CSCR Empirical Experience Requirement

All students who have been admitted to the CSCR named option AND who have completed a non-thesis Master’s degree or a professional doctoral degree (e.g. a Doctor of Education degree or a degree in social work, clinical psychology, medicine, or public health) will need to complete the empirical experience requirement.

Students entering the CSCR PhD program with a degree that was not earned through the completion of an empirical thesis or dissertation (e.g. professional degrees) must complete an empirical paper or scholarly portfolio before advancing to doctoral candidacy. This document should provide evidence that the student has taken leadership in the design, implementation (including data analysis), synthesis and reporting of a study (see attached review criteria). Capstone papers may be submitted in fulfillment of this requirement, but are typically deficient in meeting the criteria for an empirical paper. The requirements for the empirical paper do not result in the awarding of a master’s degree. Students who have completed a thesis or dissertation prior to admission must provide a copy of that document before the end of the first semester in the CSCR program. The following table outlines this requirement according to degree and the time period in which the empirical documentation is expected to be completed.

The purpose of this requirement is for students to demonstrate experience conducting empirical research in their area of study under faculty guidance and supervision before progressing to more independent dissertation research. The empirical paper may also result in a publishable piece of research.

Previous degree(s) at time of admission Empirical Experience Requirement Timing
Non-thesis Master’s degree without capstone Yes Requirement must be met prior to the preliminary exam, typically within the first 1-2 years following admission
Non-thesis Master’s degree with capstone Yes, if capstone paper does not meet the requirement Submit capstone paper within 1st semester; If not approved, requirement must be met prior to the preliminary exam
Master’s degree with thesis No, submit copy of thesis By end of 1st semester in program
Any doctoral degree that is not a PhD Yes Requirement must be met prior to the preliminary exam, typically within the first 1-2 years following admission

Empirical paper: This type of manuscript is also known as a research report. It is typically written for academic audiences to describe why, how and what was learned from an evaluation or research study that contributes to knowledge in a field. An empirical paper typically includes an introduction and rational for a study, a literature review and the research questions generated from it, a detailed methods section (including a sample description and methods for data collection and analysis), the results of the study, and a discussion of the study’s findings (including the study’s limitations and implications for further research and practice).

Scholarly Portfolio: For the purposes described herein, a scholarly portfolio is held to the same standards as that of an empirical paper, but it allows the student an opportunity to assemble a variety of documents containing evidence to demonstrate that the student can perform tasks associated with conceptualizing, conducting and interpreting an empirical study. These documents may include data that a student independently analyzed, summarized, interpreted and reported; a literature review conducted for a planned study; a report of an evaluation study; a study proposal written by the student; or similar documents generated for class work or in a student’s role as a project or research assistant (PA or RA). In addition to these documents, a portfolio should begin with a 5- to 10-page summary which describes each of the documents contained in the portfolio and how they demonstrate a student’s ability to conduct empirical research.

The empirical paper or scholarly portfolio should be submitted to the student’s advisor before the preliminary exam is taken and within the timeframe listed in the above table. The paper or portfolio will be reviewed by three members of the CSCR faculty within one month of receipt. The paper or portfolio will be reviewed first by the student’s advisor and then by two additional CSCR faculty members. Once approved, the student will be notified in writing if they have passed, provisionally passed, or not passed this requirement. Reviewers will provide constructive feedback, a list of expectations and a timeline for students who provisionally pass or do not pass this requirement. Once the requirement of an empirical paper is waived, the student may advance toward doctoral candidacy.

Students are expected to conduct the research (to the extent applicable) and prepare the required materials (empirical paper or scholarly portfolio) for review. Advisors are to pre-review the student’s materials, identify two additional faculty reviewers, and communicate a decision and feedback to the student. Advisors will also retain a copy of the student’s capstone, thesis, portfolio or empirical paper in the student’s file. The CSCS Graduate Program Committee may serve as the review committee in some circumstances and are responsible for monitoring the implementation and outcomes of this policy. CSCS faculty are to be available as reviewers and review the students’ materials according to the timeline described in this policy.


School of Human Ecology Graduate Programs Handbook Copyright © 2022 by Michelle Holland. All Rights Reserved.

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