Research Training for the PhD in Clinical Psychology
Learn the details of the dissertation process.
Research is an important and integral part of doctoral training at Derner. As such, involvement in research begins with your acceptance into the program at which time you must begin the process of selecting a research mentor. You will work with your mentor throughout your first year (and most often beyond), initially, in developing and conducting the required pre-dissertation research project. Your choices are many and varied. Currently, there are more faculty members conducting research on more diverse topics than at any time in the history of the school.
Students are encouraged to explore as many options as possible to learn as much as they can about faculty as research mentors. You might begin by reviewing our faculty profiles.
As you start to focus your interests, you might want to schedule an individual meeting with a faculty member to ask specific questions. As well, most faculty conduct research workgroups on Wednesdays from 11:00 a.m.–1:00 p.m. You might want to ask about attending one or more work group meetings. There, you not only get to see how the workgroup functions, you can also meet upper-level candidates who have been working with that professor. You are welcome to and, indeed, encouraged to speak privately with current students of a given research mentor to learn more about their experiences as well as the process and completion of pre-dissertation/dissertation research.
In exploring the choices of research mentor, you should explore widely. Because this is a faculty-student matching procedure, and there is a limit on how many students faculty can mentor, students are asked to submit four choices, and they are guaranteed to be matched with one of the four.
The matching process:
You will have until mid-May to investigate your choices. After that, you will be asked to rank the top four research mentors with whom you would like to work in descending order, with rank #1 being the highest and rank #4 being the lowest. These ranked choices must be submitted to the chair of the Research Committee by a date to be determined at the end of the spring semester.
- The chair of the Research Committee will compile the list of student rankings and provide this summary information to the Research Committee, as well as allow for review of original rankings.
- The chair of the Research Committee will then contact individual faculty via email regarding the individual students who have selected them as their first choice (rank #1) research mentor and ask faculty to approve those students they wish to accept.
- All faculty members will be available for consultation at the end of year clinical faculty meeting; as second, third, and fourth student choice matches may need to be reviewed and discussed. The Research Committee will convene to address any matching problems or issues that remain on the day.
- The final student-faculty research mentor match list will be emailed by a date to be determined and students should then contact their research mentor.
A few caveats on the process:
- During both the investigatory and ranking phases, it is inappropriate for a student to ask a faculty member if they plan to select them as a research advisee. Likewise it is inappropriate for a faculty member to ask a student about their rankings or inclinations of their rankings. Nor is it appropriate for a faculty member to suggest you only attend his/her research group meetings.
- Although students may conduct research activities for their graduate assistant responsibilities, students and faculty must be aware that this level of participation cannot be substituted for the required pre-dissertation project.
We wish you the best in this process. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact:
J. Christopher Muran, PhD
Director of Clinical Training
e – firstname.lastname@example.org
The pre-dissertation research project is an empirical study, developed and carried out in conjunction with the adviser and the workgroup. The project is the primary training vehicle for gaining hands-on experience in designing an empirical study, collecting and analyzing data and reporting the findings. The aim of the project is to acquaint students with the workings of research in a manner that is integrated with their clinical training, and that will increase their understanding of the potential contribution of research to their clinical work throughout their careers.
For most students who will do empirical dissertation projects, the pre-dissertation research project is designed to provide directed training as a basis for carrying out the independent research of the dissertation. For students electing to carry out a theoretical dissertation, the pre-dissertation research project requirement is designed to insure that all students have direct hands-on experience designing, collecting and analyzing data of an empirical study as a component of their doctoral training.
The requirement for the project conducted in conjunction with Derner School of Psychology faculty may be met in either of two ways:
- Publication in a peer-review journal or presentation at a peer-review conference. If research is presented, as a paper or a poster, a report of the presentation should be submitted to the adviser, as a paper in APA format, printout of poster, copy of PowerPoint presentation or other appropriate format.
- Alternatively, the requirement may be met by review and approval of a completed report of the project by the adviser and another faculty member who is a member of the Research Committee.
The first choice is advised where possible for training purposes and as a valuable research experience.
Students must have their pre-dissertation research project fully completed by the end of the fall semester of the third year.
Completion of the pre-dissertation research project is required prior to the student being approved to submit a proposal for the dissertation. Special cases of large sample and longitudinal studies may require an exception to this procedure.
Students must have their dissertation proposal fully completed by the end of the fall semester of the fourth year and before the internship application is approved. Prior to September 15 of their internship application year, all fourth-year students are required to submit a Research Training Requirements Form to the Research Committee, signed by their faculty research supervisors and indicating their level of research progress in the program. The committee then reviews these forms, which, if approved, are forwarded to the director of clinical training for approval and then to the dean who will complete the review and approval process, prior to November 1. Additionally, students must pass a Portfolio Review. However, there are no comprehensive exam requirements (neither written nor oral).
Requests for exceptions concerning approval for internship application must be submitted to the Research Committee along with a completed Research Requirement Form, prior to September 15. The Research Committee will vote on the written request with a majority of votes required for approval, and will then forward approved forms to the director of clinical training for approval and then to the dean for final approval. Research advisers and students may appeal the vote of the Research Committee to the dean.
Any exceptions to the requirements for any reason must be submitted in writing to the Research Committee by the student and the research adviser. The request must provide a detailed explanation of the reasons for the exception and a plan/timetable regarding the completion of this project.
In cases where students collect large data sets or carry out longitudinal studies, to be used for both their pre-dissertation research projects and dissertations, an approved dissertation proposal may be substituted for completion of the pre-dissertation research project. In such cases, the student must apply for waiver of the requirement that the pre-dissertation research project be completed before the dissertation proposal is submitted.
The Research Committee will evaluate this application prior to the proposal meeting to establish the status of the project as an empirical project requiring an exception.
If approval is granted, the proposal meeting must be held and the project approved by the committee prior to November 1 of the internship application year to meet the deadline for internship application. The completion of the proposal should be noted on the Research Training Requirements Form.
In such cases, the student is required to carry out a distinct component of the overall project as a pre-dissertation research project that meets the criteria for completion outlined above as soon as feasible following data collection. The completion of this requirement will be monitored by the Research Committee prior to approval for scheduling an oral defense.
Students intending to carry out a theoretical dissertation cannot petition for exception based on an approved proposal. They must complete data collection of an empirical pre-dissertation research project prior to approval by the Research Committee and certification by the director of clinical training for internship application.
Prior to establishing a dissertation committee and scheduling a proposal meeting, the student must submit evidence of completion of the pre-dissertation research project to the Research Committee, using the Research Training Requirements form. This may either be a notice of the acceptance of the publication or presentation or a form signed by the chair and reader of the report, as outlined above. The approval by the Research Committee will be submitted and included in the student’s file along with the proposal evaluation by the dissertation committee.
In special cases, the dissertation committee may be formed and the proposal meeting scheduled prior to completion of the pre-dissertation research project. The specific requirement of the pre-dissertation research project as outlined above must then be met before scheduling the oral defense.
The committee shall consist of a chair and two members. The chair and at least one committee member must be on the full-time Derner School of Psychology faculty. The other member must be on the full-time Derner School of Psychology faculty or the half-time clinic faculty. Any exceptions, such as outside permanent members, must be approved by the Research Committee, following procedures described below.
Criteria and Procedures for Approval of Outside Permanent Committee Members
An outside committee member is required to have specific and unique research expertise in the area of the dissertation. The student is responsible for obtaining the approval of the Research Committee for such members. The student must submit a request to the chair of the Research Committee outlining the specific expertise of the proposed outside member in relation to the dissertation topic as indicated by relevant publications, and including his or her CV. The request will be considered by the Research Committee and a response will be provided in writing.
Once the permanent committee has been formed, an announcement of the composition of the committee should be sent to the Research Committee and the dean for approval.
In addition to the three permanent members, the proposal committee will have two special members, and the oral examination committee will have an outside reader, as described below:
Special Members: Proposal Meeting
Two Derner School of Psychology doctoral students will serve as special members for the proposal committee only. They may be chosen by the student whose proposal is being evaluated, subject to the approval of the dissertation committee chair.
Special Members: Orals
The committee convened to examine the student for the oral defense of the dissertation will include an outside reader, who must: 1) teach at Adelphi University and have a doctoral degree in a discipline outside of psychology or have a doctoral degree in psychology and teach in a discipline outside of psychology; or 2) have a doctoral degree in psychology or in a related discipline and be a faculty member at another college or university (including a faculty appointment at a teaching hospital or medical school). The outside reader may be chosen by the student whose proposal is being evaluated, subject to the approval of the dissertation committee chair. Requests for special members not meeting these criteria must be submitted to the Research Committee at least a month prior to the orals date, outlining the qualifications of the proposed special member and explaining the rationale for the exception.
Changes in Committee Composition
The Research Committee and the dean must be notified as to any changes in the dissertation committee. Changes involving inclusion of outside members must be submitted for review by the Research Committee and the dean as outlined above. The dissertation committee chair is responsible for implementing this requirement.
Responsibilities of Committee Members
All members of the committee are expected to follow the evaluation procedures outlined below, and to be present for the proposal meeting and for the oral defense. Proposals should be scheduled for one hour; the oral defense should be scheduled for two hours. The proposal and oral defense evaluation forms must be signed by each committee member at the close of the meeting.
Proposal and dissertation meetings are generally scheduled from September through June. Exceptions may be requested for meetings in July and August at the discretion of the committee.
Doctoral students will be required to successfully complete their dissertation proposal (i.e., they must hold their proposal meeting and file the signed proposal approval form) by end of fall semester of the fourth year in order to apply for internship. The proposal should consist of the first two chapters: literature review and method section, along with references, and any other material required by the student’s dissertation chair.
After the chair has approved the proposal for distribution, copies will be given to the other faculty members. (The degree of involvement of the committee prior to this point is at the discretion of the members.) The members can either approve the proposal as ready to be discussed at the proposal meeting, or require revisions prior to scheduling a meeting. When all committee members view the proposal as acceptable for discussion, the proposal meeting may be scheduled. All committee members must receive a copy of the proposal with revisions at least two weeks prior to the scheduled meeting date.
An announcement of the proposal meeting, including a list of permanent and special committee members, will be posted publicly and copies sent to the dean of the Derner School of Psychology and the chair of the Derner Research Committee. Following the proposal meeting, the proposal evaluation form will be filled out and signed by all dissertation committee members and sent to the dean for approval.
Once the proposal has been approved by the committee, the candidate is then responsible for carrying out the project addressing the research questions outlined in the study and following the specified method. Minor changes in the research questions or methods may be approved by the chair. Changes deemed major by the chair must be submitted and approved in writing by the committee. Assuming approved procedures are followed, approval of the dissertation does not depend on the success of the project in achieving significant results.
Dissertation Evaluation Prior to Defense
After the chair has approved the dissertation for distribution, copies will be given to the other faculty members. When at least one committee member, in addition to the chair, has approved the dissertation, it is strongly suggested that the outside reader also be given a copy. The committee members and outside reader may then either approve the proposal as ready to be discussed at the oral defense or require revisions prior to scheduling the defense. When all committee members, including the outside reader, approve the dissertation as an acceptable form for defense, the oral examination may be scheduled. All committee members must receive a copy of the proposal with revisions at least two weeks prior to the scheduled date for the oral examination.
An announcement of the oral defense, including a list of committee members, will be posted publicly after approval by the dean and the chair of the Research Committee.
Evaluation Procedures at Oral Defense
The candidate’s presentation and responses in the oral examination and the written dissertation are evaluated separately. The dissertation may be evaluated as: a) approved without revision, b) approved with minor revisions, c) approval pending, major revisions required. Minor revisions will be examined and approved by the committee chair. Major revisions should be unlikely if procedures are followed prior to the oral defense as outlined above. If unexpected major issues do arise requiring such revisions, the changes must be examined and approved by the entire committee, including the outside reader.
Following the oral defense, the evaluation form will be filled out and signed by the dissertation committee members and sent to the dean for approval.
The evaluation form will indicate the action required of the candidate, which may be minor or major revisions or no revisions, to obtain final approval for the dissertation. When the candidate has completed the requested revisions, and they have been approved as specified above, the final approval will be indicated in the attached Dissertation Approval form.
Students are permitted to complete a theoretical dissertation or an empirical one that follows a traditional six chapter format: 1) Introduction, 2) Literature review, 3) Statement of the problem, 4) Methods, 5) Results, 6) Discussion. There is also the option of completing a dissertation consisting of two separate (but conceptually related) manuscripts (a review paper and empirical report or two empirical reports at the level of publishable works.