PhD Dissertation

Each student must write a dissertation that presents the results of a research project carried out by the student.

An appropriate research project involves a substantive piece of original and independent research grounded in an appropriate body of literature. It is relevant to an identifiable field as it is currently practiced. It presents a hypothesis tested by data and analysis and provides a significant contribution or advancement in that field. It is the responsibility of the student's doctoral committee to evaluate the dissertation in these terms and to recommend the awarding of the doctoral degree only if the dissertation is judged to demonstrate these qualities.

Characteristics that a dissertation should demonstrate are: 

  • Establishment of an historical context for the presentation of an innovative and creative approach to the problem analysis and solution
  • Clear understanding of the problem area as revealed by analysis and synthesis of a broad literature base
  • Well-defined research design
  • Clarity in composition and careful documentation
  • Results of sufficient merit to be published in refereed journals or to form the basis of a book or monograph
  • Sufficient detail so that other scholars can build on it in subsequent work
  • Preparation of the author to assume a position within the academic nursing profession

The date and title of the defense must be submitted to the PhD Program Director one month prior to the final defense so that this event can be announced to the University community; see Policy 227 for more information.

Dissertation Committee

The student selects a qualified nursing faculty member with expertise in the area of research focus to guide the research and chair the dissertation committee.

In consultation with the committee chair, the student selects a minimum of three faculty members in addition to the committee chair to serve as dissertation committee members.

  • The majority of the committee, including the major advisor, must be full or adjunct members of the Graduate Faculty of the University of Pittsburgh.
  • Three committee members, including the chair, must have a faculty appointment in the School of Nursing.
  • One member must be from a school or department outside of the School of Nursing.

The dissertation committee must be approved by the PhD Program Director and the Dean

This dissertation committee has the responsibility to advise the student during the progress of the candidate's research and has the authority to require high-quality research and/or the rewriting of any portion or all of the dissertation. It conducts the final oral examination and determines whether the dissertation meets acceptable standards; see Policy 227 for more information.

Meetings of the doctoral candidate and his/her dissertation committee must occur at least annually from the time the student gains admission to doctoral candidacy. During these meetings, the committee should assess the student's progress toward the degree and discuss objectives for the following year and a timetable for completing degree requirements.

Membership of the doctoral committee may be changed whenever it is appropriate or necessary, subject to the approval of the PhD Program Director and the Dean.

Dissertation Topic Approval

The dissertation focus must be approved by the student's dissertation committee and reported to the PhD Council by the student's dissertation chair before the student can proceed with the selected research. This Dissertation Committee's approval will be based on the appropriateness of the abstract of the planned study to the science of nursing and the match between the School of Nursing faculty and the student's research topic. 

See Policy 234 for more information.