An essential component in doctoral education is the dissertation. A clinical dissertation is a scholarly work conducted independently by the student, under the supervision of a full-time Psychology Division faculty member in collaboration with two additional committee members. Through satisfactory completion of this project, the student demonstrates the ability to approach clinical problems from the base of a strong foundation in scholarship. This is consistent with the orientation of our Psy.D. program that the practice of psychology should be built upon the science of psychology.
A question is sometimes asked: "How does a clinical dissertation differ from a traditional dissertation?" Some clinical dissertations might be difficult to distinguish from a traditional dissertation. However, traditional dissertations are limited to "original contributions to knowledge." There is a broader range of acceptable models for the clinical dissertation. The emphasis of a clinical dissertation is the demonstration of the ability to utilize the research literature and a sound scholarly process to analyze, evaluate, and/or provide new information relevant to a focused applied problem in psychology. These problems should be similar to those encountered by psychologists working as practitioners, administrators, and consultants. Clinical dissertations must have relevance for the applied practice of clinical psychology.
From The Clinical Dissertation Handbook, Pepperdine University GSEP, Doctor of Psychology Program, September 2008.