Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Educational Leadership

First Advisor

Dr. Uldis Smidchens

Second Advisor

Dr. Leslie Leighninger

Third Advisor

Dr. Charles Warfield


The doctoral experiences of women and men are distinguishable and different. Studies of these differences have not considered the relationship of gender to the content of the curriculum. Learning to conduct scientific research is central to doctoral study. Widely held notions of what constitutes legitimate science are challenged by those who study the relationship between gender and science. They suggest that the predominant view of science is based on a set of ontological and epistemological assumptions which are incompatible with women's experiences. Empirical studies in the psychology of science suggest that assumptions underpinning research are associated with gender and with professional field. Thus, the focus of this study was on gender and research among doctoral students, and it was hypothesized that students' assumptions underpinning research would be related to both their gender and their degree program.

Coan's Theoretical Orientation Survey (TOS) was sent to half of the doctoral students (149) in Western Michigan University's College of Education; 144 (96.6%) responded. Two-way analyses of variance were conducted with gender and degree program as independent variables and the 10 TOS scale scores as dependent variables. Where interaction effects were probable (p < .30), one-way analyses of variance were conducted, followed by post-hoc analyses to determine between-group differences.

The TOS objectivism-subjectivism scale was of primary interest in this study. Women and men differed on this scale. Men's assumptions were consistent with those of objectivism: de-emphasis on individual choice, focus on publicly observable behavior and specific variables, quantitative measurement, and concepts defined in physical terms. Women's assumptions were consistent with those of subjectivism: emphasis on individual choice, a focus on individual conscious experience, global relationships and qualitative measures. Educational Leadership students scored higher on the objectivism scale than did Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology students.

This study supports the idea that men and women have different research assumptions. The similarity of men's assumptions to those underpinning the doctoral curriculum helps to explain gender differences among student experiences. Additional studies are needed of the ways women and men conceptualize research, the ways particular approaches to inquiry are grounded in specific study contexts, and the influence on the inquiry process of the perspectives of those involved.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access