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Doctoral Student Manual

Early Research Project

The Early Research (ER) Project is a semi-independent research project led by the doctoral student to be completed during the second or third year in the program. Under the guidance of their advisor, doctoral students develop research questions, write a literature review, design a study, collect and analyze data, and write up the results. The following advising for the ER options are available to the student (a) one permanent advisor who oversees the research project; (b) co-advisors who oversee the research project; or (c) a research advisor different from the permanent advisor, who oversees the research project. In the case where a research advisor oversees the research project, the permanent advisor or co-advisors should serve as committee members. Special Education doctoral students may take no more than 8 hours (SPED 591) for the Early Research Requirement.

Formation of the Early Research Committee

In collaboration with their advisor, doctoral students decide on committee membership for the Early Research Committee, composed of the advisor(s) and two additional faculty members who guide the student during the ER proposal and defense meetings. Committee members often have expertise on the topic that the student’s project addresses or expertise in the research methodology being used. All committee members may be from within the Department of Special Education, although committee members from outside the Department of Special Education also are welcome. With the approval of the department, one member of the committee may be from outside the university. Tenure-track and specialized faculty with a PhD may serve on the committee.

ER Proposal Meeting

Before the ER proposal meeting occurs, the student should obtain approval for Human Subjects Research from the Campus Institutional Review Board (IRB) by completing the IRB form. The IRB website includes important information about the approval process and important deadlines for IRB approval. Students should review this website carefully. 

Two weeks prior to the proposal meeting, the student should send to committee members a written proposal consisting of the rationale for the study (i.e., Chapter 1), a literature review (i.e., Chapter 2), and the method section (i.e., Chapter 3). The department expects that all work be presented according to the current guidelines of the American Psychological Association (APA). Currently, the seventh edition of the guidelines (APA 7th) are in place. The student should be prepared to submit a copy to all committee members, including paper copies upon request. Implementation of the study should not begin until the student has received IRB approval and passed the ER proposal meeting. The advisor assists in scheduling a room for the proposal meeting and helps the student prepare for the proposal meeting. The faculty member who leads this meeting (the permanent advisor or a research advisor) follows the same format used during dissertation proposal meetings. Following the proposal meeting, the student and the committee members come to an agreement regarding project recommendations and support needed.

ER Defense Meeting

A defense of the ER project is presented to the Early Research Committee. The finished ER document could have the same format as a dissertation (i.e., with the following chapters: Chapter 1, Introduction; Chapter 2, Literature Review; Chapter 3, Method; Chapter 4, Results; and Chapter 5, Discussion) or this product could be in the format of a manuscript suitable for publication (e.g., introduction, methods, results/findings, discussion, approximately 40 pages long). The completed ER document is given to the ER committee two weeks prior to the oral presentation. The student and their advisor(s) will make the ER defense meeting arrangements. The format for the ER defense meeting is the same as a dissertation defense meeting. After the student presents their Early Research Project to the committee, the committee will decide whether the project satisfactorily meets all of the requirements. If the project meets the requirements, the committee will sign the College of Education’s Early Research Committee form (see COE form: PhD Early Research Requirement). This form should be submitted by the advisor to the GraduateStudent Services Office.

Additional information about the Early Research Project is on the College of Education Website. The College Graduate Handbook also has information about the Early Research Project.

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