8060 Doctor of Philosophy in Public Health

Contact:
Shannon Self-Brown
Associate Professor and Doctoral Program Director

Approved by the University System of Georgia Board of Regents in March 2011, the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Public Health academic degree in the School of Public Health is the first Georgia Board of Regent’s approved public health doctoral degree in the metropolitan Atlanta area.  The degree requirements will serve to educate the next generation of prevention scientists conducting public health research in academia, governmental public health, health care organizations and the private sector. Within the doctoral degree, students choose between distinct doctoral concentrations, or programs of study, offered by the School. They include: Epidemiology (EPID), Health Promotion and Behavior (HPMB), or Health Services and Policy Research (HSRP).  While the GSU School of Public Health offers three distinct Ph.D. programs in three different concentrations—EPIP, HPBP, and HSRP—this catalog will occasionally refer to a singular Ph.D. degree when discussing requirements that pertain to all School of Public Health doctoral programs of study and students.

8060.10 Ph.D. Degree Requirements

The Ph.D. degree requires completion of a minimum of sixty-two (62) credit hours of coursework and a declared concentration in a public health core area. Students are also required to complete a dissertation. The candidates must satisfy the course requirements and credit hours in the following areas:

Required Prerequisites – MPH Core Courses (16 hours):

  • PH 7011 Introduction to Epidemiology (3) or PH 7711 Epidemiologic Methods I (3) (EPID doctoral students must choose and complete PH 7711; HPBP and HSRP doctoral student may complete either PH 7011 or PH 7711)
  • PH 7017 Fundamentals of Biostatistics I (4)
  • PH 7140 Social and Behavioral Aspects of Public Health (3)
  • PH 7150 Environmental Health (3)
  • PH 7160 Introduction to Health Care System (3)
    Doctoral students may waive these MPH Core Courses if they:
  • enter the Ph.D. program with a MPH degree that included “B” grades or better in their MPH courses related to the five knowledge areas basic to public health (biostatistics, epidemiology, environmental health sciences, social and behavioral sciences or dimensions of public health, and health services administration or introduction to the health care system), and/or have successfully completed a comparable course(s) with a grade of “B” or better, as documented by an official university transcript. Syllabi for courses may also be requested. Or,
  • Completed employment or other training(s) that enable them to demonstrate the knowledge, skills, and abilities acquired in the MPH core courses listed above.

Students meeting the above criteria should provide a petitions for waiver for each of the five areas (courses) being requested for waiver. The Petition for Waiver is a written statement, along with any evidentiary documentation, that assures the School that the doctoral student has mastered one (or more) of the five areas of knowledge basic to public health through another manner (i.e. MPH degree, career experience, advanced or seminar coursework that included mastery of the five areas of knowledge basic to public health, etc.). This Petition must be approved by the Doctoral Program Director. The Doctoral Program Director may defer to the Director of the Division in which the petitioned course is offered. Upon approval by the Doctoral Program or Division Director, the Petition is then forwarded to the Office of Academic Assistance and Career Services (OAA) for their approval. OAA may request the input of the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and/or the Academic Affairs Committee, but that is not required. Once the Director of OAA notes OAA’s approval, the student’s file and program of study is updated to note satisfaction of the required prerequisite(s). Students who are admitted without these MPH core courses, comparable courses and/or skills will be required to take the five MPH core courses listed above as prerequisites to the doctoral degree. Some doctoral degree courses may be taken concurrently with prerequisite MPH core courses—students should consult their Faculty Advisor or the Doctoral Program coordinator.

    1. Required Ph.D. Core Courses (18 hours): 
        The following courses constitute the Ph.D. Public Health Degree Core:

        • PH 8721: Epidemiologic Methods II (3)
        • PH 9120: Theory and Practice in Health and Prevention (3)
        • PH 9140: Advanced Research Methods (3)
        • PH 9150: Public Health Ethics (3)
        • PH 9810: Biostatistical Methods I (3)
        • PH 9820: Biostatistical Methods II (3)
    2. Required Ph.D. Concentration Courses (27 hours):
      Twenty seven (27) hours of required coursework and electives have been established to ensure that students achieve proficiency in the competencies and skills related to each Ph.D. program of study: Epidemiology (EPID), Health Promotion and Behavior (HPMP), or Health Services and Policy Research (HSRP). Each student selects a program concentration upon application to the Ph.D. degree. To meet the individualized, in-depth training needs of doctoral students, many concentration research methods and/or elective areas have multiple course options that doctoral students may choose from to satisfy their unique learning needs and future career paths. All choices should be made in consultation with the student’s Faculty Advisor, and Faculty Advisor agreement with the course choices is implied on the Faculty Advisor and Doctoral Advisory Committee approved Doctoral Program of Study form (see Section 8060.60 Doctoral Program of Study Form for more information). Students are encouraged to seek Faculty Advisor consultation well before concentration research methods and/or elective course registration.
    3. Required Ph.D. Professional Seminar Courses (5 hours):
      • PH 8180: Doctoral Research Seminar I (3)
      • PH 8181: Doctoral Research Seminar II (2)
    4. Required Ph.D. Research/Teaching/Applied Skills Practicum and Culminating Experience (12 hours):
      • PH 9960: Public Health Doctoral Practicum (3)
      • PH 9990: Dissertation (9)
    5. Required Comprehensive Ph.D. Examination:
      Students will be expected to pass a doctoral comprehensive exam where they student demonstrates mastery of the doctoral program body of knowledge and proficiency in the program competencies. Students will have two opportunities to pass this exam, which is graded Pass/Fail by two faculty in the School of Public Health. Please see the doctoral student handbook for more details about the doctoral comprehensive exam
    6. Ph.D. Dissertation Requirement:
      The dissertation will provide the student with an educational experience that enables the student to make a significant contribution to the field of public health and to apply the doctoral program knowledge and skills that allow him or her to contribute to the theoretical, conceptual, empirical, or practice base in the field of public health. Enrollment for dissertation credit is permitted only after successful completion of the comprehensive examination. Students must register for a minimum of nine (9) credit hours of PH 9990.

Ph.D. Epidemiology Concentration

The following EPID Competencies describe the knowledge, skills, and abilities a successful graduate will demonstrate the conclusion of this doctoral program:

  • Understand the strengths and weaknesses of various epidemiologic study designs and research methods.
  • Demonstrate expertise in the ethical conduct of human subjects research, including confidentiality and vulnerable populations.
  • Critically review, synthesize, and evaluate the scientific literature and present appropriate implications for public health practice, public policy, and further research.
  • Demonstrate proficiency in epidemiological research by: (1) formulating a research question and/or corresponding hypotheses, (2) developing the study design, (3) participating in data collection, (4) conducting statistical analyses, and (5) interpreting scientific results.
  • Demonstrate mastery and independence as a researcher by pursuing and completing a specialized area of epidemiologic research.
  • Effectively present and disseminate findings from epidemiologic research to scientific and lay audiences.
    1. Required Ph.D. EPID Concentration Courses (9 hours)
      • PH 9731 Epidemiologic Methods III (3)
      • PH 9741 Advanced Topics in Epidemiologic Methods (3)
      • PH 8830 Advanced Statistical Topics (3)
    2. Required Ph.D. EPID Advanced Research Methods and Statistics Courses (6 hours)
        Select at least 2 courses in consultation with the Faculty Advisor.
      • PH 8885 Fundamentals of Clinical Trials (3)
      • PH 8890 Special Topics in Biostatistics (3)
      • EPRS 9550 Multivariate Analysis (3)
      • STAT 8090 Applied Multivariate Statistics (3)
      • STAT 8440 Survival Data Analysis (3)
      • STAT 8760 Sample Surveys (3)
      • EPRS 8830 Sampling Principles and Questionnaire Design (3)
      • EPRS 8840 Meta-Analysis (3)
      • EPRS 8560 Structural Equation Modeling (3)
      • Other appropriate research methods/statistics courses may be approved by the Faculty Advisor on the Doctoral Program of Study form.
    3. Required Ph.D. EPID Concentration Elective Courses (12 hours):
        Select at least 4 courses in consultation with the Faculty Advisor.
      • PH 7265 Epidemiology & the Prevention of Violence (3)
      • PH 7275 Chronic Disease Epidemiology (3)
      • PH 7280 Infectious Disease Epidemiology (3)
      • PH 7290 Case Studies in Epidemiology (3)
      • PH 7365 Epidemiology of Adolescent Risk Behaviors (3)
      • PH 8285 Social Epidemiology (3)
      • PH 8790 Special Topics in Epidemiology (3)
      • Other appropriate Ph.D. EPIP elective courses may be approved by the Faculty Advisor on the Doctoral Program of Study form.

Ph.D. Health Promotion and Behavior Concentration

The following HPMB Competencies describe the knowledge, skills, and abilities a successful graduate will demonstrate the conclusion of this doctoral program:

  • Develop expertise in social and behavioral theory, and application of theory to address public health problems at the individual, community or population level.
  • Critically analyze research in terms of the appropriateness of the study design, sample, measures, data analysis, results, and interpretation and critically evaluate the potential impact of the new knowledge gained on public health practices and policies.
  • Develop expertise in research methods and the ethical conduct of research to address scientific questions regarding health promotion research and practice.
  • Develop expertise in statistical and analytic methods used in health promotion research and practice.
  • Develop expertise in planning, implementation, evaluation, and dissemination of social and behavior interventions and/or policies that address public health and health behavior, especially around social-ecological interventions and interventions that address health disparities.
  • Develop expertise in the communication of scientific findings, both writing and oral presentations, for both scientific and lay audiences. 
    1. Required Ph.D. HPMB Concentration Courses (9 hours):
      • PH 7535 Dissemination and Implementation Science (3)
      • PH 9130 Intervention and Evaluation of Health Promotion and Disease Prevention (3)
      • PH 9095 Measurement and Outcomes in Social and Behavioral Health (3)
    2. Required Ph.D. HPMB Advanced Research Methods and Statistics Courses (12 hours):
        Select at least 4 courses in consultation with the Faculty Advisor:
      • PH 9731 Epidemiologic Methods III (3)
      • PH 9741 Advanced Topics in Epidemiologic Methods (3)
      • PH 8830 Advanced Statistical Topics (3)
      • PH 8885 Fundamentals of Clinical Trials (3)
      • PH 8890 Special Topics in Biostatistics (3)
      • EPRS 8540 Quantitative Methods and Analysis in Education II (3)
      • EPRS 8550 Quantitative Methods and Analysis in Education III (3)
      • EPRS 8830 Survey Research, Sampling Principles and Questionnaire Design (3)
      • EPRS 8840 Meta-Analysis (3)
      • EPRS 9560 Structural Equation Modeling (3)
      • PSYC 8420 Psychological Research Statistics II (3)
      • PSYC 8430 Psychological Research Statistics III (3)
      • STAT 8440 Survival Analysis (3)
      • Other appropriate research methods/statistics courses may be approved by the Faculty Advisor on the Doctoral Program of Study form.
    3. Ph.D. HPMB Concentration Electives courses (6 hours):
        Select at least 2 courses in public health or other graduate-level programs in consultation with the Faculty Advisor and approved by the Faculty Advisor on the Doctoral Program of Study form.

Ph.D. Health Services and Policy Research Concentration

The following HSRP Competencies describe the knowledge, skills, and abilities a successful graduate will demonstrate the conclusion of this doctoral program:

  • Apply social science (economics, political science, sociology, etc.) concepts, theories and methods to the framing and analysis of research questions in health services delivery and health care policy.
  • Describe major problems in health services delivery and health care policy that are currently the subject of empirical investigations
  • Apply advanced methods of analysis and research design to describe policy-relevant issues in contemporary health care, such as: access to health care, health care financing, insurance market functioning, physician and hospital performance, healthcare management and organization, patient safety and quality of care, and health care workforce
  • Effectively teach concepts and methods of health services and health policy research to students
  • Design a health services or health policy research proposal involving qualitative, quantitative, or mixed methods approaches
  • Conduct a health services or health policy research activity investigation suitable for peer-reviewed publication as an independent researcher
  • Function as an interdisciplinary team collaborator in the design and conduct of a health services or health policy research investigation.
    1. Required Ph.D. HSRP Concentration Courses (9 hours):
      • PH 9220 Principles of Health Service Research I: Thematic Background (3)
      • PH 9240 Principles of Health Service Research II: Basic Methods (3)
      • PH 8250 Health Economics and Policy (3)
    2. Ph.D. HSRP Concentration Advanced Research Methods, Statistics and Electives Courses (18 hours)
        Select at least 6 pre-approved courses in consultation with the Faculty Advisor.
      • PH 8285 Social Determinants of Health (3)
      • PH 8830 Advanced Statistical Topics (3)
      • PH 8885 Fundamentals of Clinical Trials (3)
      • PH 8890 Special Topics in Biostatistics (3)
      • PH 8290 Population Health Informatics (3)
      • ECON 8220 Human Resources and Labor Markets (3)
      • ECON 8740 Applied Statistics and Econometrics (3)
      • PMAP 8131 Applied Research Methods and Statistics II (3)
      • PMAP 8141 Microeconomics for Public Policy (3)
      • PMAP 8521 Evaluation Research: Design and Practice (3)
      • PMAP 9211 Applying Research to Policymaking: Examples from Health Care Policy (3)
      • SOCI 8020 Research Methodology (3)
      • SOCI 8118 Aging, Health, and Disability (3)
      • SOCI 8234 Race-Ethnicity and Health (3)
      • STAT 8090 Applied Multivariate Statistics (3)
      • STAT 8760 Sample Surveys (3)
      • Other appropriate Ph.D. HSRP research methods/statistics and elective courses may be approved by the Faculty Advisor on the Doctoral Program of Study form.

8060.20 Faculty Advisor and Doctoral Advisory Committee Requirements

Upon admission to the Ph.D. degree in Public Health programs, a student is assigned a Faculty Advisor from the SPH faculty. The Faculty Advisor serves as the primary advisor, and mentors the student throughout the program and assists the student in choosing courses, signing off on official documents, and chairing the student’s doctoral advisory committee.

Annual Review of Doctoral Students

Ph.D. students will be given feedback from their Faculty Advisor on an annual basis. Students are required to:

      1. Set up an appointment with the Faculty Advisor by June 1st each year.
      2. One week prior to the scheduled appointment students must submit:
        • summary of the courses and grades taken since beginning the program,
        • a summary of professional scholarship in the last year,
        • a course paper/assignment or another product that demonstrates scientific writing skills, and proficiency with statistics.
        • a self-assessment of mastery of the doctoral competencies to date.

Faculty Advisors will use this portfolio to evaluate student progress in several areas: coursework progress and demonstrated mastery of doctoral competencies, professional scholarship, scientific writing, statistical proficiency, and overall professionalism. Ph.D. milestones and goals for the next academic year should also be discussed. All students will receive written feedback from the Doctoral Program Director or designated faculty mentor summing up the evaluation ratings and the student’s standing with the program.

If progress is unsatisfactory, the student will plan a course of action with his or her advisor and the Doctoral Program Director to improve his/her progress.  If the student demonstrates unsatisfactory progress on the plan, or during more than one annual review, he or she may be scholastically excluded from the doctoral program.

8060.30 Continuous Enrollment Policy and Degree Completion

Students in all graduate programs, including doctoral programs, must maintain enrollment totaling six hours (or more) over three consecutive semesters, including summers.  In other words, the total enrollment of the current term plus the two terms preceding it must add up to six hours or more.  The status of all students will be checked by the midpoint of each term for compliance with the continuous enrollment requirement.  Any student whose enrollment is noncompliant will receive a hold on their registration, which would prevent registering for all current and future classes.  Those students will be notified by an e-mail message sent to their official GSU e-mail account.  To resume their programs, students with continuous holds on their enrollment must file for re-entry by the published deadline and must enroll at a level sufficient to satisfy the continuous enrollment criterion.  That is, their enrollment in the re-entry term plus the two terms preceding it must total six hours or more.  The maximum required enrollment level for the re-entry term is six hours.  For more information on the re-entry process, contact the Office of Academic Assistance and Career Services.

8060.40 Grade Point Average and Course Grade Requirements for Doctoral Students

Doctoral students must maintain a 3.2 or better overall institutional grade point average (GPA) to progress from one semester to the next, and must receive a grade of “B” or better for each School of Public Health based course (courses with prefix “PH” in front of the course number).  Any doctoral student earning a grade of B- or below must repeat the public health course or not count the course towards their doctoral program of study.  Doctoral students whose cumulative GPA falls below 3.2 at the end of a semester will receive a scholastic warning from the School.  If at the end of the following six semester hours of enrollment, the student has not achieved a 3.2 cumulative GPA, he or she will be scholastically excluded from the doctoral program.  Any student who is scholastically excluded from the program may apply for readmission after a period of one year. Time Limitations for Doctoral Students (see section 8060.50) will still apply.

8060.50 Residency Requirements and Time Limitations for Doctoral Students

The purpose of requiring completion of all degree requirements within a fixed period is to ensure currency, continuity, and coherence in the academic experiences leading to the degree.  Within nine (9) years of the student’s term of first matriculation, it is required that he or she complete all degree requirements.  Moreover, all requirements for doctoral candidacy (coursework, comprehensive examination, prospectus approval) must be completed within seven years (7) of the student’s first term of matriculation.  No coursework completed more than seven years before admission to candidacy may be used to meet any doctoral degree requirement.  Enrollment for a minimum of three semester hours of credit is required during at least two out of each three-term period following successful completion of the comprehensive examination until graduation.  This enrollment must include a minimum of nine semester hours of dissertation (PH 9990) credit but may also include other coursework.  The student must be enrolled in and successfully complete three semester hours of graduate credit (typically dissertation hours) during the final academic term in which all degree requirements are completed and the student graduates.  Additional information about time limits and expected doctoral program completion milestones may be distributed by the Doctoral Program Coordinator, Division Directors, or a designated faculty member to doctoral students in the School of Public Health Doctoral Student Handbooks. Doctoral students will be subject to all the doctoral program completion milestone requirements, details and policies distributed in the School of Public Health Doctoral Student Handbooks. Failure to meet any of these doctoral program completion milestones may result in scholastic dismissal from the doctoral program.

8060.60 Doctoral Program of Study Form

The signed preliminary Doctoral Program of Study must be submitted to the Doctoral Program Director when the student has completed 20 semester credit hours and no later than three semesters after starting the program. In other words, students who start in the fall semester should submit this form by the end either of the subsequent spring semester, summer semester, or by the beginning of the following fall semester at the latest. Although the preliminary Doctoral Program of Study is completed on a university form, it is for Doctoral Program Director’s use only at the preliminary stage. While OAA might review the form or store it in the student’s file, it is not sent to OAA for degree-auditing purposes. The preliminary Doctoral Program of Study form is simply used for the Doctoral Program Director to confirm that each doctoral student understands the doctoral program requirements, has a realistic plan and timeline in place to complete the requirements within the prescribed time limits, and has made preliminary connections to a Faculty Advisor and likely Doctoral Advisory Committee.

Once all courses (with the exception of the dissertation course) are completed or in-progress, the Doctoral Program of Study form is revised and resubmitted by the student, this time as an official university form that documents completion of the doctoral program requirements to date. This final Doctoral Program of Study form must be approved by the final Faculty Advisor, the final Doctoral Advisory Committee (who will serve as the dissertation committee), and submitted to the Doctoral Program Director at least two weeks before the student applies for admission to candidacy. It is forwarded to OAA for degree-audit and final approval. The Final Doctoral Program of Study form must show all courses relevant to the doctoral program (including master-level prerequisite courses and any courses approved from other universities), in addition to GSU courses satisfying the minimum doctoral degree requirements.

Transfer credits from another institution: A student may apply a maximum of nine (9) semester hours of approved course credit transferred from another sufficiently accredited institution toward fulfilling Ph.D. degree requirements. Transfer credits are processed by the School and must be approved by petition. Students requesting to petition for transfer of credits must work with the Graduate Advisor in the Office of Academic Assistance.  Approval is at the discretion of the Doctoral Program Coordinator—approval is not guaranteed. The Doctoral Program Director may defer to the Director of the Division in which the petitioned course is offered. All credits, including transfer credits, presented for the Ph.D. degree must have been earned within nine calendar years of the date of degree conferral. No previously taken course with a grade of “B-” or below may be transferred into the doctoral program. Courses transferred-in for the doctoral degree may not be used in fulfilling the Doctoral Public Health Core Courses requirements or the doctoral credit-hour residency requirement.

Credits earned at GSU in either transient, non-degree, or other-GSU-degree status: A student may apply a maximum of nine (9) semester hours of applicable GSU course credit earned prior to Ph.D. program admission (while taking public health courses as either transient, non-degree, or other-GSU-degree or program status) toward fulfilling PH.D. degree requirements. Credits are processed by the School—petition is not required, but students should confirm their previously completed GSU courses are applicable. Students may work with the Doctoral Program Director and the Graduate Advisor in the Office of Academic Assistance to confirm applicability.  Approval is at the discretion of the Doctoral Program Coordinator—approval is not guaranteed. The Doctoral Program Director may defer to the Director of the Division in which the course is offered. All GSU credits presented for the Ph.D. degree must have been earned within nine calendar years of the date of public health doctoral degree conferral. Courses taken at GSU that were applied to another GSU degree program may not be applied to the Ph.D. degree; instead, a student should seek a doctoral course waiver for these courses already applied to another GSU degree program.

Doctoral Course Waivers: Doctoral students may receive a course waiver for any doctoral course already completed as part of another GSU degree program (including the MPH degree program), or if the course content was already learned at another institution or training area, but was not eligible for transfer credit. Students are still expected to take the minimum number of credit hours expected for the Ph.D. degree at Georgia State University (sixty-two (62) credit hours), but when granted a course waiver, the student may complete a different graduate level course to substitute into their doctoral in order to complete the total sixty-two (62) credit hour requirement of their doctoral degree program.

No previously taken course with a grade of “B-” or below may be used for course waiver. Courses waived for the doctoral degree may not be used in fulfilling the Doctoral Public Health Core Course requirements or the doctoral credit-hour residency requirement.

Students hoping to waive a course and substitute it with another should provide a Petition for Waiver noting each doctoral course they hope to waive, and which course they would like to substitute in its place. The Petition for Waiver is a written statement, along with any evidentiary documentation, that assures the School that the doctoral student has mastered the course material in the course to be waived through another manner (i.e. MPH degree, another GSU degree, etc.).

This Petition must be approved by the student’s Faculty Advisor and the Doctoral Program Director. The Doctoral Program Director may defer to the Director of the Division in which the petitioned course is typically offered.

Upon approval by the student’s Faculty Advisor and the Doctoral Program (or Division Director), the Petition is then forwarded to the Office of Academic Assistance and Career Services (OAA) for their approval. OAA may request the input of the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and/or the Academic Affairs Committee, but that is not required. Once the Director of OAA notes OAA’s approval, the student’s file and program of study is updated to note a waiver of the required course(s) and the substitution of another course taking its place. (MPH-Level Core Course prerequisite requirements for the doctoral program are exempt from this rule, since these prerequisite course do not count toward the sixty-two (62) credit hour minimum requirement for doctoral programs).

8060.70 Doctoral Comprehensive Examination

Doctoral students must pass a formal, comprehensive examination before being admitted to candidacy, and must successfully pass their comprehensive examination and defend their dissertation before being awarded a doctoral degree. The purpose of comprehensive examination is to assess for demonstrated mastery of the doctoral program competencies and to ascertain the student’s readiness to conduct the dissertation.
The student must demonstrate expertise in expressing ideas with clarity and depth, synthesizing knowledge from public health and related fields, and applying knowledge and critical thinking skills to specific problems or issues in public health. To be eligible to take the comprehensive examination, the student must have completed and achieved a 3.2 or greater cumulative grade-point average in the doctoral program of study, and received approval from the Faculty Advisor.

The formal, comprehensive examination includes a written examination portion and may also include an oral examination portion. The student has two opportunities to pass the comprehensive examination. Faculty directed revisions to an initial comprehensive examination attempt may count as a second examination attempt. Students who do not pass the examination on the second attempt are not permitted to continue in the doctoral program. Prior to retaking the comprehensive examination, students may be required to take additional coursework or complete other learning experiences prescribed by the student’s Faculty Advisor, Doctoral Advisory Committee, the Doctoral Program Coordinator, and/or a designated faculty member. Students may only continue in the doctoral program if they pass the comprehensive examination on the second attempt and complete any prescribed additional coursework or learning experiences. Failure on the second attempt will result in scholastic dismissal from the doctoral program. Students are expected to recognize and uphold the highest standards of intellectual and academic integrity. For explicit coverage of this policy students are advised to read the University and Student Codes of Conduct in the Graduate Catalog. These policies discusses plagiarism, cheating on examinations, unauthorized collaboration, falsification, and multiple submissions of material for credit without permission.

Examination content and structure may vary between concentrations and their students, and from year-to-year, to make the examination most relevant and appropriate, and with the highest integrity. Additional information about the comprehensive exam structure and requirements, evaluation and scoring, and examination polices will be distributed by the Doctoral Program Coordinator, Division Directors, or a designated faculty member to comprehensive exam eligible students immediately prior to their comprehensive examination date. Doctoral students will be subject to all the comprehensive exam requirements, details and policies distributed at that time

8060.80 Admission to Candidacy

Admission to candidacy for a doctoral student is requested immediately after the successful completion of the comprehensive examination.  The following is a complete list of requirements for admission to candidacy:

    1. All prerequisites set as a condition to admission to candidacy have been satisfactorily completed.
    2. The Doctoral Advisory Committee, the Doctoral Program Director, and OAA have approved the final program of study.
    3. A GPA of 3.2 has been maintained for all graduate courses taken and for all completed courses on the program of study. A grade of “B” or better for each School of Public Health based course (courses with prefix “PH” in front of the course number) must be earned, and no course with a grade below C+ may be placed on the final program of study.
    4. Written and oral comprehensive examinations have been passed and reported to the School.
    5. The Doctoral Advisory Committee, including any necessary changes in the membership, is confirmed and all its members have been notified of their appointment.
    6. The residence requirement has been met.

Application for Admission to Candidacy

This form must be submitted to OAA as soon as possible following the completion of the Admission to Candidacy requirements.  Candidacy begins on the date the form is received by the School.  After admission to candidacy, a student must register for at least nine (9) hours of dissertation credit during the completion of the degree program.  Students planning to graduate the same semester they enter candidacy must be admitted by the published deadline for candidacy during that semester and register for nine (9) hours of dissertation credit.  The student must also meet all other deadlines for graduation in that semester.  A student must register for a minimum of three (3) dissertation credit hours in any semester when using University facilities, and/or faculty or staff time. The School shall not accept a dissertation if the student has not been admitted to candidacy for the degree.

Time Limit on Candidacy

All doctoral program degree requirements must be successfully completed within nine (9) years of a student’s first term of matriculation.  The dissertation must be completed within four (4) years following admission to candidacy to qualify for graduation.  If a doctoral student’s candidacy expires after the first week of classes in the final semester, the student is granted the remainder of the semester to complete degree requirements without special permission of the School.  Additional information about time limits and expected dissertation completion milestones may be distributed by the Doctoral Program Coordinator, Division Directors, or a designated faculty member to candidacy eligible students immediately prior to their admission to candidacy. Doctoral students will be subject to all the dissertation completion milestone requirements, details and policies distributed at that time. Failure to meet any of these dissertation completion milestones may result in scholastic dismissal from the doctoral program.

8060.90 Dissertation

Enrollment for dissertation credit is permitted only after successful completion of the comprehensive examination.  The Doctoral Advisory Committee (occasionally referred to as the Doctoral Dissertation Committee) will consist of a minimum of three members:  Two members must be within the School of Public Health and hold graduate faculty status.  The 3rd member may be from the School of Public Health or outside the School/GSU, but he/she must have a PhD, MD, or other terminal degree and must have expertise in the content area or methodology used in the proposal that can be demonstrated upon review of a curriculum vita by the Doctoral Program Director or student’s Faculty Advisor.

Dissertation Planning

Students pursuing a Ph.D. must complete a dissertation on a subject connected with their major field of study/concentration. The dissertation must present original research, independent thinking, scholarly ability, and technical mastery of a field of study.  Its conclusions must be logical, its literary form must be acceptable, and its contribution to the field of public health should merit publication.

The dissertation must provide the student with an educational experience that enables the student to make a significant contribution to the field of public health and to apply the doctoral program knowledge and skills that allow him or her to contribute to the theoretical, conceptual, empirical, or practice base in the field of public health.  At a minimum, the dissertation should contribute to at least one of these knowledge bases, as related to the student’s concentration.  These activities must take place under the direction of the student’s dissertation committee.  The study must include all of the following:

  • Identifying an appropriate theory to inform the study.
  • Conceptualizing the research questions and hypotheses.
  • Developing the research design.
  • Applying the appropriate methodology.
  • Interpreting the study results.

Note: These guidelines do allow for secondary data analysis.

The School of Public Health will either the traditional dissertation form or the European (manuscript) dissertation format. The European (manuscript) dissertation format contains a first chapter that consists of a thorough synthetic review of the literature for the content area of the student dissertation. The next chapters consist of copies of three (a) published papers, (b) manuscripts in press, (c) manuscripts submitted. Because the manuscripts may have been published, submitted, or targeted for different journals with different journal styles, the chapters may not all be formatted in the same style. As is found in published papers, each chapter would have an Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion section, unless one paper is a review paper, which may be approved as an option by the Doctoral Advisory Committee (dissertation committee). The final chapter should include a global perspective summary that ties together the findings in the three papers and concludes with the future directions for the student’s line of research. This final chapter is not a recapitulation of the middle chapters. This chapter offers the author the unique opportunity to speculate without the fetters that constrain typical research papers.

The School of Public Health requires that the student submitting the dissertation must be listed as the first author of each article used as a chapter. One first-author manuscript that is submitted prior to the dissertation proposal meeting (no more than 1 year in advance) and is linked to the overall theme of the dissertation can be included as one of the three chapters upon approval of the major advisor. The inclusion of any articles that are previously published or accepted for publication requires permission from the copyright holder. Articles not yet copyrighted by another party will be covered under the copyright of the dissertation.

It is most important that the persons who serve on the Doctoral Advisory Committee, at the time the dissertation research is undertaken, be those faculty members most knowledgeable in the areas of the student’s research.  Within the guidelines for committee membership, they should be selected regardless of their concentration affiliation.  Sometimes it will be appropriate for the membership of the Doctoral Advisory Committee to remain unchanged during a student’s entire doctoral program, while at other times, changes in the composition of the original committee will be necessary.

Dissertation Proposal/Prospectus and Meeting

When the Faculty Advisor certifies that the written proposal for the dissertation is satisfactory, the student should schedule a meeting with the Doctoral Advisory committee to present the proposal and get approval for moving forward with dissertation development.

    1. The student will provide a complete copy of the proposal (written and electronic) to all members of the committee at least two weeks before the meeting.  The proposal must be formatted according to the APA Manual of Style (latest edition).
    2. The proposal will include (Note: Deviations from the chapter approach may be approved by the student’s Faculty Advisor and Doctoral Program Director):
        Traditional proposal:

        1. Chapter 1: Introduction and Statement of Purpose
        2. Chapter 2: Review of the Literature
        3. Chapter 3: Methods
        4. Reference Section
        5. Appendices Section
        Manuscript proposal must include:

        1. Chapter 1: Introduction and Statement of purpose
        2. Chapter 2: Description and Outline of 3 studies that will be developed and submitted during the dissertation process.  NOTE: if one study has already been developed and submitted, please include a copy of that study and describe how the next 2 studies will build on this work
        3. Reference Section
        4. Appendices Section
    3. Approval of the proposal signifies that members of the Doctoral Advisory Committee believe that the student has proposed a satisfactory dissertation plan.  Approval of the proposal requires the agreement of all members of the Doctoral Advisory Committee except one, as endorsed by their signatures on the appropriate form that, together with this approved prospectus, is filed with the Graduate Advisor in the Office of Academic Assistance and Career Services.
    4. Before starting the data collection, the student must request approval from the GSU Institutional Review Board (IRB) if human subjects are involved in the research project.

The Faculty Advisor has the primary responsibility for guiding research, but the student should consult all members of the Doctoral Advisory Committee to draw upon their expertise in relevant areas.

Dissertation Approval and Defense

When the Faculty Advisor is satisfied with the completed dissertation, he or she will certify that it has his or her approval and is ready to be read by members of the Doctoral Advisory Committee.  The Faculty Advisor will then distribute copies of the dissertation to the remaining members of the Doctoral Advisory Committee and will schedule a final oral defense and notify the school.

Subsequently, the SPH will announce the time and place of the defense of the dissertation to the University community.  The committee members will have three weeks to read and evaluate the completed dissertation.  Written assent of all committee members except one is required before a dissertation is approved as ready for a final defense.  If the Doctoral Advisory Committee declines to approve the dissertation as ready for the final defense, the Faculty Advisor will notify the student and the School in writing and the defense date will be cancelled.

The Faculty Advisor will chair the dissertation defense.  All members of the Doctoral Advisory Committee, except one, must approve the dissertation and the defense, and must certify their approval in writing.  The SPH will only recommend the award of a doctoral degree when the student has demonstrated mastery of necessary theories, concepts and content, and demonstrated competence in the knowledge and skills defined in the competencies for the student’s chosen doctoral program concentration. The results of the defense of the dissertation must be reported to the School of Public Health at least two weeks prior to graduation—students should consult the OAA Graduate Advisor for the absolute deadline in a given semester.  The date (year) on the title page of the dissertation shall be the same as the date (year) on which the dissertation is approved by the School, following approval by the Doctoral Advisory Committee.  The final dissertation document must conform to all format and content requirements specified by the School of Public Health.