The Academy sponsors a Best Paper Award each year. The categories alternate between Best Student Paper Award and Best Doctoral Dissertation Award.

In 2018, an award to honor the Best Doctoral Dissertation will be presented at the annual NRPA Congress in Indianapolis. The award amount is $1,000 plus expenses of up to $500 for the author to travel to the Academy’s Annual Meeting to present the paper, and receive the award and a ticket to the Academy's Annual Banquet. There may also be up to two Certificate of Merit awards to the two (2) next best dissertations submitted.

Dissertations should make a contribution to scholarly literature and have clear implications for the improved practice of park and recreation administration. Please review the award eligibility, entry procedure, rating criteria and timeline. 

Previous Winners


  1. For the dissertation award, the submission must have been written as a dissertation in partial fulfillment of the requirements for a doctoral degree.
  2. The paper must have been completed in the previous two calendar years (2016 or 2017).
  3. The paper should make a contribution to scholarly literature and have clear implications for the improved practice of park and recreation administration.
  4. The writer of the winning paper must personally attend the Academy’s annual meeting during the 2018 National Recreation and Park Association’s Annual Conference in Indianapolis on September 25-27 and present a five-minute synopsis of the paper.
  1. An electronic copy of an executive summary of the paper, not exceeding 1000 words is be submitted to the Chair of the AAPRA Best Paper Award Committee (Dick Horton @ Summaries exceeding this word limit will not be considered. Submittals are due no later than May 11, 2018.
  2. Only the title of the paper should appear on the executive summary (no personally identifying information). Include a separate cover page that identifies the: student’s name, current email address and phone number; guiding professor’s name, current email address and phone number; date on which the paper was completed; and title of the paper.
  3. The Academy’s Best Dissertation Award Committee will undertake a blind review of the executive summary.
  4. Authors of the three (3) executive summaries that receive the highest ratings will be requested to submit a full electronic copy of their paper to the Committee Chair. The committee will then review each paper and select the winner.

A committee of Academy members will evaluate the executive summaries and the invited full papers using the following weighted scoring system:
  1. RELATIONSHIP TO PARK AND RECREATION ADMINISTRATION (15 pts) - The subject matter must relate to park and recreation administration in some way. While it may use a separate disciplinary approach – for example, management, marketing, economics, financing, evaluation, or social psychology – it must have relevance to park and recreation administration in the broad context. Given these parameters, is the topic timely and of importance?
  2. QUALITY OF THE PROBLEM DEVELOPMENT (25 pts) - The methodology should be clearly presented and demonstrate knowledge of techniques appropriate to the research and its objectives (research questions, hypotheses). Methodological quality should be judged in the context of the discipline and appropriateness to the study. For example, economic studies are likely to utilize a different methodology from those pertaining to management. Similarly, ease study, quantitative, historical, and phenomenological studies will adopt different methodologies.
  3. CREATIVE APPROACH (20 pts) - The study should make a creative contribution to the discipline and/or profession. Does the study examine a new problem? Does the study make a creative contribution to the knowledge of park and recreation administration? Does the study use new techniques to examine an old problem? Does the study extend the topic beyond our present understanding?
  4. USEFULNESS AND APPLICABILITY (20 pts) - While the development of theory is important, the study should have implications for the improved practice of park and recreation administration. This criterion is concerned with measuring the application to practice.
  5. QUALITY OF PRESENTATION (20 pts) - The quality of the writing, including readability and use of graphics, is measured by this criterion. Although technical jargon may be necessary, practitioners should understand the writing. Overall organization, continuity and clarity, along with the quality of the style and grammar fall within this criterion.


   April 13           Call for Dissertations
   May 11            Electronic executive summaries/abstracts to Dick Horton (
   June 1             Committee has completed its evaluation of executive summaries and narrowed to three.
   June 29          Top three (3) entries will submit full dissertation (electronically).
   July 27            Evaluation of three (3) dissertations completed and winners notified
   Sept 25-27*    Presentation of winning dissertation at AAPRA Annual Meeting in Indianapolis
       * specific date TBD

Dick Horton, Chair of the Academy’s Best Dissertation Award Committee