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Clinical Science PhD Program

Thesis Process


PhD Home | Admissions | Clinical Investigation | Health Information Technology | Health Services Research | Requirements | Resources

The student should follow this Thesis Process to ensure successful completion of the thesis:

  1. Form the committee: See the Comprehensive Exam page
  2. Draft a proposal: See above Comprehensive Examination Process/Content section on the Comprehensive Exam page.
  3. Secure thesis proposal approval: Ensure that the CLSC Approval of Thesis Proposal form is signed by committee members immediately following successful passing of the Comprehensive Examination.
  4. Conduct the research: The student will work with the Research Mentor and committee members to carry out the proposal. As things develop there will likely be some variation from the proposal, which is okay. Research involves collaboration. Some committees or individual members meet regularly (e.g., weekly) while others meet upon request. However, the student should not spend long periods of time working alone without talking with the Research Mentor – this is a recipe for delay, expenses, and/or failure. Committees MUST meet at least once a year (preferably every six months), and complete a Thesis Committee Report form (found at the end of this section) to be submitted to the CLSC Administrative Offices. Students must register for at least five thesis hours each fall and spring semester extending through the semester of the thesis defense. The final grade for the thesis (thesis course credit hours) will be withheld until the thesis is completed and approved by the Graduate School; the student will receive a grade of “In Progress” (IP) until that time.
  5. Write the thesis: The thesis must meet the formatting criteria outlined in CU Denver Graduate School Thesis Specifications (See Graduate School Handbook). The student should pick up the "Thesis Specifications" handbook at the Graduate School office or access it online off the Graduate School website. The Graduate School offers yearly workshops every fall and spring to assist students in completing their thesis. The student will draft his/her thesis and circulate it among committee members informally. The goal is for the student to incorporate all changes/revisions required into the draft thesis document PRIOR to the Thesis Defense Examination.

Thesis Chapter Content Requirements

There is some variation in the chapters across theses, but all theses must contain the information listed below and adhere to the Graduate School requirements.

  • Chapter 1- Introduction: Provide a brief overview, conceptual framework, purpose, and problem statement of the project.
  • Chapter 2- Background/Review of the Literature: Perform a review of the literature that identifies, reviews and critically appraises existing knowledge in the identified fields and topics. Gaps in evidence, knowledge and/or practice should be identified that the project addresses.
  • Chapter 3- Study Hypothesis/es or Research Questions, Methods, and Analysis Plan: Provide the study’s overall purpose, research question(s) hypothesis/es, specific aims, and a detailed description of the research methodology and analytical approach used. Where appropriate, detailed lab protocols should be specified (but may be included in an appendix). A power calculation/sample size calculation would normally be included. If qualitative or exploratory work was involved to complement the primary hypothesis-driven study approach, these study aims and methods should be described also. Appendices are helpful to provide copies of instruments, calibration assessments, key diagnostic tests, clinical performance metrics, study data forms, study data definitions, survey instruments, or any other source documents related to the study. The student’s thesis COMIRB application and (at a minimum) COMIRB approval documentation (including HIPAA documentation if appropriate) should be included as a separate appendix.
  • Chapter 4- Study Results: Tables, graphs, and a detailed summary of the study findings should be presented.
  • Chapter 5- Conclusion/Discussion: The project’s conclusions are presented and a discussion of the implications (as related to the field of clinical science) provided. The impact on patient care should be discussed. Strengths and limitations of the work are also described. Future research directions and/or research projects planned may be discussed in this chapter or an additional chapter.

Thesis Defense

  1. Schedule thesis defense: Upon the request of the student and when all members of the committee have signed the Final Exam Schedule Approval form, a day and time acceptable to all committee members can be scheduled. Faculty signatures (electronic signatures are acceptable) on this form ensure that the full committee agrees that the student is ready to defend his/her final thesis. Students should plan on a meeting of at least four hours. The final draft of the thesis must be submitted to the CLSC Administrative Offices (Galit Man​​​kin) and the committee members of the Thesis Defense Examination at least four weeks in advance of the planned defense date. The defense must be held in a room on the AMC campus or an AMC-affiliated campus. Please note that the following forms need to be completed and submitted to CLSC Administrative Office: 1) Request for Scheduling Exam Form (a Graduate School form) and 2) Final Exam Schedule Approval Form (a CLSC program form). Please allow a minimum of 4 weeks in advance of the Graduate School deadline for CLSC program signatures and review.

    Graduate School deadlines for graduation are listed in the Graduate School calendar available at the Office of the Registrar website. It is crucial to check the Graduate School deadlines to ensure a smooth process. Graduation packets containing all necessary instructions and paperwork are available from the Graduate School or from their website and then click on Student Services).

    The Request for Scheduling Exam form must be submitted to the Graduate School at least two weeks prior to the defense date. This form must be complete and have CLSC program approval prior to submission. This deadline is strictly enforced and if not met will necessitate the rescheduling of the exam.

    Students must be enrolled for thesis credits (CLSC 8990) during the semester in which the thesis defense is held.

    Students should consult the graduate school several months before planning to graduate to ensure the necessary paperwork is complete.
  2. Defend the thesis: The thesis defense is the official Graduate School final exam for the PhD degree. Similar to the Comprehensive Examination, the thesis defense consists of an open-to-the-public oral presentation and question period followed by a closed session with the members of the examination committee. All CLSC Program faculty and students will be invited to attend the oral presentation. The public presentation should last approximately 30-40 minutes with 20-30 minutes available for open public discussion. All members of the committee must be present for the examination. One member, but not the chairperson or the student, may participate by interactive video.

    At the thesis defense, a majority vote of the Comprehensive and Thesis Committee members is required. This committee will evaluate both the oral defense and written thesis. Following deliberations, the committee will vote to pass, conditionally pass (with modifications required to the written thesis draft), or fail a student for his/her thesis defense. If changes are required, final review and approval by the committee chair (who will determine that the committee’s stipulated modifications have been completed successfully) will be obtained. If a student passes the examination with conditions, those conditions must be satisfied within 60 days for the PhD degree.
  3. Submit thesis: Once revisions suggested at the defense examination are made and the final thesis is signed, two formally approved copies of the PhD thesis must be filed in the Graduate School Office by the deadlines specified in the graduation packet. Despite thesis submission deadlines, students must submit a finally approved thesis to the Graduate School within 60 days of the thesis defense.
  4. Preparation for graduation following successful defense: The PhD Graduation Packet with corresponding forms and important deadlines is available at the Graduate School website.

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