of progress may be appreciated and assessed, and how heutagogical learning in a research-based doctoral degree may be developed.