First-Generation College Student Dissertation Abstracts: Research Strategies, Topical Analysis, and Lessons Learned

  •  James Banning    


First-generation college students are students whose parents or guardians did not obtain a four year college
degree (Davis, 2012). As a group these students make up a large part of the college student population and are
often reported to encounter difficulties in their campus experience. While the topic of first-generation student has
received much attention over the past years, no research effort has been reported that examines dissertations on
the topic. This article utilizes a bounded qualitative synthesis study framework to examine the 133 dissertation
abstracts found by searching the ProQuest Dissertation and Theses TM digital database for dissertations abstracts
from 2009 through 2013 using the search terms “first-generation college students” and “higher education.” The
research question for this study was: What can we learn from the examination of doctoral dissertation abstracts
that focus on the experience of first-generation college students regarding research strategies, topics addressed,
and lessons learned? The study’s findings provide an overview of researcher attributes and the characteristics of
the research in terms of methodology and topical focus. “Lessons learned” from the abstracts as well as the
omissions in the research are presented. A major finding of the investigation was that very few of the
dissertations have entered the academic conversation regarding first generation students – major books on the
topic do not reference the dissertations and in a search of academic journals only three of the 133 dissertations
were found to have been published.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
  • ISSN(Print): 1927-5250
  • ISSN(Online): 1927-5269
  • Started: 2012
  • Frequency: bimonthly

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