Your Tasks During the Fourth Year; Dissertation

Your fourth year should be devoted primarily to your dissertation research and accruing additional clinical experience through a Clerkship in Clinical Methods. As noted earlier, detailed information about completing and defending your dissertation can be found in the Graduate School Catalog and Policies and Rules for Graduate Study in Psychology. Additional information about research expectations is available in the section of this manual on Training in Research. During the 4th year, you should be registering for the final 2 semesters of required GRAD 6950 dissertation research (at least 3 credits each semester).

The Dissertation

All students must complete a dissertation proposal and defend this in an oral presentation to your committee and readers. You must defend and submit your dissertation proposal to the Graduate School before your first internship application is due (typically November 1st of your 5th year). The dissertation itself can be defended before or during your internship year. However, we strongly recommend, that, at a minimum, you collect all data prior to leaving for internship; it is extremely difficult to collect data while on internship.

There are specific deadlines set by the University for dissertation paperwork to be turned in to be eligible to graduate in that semester. For example, the Graduate School paperwork deadline for an August degree award is typically the 2nd week in August. To meet this deadline, a student would usually need to schedule the oral defense by the last week in July to have time to incorporate committee feedback. As of 2019, Clinical Psychology students are allowed to walk in the May Commencement ceremony if they are completing internship and are planning to defend the dissertation in the summer. For many post-doctoral or professional positions, you may not be able to start until your degree has been completed (or there may be a reduction in pay until you have successfully completed all degree requirements). The University maximum for completing the graduate program, including the dissertation, is 8 years.

The dissertation is meant to demonstrate the competencies listed above, specifically the ability to 1) critically evaluate theory and empirical studies to a specific topic, 2) formulate and conduct a research study, and 3) communicate scientific information effectively. The primary difference between the master’s thesis and dissertation is in the scope of the project and expected independence of the student as a researcher. Traditionally, the dissertation is 2-3 times longer because it includes more depth in background, more detailed description of study procedures and measures, and more detailed results (e.g., inclusion of some analyses that yielded null findings, more detail about analytic approaches, etc.). Further, a dissertation may include results from more than one study. The written document typically includes multiple chapters and appendices for other materials (e.g., a copy of all measures, consent forms). Dissertations typically range from 80-150 pages all-inclusive, although there are no page requirements. While the exact nature of the dissertation varies by lab, it is expected that all projects will allow the doctoral committee to evaluate the student’s success in meeting the above competencies and their growth as an independent scholar. A copy of the Plan of Study for the Ph.D. is included in Appendix I and information about the Ph.D. Proposal is included in Appendix J.

Three Paper Dissertation (TPD) option

Starting in 2020, students can opt for a “three-paper dissertation” with the approval of their advisor and thesis committee. In this scheme, a student binds together three journal-length manuscripts on a cohesive topic (each forming one Dissertation chapter), together with Introduction and Discussion sections, and submits this document as the Dissertation. The advantages are that, if they have already submitted their research for publication, it is not necessary to “repackage” the manuscripts for the dissertation; similarly, the chapters can more readily be submitted for publication, without extensive re-writing.

Students should opt into the TPD mechanism at the time of the dissertation proposal. During the proposal, students should present the committee with the following documents:

  1. Brief/preliminary version of the dissertation’s Introduction chapter
  2. Precis of the three manuscripts that are proposed for inclusion
  3. List of the journals to which each of the papers have been/will be submitted
  4. Timeline: The date of submission for any papers already under review, and information about data collection/data analyses remaining to be done
  5. Notes about contributions of all co-authors to conception and design, acquisition of data, data analysis, interpretation, and writing

The TPD option entails the following expectations:

  1. The chapters address a central and cohesive question; they must be thematically coherent.
  2. The three manuscript chapters should be in “journal-ready” form.
  3. None of the three papers should involve data collected or writing prepared for the master’s thesis or comprehensive exam.
  4. The student must be first author of each of the three papers.
  5. Because the dissertation is required to be shared, with the student and university holding the copyright, the student must negotiate copyright with journals.
  6. At a minimum, two of the papers must be empirical (e.g., the student cannot submit more than one published review article as part of the dissertation).
  7. As noted above, dissertations are typically more detailed than journal articles. Students are encouraged to include material and information not submitted for publication as Appendices to the dissertation (e.g., detailed lists of stimuli, additional Tables, etc.).

Clinical Experience outside of the PSC

During the 4th year, you will complete a Clerkship in Clinical Methods. Clerkships are mini-internships, where students work as psychological assessors and psychotherapists in local agencies for 16-20 hours weekly. The Program has long standing relationships with a large number of clinical settings in the community. Given the large number of placements in the area and variation in student interests, there are typically more placements available than we can use in a given year. Clerkships also provide an opportunity for students to work with more diverse populations than are available in the training clinic on campus and to gain experience with specific populations and intervention models. Supervision of your clerkship activities is shared by agency- affiliated licensed psychologists and core faculty. Dr. Christine Yantz supervises clerkship placements for the clinical program. Dr. Yantz meets with students in the late fall of each year to review clerkship opportunities and requirements for the coming year. All students who apply for clerkship must be approved for external placement by the faculty. Following faculty approval, Dr. Yantz meets with students individually to help tailor clerkship experiences to meet individual training goals. Students must meet with Dr. Yantz before they contact clerkship sites about potential placements; they may not set up clerkship placements in advance of this process. Once students select a clerkship site, they must complete the Clinical Student Clerkship Agreement, which is included in Appendix K. Students completing clinical clerkships must meet all clinical experience requirements of the University and the external facility to be accepted for a clinical clerkship placement. More information about those requirements is included in the Additional Requirements for Clinical Placements section below.

In addition, many students seek the opportunity to develop and teach their own courses. Each year, a variety of undergraduate courses are taught by graduate students as Instructors of Record. Students who are interested in teaching should convey their interest to the Director of Clinical Training, who is responsible for teaching assignments. Most often students are invited to teach Abnormal Psychology. At times, other courses may be available (e.g. Psychology of Women, Health Psychology, Introduction to Clinical Psychology). Although every effort will be made to match students with their preferred courses, that is not always possible. Graduate students who are course instructors are paired with a faculty mentor who provides support as well as resources for beginning teachers. Teaching a course as Instructor of Record provides 15 hours of student funding.

Students who wish to apply for either of these positions (clerkship or teaching) are required to have passed their General Exam and completed their Master’s Degree.