In collaboration with their Dissertation Mentor, students begin developing a dissertation topic in the first semester of the DSW program. The dissertation is an original work of scholarship that makes a contribution to the clinical social work literature and knowledge base.
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: Complete defense of dissertation (exact date varies each year)
By early June of Year 3: 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.
At least one person on the committee should be a University of Pennsylvania faculty member or associated faculty.
The final dissertation must be approved by the University of Pennsylvania faculty member on the committee.
In the first year, the cohort will meet four times (September, November, January, and May) to discuss possible types of dissertations.
Dissertation Writers’ Workshop
This workshop, for third-year students, will provide momentum to move forward toward completion through a peer review process and instructor feedback. Four meetings will be held from September through December.
Meeting #1—Q&A with the Director and Assistant Director, students sharing experiences of successful progress and problem-solving barriers, and more detailed instructions for the following meetings
Meetings #2-#5—facilitated by the Director; students will submit 2-10 pages of written portions of their dissertations that they want feedback on and ideas for direction. These written documents can come from their literature review, methods, findings, or discussion sections.
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.
Through the use of multiple sources of data and an evidence-based empirical approach, the case study provides “an in-depth description, exploration, or explanation of a particular system or phenomenon through quantitative and/or qualitative methods data collection and analysis. The case study aims to generate or test a theory in its particular social, cultural, and historical context” (Lee, Mishna, & Brennenstuhl, 2010. p. 682).
Medical narrative: A creative non-fiction approach to the case study as an illustration of a particular social phenomenon.
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.
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
2 related, publishable articles – needs to have introduction and conclusion and 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.