Ph.D. in Nursing Program

Ph.D. in Nursing Program

Information, announcements and other resources relevant to the PhD Program are maintained on the Nursing PhD Program intranet website.

Learn more about the Ph.D. in Nursing Program including:

  • PhD Curriculum, Vision and Mission
  • Mentored Research Residency
  • Authorship
  • Comprehensive Exam Policy and Application
  • Doctoral Dissertation Process and Steps
Bill Leahy


PhD in Nursing General Information

PhD in Nursing General Information

The PhD program builds on previous nursing education and is designed with both post- baccalaureate (68 credits) and post-master’s degree (59 credits) points of entry. Candidates with a DNP will have an individualized plan of study based on their transcript and experience.

The program consists of courses in nursing knowledge and theory development, nursing research designs and methodologies, grantsmanship and scientific writing, and cognates, a comprehensive examination, and a dissertation.

Following a 3-year community equity-directed co-creative process grounded in design justice, the PhD Program revised its vision, mission, and programmatic objectives. These revisions were approved by the EMCON Faculty Assembly in April 2022. The new curriculum was launched in Fall 2023.

Information, announcements, and other resources relevant to the PhD Progam are maintained on the Nursing PhD Program intranet website:




Bill Leahy


PhD Curriculum Requirements

PhD Curriculum Requirements

Students who are matriculated in Fall 2023 or after complete 41 credits of required coursework + 18 required dissertation credits (59 credits):

EMCON PhD Program Plan of Study by Semester

Term 1Fall, Year 1 
N790FHistory & Political Economies of Philosophy of Science: Big Ideas in Nursing3 cr
N790FREdge-runners in Nursing’s Research, Scholarship & Innovation3 cr
N790EExperiential & Community-guided Approaches to Nursing’s Research and Innovation3 cr
N790A*Introduction to Statistics (asynchronous online)(3 cr)*
N890YXPre-Dissertation Community & Skills-Building Seminar 11 cr
TOTAL TERM 1: 10-13 credits

*Students who have not satisfactorily completed a graduate level introductory statistics course within the 3 years prior to matriculation must also enroll in N790A Introduction to Statistics

Term 2Spring, Year 1 
N790SPTheory and Connections to Praxis: Putting Ideas to Work3 cr
N790SRTransformative Research Design I: Working with Accountability Partners to Define the Research Focus3 cr
N790SCDeductive Reasoning (previously known as “Intermediate Stats”)3 cr
N890ZXPre-Dissertation Community & Skills-Building Seminar 21 cr
 Option for additional electives including those associated with Certificate programsvariable
TOTAL TERM 2: 10+ cr

 + Comprehensive Exam (upon completion of required coursework for Terms 1 and 2).

Completion of any additional post-baccalaureate credit requirements (for BS-to-PhD students) and successful passage of the comprehensive exam is a requirement for academic progression in the PhD program.

Term 3Fall, Year 2 
N890FPVisionary Anti-racist Leadership I: Developing Accountable, Sustainable, Transformative Praxis3 cr
N890FRTransformative Research Design II: Operationalizing the Research & Project Management3 cr
N890FCInductive & Complex Reasoning (previously known as “Qualitative & Mixed Methods”)3 cr
N890YX*Pre-Dissertation Community & Skills-Building Seminar 1 (advanced)1 cr
 Option for additional electives including those associated with Certificate programsvariable
TOTAL TERM 3: 10+ cr

 *N890YX (advanced) strongly encouraged but not required

Term 4Spring, Year 2 
N890FPVisionary Anti-racist Leadership II: Policy, Pedagogy & Dissemination for Impact3 cr
xxxxElective: Research Design - any department3 cr
xxxxElective: Power, Critical Reasoning & Analysis – any department3 cr
N890ZX*Pre-Dissertation Community & Skills-Building Seminar 2 (advanced)1 cr
 Option for additional electives including those associated with Certificate programsvariable
TOTAL TERM 4: 10+ cr

 + Completion of a 120-hour mentored research residency prior to approval of the dissertation prospectus

*N890ZX (advanced) strongly encouraged but not required

Term 5 & beyondBeyond completion of first 4 terms of coursework and with successful passage of comprehensive exam assessment 
N893A (fall) or N893B (spring)**Dissertation Seminar1 cr
N899Dissertation creditsvariable
 Option for additional electives including those associated with Certificate programs 
TOTAL TERM 5+: Variable*

**Students maintain enrollment in N893 Dissertation Seminar each semester through completion of their dissertation and defense. These credits count towards the Graduate School’s dissertation credits requirement.

6 credit minimum enrollment required by Graduate School to be coded as “full-time student” during the dissertation phase

Post-Masters students who are matriculated before Fall 2023 complete the following 59 credits of coursework:

Course #Course TitleCredits
N700History of Nursing Science and Philosophy3
N710Quantitative Methods in Nursing Research3
N716Intermediate Statistics for Health Research3
N720State of the Discipline of Nursing3
N730Qualitative Methods in Nursing Research3
N775Measurement in Health Research3
N810Advanced Nursing Research3
N820Emerging Nursing Theory3
N870Role of the Scholar and Leader3
N897ASpecial Topics in Health Research3

Advanced Methods Elective



N893ADissertation Seminar (Fall)1
N893BDissertation Seminar (Spring)1

+ Comprehensive Examination

+ Mentored Research Experience (120 hours minimum)


Post Baccalaureate students must also complete course requirements for the Masters in Nursing Science (MSNS), including:

Course #Course TitleCredits
N614Advanced Health Assessment and Clinical Reasoning3
N615Advanced Pathophysiology3
N619Advanced Pharmacology3

Note: Some courses are offered online through Flexible Education (formerly University Without Walls).

Note: The plan or study of applicants with DNP degrees or master’s Degrees in other fields will be tailored to the learning needs of the applicant.

In addition to academic coursework, students must:

  • Successfully pass a Comprehensive Examination qualifying them as a PhD candidate.
  • Complete a 120 hour (minimum) mentored research residency.
  • Submit and orally defend a scholarly dissertation prospectus.
  • Implement, write, and defend an original dissertation study.

Full-time students are required to take a minimum of two courses (6 credits) per semester and are encouraged to complete degree requirements within four (post-master) to six (post-baccalaureate) years.

Sue Cassidy


Mentored Research Residency

Mentored Research Residency

Requirement:  Each student will engage in a 120-hour mentored research residency under the supervision of one or more faculty members who are PhD-advising eligible within the Elaine Marieb College of Nursing. A supervised residency under the supervision of a postdoctoral fellow or faculty member with an appropriate terminal degree and scholarly preparation outside of the Elaine Marieb College of Nursing may be acceptable, but this must be approved by both the student’s advisor and PhD Program Director in advance.

Timing: These residencies are typically undertaken after completion of the written comprehensive exam, and prior to submission of the dissertation prospectus. The 120 hours can be done during intersessions (winter or summer) and/or spread out across multiple semester if necessary and conducive to a good learning experience.

Contract: The student will contract with one or more approved supervisors, such as their advisor(s), to participate in a mentored research residency. This experience could involve working as a paid graduate research assistant on a faculty member’s research team or conducting pre-prospectus work for the student’s own research. It is expected that this experience will lead to scholarly products and dissemination activities such as peer-reviewed publications and presentations. A timeline for the residency with measurable goals and deliverables (such as submission of an original manuscript or approval of an IRB protocol) should be clearly outlined in the contract.

IMPORTANT NOTE: The research residency should involve application through activities such as grant- and/or study protocol writing, IRB submission, data generation and cleaning, data analysis and interpretation, dissemination and/or community-engaged research collaboration, AND must consist of more than a literature review and/or synthesis of existing knowledge from peer-reviewed

A copy of the Mentored Research Residency contract template is included in the Appendix.

Synchronous Distance Education: A blend of in-class and distance technologies are typically used in the PhD program. Most courses will involve a combination of live, synchronous learning during scheduled class hours and lecture materials/experiences that can be accessed asynchronously via Canvas, Blackboard, or other online platforms. We’ve endeavored to develop a course schedule and set of supports that will meet the needs of students across diverse contexts to the best of our ability, including students navigating on-going challenges related to the global pandemic.

If you anticipate any challenges connecting to course platforms or required materials due to a lack of adequate equipment or internet issues, we encourage you to contact the PhD Program Director (r [dot] walker [at] umass [dot] edu (r[dot]walker[at]umass[dot]edu)) and/or our IT support team (itservicedesk [at] umass [dot] edu) to arrange for assistance.

Bill Leahy


Authorship Policy

Authorship Policy

In the interests of fairness and to ensure protection of the rights and intellectual property of all parties, we encourage learners and faculty to review the following guidelines and policies on authorship and order of authorship for published material.

In general, the faculty should approach their roles with the view that material produced by learners within the scope of existing coursework (such as graded papers submitted for class assignments) is provided as part of their professorial duties and these activities do not automatically meet standard authorship guidelines. In most cases, publications stemming from PhD dissertations, Honors theses, and DNP final projects would be first-authored by the student who completed the work. Exceptions to this guideline should reflect best practices for authorship as outlined below.

Please review the following authorship guidance:

  1. Baerlocher, M. O., Newton, M., Gautam, T., Tomlinson, G., & Detsky, A. S. (2007). The meaning of author order in medical research. Journal of Investigative Medicine: The Official Publication of the American Federation for Clinical Research55(4), 174–180. doi:10.2310/6650.2007.06044/
  2. International Council of Medical Journal Editors. (2018). Defining the role of authors and contributors. Retrieved from 
  3. Kennedy, M. S. (2015). Inappropriate authorship in nursing journals. Nurse Author & Editor25(4), 2. Retrieved from 
  4. Nishikawa, J., Codier, E., Mark, D., & Shannon, M. (2014). Student faculty authorship: Challenges and solutions. Nurse Author & Editor24(4), 3. Retrieved from

We direct advisors and students to this recent interpretation of the existing guidelines, regarding criteria for Authorship and Order of Authorship:

  1. Heim, N., & Chinn, P. (2017). Issues of authorship: Who and in what order? Nurse Author & Editor, 27(3), 6. Retrieved from

Note: At the time a learner or faculty recognizes that material they are developing is headed towards publication, they are encouraged to put their expectations for members of the team in writing, by drafting a preliminary Authorship Agreement. Below is a sample authorship agreement. This agreement is only a template. You may modify to meet the specific needs of any given publishing project.

Sample Authorship Agreement

Working Title/Topic: __________________________________

What is the origin of the work (check all that apply):

_ Class paper    _ Dissertation    _ Secondary analysis    _ Grant    _ DNP Project     _ Thesis    

 __ Other (specify)________________

Is this intended to be a presentation or manuscript (check all that apply):

_ Presentation       _Manuscript          _Poster     _other

If presentation, where will you present the research? _________________________________

If manuscript, which journal will you target? ________________________________________

List below all anticipated authors and their order:



Author name

Anticipated Contribution*

Author Initials





















Note: add rows as needed for additional authors.

*Examples of contribution:

  • Substantial contributions to the conception or design of the work; or the acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data for the worka
  • Drafting the work or substantial critical revision for intellectual content                
  • Final approval of the version to be publisheda
  • Agreement to be accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved.

(Adapted from: &

If you anticipate multiple outcomes from the same research effort (e.g., poster presentation and manuscript publication), use one template for each planned activity.

All contributions from faculty refer to contributions outside of faculty role.

Bill Leahy


Comprehensive Exam Policy and Application

Comprehensive Exam Policy and Application

(Please see section on Graduate Academic Polices for all graduate programs regarding progression).

Information for the 2023-2024 Comprehensive Examination will be available in Spring 2024.

All students in the PhD program are required to take a comprehensive examination as a criterion for progression to PhD candidate status. To request to sit for the examination the following courses must have successfully completed: N790F, N790FR, N790E, N790SP, N790SR, N790SC (for students who matriculate into the program in fall 2023 or later). Students who matriculated prior to Fall 2023 must have successfully completed N700, N710, N716, N730, N775, and N820. BS-PhD students should complete any additional post-baccalaureate requirements prior to the exam.

Students who are not eligible to take the comprehensive exam (e.g. such as incomplete or non-passing grade in a required course) will have the opportunity to take the examination at the next time it is offered.

A three-person Comprehensive Exam Committee will be responsible for creating the exam and evaluation standards. The PhD Program Director and the Dean will choose committee members. The Comprehensive Exam Committee is typically composed of faculty who have recently taught the required first year courses and must include at least one faculty member who has previously participated in the generation and evaluation of the Comprehensive Exam.

Students will receive a separate grade of Pass or No Pass for each exam component.  To progress in the program, a grade of Pass must be achieved on all exam components. Students who do not receive a ‘Pass’ on any part of the exam will be provided feedback on their performance and given an opportunity to retake non-passing components of the exam. The PhD comprehensive exam committee and PhD Program Director (or their designee) will be present for the exam retake if it is offered orally. Students who do not receive a ‘Pass’ on any portion of the retake will be provided feedback on their performance and referred to the PhD Program Director. 

To request to take the PhD required comprehensive examination, please complete the Comprehensive Examination Application form.

Application to Take the Exam

  1. In order to sit for the exam, the Comprehensive Examination Application Form must be submitted to the PhD Program Director 14 days prior to the exam date.
  2. The grade for each of the required courses must be provided on the application.
  3. If the student is currently enrolled in one of the required courses, the student must have the professor of record initials next to the grade indicating that they anticipate a passing grade.
    1. If the student does not pass the course as anticipated, they will not be allowed to sit for the exam.
    2. If a student is not eligible to take the exam (e.g. they receive an “incomplete” in a course), they will need to contact the PhD Program Director to determine when the test can be taken. 

Exam Procedures

  1. The Comprehensive Exam Committee will determine the precise format and delivery methods for the exam.
  2. Student may rely upon any printed documents, written notes, or books that they would like to reference during the exam. 

Exam Content

For students who matriculated prior to Fall 2023, exam questions will allow students to demonstrate mastery and synthesis of 1st year course content. Faculty who have previously taught required courses from Terms 1 and 2 write the exam questions. The exam topics and questions are summarized below:

Theory & Philosophy

Students will synthesize knowledge learned from History of Nursing Science & Philosophy (N700) and Emerging Nursing Theory (N820).


Qualitative Critique

Students will be asked to provide a thorough critique of a research article involving qualitative research methods that will be provided. This can include articles involving mixed methods. The critique should be written as if reviewing the study for publication in a peer-reviewed journal. 

Quantitative Critique

Students will be asked to provide a thorough critique of a research article involving quantitative research methods that will be provided. This can include articles involving mixed methods. The critique should be written as if reviewing the study for publication in a peer-reviewed journal.


For students who matriculated in Fall 2023 or later, the nature and format of Comprehensive Exam requirements for at least 2 months prior to the exam date. Please note that requirements for PhD candidate status in the program are subject to revision and updates by the PhD Academic Matters Committee.

Grading Policies

  1. Criteria and rubric will be developed for grading each question by the PhD Comprehensive Exam Committee.
  2. Grading will be pass/no pass for each component.
  3. Students will be notified of results in writing within three weeks of taking the exam.
  4. If a “PASS” is not achieved on every component, the student will have an opportunity demonstrate their mastery of that content area during a retake.
  5. For any portion of retake on which a ‘PASS” is not achieved:
    1. The student will be provided feedback on their performance.
    2. The student will be referred to the PhD Program Director and Graduate Program Director where a final decision will be made.  

Passage of every component of the Comprehensive Exam is a requirement for academic progression in the PhD Program and establishment of PhD candidate status.  


(for students who matriculated prior to Fall 2023)

Note: This form must be completed by the student and advisor and submitted to the PhD Program Director 14 days prior to the scheduled examination time.

Student name:                                                                                                                                   

Date_________________________                     Examination date:                                     

I the table below, indicate the semester/academic year you completed the courses pre-requisite for the Comprehensive Examination.

Course # and Title

Semester/Year Completed


FA Initials*

Nur700 History of Nursing Science & Philosophy




Nur710 Quantitative Methods in Nursing




Nur716 Intermediate Statistics




Nur730 Qualitative Methods in Nursing Research




Nur775 Measurement in Health Research




Nur820 Emerging Nursing Theory




Student Signature: _________________________________                                              


Advisor Signature: ________________________________                                    


PhD Program Director Signature: ___________________________                                   


*If the student is currently in the course, the professor of record will initial if the student is currently passing the course.


Bill Leahy


Doctoral Dissertation

Doctoral Dissertation

Candidates for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) must complete an acceptable dissertation. A successful dissertation satisfies the following criteria:

  1. Demonstrates the candidate’s intellectual competence;
  2. Makes an original and valid contribution to nursing science; and
  3. Is an individual achievement and product of independent research?

The first step is to assign the dissertation committee (Appendix B). The dissertation research is conducted under the supervision of a dissertation committee, a group of at least three faculty members from the University of Massachusetts Amherst who have graduate faculty appointments with dissertation advising privileges. Two of the dissertation committee members must be chosen from the College of Nursing with one member serving as chairperson. The third graduate faculty member must be chosen from a department outside of nursing but within the University of Massachusetts Amherst. This person must also be a member of the graduate faculty.

The second step is to approval of the dissertation proposal. The student, under the guidance of the Dissertation Chair and the other committee members will develop a research proposal. It is the responsibility of the student to organize a meeting of the Dissertation Committee including the Chair of the Dissertation Committee, the other members and the student, to discuss the research problem before approving the dissertation proposal. At this meeting, the student will present the proposal and with the committee will discuss the research plan. At the conclusion of the discussion, the Committee will determine the following: 1) Pass. The proposal is acceptable as is; the student can proceed to the next step of the research process, which is usually submitting the proposal to the Institutional Review Board for the Protection of Human Subjects (IRB). 2) Pass with minor revisions. There is additional work on the proposal before proceeding to the IRB. 3) Pass with major revisions. There is substantial work that must be completed before the student can proceed. The committee will reconvene when the student has completed the additional work. 4) No pass. The proposal is not acceptable for a dissertation. All members of the dissertation committee and the Graduate Program Director must approve and sign the dissertation proposal and forward it to the Dean of the Graduate School (Appendix B). The approved dissertation proposal must be submitted to the Graduate School at least seven months prior to the dissertation defense.

The actual structure of the dissertation manuscript will be decided on by the PhD Candidate and the Committee (all formats must be consistent with the requirements of the library as noted below). Dissertation may be written in the chapter format (1) Introduction, 2) Background/ROL/Theoretical framework, 3) Methods, 4) Findings, 5) Discussion/Conclusions) or be constructed in the manuscript format. Other formats may be acceptable, but these two are the most common in nursing at present. Typically, the dissertation proposal is comprised of the first three chapters (1) Introduction, 2) Background/ROL/theoretical framework, 3) Methods.

The following outline illustrates the typical format of a “traditional” (book-style) and manuscript-based dissertation: Anatomy of a Dissertation Proposal.docx

'Traditional’ or Book-style Format:

Dissertation may be written in the chapter format (1) Introduction, 2) Background/ROL/Theoretical framework, 3) Methods, 4) Findings, 5) Discussion/Conclusions) or be constructed in the manuscript format. Other formats may be acceptable, but these two are the most common in nursing at present. Typically, the dissertation proposal is comprised of the first three chapters (1) Introduction, 2) Background/ROL/theoretical framework, 3) Methods.

Manuscript format:

The manuscript style dissertation typically is written in five chapters with the same first (Introduction) and last (Discussion/Application/Conclusions) chapters as the 5-chapter format. The other chapters consist of manuscripts that will be (or have been) submitted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal. Students are highly encouraged to consult with their advisors and Dissertation Committee members prior to submitting any manuscripts for peer review. At least one of the manuscripts will contain data-based results and interpretation of the dissertation study. The student and committee will determine the contents of the manuscripts. Manuscripts often include a synthesis of the literature, a methods paper, a paper on clinical, theoretical or policy implications, and others. Authorships should be determined in advance according to the suggested guidelines. It is expected that the student will serve as lead author on all manuscripts generated as part of the manuscript-style dissertation.

Other dissertation formats may be possible. The dissertation format should be discussed and approved by the Dissertation Committee and meet all Graduate School requirements. 

Steps for Scheduling the Oral Prospectus & Final Defense

EMCON PhD Program Progression Milestones (required for graduation):

    • Passage of a qualifying exam (also known as “Comps” or the “written comprehensive exam”) offered after 1st year coursework
    • Completion of required coursework & electives/cognates (3 required)
    • Completion of the 120-hour mentored research residency & submission of signed residency contract to PhD Program Director
    • Formation of a Dissertation Committee
    • Oral Prospectus (also known as the “Proposal Defense”) wherein the PhD candidate proposes an original research study to their dissertation committee
    • Enrollment in Dissertation Seminar & Dissertation Credits (18 credits required)
    • Final Oral Defense presenting outcomes of the dissertation project (also known as the “Dissertation Defense” or “Final defense”)
    • Submission of all required paperwork & documentation of degree eligibility to EMCON
    • Uploading & archiving of approved Dissertation to ScholarWorks

To File an Oral Proposal (Prospectus)

We advise filing your oral proposal at least one month ahead of time, to allow sufficient time for assessment of candidate eligibility and graduate faculty status

  1. Dissertation Committee:
    1. Work with your faculty advisor to:
      1. Confirm readiness to propose (this includes completion of all related requirements including any required core coursework, qualifying exam, and mentored research residency hours)
      2. Identify members of the dissertation committee (1 EMCON faculty advisor, 1 EMCON faculty, and 1 faculty from another UMass Amherst department)
  2. Graduate Faculty Status:
    1. Confirm all 3 committee members already have “Graduate Faculty Status”. If they do not, they will have to apply for it.  
    2. PLEASE NOTE: Approval of Graduate Faculty Status for first-time applicants now requires completion of an 8-hour in-person graduate mentoring workshop through the Graduate School. Allow sufficient time for any faculty members who must apply for Graduate Faculty Status to achieve this requirement.
  3. Schedule a date for the oral proposal:
    1. Create a signature page, formatted according to requirements for Dissertations, and inclusive of the following information:
      1. Title of proposal
      2. Name of candidate
      3. Names of committee members
    2. Identify a date & time that works for all committee members for the proposal defense
      1. Allow at least 90 minutes for the defense
      2. Usually candidates present their proposal for ~30 minutes followed by Q&A from the committee and private deliberation
    3. Determine whether the defense will take place via ZOOM or in-person or hybrid
    4. Submit the following information to the PhD Program Director (r [dot] walker [at] umass [dot] edu (r[dot]walker[at]umass[dot]edu)) with a CC to the Graduate Program and Credentialing Assistant, Dorian Pariseau (dpariseau [at] umass [dot] edu (dpariseau[at]umass[dot]edu)).
      1. A properly formatted electronic copy of the signature page for PhD Program Specialist to upload to DocuSign for committee to sign post-defense (the candidate should prepare this page)
      2. Date & time of the proposal defense
      3. Chair (faculty advisor) & committee members
    5. Once the Oral Proposal is completed and the proposal (including any required revisions) is approved, the Chair/faculty advisor should immediately notify the PhD Program Specialist (LYOVINA [at] umass [dot] edu) who will circulate the signature page for electronic signatures from the Committee and GPD

To File the Final Defense:

Important Provisos:

  • We strongly advise filing for your defense at least six weeks ahead of time to allow sufficient time for planning & processing
  • ALL final defenses are required to be announced at least four weeks prior to the date of the defense (this policy is set by the Graduate School)
  • To be eligible for May graduation, defenses must be completed & all documentation filed by the date(s) set by the Graduate School.
    • These dates vary year to year and are usually about 2 months before the date of graduation.
    • Since all defenses must be announced at least one month prior to the defense, this means plans for a defense often must be filed at least 3 months ahead of the planned graduation date.
  • Please check the Graduate School website for exact dates & deadlines:

Steps for Filing for Final Defense:

    1. Meet with your Faculty Advisor & Review the following Graduate School policies:
      1. Checklist of Requirements to Graduate
      2. Checklist for Final Doctoral Oral Examination
      3. Doctoral Degree Eligibility Form
    1. The PhD Program Assistant needs at least 5 weeks’ notice of the final dissertation defense. (Dissertation title, day, date, time, room) The Graduate School’s requirement of defense announcement is 1 month prior.
      1. If there is any doubt about which staff person to contact to do this, contact the PhD Program Director (r [dot] walker [at] umass [dot] edu) for clarification
      2. The designated staff member is Dorian Pariseau.
        1. DO NOT email Cynthia Mendoza, who is no longer at UMass – these emails will not be received
        2. DO NOT email Karen Ayotte, who is supporting other programs
    1. Submit the following information via email to Dorian Pariseau, Graduate Program and Credentialing Assistant (dpariseau [at] umass [dot] edu (dpariseau[at]umass[dot]edu)), with a CC to the PhD program director:
      1. Doctoral Degree Eligibility Form with top part completed & signed by the candidate
      2. Digital copy of a Flyer to Announce the Defense:
        1. This should be constructed by the PhD candidate
        2. Template available here:
    1. It should include:
      1. Candidate name & department
      2. Title of dissertation
      3. Date & time of public defense
      4. Information about room(s) or ZOOM link
      5. Optional: Name of Chair, Committee members
      6. The PhD Program specialist will circulate this flyer to the Graduate School & EMCON with an email announcement of the defense
      7. Signed copy of Mentored Research Residency contract, documenting successful completion of residency with faculty signature
          1. Candidate name, title & department
          2. Title of dissertation
          3. Date & time of public defense
          4. Any room request(s) & AV requirements (PhD Program Specialist can assist with reserving rooms for public & private portion of defense)
          5. Name & title of Chair
          6. Names of Committee members with contact info & their titles/departmental affiliations
      9. The PhD Program Specialist will use this information to construct signature pages for uploading & approval by the Committee and Dean in DocuSign following the defense

Dissertation Defense

All Dissertation Defenses will be announced in the UMass Amherst electronic journal to invite interested Graduate Faculty and others to attend. The Office of Degree Requirements must receive written notification of the scheduling of a Final Oral Examination at least four weeks prior to the date of the defense. A defense cannot be held unless it has been publicly announced in the UMass Amherst electronic journal.

The student must come to the UMass Amherst campus for the defense (unless pandemic physical distancing requirements are in effect, in which case the Graduate School will provide advisement regarding acceptable formats for a defense).

Members of a student’s dissertation committee must be present in person or via video-teleconference for the final oral defense. (Note: All Graduate Faculty are invited to attend and cannot be excluded from the Dissertation Defense. Departments differ in allowing others to attend. Courtesy suggests that the Chair of the Committee, whose name is published in the UMass Amherst electronic journal, be consulted by others attending the Defense, with the stipulation above).

The Program strongly encourages that public defenses include both a public portion for the candidate’s presentation and general questions from the public/attendees, followed by a closed portion in which only members of the Dissertation Committee are present and can ask more technical questions of the candidate.

While other faculty may attend the defense, only the three official members of the Dissertation Committee may cast a vote.

There are three possible outcomes for a dissertation defense:

  • First is “Pass,” no further action is required except submission to the Graduate School.
  • The second possible outcome is “Pass with revisions.” In this case the dissertation is substantially completed and sound but requires further refinement before the committee approves the dissertation.
  • The third outcome is “fail”.

A unanimous vote of Pass is required for the student to pass the Dissertation Defense. The dissertation must be approved and signed by all members of the Dissertation Committee and the Dean. See the Graduate School Handbook for specific instructions.

Successful completion of the dissertation defense is reported to the Graduate School in the form of a memorandum (Appendix B). A copy of this memorandum and the signatory page will be placed in the student’s file.

Steps for dissertation defense:                                                                                                  

  • PhD Program Assistant needs at least 5 weeks’ notice of the final dissertation defense. (Dissertation title, day, date, time, room) The Graduate School’s requirement of defense announcement is 1 month prior.
    • Student or Committee Chair reserves Skinner room for defense.
    • PhD Program Assistant will remind the student to send her the signed doctoral degree eligibility form (required from the PhD student).
    • PhD Program Assistant will construct the signature pages and send the signature page to the PhD Student.
    • Student is to bring at least 4 copies of the original signature pages to the day of the final oral defense.
    • Student must be present on the day of their dissertation defense.
    • ALL committee members must be present on the day of the oral defense.
    • Chair to set up zoom link for dissertation defense and sent to Graduate Faculty and PhD students.
    • Once the signature pages are signed, bring 2 original pages to PhD Program Assistant office room 032
    • Electronic Dissertation submission process:

Helpful information:

Manuscript Instructions:                                                                                                          

The dissertation must be typed in a proscribed style. (Refer to the Guidelines for Master's Theses and Doctoral Dissertations, available in the Office of Degree Requirements or online at:  . The Graduate School is the final and only arbitrator of what is an acceptable dissertation. The dissertation shall be submitted to the Graduate School in electronic format, by the deadline for the appropriate degree-granting period, following the instructions of the Graduate School.

Two original signature pages for the dissertation must also be submitted by the deadline to the Graduate School, along with the Eligibility for Degree Form. A microfilm fee is required to cover the submission of the electronic dissertation and the microfilm publication.

Copyrighting the dissertation is required, however registering the copyright is optional. The dissertation will be cataloged in the Library of Congress and in the W.E.B. Du Bois Library. Microfilm copies may be purchased from University Microfilms Library Services, 300 N. Zeeb Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48103-1500 or online at\dxweb/search.html  Publication by microfilm does not preclude the printing of the dissertation in whole or in part in a journal or as a monograph.

Consult the Office of Degree Requirements for degree requirement deadlines. It is strongly recommended that a technical review of the dissertation take place prior to the deadline. Materials returned after the deadline or not in accordance with technical requirements will be processed for the next degree-granting period.

All students must enroll for 18 dissertation credits. No student is exempt from this requirement. Normal tuition rates will apply. In addition, all students who matriculate in Fall of 2014 and beyond are required to enroll in a dissertation seminar N893A each semester while they are working on their dissertation. Continuous enrollment is required until completion of the dissertation.





Bill Leahy


PhD Faculty Advisors

PhD Faculty Advisors

All College of Nursing faculty who hold a PhD or equivalent terminal research degree, maintain active programs of scholarship including recent (within the past 3 years) peer-reviewed data-based publications and/or research grants, and who have graduate faculty status are eligible to serve as Dissertation Chairs and primary advisors for PhD students. Students will be assigned an advisor whose program of research, CV, and strengths or background are congruent with the student’s area of interest, strengths, and career goals. Students are also encouraged to consider other persons within the University community and beyond who may be in a position to support their scholarly growth, physical social spiritual and/or mental well-being, and/or help to hold them accountable for emancipatory and anti-racist nursing praxis.

This program recognizes that a PhD and/or other criteria listed above for Dissertation Committee Chairs is not the end all, be all of what constitutes “expertise” to mentor and guide scholarly development – in fact, far from it. Expertise resides in lived experience, which may have no relationship whatsoever to a particular degree. As such, we recognize that many different types of individuals and communities may serve as vital guides and supports on the path to one’s PhD (and beyond). Further, we encourage students to look outside their particular nursing program track, to engage with persons involved in the community and scholarship of other disciplines as well as other types of nursing practice preparation (DNP, MSN, RN, LPN and CNA), teaching, community organizing and activism, policy, communications, and leadership.

PhD students are encouraged to meet regularly with their advisors to outline their plan of study, discuss academic coursework, prepare for the comprehensive exam and dissertation, and co-create a plan for professional development. If a student wants to change advisors, they are encouraged to meet with the director of the PhD program to facilitate the change.

A list of current PhD advisors is maintained on the program intranet:

PhD Program Office

University of Massachusetts Amherst College of Nursing
032 Skinner Hall
Amherst, MA 01003-9304
lyovina [at] umass [dot] edu (Lynn Yovina,) Program Specialist

Sue Cassidy