School of Behavioral Sciences


School of Behavioral Sciences

Doctoral project Manual


California Southern University

930 Roosevelt

Irvine, CA 92620


All rights reserved.

CalSouthern Faculty and/or Doctoral Candidates may reproduce any part of this document for use in conjunction with their assignments at the University.



Doctoral Project Committee 6

Continuous Enrollment .6

Selecting the Doctoral Project Topic .6

Proposal 7


Composition and Selection of the Committee 8

Responsibilities of the Committee 9

Functions of the Committee Members 11

Functions of the Chair 12

Working with the Committee Chair 13


Institutional Review Board Application Process 14

Researcher Responsibility 14

Ethical Principles 15


Manuscript Submission 17

Format/Text Spacing 17

Margins 17

Title 17

Pagination 17

Headings 18

Length 18

Verb Tense 18

References 18

Table of Contents 18

Tables, Charts, and Photographs 18


Submission …….19

Copyright Release Agreement 19

Regulations Regarding Joint Authorship 19

Publishing of Doctoral Projects 19

Copyrighting of Doctoral Project 19


Theoretical Study 20

A Qualitative Study 20

A Quantitative Study 20

Mixed Methods Study 20

Structure of the Doctoral Project 21

Title Pages 21

Chapter One: Overview of the Study 21

Chapter Two: Review of the Literature 22

Chapter Three: Methodology 23

Theoretical/Thematic Study 23

Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Studies 23

Chapter Four: Results 24

Chapter Five: Discussion of Findings 25

Reference List and Appendices 25

Abstract. 26

Doctoral Project Resources 26


Process 27

Oral Defense Format 27


Appendix A: Sample List of Doctoral Project Titles. 29

Appendix B: Committee Form. 31

Appendix C: Change of Committee Form. 32

Appendix D: Institutional Review Board Application 34

Appendix E: Guidelines and Sample Statements of Informed Consent 38

Example I 39

Example II 41

Example III 42

Example IV 43

Appendix F: IRB Completion Form 44

Appendix G: Doctoral Project Assessment Rubric. 45

Appendix H: Doctoral Project Checklist. 50

Appendix I: Tips for Completing the Doctoral Project …………. 52

Appendix J: Sample Copyright Release Agreement 54

Appendix K: Sample Approval Page…………. 55

Appendix L: Sample Title Page …………. 56

Appendix M: Sample Copyright Page …………. 57

Appendix N: Sample Title Pages …………. 58



The Doctoral Project represents the capstone of the doctoral candidate’s entire doctoral studies and deserves the doctoral candidate’s fullest attention. Because of the specialized nature of the Doctoral Project, the concise academic writing style and processes may seem intimidating; the purpose of this manual is to help demystify this process. Although Doctoral Project topics exhibit as much diversity and individuality as doctoral candidates themselves, the candidate’s writing process is governed by standardized guidelines. Many of the guidelines are intended as suggestions or inspiration for how to proceed to best present the unique topic, research, and findings from the candidate’s research. Other guidelines outline the technical or procedural requirements for completing the Doctoral Project process at California Southern University.

Doctoral Project Committee

The Committee consists of at least three members: the Chair and two other Committee Members. The Chair is designated as the one who guides the doctoral candidate through the procedural steps of completing the Doctoral Project and who is primarily responsible for managing the candidate through the writing and research processes. The Committee Members serve as consultants and as quality control monitors of the Doctoral Project. A detailed description of each Committee Member’s duties is included in Section Two of this manual.

Continuous Enrollment

A potential candidate for the PsyD degree must not have a lapse in enrollment in the series of Doctoral Project courses. If additional time is needed to complete any of the courses, the doctoral candidate must request an extension and re-enroll in the appropriate course and pay the tuition for that course. Continuous enrollment will only be permitted when the doctoral candidate demonstrates satisfactory academic progress toward completing the Doctoral Project requirements. The Doctoral Project Chair and Committee Members determine satisfactory academic progress.

Selecting the Doctoral Project Topic

The University encourages Doctoral Projects that extend the work of the doctoral candidate’s profession into emerging fields of inquiry which address contemporary issues. The doctoral candidate is encouraged to select a topic that falls within the scope of his or her expertise, interest, and career objectives.

The candidate may select and reject several topics before the right topic finally resonates. Usually, initial ideas in a Doctoral Project are revised several times. There are several reasons why ideas are revised: the topic is too broad; the topic is too narrow; time-limit constraints exist, and/or accessibility of participants hinders the scope of the study. During the process of selection, it is advisable for the candidate to conduct preliminary library research. For example, exploring Doctoral Project Abstracts for a wide range of research methods is useful. For a Sample List of Doctoral Projects Topics, see Appendix A.

The doctoral candidate will find it worthwhile to spend time researching and possibly rejecting a topic. This process creates a solid foundation for exploring the subject the doctoral candidate initially chooses. Often efforts devoted to those abandoned topics have a way of resurfacing for consideration in future projects.


The candidate will complete a Proposal which is a brief overview of the Doctoral Project, providing sufficient information about the work the candidate is proposing, providing information on how the candidate plans to do the research, and explaining the value of this work. The document is 4-7 pages and will be completed in the first Doctoral Project course, PSY 87991.

The Proposal will contain the following parts: Introduction, Background of the Problem, Statement of the Problem, and Purpose of the Study (with Research Questions).

Introduction (no heading): The introduction puts the study in perspective for the reader. The introduction also acquaints the reader with the topic and the methodology used to study the problem. Introduce key areas of the study which support the aim of the study. Finish with the aim of the study.

Background of the Problem: Articulates why the topic is being studied. Why is the problem of pressing societal concern or theoretical interest? Describe the societal situation and the problem that the doctoral candidate will address by conducting the project. Information to be included is relevant historical and statistical information. Establish the disparities, discrepancies, issues, or challenges relevant to the key areas of your study. The background of the problem illustrates why the topic is appropriate, worthwhile, and feasible.

Statement of the Problem: The statement of the problem situates the key areas of the study in the existing literature. Above you would have detailed major issues or concerns, here using the current literature establish the focus of your study. Establish a benchmark or the parameters of the study using what is known and unknown from the literature. This discussion will mirror your Chapter 2.

Purpose of the Study: Articulate the purpose (how you are going to approach the research problem) and state the research questions. The questions for research should be comprehensive and reflect the major areas of the study and relevant to the selected phenomenon.



Within this section are the guidelines for establishing the Doctoral Project Committee. Included is an outline of the roles and the processes Committee Members will follow in assisting the doctoral candidate to reach his or her goal. The Chair’s functions are also detailed.

Composition and Selection of the Committee

The Doctoral Project Committee is composed of at least three members of the University Faculty. The doctoral candidate will be given a list to choose from of Doctoral Project Chairs as well as Committee Members by their Academic Advisor at the time of enrollment in the first doctoral project class. At the doctoral candidate’s request, and with the pre-approval of the Chair, additional qualified individuals will be appointed to serve on the Doctoral Project Committee. The doctoral candidate will complete and submit the Doctoral Project Committee form for approval to the Chair and the Dean. All requests for outside committee members need to be in writing to the Chair and will be approved by the Dean prior to submission of the committee form. Please see Appendix B for a copy of the Doctoral Project Committee form. The committee must be approved before the end of the first course.

All Committee Members shall have earned doctoral degrees from institutions. The doctoral candidate must submit the form for signature by the committee members.

The Chair of the Committee and a majority of the committee members shall have degrees related to the doctoral candidate’s academic area of study.

All committee members shall have been active in their fields of scholarship or profession within the 5-year period preceding their participation on the Doctoral Project Committee and have an interest and/or expertise in the area of the doctoral candidate’s Doctoral Project.

Generally, change of committee requests are an exception in the doctoral project process. Doctoral candidates which request a change of committee must submit a Doctoral Project Change in Committee form for approval by the Chair and Dean. Changes for one committee member are reviewed and approved by the Dean. Review and approval for changes to the committee consisting of two or more members is forwarded to the Dean for Academic Review Board approval. Please see Appendix C for a copy of the Doctoral Project Change of Committee form.


Responsibilities of the Committee

The Doctoral Project process provides the doctoral candidate with six formal evaluations. This is to ensure that the candidate passes through the process of academic rigor and that quality standards are maintained. For each course in the Doctoral Project sequence, a specific evaluative and grading process is followed. See course sequencing which follows.

First Course PSY 8997A PSY 97991
Second Course PSY 8997B PSY 97992
Third Course PSY 8998A PSY 97993
Fourth Course PSY 8998B

PSY 97994
Fifth Course PSY 89999 PSY 97995

The Chair will work with the committee members of the Doctoral Project Committee from the first Doctoral Project course, PSY 87991 through the successful completion of Chapters 1-5 ending with PSY 87995. All committee members will indicate approval of Chapter 1-3 prior to the submission of the IRB application. The primary focus at this point is to ensure all instruments, data analysis, and collection are appropriate for the proposed study. Upon the completion of Chapters 1 -3 if an editor is warranted the candidate should be notified that the editor is required and may not move forward until the required edits are completed. The committee members will continue throughout the Doctoral Project sequence, concluding with PSY 87995.

As the project is reviewed by the committee, dialogue takes place between the committee members and the Chair until a consensus is reached when changes are submitted to the learner and successfully incorporated. Within the first class, the Proposal must be completed and approved before Chapter One is written. Once the final submission of Chapter One is submitted and approved by the Chair, he/she will submit a final grade for the course. The Chair will submit the draft to the committee for approval. If the doctoral candidate needs additional time to complete the work successfully, he/she has the option to request an extension or repeat the course if significant changes are required. Candidates and faculty are required to utilize the Doctoral Project Assessment Rubric form found in Appendix G and details the guidelines on which the candidate’s manuscript will be evaluated. Once PSY 87991 Chapter One is completed and approved, the doctoral candidate may enroll in the next course.

An important aspect to understand is the Doctoral Project is an ongoing academic dialogue on a select research topic which will require continuous engagement and refinement throughout the completion of the doctoral project. Due to the progressive development of the project the draft requires continuous revisions and modification to reflect the growing expertise of the doctoral candidate. Therefore, the completion of a course reflects the rudimentary understanding of the components of a specific course. The very nature of the Doctoral Project requires continuous refinement and revisions to all chapters as the doctoral candidate becomes more knowledgeable and develops greater expertise on the subject.

For the rest of the Doctoral Project courses, PSY 87992, PSY 87993, PSY 87994, and PSY 87995, the above process is repeated with all assignments being required and approved by the Chair.

This overall evaluative process ensures that all doctoral research is built on a solid foundation resulting in a doctoral project that helps advance research and scholarship within the field of psychology. Specific requirements for each course are as follows:

1. The doctoral candidate is not permitted to enroll in PSY 87991, Doctoral Project 1, until that candidate’s Academic Advisor gives approval. Approval is contingent upon the successful completion of all academic courses prior to the Doctoral Project series; the successful completion of their comprehensive exam; the acceptability of the doctoral candidate’s academic performance (GPA of 3.0 or higher). A review of previous work and an interview may be required. This constitutes the first formal evaluation of the potential doctoral candidate in the Doctoral Project process.

2. Acceptance of Chapter 1 by the doctoral candidate’s Chair and Doctoral Project Committee marks the satisfactory completion of PSY 87991. With the completion of all course requirements as outlined in the PSY 87991 syllabus, the submission of the Grade Report for successfully completing PSY 87991 constitutes the second formal evaluation. If the doctoral candidate does not meet the course requirements within the time frame of the term, he or she will be given an “Unsatisfactory” for the course. The doctoral candidate will have to re-enroll in the course until the requirements are met. This will result in additional tuition.

3. Upon the successful completion of PSY 87991, the doctoral candidate is enrolled in PSY 87992, Doctoral Project 2. In this course, emphasis is placed on the doctoral candidate writing Chapter 2. Acceptance of Chapter 2 by the doctoral candidate’s Chair and Doctoral Project Committee marks the satisfactory completion of PSY 87992.The submission of the Grade Report for successfully completing PSY 87992 serves as the third formal evaluation. If the doctoral candidate does not complete the course assignments within the time frame of the term, he or she will be given an “Unsatisfactory” for the course. The doctoral candidate will have to re-enroll in the course until the requirements are met. This will result in additional tuition.

4. Upon the successful completion of PSY 87992, the doctoral candidate is enrolled in PSY 87993, Doctoral Project 3. In this course, emphasis is placed on the candidate’s writing Chapter 3. Acceptance of Chapter 3 by the doctoral candidate’s Chair and Doctoral Project Committee marks the satisfactory completion of PSY 87993. The submission of the Grade Report for successfully completing PSY 87993 serves as the fourth formal evaluation. If the doctoral candidate does not meet the course requirements within the time frame of the term, he or she will be given an “Unsatisfactory” for the course. The doctoral candidate will have to re-enroll in the course until the requirements are met. This will result in additional tuition.

5. Upon the successful completion of PSY 88993, the doctoral candidate is enrolled in PSY 87994, Doctoral Project 4. In this course, emphasis is placed on the doctoral candidate writing Chapters 4 and 5. Acceptance of Chapters 4 and 5 by the doctoral candidate’s Chair and Doctoral Project Committee marks the satisfactory completion of PSY 87994.The submission of the Grade Report for successfully completing PSY 87994 serves as the fifth formal evaluation. If the doctoral candidate does not meet the course requirements within the time frame of the term, he or she will be given an “Unsatisfactory” for the course. The doctoral candidate will have to re-enroll in the course until the requirements are met. This will result in additional tuition.

6. Upon satisfactorily completing PSY 87994, the doctoral candidate is enrolled in PSY 87995, Doctoral Project 5. Within this course, the doctoral candidate works closely with his or her Chair in refining Chapter 1 through Chapter 5. Any necessary editing should be completed at this stage. Acceptance of Chapter 1-5 by the doctoral candidate’s Chair and Doctoral Project Committee marks the satisfactory completion of PSY 87995. After receiving institutional approval of the written manuscript, the candidate may then proceed with the oral defense. The submission of the Grade Report for successfully completing PSY 87995 constitutes the sixth and final formal evaluation. If the doctoral candidate does not meet the course requirements within the time frame of the term, he or she will be given an “Unsatisfactory” for the course. The doctoral candidate will have to re-enroll in the course until the requirements are met. This will result in additional tuition.

Functions of the Committee Members

Members of the Committee will collaborate throughout the Doctoral Project process. All communication must be with the chair exclusively. The chair will disseminate information and communication from the learner to the Committee Members. Upon receiving feedback from the Committee Members, the Chair will then communicate the Committee’s responses to the learner.

The committee members perform the following functions:

Evaluate the doctoral candidate’s submission of Doctoral Project Chapters 1 – 5 and submits written comments to the Chair who will then evaluate them and forward appropriate comments to the candidate. Drafts are submitted to the committee for review with the Doctoral Project Assessment Rubric as noted above in each evaluation phase of the Doctoral Project.

Committee members will attend the Oral Defense of the Doctoral Project either in person or via audio or video conference calls.

Sign the Doctoral Project Approval Page via an online signature and submits the form to the Doctoral Project Chair.

Functions of the Chair

The Committee Chair is a member of the University’s Faculty. The Chair is responsible for overseeing the Doctoral Project process and ensures the integrity of the University’s Doctoral Project guidelines. The Chair coordinates the activities of the Committee Members so that the Committee’s work proceeds in a timely fashion. All documents are sent to the Chair only. The Chair, in turn, sends documents to the committee members.

The Chair fulfills the following responsibilities:

1. Reviews Chapters 1 – 5 of the Doctoral Project and coordinates necessary revisions with the doctoral candidate.

2. Sends copies of Chapters 1 – 5 to the Committee Members during each course for review when the Chair has approved them. Each member will return reviewed Chapters directly to the Chair with comments and suggestions that will be in turn sent to the doctoral candidate as the Chair agrees. Any discussion of changes that may be needed will occur with the Chair and committee and not with the doctoral candidate.

3. After approval of all three chapters by the committee the Chair ensures that IRB approval has been received before the doctoral candidate begins data collection for Chapter 4.

4. Coordinates any required changes in the Doctoral Project from all of the Committee Members and grants final approval of both the project along with the power point presentation before the oral defense, as well as gain institutional approval. When institutional approval is obtained, a defense date will then be scheduled.

5. Presides at the doctoral candidate’s Oral Defense.

6. When the defense has been successfully passed, the Chair notifies the Doctoral Project Coordinator to complete the Doctoral Project Approval Page and to secure the signatures of the committee.

7. Reviews final draft and provides recommendation for upload to the university librarian.

8. Files the PSY 87995 Grade.

Working with the Committee Chair

The doctoral candidate’s progress through the Doctoral Project process moves more efficiently when the candidate works closely with the Doctoral Project Chair. For example, the Chair working in conjunction with the Committee Members may suggest the doctoral candidate reduce the scope of the project or narrow the focus of the research in order to create a workable project. In another instance, the scope may need to be widened for a thorough investigation of the topic to have been completed.



All students at California Southern University are required to comply with the ethical standards set down by the American Psychological Association for conducting research. All doctoral candidates are required to submit an Institutional Review Board (IRB) application to his or her Chair during the completion of Chapter Three. Approval of the IRB application must be received from the California Southern Institutional Review Board prior to any data collection (See Appendix D for a copy of the IRB Application). IRB Guidelines and resources can be found under University resources.

Note: Those doctoral candidates not using human participants are also required to complete the IRB application. This ensures the Learners understand the ethical considerations of conducting research and assert no participants are included in the research.

Institutional Review Board Application Process
The Institutional Review Board Application process is as follows:

1. The Doctoral Project Chair reviews and approves the application and forwards to the Dean of the School of Behavioral Sciences for review by the IRB Representative.

2. When approved the application will then be submitted to the CalSouthern IRB Board for final approval.

3. The CalSouthern IRB Board reviews the application and notifies the IRB representative of approval, who then notifies the Doctoral Project Chair of approval or indicates the necessary changes to be made for resubmission to the IRB Board.

Researcher’s Responsibility

An approved IRB application must be on file before any work is conducted with or data gathered from any human subject. The purpose of submitting the doctoral candidate’s design to this careful review is to protect and ensure the safety of all participants, the researcher, and the University. The researcher’s responsibility when working with human participants is as follows:

1. The ultimate responsibility for ensuring the safety of all research participants rests with the doctoral candidate, the researcher.

2. The doctoral candidate must receive written consent from any participant(s) before the initiation of the study. Informed Consent Guidelines for Research with Human Participants can be found in Appendix E. Minors cannot sign the informed consent form. It must be signed by their parents or legal guardian(s). Minors must give assent to participation according to their age level. For Sample Statements of Informed Consent, see Appendix E).

3. In cases where the researcher wishes to utilize records or case notes gathered under the auspices of another institution (hospital or clinic) or interact with human participant(s) under the auspices of another institution, the researcher will need the appropriate director or officer of that institution to sign an agreement form and provide the agreement form with the IRB application. In such cases, please consult with the Doctoral Project Chair.

4. When the project is complete, the doctoral candidate ensures the completion of the IRB Completion Form (see Appendix F) and submits the form to the School of Behavioral Sciences IRB Representative. There are a number of regulations to consider to determine how long you are required to store records after the completion of research. Note you must keep records for the longest applicable period of time.  Federal regulations require the securement of research records for at least 3 years after the completion of the research (45 CFR 46.115). Other standards may also be applicable to storing records. HIPAA regulations require records to be retained for at least 6 years after a participant has signed an authorization. You must keep your research records for at least 3 years. Use the longest applicable standard.

Ethical Principles

The doctoral candidate must keep the following basic ethical principles in mind when developing the research design and completing the IRB (APA, 2010):

· Respect for Persons: Individuals must be treated as free and autonomous. Participants must freely agree, in writing, to participate in the doctoral candidate’s study with no coercion or harmful consequences should they elect not to participate. Participants must be free to end their participation in the candidate’s study at any stage during its development. Participants with diminished capacity must also be respected and protected. The ability for self-determination can become limited due to illness, mental disability, or physical circumstances, therefore, investigators must protect the welfare of people who participate in their research. This includes maintaining confidentiality in terms of their participation and the data collected from their participation.

· Beneficence: This principle involves not harming the participant physically, emotionally, or psychologically. It relates to the Hippocratic Oath: “Do no harm.” Even though all efforts will be taken to limit unpleasant effects, participants must be advised that there is a possibility that unpleasant thoughts, feelings, or emotions may surface. The researcher will maximize the benefit and minimize any harm or risk to the participants in the study.

· Justice: The burden for research should be fairly distributed and related to the problem the researcher is studying. In addition, participants have a right to know the purpose of the research. General deception should only be used if the study may not be meaningfully conducted without it. If deception is necessary, it must be stated forthrightly in the IRB.

· Physical harm: Subtle physical risk may go undetected; however, even subtle risks must be addressed.

· Psychological risk: Psychological stress is a risk factor that needs to be clearly assessed. Probing questions can cause considerable discomfort; certain topics may generate embarrassment or discomfort; psychological issues and painful memories may be reactivated. The documentation the doctoral candidate presents to the participants must accurately reflect these considerations.

· Transference with the use of patients as research participants: In most cases, the University recommends against the use of patients for research purposes when such research would take place concurrent with a therapeutic relationship. Such a situation can constitute a dual relationship, that of researcher and psychotherapist. The use of past or terminated patients for research presents less difficulty, nevertheless, care must be taken that consent is indeed freely given and that the pursuit of research does not harm the therapeutic relationship. At all times the researcher must maintain an awareness of the potential impact on the patient and on the transference situation which may extend beyond termination.

Additional requirements include:

· Case Material: Case material that is utilized in such a manner that the patient or others may be recognized always suggests the need for informed consent even when measures to conceal the identity of the patient have been taken.

· Past or Current Client Data: Quoting directly from a patient or using dream images or narratives necessitates informed consent. The use of case material will be discussed with the Doctoral Project Chair as a part of the ethics approval process.

· CoercionIt is not ethical to willfully pressure the participant to take part in the nature of the study.

· Deception: Any form of deception or manipulation in order to produce a particular result/response is a violation of ethical principles. However, with the approval of the IRB, there may be times when the benefits outweigh the use of deception.



The University requires Doctoral Projects to be prepared in a manner that ensures consistency in the arrangement and organization of the work. The doctoral candidate is required to adhere to the formatting guidelines as specified in the current edition of the American Psychological Association (APA) Manual.

Manuscript Submission

Doctoral Projects will be uploaded in the course area like all other assignments. The font should be 12-point Times New Roman. It is important that consistency in type and APA formatting be maintained throughout the project. Font in tables, figures, and graphs may be 10 or 11 point.

Format / Text Spacing

The text should be double-spaced with the following exceptions which are single-spaced:

· all block quotations (40 or more words)

· reference entries of more than one line

· material in tables and appendices

· captions and legends

· table of contents

The start of each paragraph should be indented to 0.5 and there should be no blank space between paragraphs other than double-spacing.

Space once at the end of a sentence after punctuation marks.


All margins are one inch and all text is aligned to the left margin. The right margin will be uneven.


The title should be concise and no more than 12 words. Titles should convey the focus of the research. See Appendix L for a sample Title Page.


Begin numbering on the Title page using Arabic numerals, followed by the Copyright page, the Acknowledgment page, the Abstract, the Table of Contents, Chapters One through Five along with references and Appendices. Candidates should use the pagination tool and include in the header to ensure consistency and uniformity. Page numbers are justified to the right margin.


Include the running head on the title page with page number. This includes a shortened title at the top of the page inside the MS Word page header. The running head is a maximum of 50 characters, including spaces.

The placement and style of section headings and subheadings should conform to the APA Manual (e.g., boldface, indentation, italics). Note that Chapter heading will be presented in all caps. All other headings will follow standard APA formatting.


The Doctoral Project should be a minimum of 100 pages excluding preliminary pages and references. An average Doctoral Project is approximately 100-150 pages in length.

Verb Tense

When writing Chapters 1 and 3 in the proposed phase before data collection and analysis, when referring to your own study you will be writing in the future tense. After receiving approval of Chapters 1-3, you will then change Chapters 1-3 to reflect the past tense. When discussing past studies or articles, use the past tense or present perfect grammar. Use the past tense for the presentation of results of past studies or for reporting your results as in Chapter 4. Use present tense grammar when discussing the findings, recommendations for practice and research, and conclusions for Chapter 5.


The Doctoral Project should contain a minimum of 80-100 references that should be single-spaced using APA formatting with a single-spaced line between them. Use the word processor’s hanging indentation formatting rather than a “tab” key or “space” key.

Table of Contents

Each heading and subheading should be listed in the Table of Contents. Heading and subheading formats should correspond to APA formatting. The Table of Contents is to be single-spaced.

Tables, Charts, and Photographs

Tables, charts, and photographs should be either black and white or grey scale and integrated into the text using APA formatting unless they are larger than one page. In that case, they are included as an appendix.




The final manuscript will be uploaded as an assignment in pdf format prior to defense.

Copyright Release Agreement

The doctoral candidate must submit a Doctoral Project Copyright Release Agreement form with the final manuscript in preparation for the defense. This allows the University to make copies of the project available to interested parties upon request. See Appendix J for a sample of the Copyright Release Agreement.

Regulations Regarding Joint Authorship

Joint authorship of Doctoral Projects will not be permitted. Each doctoral candidate must submit his or her own Doctoral Project under single authorship.

Publishing of Doctoral Projects

The doctoral candidate may have but is not required to have his or her Doctoral Project published.

Copyrighting of Doctoral Project

Because the submittal of a Doctoral Project to the University constitutes publication under the terms of copyright law (Title 17, Section 101). The candidate does not have to register with the Library of Congress to copyright the project. A simple statement on the publication “©1999 John Doe” is sufficient. The doctoral candidate may, however, apply directly to the Register of Copyrights, Library of Congress, Washington, DC, 20540. See Appendix M for a sample Copyright Page.



A doctoral candidate may choose between four basic research approaches for the Doctoral Project, a Theoretical Study, a Qualitative methodology, or a Quantitative methodology and a Mixed Methods approach. While each research approach utilizes its own distinctive methodology and organization for gathering, analyzing, and reporting findings, specific guidelines apply to all three methodologies.

Theoretical Study

The theoretical study is comprised of an extensive search, review, analysis, and interpretation of already published studies in order to find new meaning. The literature is analyzed to identify key themes, perspectives, and meanings and includes descriptive methods of research.

A Qualitative Study

The data for a qualitative study are gathered from individual or group interviews or surveys, field observations, and archival data. Qualitative studies are analyzed to identify key themes, perspectives, and meanings. Common design options for qualitative methodology are narrative, phenomenological, grounded theory, ethnography, and case study methods of research.

A Quantitative Study

Quantitative methodology may be used with the permission of the Chair. The data for a quantitative study is gathered by input (e.g., surveys, field observations, and/or archival data). Quantitative studies are analyzed through statistical analysis. Common design options for quantitative methodology are descriptive, developmental, causal-comparative, correlational, quasi-experimental, and experimental.

Mixed Methods Study

A mixed methods study uses a combination of both quantitative and qualitative approaches to conduct research. Generally, one approach is used to better understand what was learned from the other, thus gaining a deeper appreciation of the phenomenon. This type of study requires extensive data collection. How the two approaches will be integrated must be clearly articulated. Most importantly the procedures for data collection and analysis for each approach must be fully explained.

Structure of Doctoral Project

Title Pages

There are specific pages that precede Chapter One. A sample of where pages are to be placed and how to number them is shown in Appendix N.

The pages in front of Chapter One are included in the following order:

1. Title of Project

2. Copyright

3. Acknowledgements

4. Abstract

5. Table of Contents

6. List of Tables (if required)

7. List of Figures (if required)

Chapter One: Overview of the Study

The focus of Chapter One is an overview of the research study which includes

1. Introduction (not the title of a heading)

The introduction provides an overview of the chapter. A primary purpose of this chapter is to set the study in perspective for the reader. The introduction also acquaints the reader with the topic and the methodology used to study the problem.

2. Background of the Study

Provides insights and perspectives for why the study should be conducted. Why is the problem of pressing societal concern or theoretical interest? Information to be included is historical and statistical information which supports the study.

3. Statement of the Problem

The statement of the problem describes the societal situation and establishes the parameters for the problem that the doctoral candidate will address. Using the current literature what is known and unknown is presented to establish the context of the study, which should be reflective of Chapter 2.

4. Purpose of the Study

The purpose of the study establishes how the study will be conducted and includes both the type of methodology and research questions. This section is a discussion of how keys elements of the study we be explored. The questions for research are posed using the format of a short question that reflects the focus of the study. Generally, a study consists of 3-5 research questions.

5. Theoretical or Conceptual Framework

The candidate will identify the theory or theories or concepts that provide the foundation of the study. They provide the perspective or lens through which the project is examined.

6. Significance of the Study

The significance of the study addresses who will benefit from the study and how they will benefit. The doctoral candidate articulates specifically how the study will contribute to the existing theoretical literature and/or qualitative and quantitative findings within psychology.

7. Limitations and Delimitations of the Study

Limitations reflect possible weaknesses in the study. The candidate must address the limitations over which he or she has no control. For various reasons, limitations of the study may be determined by such factors as a convenience sample meaning using participants that are not randomly selected which limits the generalizability of the results. The candidate must address delimitations factors for the study. They serve to narrow the focus of the study to focus on specific criteria or to delimit to specific groups or locations.

8. Definitions and Key Terms

All pertinent definitions and key terms within the scope of the study need to be operationalized. All definitions and key terms must be sourced.

9. Organization

Provides an overview for the structure of the doctoral project.

Chapter Two: Review of the Literature

The review of the literature reflects what the candidate has established as the focus of the study in Chapter One’s Statement of the Problem of the study.

1. The introduction provides an overview of the chapter.

2. The candidate organizes the literature review according to topics, critically evaluates the literature, highlights important unanswered questions, identifies methodological problems with past studies as well as areas of controversy in the literature, as well as, discusses the significance of past research in relationship to the current study. Additionally, the theoretical or conceptual framework of the study is to be discussed.

The literature review is comprised of current sources of which 85% are within the past 5 years. All sources must be credible such as peer-reviewed studies. Not included are any .com websites. A place to begin your search is via the University’s online library, Google Scholar, and/or APA databases.

3. The summary for chapter two should reflect the relationships established from the review of the literature and articulate links to the theoretical framework.

Chapter Three: Methodology

Theoretical/Thematic Study

For a theoretical/thematic study, Chapter Three includes:

1. Overview and Re-statement of the Problem–The candidate will provide a brief overview of the study and restatement of the problem at the beginning of this chapter. The research questions are repeated and the applicable group and key areas the research will be identified.

2. Research Method-A brief discussion of the underlying philosophical assumptions of theoretical/thematic studies and why a theoretical/thematic literature review is the appropriate method of study to answer the research questions is provided. A well-reasoned articulation of how theoretical/thematic studies are a legitimate alternative research procedures in psychology is provided. Use at least two peer-reviewed sources to ground your discussion.

3. Data Collection-The candidate explains how the literature presented in chapter 2 along with additional literature will be developed in support of the research questions. Key word choices and relationships will be identified which articulate the specific selection of the literature.

4. Data Analysis-The candidate explains how the key points and observations of the study are distilled, broken down, and thoroughly examined. This will provide a discussion for the required analysis supporting each research question and will describe the approach which will be used to guide the analysis using a methods book.

Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Studies

For a qualitative study or quantitative study, Chapter Three should include the following.

1. An introduction which encompasses the re-statement of the problem and the research questions. For a quantitative study the hypotheses as well.

2. Research Method-A statement of either qualitative or quantitative methodology should follow. Include a discussion of how the research design whether phenomenological, narrative, case studies, correlational, descriptive, causal-comparative, or quasi-experimental is the legitimate, appropriate research design. Use at least two peer-reviewed sources to ground your discussion.

3. Participants–The candidate will describe the location of the participants; discuss the criteria for selecting those participants (i.e., what characteristics do they possess that make them suitable for the area of investigation) and the process by which they were selected (such as random sampling, snowball, etc.); provide the number of participants in the study, including any important distinctions existing between them (e.g., gender or ethnicity).

4. Instrumentation— Provide a description of the instruments or protocols that will be used surveys, interviews, observations, or artifacts. Include all instrumentation as an appendix. Describe in detail the instruments to be used in the study. All questions or criteria should be clearly linked to the literature presented in chapter two.

5. Data Collection–The candidate will provide a concise but thorough description of the steps used to collect data from the participants. Describe any recruitment processes and/or communication; describe the informed consent process; and note the data collection schedule. If interviews are conducted indicate the length, the number, where conducted, and stipulate they will be recorded. For surveys describe the procedures for how they will be distributed and collected. Include all other procedures and processes needed in order to replicate the study. If artifacts are used, describe the process by which the data will be procured, selected, and utilized. For any other methods of data collection provide a complete description of all processes.

6. Data Analysis-The candidate describes the analysis of the data that was performed as well as the specific steps taken. It is important to reference a research methods book to detail this process. Researcher bias, validity, reliability and other research factors should be addressed as appropriate.

7. Limitations and Delimitations- Provide a detailed discussion of the limitations and delimitations of the study in this section.

Chapter Four: Results

Chapter Four is where the results from this project are articulated in response to the research questions.

An introduction of the chapter is provided which includes a brief overview of the focus of the study and the research questions. Next, describe the participants. The results will follow in response to the research questions. Generally, the results are presented by research question. A brief interpretation or meaning without discussion are reported. Only the amount of explanation necessary to help the reader understand the basis for the outcomes of the results is included. Articulate how the results leads to a specific finding which will be discussed in chapter 5. Describe any links to the applicable theory or framework. The discussion of the research and implications is reserved for Chapter Five. The report of the results must be thorough enough for the reader to make an independent judgment about the research. Summarize the overall findings established from the results presented.

Chapter Five: Discussion

Chapter Five is where the discussion of the findings from the study are presented. The discussion should align the findings with the theoretical and conceptual framework that was defined in Chapter Two.

Begin with a brief overview of the study which includes the problem, purpose, research questions and brief description of the methodology.

Next the candidate asserts and connects the findings to the predominate studies identified in the literature review, indicating how the results relate to this literature and provides explanations for the findings. Although much of this creative emphasis will be revealed in how the results are correlated with the existing literature, the significance of the findings beyond data analysis should be speculated. Provide a discussion regarding changes in the limitations or delimitations of the research.

The candidate will present a discussion of the implications of the study for professional practice and scholarly work in the field of psychology. Included are any recommendations for changes in psychological concepts and knowledge, or any recommended changes applied to clinical practice. All implications are to be linked explicitly to specific findings from the candidates study.

Additionally, the candidate will present suggested future research topics based on the study that could expand this field of knowledge from the study or which will direct scholars to new areas for further exploration.

Finally, the candidate will summarize personal insights and any final reflections in conclusion of the study.

Reference List and Appendices

The final section of the manuscript includes a complete listing of books and articles cited in the body of the work. Only those authors that have been cited should be listed. The candidate will only include works that are primary sources not secondary sources.

The appendices contain original material referred to in the text but too lengthy to be included, as well as, instrumentation.


After the Doctoral Project is complete, the candidate will write an abstract that summarizes the study’s purpose, the primary theoretical and conceptual perspective(s) used, and the major findings and implication in accordance with APA requirements. In The abstract should not exceed 250 words. Although the candidate writes the abstract after the completion of the study, the abstract is placed at the beginning of the Doctoral Project. See Appendix N for an example of the Abstract.

Doctoral Project Resources

Candidates are required to utilize the Doctoral Project Assessment Rubric form found in Appendix G and details the guidelines on which the candidate’s manuscript will be evaluated. The rubric is to be used by the Candidate to provide a self-assessment of the doctoral project when sending drafts to the Chair. The Chair will provide feedback on the draft and utilize the rubric when returning the draft. Appendix H contains the Doctoral Project Checklist and Appendix I provides Tips for Completing the Doctoral Project.


Approval of the Doctoral Project means that the doctoral candidate’s Committee is in agreement that the doctoral candidate may present the project’s worth to an audience of scholars and professionals.  The Chair will ensure the final draft along with the Copyright Release Agreement (see Appendix J) are submitted for institution review approval. After the Doctoral Project manuscript has Institution Review approval from the Dean, of the School of Behavioral Sciences, the candidate in conjunction with the Chair and Committee Members can then proceed with the Oral Defense.  The university will then coordinate a defense date.


The Oral Defense is hosted by the University and may include Faculty Mentors and invited guests. Preapproval by the Dean is necessary for all invited guests. The chair and candidate are responsible for reminding committee members of the scheduled defense date and any additional essential information.

The candidate may participate in his or her Oral Defense either in person at the University or via audio or video conferencing. For a candidate who elects to defend in-person, at least one committee member must also be present or the Doctoral Project coordinator.

Committee members will attend the Oral Defense of the Doctoral Project either in person or via audio or video conference and sign the Doctoral Project Approval Page via an online signature. See Appendix K.

The degree will then be conferred after all academic and financial commitments to the University have been met.

Oral Defense Power Point Format

The structure of the presentation includes: an overview of the problem, research questions, a review of relevant literature, a discussion of the findings, and a discussion of the implications for practice and recommendations for research. A Power Point template is provided in the resource section of the PSY 87995 course.

Oral Defense Procedure

The defense lasts approximately one hour. The candidate should prepare 20-25 minutes for the presentation. The chair will introduce the attendees from the university. If the candidate has individuals joining, he or she will introduce them.  After the candidate’s presentation, the committee will have a discussion with the candidate for further clarity or questions. The candidate will then step out while the committee makes their decision. When the candidate returns, the chair announces the decision. One of three results will be reported:

1. The Oral Defense of the Doctoral Project is accepted.

2. The Oral Defense of the Doctoral Project is conditionally accepted for minor changes (Revised drafts must be uploaded into the course when completed.).

3. The Oral Defense of the Doctoral Project is not accepted.

The University goal is that all candidates achieve the first result.

Appendix A: Sample of Doctoral Project Titles

Treating Diurnal Enuresis in Children with a Biobehavioral

Psychoeducation for Victims of Domestic Abuse using Cognitive Behavioral Treatment

Teacher Implementation of Evidence-Based Behavior Intervention Plans: Fidelity or Futility?

The Role of Parental Divorce on Child and Adolescent Development

Schema Therapy: An Integrative Approach for the Treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder

Clinicians’ Attitudes and Confidence in Establishing and Maintaining Therapeutic Relationships to Mitigate Suicidal Risk in Veterans

An Examination of Suicide: Trends and Motives from a Global Perspective

Treating Self-injurious Behavior in Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Exploring Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) in Treating Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)

The Potential of Neurofeedback in Repairing Aberrant Connectivity in Autism Spectrum Disorder

An Examination of Spirituality and Religion as a Tool to Prevent Burnout in Therapists

Psychological Treatment Differentiators and Superior Patient Effectiveness of Partial Hospitalization Programs

Utilizing Research to Explore Factors that Contribute to Suicide amongst Active Duty Military Service Members

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