Ph.D. requirements across the Curry School have varied considerably, from the number and types of research courses and experiences to the types of assessments involved. With Curry’s move to a fully funded, four-year Ph.D. program and efforts to match the University’s goal to be a top-tier research institution, it is particularly important that Curry’s Ph.D. students receive high caliber research training that highlights both depth and rigor.
Critical Outcomes of a Research-Oriented Ph.D. Program
In terms of an overall vision of the Curry Ph.D. graduate, the aims include student success in achieving employment in degree-appropriate positions, with appropriate licensure or diplomate status. Emphasized are strong foundational knowledge in theory and the practical application of theory in their chosen fields of study. A thorough understanding of all aspects of the research process are key, including: development of research questions and hypotheses, research design, analysis and interpretation, dissemination of results in both oral and written formats, and grant writing to fund research. Students are to develop a clear line of research during the four years of doctoral study, which, in turn, would lead to refereed research presentations at national conferences and to publications in peer-reviewed journals before students' program completions.
Programs highlight the importance of a multidisciplinary lens through which to view research questions; students are best-served through familiarity with quantitative and qualitative methodologies and considerable in-depth training and proficiency in specific methodological domains. The program also stresses student preparation in writing to the level necessary for publication, and the importance of experiences in supervision, teaching, and consultation, as appropriate to the particular discipline.
Critical Features of a Research-Oriented Ph.D. Program
The key features of a program that would produce the above outcomes include intensive faculty mentoring that begins upon student matriculation and continues throughout their studies that forms an apprenticeship in research. To this end, students are introduced to professional associations through jointly authored presentations and co-author manuscripts as their mentors stress both the decision-making aspects of research and rigor in its conduct. Students may also engage in research with additional faculty, inside or outside of the Curry School.
In addition to coursework stressing basic and emerging theories, the best contemporary and classic research in students’ specific disciplines, research practica, and students as critical consumers of research, particular extra-course experiences are critical to a research culture. These include speaker series, lab meetings, and journal clubs. Journal clubs entailed the concept of faculty and more senior Ph.D. students guiding less experienced students in interpreting published research.
Beyond outcomes and features, there are four principles for a research-intensive Ph.D. program. First, although certain shared experiences are important for all Ph.D. students, each graduate should be a uniquely prepared scholar. Second, given the importance of intensive research mentoring as a critical feature of the Ph.D. program, faculty/Ph.D. student ratios need to be carefully considered. Third, proseminars will be a part of Ph.D. students’ program; some might be discipline specific while others would cross program areas. Finally, there is a need for quality control.
Research Training Core
The research training core is designed to guide Curry Ph.D. programs in intensifying research depth and rigor. The specific features of research training, Mentorship, Coursework, and Assessment, to be reflected in all Ph.D. programs in the Curry School, are described below.
1. All entering Ph.D. students will be assigned a faculty advisor who serves in a mentoring capacity. Programs will determine how advisors are assigned and the circumstances under which students may change advisors. It is the advisor’s responsibility to plan coursework and research experiences that meet program requirements and to provide mentorship in research training.
2. Ph.D. students will participate in a research apprenticeship with their faculty advisors. This apprenticeship will occupy approximately 10 hours of each student's week during the first and second years of study and may increase during the third and fourth years. During this apprenticeship, the student will assist with the advisor’s research and scholarship, which may include data collection, data analysis, library research, presentations, writing for publication, and other related activities
3. Upon matriculation, all Ph.D. students will take Research Foundations. This introductory course will include topics such as rules of inference, logic, philosophy of science, reasoning about qualitative and quantitative data, decision-making, and working with quantitative and qualitative data.
4. Students will take EDLF 731 Stats I and EDLF 753 Qual I, except under two circumstances: (1) the student may have completed comparable coursework elsewhere; or (2) individual program areas may make the case that their discipline does not require one of these courses.
5. Individual program areas will require, in additional to the introductory courses above, several additional courses in research design, methods, measurement, and/or statistics that prepare the student to carry out research comparable to first-rate publications in the student’s field of study. It is expected that some of these courses will be at advanced levels and that students will be encouraged to take research-methods courses from other departments in the University (e.g., Sociology, Economics, History, Psychology, Public Health, etc.). Programs are advised to consider using one of the three strands described in the report of the Ph.D. Training committee.
6. Individual program areas will determine courses sufficient to cover the knowledge base and any additional requirements consistent with their training goals and external requirements (e.g., licensure and certification standards).
7. Program areas will determine a checklist of key student training goals or competencies across each year of doctoral training. Program areas may use accreditation or licensing requirements as the foundation for this checklist. Students will receive written and oral feedback on their annual progress in meeting training goals and competencies.
8. All students will complete a pre-dissertation research project that results in a manuscript submitted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal or an alternative scholarly publication consistent with the program area's discipline. The manuscript must be submitted before the student undertakes dissertation work. There is no requirement that the paper be accepted for publication, but students are encouraged to make revisions to the manuscript if a resubmission is likely to result in publication. Programs and advisors are encouraged to shape these projects toward eventual publication; co-authored papers with their advisor are acceptable.
9. All students will complete a written comprehensive examination that covers the knowledge base and methodology of their disciplinary area and demonstrates their readiness to undertake doctoral dissertation research. The examination will be graded independently by at least two faculty members.
10. All Ph.D. students will complete a dissertation proposal and a dissertation following either the traditional model or the three-paper option described in the Curry Dissertation Manual.