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Psychology Dissertation

Policies and Procedures

Steps for Completing Dissertation Requirements

  1. Committee Formation & Member Requirements
  2. Registration in Clinical Dissertation Courses
  3. Clinical Dissertation Timeline
  4. Proposal Preparation
  5. TurnItIn
  6. Preliminary Oral Defense
  7. Institutional Review Board
  8. Final Oral Defense
  9. Dissertation APA Format Clearance
  10. Continuous Enrollment Status
  11. Final Document Submission
  12. Degree Posting

1. Committee Formation & Member Requirements

Students are provided with information on faculty backgrounds and research interests during their first semester (see Appendix A - Psy.D. Program Clinical Dissertation Chair Information) and may set up appointments with faculty members with whom they are interested in working. Students rank faculty members and are matched with their Chairperson during their first year. Once the chairperson is identified, dissertation committee members are selected in consultation with the chair.


Committee Formation Requirements:

  • All members who serve on dissertation committees must hold an earned doctoral degree from an academically accredited institution and possess the expertise to contribute to the development of the dissertation.
  • The Chairperson must be a full-time, tenure track GSEP psychology faculty member, Senior Lecturer in the PsyD program, Director of Clinical Training, or Clinic Director.
  • A second internal committee member is required and must be a full-time, tenured/tenure track psychology faculty member, a GSEP Clinic Director, Senior Lecturer in the PsyD program, Director of Clinical Training, or an Emeritus Psychology faculty member.
  • Additional committee members are optional and at the discretion of the Chairperson. They can be Pepperdine affiliated (including Adjunct Faculty) or external to the university.

After the dissertation committee is formed the student must submit the following:

(Note: If any committee member is not a full-time Pepperdine faculty member from another department or a current adjunct psychology faculty member, a curriculum vita must be submitted along with the Appendix A)

If the committee membership changes after the committee has been constituted and approved, Appendix B-2 - Petition for Change in Constitution of Clinical Dissertation Committee must be submitted to the Psy.D. Program Administrator and approved by the Psy.D. Program Director.

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2. Registration in Clinical Dissertation Courses

Students begin dissertation coursework in the first semester of the first year with the PSY790 introductory course and continue with the three-term PSY 791-793 dissertation development sequence. Students enroll in dissertation supervision courses (PSY 794-799 or PSY 800) with their Chairperson each term thereafter until they have successfully completed their clinical dissertation. Exceptions must be approved by the clinical dissertation chairperson and the Psy.D. Executive Committee.

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3. Clinical Dissertation Timeline

The various steps of the dissertation process are based on the goal of completing all phases of the dissertation prior to going on full-time internship in the fourth year. Specific dissertation activities and the length of time for each phase (e.g., data collection) may vary based on the type of clinical dissertation chosen. Most students using the Systematic Review methodology will sit for their Final Oral Examination and at the end of the 3rd year. Students who utilize other methodologies are expected to complete data collection prior to going on internship and finish their analysis and writing during the fourth year.

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4. Proposal Preparation

The student begins work on their systematic review protocol and proposal during the first term of the dissertation development course sequence (PSY791) and completes it during PSY 793. The document must be approved by the Chairperson prior to Preliminary Orals.

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5. TurnItIn

Students will submit their dissertation work to TurnItIn twice during the dissertation process. In Round 1, the background literature and rationale section of the proposal will be submitted during the dissertation development course. In Round 2, the entire dissertation will submitted prior to Final Orals. Submission occurs through TurnItIn (TurnItIn Instructions) via the "GSEP Writing Support" course in Courses (powered by Sakai). The student will forward the Round 1 report to his or her dissertation development course instructor. The Round 2 report will be forwarded to the dissertation chairperson.

The TurnItIn report will be reviewed, ensuring the bibliographic and quoted material are excluded from the results, and work with the student to resolve any issues related to originality, extensive quotation, improper quotation, etc. In cases of matching text, students will have the opportunity to correct and resubmit through TurnItIn as needed. The student and chairperson are responsible for ensuring that the final document is free of plagiarism before submitting for APA Clearance.

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6. Preliminary Oral Defense ("Prelims") - Presentation of research proposal

Prelims is an opportunity for the student to present their dissertation proposal and progress. It will typically occur at the end of the dissertation development course sequence. Students do a brief presentation of their background literature and methodology prior a period of Q&A and discussion. Students receive oral and written feedback regarding their performance. See the PsyD Clinical Dissertation Handbook for details and options for Prelims.

Advancement to candidacy for the Psy.D. Program requires that a student pass both the Preliminary Oral Defense and the Clinical Competence Examination.

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7. Graduate & Professional Schools Institutional Review Board (GPS IRB)

Once the doctoral candidate has successfully completed the Preliminary Oral Defense and made any necessary revisions, they must apply to the Graduate & Professional Schools IRB. All doctoral students must receive GPS IRB approval to proceed after passing Prelims and before implementing the research methodology. This includes all methodologies so that all studies are documented, including those that do not involve human participants. Details of the GPS IRB process and application forms are available at the Pepperdine Community webpage for Graduate and Professional Schools IRB

Psychology Division Methods Review

All GSEP psychology students conducting research with human participants must submit expedited or full review applications detailing their research and data collection methods. The first step in this process is submission of the IRB application to the Psychology Division Methods Review Committee for approval. This is required before submitting the application for GPS IRB review. For information about the Psychology Division Methods Review, see the Psychology Division Methods Review Policy, or contact the Psychology Division Methods Review Committee, Dr. Cary Mitchell, at 310-506-8553 or at cary.mitchell@pepperdine.edu.

NOTE: Candidates must communicate with their chairperson any changes in the methodology. If changes impact human subject considerations, candidates may also need to resubmit the proposal for GPS IRB review and approval.

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8. Final Oral Defense (Final orals) - Presentation of Dissertation Findings

The intent of the examination is to demonstrate that the candidate has obtained a level of competence in scholarship which permits them to be recommended to the University for the Doctorate degree. Candidates at the final oral are essentially defending the dissertation research and are participating in scholarly challenges to methodology, analysis and conclusions. The examination is open to the academic community and guests of the candidate.

At least two weeks prior to the desired date of the final oral defense, the student should:

  1. Notify the Psy.D. Program Administrator of the date of the final oral defense. The administrator will reserve a room and circulate the final oral announcement.
  2. Submit an electronic copy of the dissertation manuscript (in pdf format) to the Psy.D. Program Administrator.

Although chairpersons may conduct the final oral defenses differently, these orals essentially consist of three components.

  • The student's presentation of background literature and study rationale, research methodology and results, and findings in the context of existing literature and implications for research and professional practice.
  • A question and discussion period.
  • Committee deliberations, before which the student and any guests are asked to leave the room to allow discussion among committee members. The student will receive the committee's decision, as well as oral and written feedback regarding their performance including any requested changes from the committee. There are four possible decision outcomes:
    1. Pass with Distinction
    2. Pass
    3. Pass with Concerns
    4. Fail

All required revisions from Final Orals must be completed prior to submitting the dissertation manuscript for the APA Format and Clearance process. It is the student's responsibility to have Appendix E - Approval of Final Clinical Dissertation Manuscript signed by their chairperson after all revisions have been made and approved.

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9. Dissertation APA Format Clearance

When the candidate has obtained the approvals and signatures of the committee members, all doctoral candidates must submit their dissertations to the Dissertation Support Office for APA format review. A clearance by the Dissertation Office is required to ensure that Pepperdine University format requirements and APA style guidelines have been maintained.

Submission of Dissertation Manuscript

After notifying your Program Administrator, submit the following to the Manager of Writing Support:

Once the Manager of Writing Support has confirmed that all necessary forms and the dissertation versions are received, the student will receive an initial contact email outlining the process for APA Format Review. If any format changes are necessary after an initial review, the Dissertation Office will return the edited dissertation to the student so that the student can make revisions and resubmit an updated version. APA clearance will be given once all requested changes have been implemented.

The suggested submission deadline is six (6) weeks prior to the end of the term in which the degree is posted. Manuscripts will be accepted after this deadline for review; however the Dissertation Office may not be able to complete all the necessary arrangements in time for the degree posting that term.

Once the manuscript has been cleared for APA review, the cleared dissertation and clearance letter outlining the steps for final document submission will be emailed to the student. The APA Reviewer will then sign Appendix E confirming dissertation clearance.

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10. Continuous Enrollment Status

Dissertation students who have successfully completed their final oral defense and who have submitted all the necessary forms and dissertation manuscript for APA review by the drop/add deadline are placed in PSY 801 Dissertation Completion and are required to pay a fee of $100.

Students are eligible to enroll in PSY 801 for up to two consecutive terms. If the dissertation has not been cleared by APA and/or the dissertation submission to ProQuest has not been completed within two terms, the student will be re-enrolled in the appropriate PSY dissertation research course, or granted an extension.

Enrollment in the PSY 801 constitutes part-time students status (unless concurrently enrolled in PSY 780 Doctoral Internship), which will impact financial aid eligibility and loan deferment.

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11. Final Document Submission 

The following must be completed and submitted to the Dissertation Support Office in order for the student's degree to be posted. Also, all required paperwork, including the Final Internship Evaluation, must be in the student's clinical training file.

The dissertation must be uploaded for publishing and archiving using ProQuest ETD Administrator for Pepperdine GSEP. This will be the final PDF version of the dissertation that will be published, unless otherwise noted by the ETD Administrator.

Dissertation Submission

  1. ProQuest UMI/ETD Submission:

    Electronically submit your cleared dissertation to ProQuest ETD Administrator

    • Create a new user account to upload the final PDF version of the dissertation to UMI/ETD.
    • Select a publishing option (Traditional, Open Access, Open Access PLUS) and complete the agreement.
    • Personal bound dissertation copies and copies for the chairperson/committee members can be ordered through the UMI/ETD submission.
    • All fees are paid by credit card at the time of initial submission.
  2. Graduation Application: The Graduation Application is submitted to the Psy.D. Program Administrator after completion of predoctoral internship.

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12. Degree Posting

Once the Dissertation Support Office has received all the necessary items for the degree posting and the students has completed their predoctoral internship, the Office of Student Information and Services can indicate on the students' record that all degree requirements have been satisfied and the degree can be posted. Students' degrees are posted in the term in which this notification occurs, not necessarily in the term in which they have successfully completed their Final Oral Defense. Degrees will be posted at the following degree posting dates:

  • Fall: mid-October and the last day of the term

  • Spring: the last day of the term

  • Summer: the last day of summer session 1 or summer session 2

Degree completion and ability to use the credential of "Psy.D." occurs when degree requirements have been met. "Graduation" is defined as the date the doctoral degree is posted, not the date of the graduation ceremony itself which generally occurs only once a year in the Spring. To participate in the graduation ceremony, the candidates must have had their Final Oral Defense and passed with or without modifications at least one week prior to the ceremony and completed 1100 hours of internship.


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