The use of computer technology to compare and analyze community college dissertations

Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Higher Education

First Advisor's Name

Joseph B. Cook

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Janice R. Sandiford

Third Advisor's Name

Loriana Nova


Dissertations, Academic -- Data processing, Content analysis (Communication) -- Data processing, Computational linguistics

Date of Defense



A purpose of this research study was to demonstrate the practical linguistic study and evaluation of dissertations by using two examples of the latest technology, the microcomputer and optical scanner. That involved developing efficient methods for data entry plus creating computer algorithms appropriate for personal, linguistic studies. The goal was to develop a prototype investigation which demonstrated practical solutions for maximizing the linguistic potential of the dissertation data base. The mode of text entry was from a Dest PC Scan 1000 Optical Scanner. The function of the optical scanner was to copy the complete stack of educational dissertations from the Florida Atlantic University Library into an I.B.M. XT microcomputer. The optical scanner demonstrated its practical value by copying 15,900 pages of dissertation text directly into the microcomputer. A total of 199 dissertations or 72% of the entire stack of education dissertations (277) were successfully copied into the microcomputer's word processor where each dissertation was analyzed for a variety of syntax frequencies.

The results of the study demonstrated the practical use of the optical scanner for data entry, the microcomputer for data and statistical analysis, and the availability of the college library as a natural setting for text studies. A supplemental benefit was the establishment of a computerized dissertation corpus which could be used for future research and study.

The final step was to build a linguistic model of the differences in dissertation writing styles by creating 7 factors from 55 dependent variables through principal components factor analysis. The 7 factors (textual components) were then named and described on a hypothetical construct defined as a continuum from a conversational, interactional style to a formal, academic writing style. The 7 factors were then grouped through discriminant analysis to create discriminant functions for each of the 7 independent variables. The results indicated that a conversational, interactional writing style was associated with more recent dissertations (1972-1987), an increase in author's age, females, and the department of Curriculum and Instruction. A formal, academic writing style was associated with older dissertations (1972-1987), younger authors, males, and the department of Administration and Supervision. It was concluded that there were no significant differences in writing style due to subject matter (community college studies) compared to other subject matter. It was also concluded that there were no significant differences in writing style due to the location of dissertation origin (Florida Atlantic University, University of Central Florida, Florida International University).



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