Factors Associated with Online Doctoral Student Persistence: A Critical Integrative Review of the Literature



online doctoral students, persistence, completion, attrition, higher education


Online students are less likely to complete their program than students enrolled in traditional face-to-face programs. Additionally, doctoral students are less likely to persist to degree completion than undergraduate and master’s students. Consequently, online doctoral students might be at an especially high risk for not completing their program. The purpose of this paper is to synthesize and critically analyze the body of research examining factors associated with persistence among online doctoral students, a relatively understudied population. Consistent with the notion that integration and institutional factors exert more influence on doctoral persistence than student characteristics, with the exception of leadership and motivation, few student-related characteristics examined were found to be associated with online doctoral student persistence. However, findings should be considered in light of the limitations of the existing research. Based on this critical integrative review of the literature, implications for research and practice and recommendations for next steps are offered.

Author Biography

Tara Lehan, Northcentral University

Tara Lehan earned her PhD from Florida State University and completed both a teaching and supervision fellowship at Ohio State University and a research fellowship at Virginia Commonwealth University. Currently, as the Director of Strategic Research at Northcentral University, Dr. Lehan serves as a (1) primary investigator for university-directed research projects, (2) consultant for university stakeholders engaged in research towards continuous improvement, and (3) partner to all university stakeholders in the creation and enhancement of quality assurance protocols.




How to Cite

Lehan, T., Hussey, H., & Hotz, T. (2021). Factors Associated with Online Doctoral Student Persistence: A Critical Integrative Review of the Literature. Current Issues in Education, 22(2). Retrieved from https://cie.asu.edu/ojs/index.php/cieatasu/article/view/1961