What makes a good doctoral dissertation in public administration? Analysis of abstracts of 168 public administration doctoral dissertations included in Dissertation Abstracts 1998, on the basis of criteria first developed to analyze the PA dissertations of 1981, indicates material progress in the use of the doctoral dissertation as a research tool to educate students and to advance the field of public administration.

The 1998 dissertations showed substantial improvements in quality over those in Dissertation Abstracts 1990, almost as much improvement as those studies showed over the projects of 1981. Compared to 1990, a substantially higher percentage of the 1998 dissertations set out to conduct basic research and to report on the findings. In addition, more doctoral students are using rigorous research designs that involve attention to causal relationships.