The dissertation is an original work of scholarship that makes a contribution to the clinical social work literature and knowledge base. The Dissertation Mentor is assigned at the end of the first year.
Students must be in satisfactory academic standing.
The minimum standard for satisfactory work for students in the DSW Program is a B average in each academic semester. A student whose record falls below the B (3.0) average after any semester will be put on academic probation. If the cumulative GPA is not raised to above a 3.0 at the end of the subsequent semester, the student will be dismissed from the program.
Meet dissertation deadlines.
Be in close communication with your chair about these dates:
April of Year 1: Meet with DSW Director to discuss selection of your chair
By January 31 of Year 2: Preliminary draft of dissertation proposal submitted to chair
By March 31 of Year 2: Revised, final draft of dissertation proposal submitted to chair
By April 30 of Year 2: Dissertation proposal approved by dissertation committee.
By mid-May of Year 3 (exact date varies each year) Complete defense of dissertation; deposit final version of dissertation to Scholarly Commons
Each student will be required to have a dissertation committee of at least two members with one member designated the chair of the committee.
Every committee must have a standing, lecturer, or associated faculty member from the University of Pennsylvania serving on the committee. Standing* or Associated** or Lecturer faculty of the University may serve as chair. The dissertation chair could also be a tenure-track/tenured faculty member at a college or university other than Penn, with prior approval from the DSW Program Director.
*Standing Faculty includes all University of Pennsylvania tenure-line faculty and clinician-educator faculty.
**Associated Faculty are those with Research, Adjunct, Clinical, or Visiting appointments at the University of Pennsylvania.
The other committee member(s) may be a scholar or practitioner/expert external to the University of Pennsylvania with a doctoral degree, i.e., must be a qualified individual but is not required to hold a faculty rank at a college or university. Students must receive approval from the committee chair before inviting external members to serve on their dissertation committee.
All dissertation committee members must approve the proposal and final dissertation.
In the first year, the cohort will meet four times (September, November, January, and May) to discuss possible types and formats of dissertations, formulating proposals, and information on the IRB process.
Dissertation Writers’ Workshop
This workshop for third-year students will provide support, guidelines, and tips for completion of the dissertation; will facilitate the problem-solving process for barriers to completion; and provide socialization to academic social work (the academic job market, publishing and presenting dissertation research). Four meetings will be held from September through December.
Possible Dissertation Approaches
A systematic review aims to comprehensively locate and synthesize all research on a particular topic, using an established protocol of organized, transparent, and replicable procedures with some method of synthesis of either the quantitative (ideally meta-analysis) or qualitative (meta-synthesis) research.
A scoping review is similar to a systematic review in aim and process but is used to determine the state of the research for a nascent topic.
Quantitative Intervention Studies: Pilot RCT or Quasi-Experimental Designs
A randomized control trial is an empirical study that collects numerical data to test hypotheses on the effectiveness of an intervention using random assignment to conditions. Pilots assess the feasibility and acceptability, as well as preliminary effectiveness of interventions.
A quasi-experimental study is an empirical study that collects numerical data to test hypotheses on the effectiveness of an intervention using methods other than random assignment to control threats to internal validity, including nonequivalent groups or times series designs.
A quantitative study that examines the predictors/explicators (e.g., risk and protective factors) of a phenomenon.
Online survey: This is a method of data collection often used for correlational studies.
Treatment Manual Developed and/or Tested with the Use of Data
This format involves the development of a treatment or practice manual that provides specific guidelines for a planned, systematic intervention with a client population addressing a particular problem or issue. Data are collected as part of manual development and/or manual evaluation for acceptability, practicality, feasibility, cultural sensitivity, and/or preliminary effectiveness.
An empirical study that makes use of language, words, and narrative as data and often involves focus groups and/or in-depth interviewing of people with the lived experience of a phenomenon.
- Traditional book length research-based project
- Two related, publishable articles, at least one of which is empirical. There needs to be an introduction and conclusion that tie both articles together.
Empirical articles – reporting on the results of a research study
Conceptual articles provide a “new theoretical perspectives or integrate existing theoretical views, address innovative—new or adapted—procedures or techniques, discuss current professional issues or professional development (position papers),” (Watts, 2011, p. 308).
Commentary: Social Work defines as an opportunity to present critical observation on a current professional issue, social problem, or policy matter, and/or offer well-reasoned reactions or responses to previously published articles.