Program Progression (PhD)

Selection of a PhD Program Advisor

A student accepted into the PhD program selects an advisor or co-advisors by mutual consent from PhD faculty members who have doctoral faculty status (which means they have been approved by the MU Graduate Studies to be a dissertation supervisor) and have a match in terms of population of interest, substantive area and/or research methodology.

Development of an Initial Plan of Study

During the Leadership and Technology Institute (summer) On Campus Intensive, students need to consult with their PhD advisor and the director of the PhD program to develop an initial plan of study using the Plan of Study Worksheet for the PhD in nursing which can be found on the PhD Forms webpage. The Plan of Study Worksheet for the PhD in nursing must be approved by the student’s PhD advisor or the director of the PhD program (in the event the advisor is unavailable in the summer), signed, dated and submitted as an assignment in the N7087 course and to the Director of the PhD program before the end of the summer semester.

Completion of the Qualifying Examination

To be officially admitted to the PhD program, the student must pass a qualifying examination or process. Students admitted with a master’s degree have completed the qualifying process.

Students admitted with a bachelor’s degree are admitted to the PhD program on a provisional basis. Following successful completion of a qualifying process, bachelor’s prepared students will be granted admission to the PhD program. Review the qualifying process for the BSN-to-PhD Program Option here.

Qualifying Process for the BSN-to-PhD Program Option

Upon provisional admission to the program, a temporary adviser is assigned to the student. Two additional faculty members are selected to serve on the BSN-to-PhD Program Committee, which approves the courses taken prior to the qualifying process. The student selects both a substantive content area in nursing and a general research interest.

To fully qualify for the doctoral program, BSN-to-PhD students must earn at least a grade of B in the following:

  • N7087 Leadership & Technology Institute (1 credit)
  • N7160 – Scientific Foundations for Health Sciences (4 credits) 
  • PHLTH 7952: Research Methods in Public Health (3 credits) OR PHLTH 8420: Principles of Epidemiology (3 credits)
  • NURSE 7010: Biostatistical Foundations for Health Researchers (3 credits) 
  • Nine additional graduate credits typically nursing applied sciences or collateral courses

The student initiates the qualifying process by enrolling in three credits of N8900 Research Practicum with a member of the program committee. The course syllabus and course contract for N8900 Research Practicum can be found on the PhD forms page. The student is officially admitted to the doctoral program following approval of the written report and oral presentation for N8900 by the student’s program committee.

Forming a Doctoral Program Committee and Committee Approval (D-1)

Each PhD student must have a doctoral program committee to oversee the dissertation process. The doctoral program committee is recommended by the student’s PhD advisor and approved by the Director of the PhD program and MU Graduate Studies. The Qualifying Examination Results and Doctoral Committee Approval (D-1) form are due to MU Graduate Studies office by the end of the student’s second semester (excluding summers). A description of membership requirements and duties of the doctoral program committee members can be found at

Plan of Study for the Doctoral Degree Form (D-2)

The Plan of Study for the Doctoral Degree Form (D-2) is a two-part form required by MU Graduate Studies that lists the coursework required for completion of the student’s degree program.  The first part is the Plan of Study for the Doctoral Degree Template, where the student lists all relevant graduate coursework, and this portion of the form is available at If transfer courses are approved by the student’s doctoral committee, the courses and grades should be noted, with the name of the institution where the courses were taken. The second part is the Plan of Study for the Doctoral Degree (Signature/Approval) Form which is available at After approval of the coursework on the Plan of Study for the Doctoral Degree Template, the Plan of Study for the Doctoral Degree Signature/Approval Form should be signed by the student, the chair/advisor, the doctoral committee and the Director of the PhD program. Both parts of the Plan of Study for the Doctoral Degree Form (D-2) should be filed no later than the end of the student’s second semester of coursework (excluding summers) for full-time students and end of the third semester of coursework (excluding summers) for part-time students.

PhD Student Progress Review

All PhD students undergo a PhD Student Progress Review after they have successfully completed the following coursework:

  • N7010 Biostatistical Foundations for Health Researchers OR N8020 Intermediate Statistics in the Health Sciences
  • N9100 State of the Science
  • N9120 Philosophical & Theoretical Foundations for Research
  • N9410 Advanced Quantitative Methods OR N9420 Qualitative Methods
  • Research Focus Area Seminar OR Collateral Course

During the semester in which the required coursework is completed, the student initiates the review process by meeting with their faculty adviser to discuss the PhD Student Progress Review. Completion of the PhD Student Progress Review will be documented by the student’s PhD Advisor in the Graduate Student Progress System (GSPS) after completion of the meeting. A description of the PhD Student Progress Review policy and procedures can be found in the MU SSON PhD Handbook.

PhD Competencies for MU SSON PhD Students

All PhD students must develop a plan for the completion of the PhD Student Competencies in collaboration with their PhD advisor and doctoral program committee. Students are expected to document completion of the PhD Student Competencies using the PhD Student Competencies form (PDF) which is available on the PhD Forms webpage. Status of the completion of their PhD Student Competencies is reviewed annually by the PhD advisor and any time there is a meeting of the student’s doctoral program committee. It is expected that the student will have substantially completed the PhD Student Competencies at a satisfactory level prior to taking the Comprehensive Examination.  The PhD Competencies for MU SSON PhD Students can be found in the MU SSON PhD Handbook. 

Doctoral Comprehensive Examination and Results Form (D-3)

Each student must successfully pass the Doctoral Comprehensive Examination by demonstrating his/her ability to address the theoretical, methodological and substantive issues of his/her field of study. The Doctoral Comprehensive Examination consists of a written section followed by an oral section. The two sections of the examination must be completed within one month. The student is expected to complete the Doctoral Comprehensive Examination within five (5) years of enrollment in the PhD program and it must be completed at least seven (7) months before the final defense of the dissertation.  The student is not allowed to sit for the doctoral comprehensive examination until all incompletes with the exception of N9090 are satisfied.

For the doctoral comprehensive examination to be completed successfully, the doctoral program committee must vote to pass the student on the entire examination, both written and oral sections, with no more than one dissenting or abstaining vote. A report of this decision, the Doctoral Comprehensive Examinations Results form (D-3), with the signatures of all committee members, must be sent to MU Graduate Studies and the student no later than two weeks after the Doctoral Comprehensive Examination is completed. Specifics of the MU SSON Doctoral Comprehensive Examination policies and procedures can be found in the MU SSON PhD Handbook. 

Doctoral Candidacy and Continuous Enrollment

Successful completion of the Doctoral Comprehensive Examination establishes Doctoral Candidacy. Candidacy is retained by maintaining continuous enrollment in N9090 Research for two credit hours each fall and spring semester and for one credit hour each summer session up to and including the term in which the dissertation is defended. Failure to enroll continuously in N9090 Research until the PhD degree is awarded terminates candidacy. To maintain continuous enrollment, students must register for the required coursework each semester using myZou.

Dissertation Proposal and Institutional Review Board Protocol Approval and Form (MU SSON form)

All students must complete a dissertation proposal.  The dissertation proposal must be written on a subject approved by the candidate’s doctoral dissertation committee. The proposal might be in the format of a NIH pre-doctoral application, the traditional three chapter proposal, or another style as agreed to by the committee and the student. A formal meeting of the doctoral dissertation committee is scheduled at a mutually convenient time for the candidate and the committee members. The dissertation proposal will be evaluated on the extent to which the proposed study meets acceptable standards for research.  Criteria for dissertation proposal evaluation can be found in the MU SSON PhD Handbook. When the doctoral dissertation committee decides that the proposal is acceptable, this is documented on the Review of Dissertation Proposal and the Institutional Review Board Protocol Form which can be found on the PhD forms webpage.  This internal (MUSSON) form is submitted to the DNP/PhD Administrative Assistant for processing.

Applying for Dissertation Research Funding

With approval and guidance from their advisor and doctoral dissertation committee, a student may apply for intramural or extramural funding to support their dissertation research project. Students applying for extramural funding should contact the MU SSON Office of Research for assistance with preparation of grant materials and submission of materials to determine if the grant application needs to be submitted via the MU Office of Sponsored  Programs Administration.

Doctoral Dissertation Process and Dissertation Defense Form (D-4)

The culmination of the PhD degree is the completion of a written doctoral dissertation.
Within the MU SSON, the Doctoral Dissertation process consists of:

  • Development of a dissertation proposal
  • Approval of the proposal by the doctoral dissertation committee
  • Approval of the research project by the Health Sciences Institutional Review Board
  • Ethical conduct of the research project
  • Writing the doctoral dissertation
  • Public defense of the doctoral dissertation
  • Approval of the dissertation by the candidate’s doctoral dissertation committee
  • Submission of the written doctoral dissertation in an approved format.

A report of the Dissertation Defense form (D-4), signed by all members of the doctoral dissertation committee, must be sent to MU Graduate Studies before the deadline preceding the anticipated date of graduation. For the dissertation to be successfully defended, the candidate’s doctoral dissertation committee must vote to pass the student on the defense with no more than one dissenting or abstaining vote. Specifics of the Doctoral Dissertation Process can be found in the MU SSON PhD Handbook. 

Submission of the Final Doctoral Dissertation

The final approved copy of the doctoral dissertation is submitted to the MU Graduate School. MU Graduate School office has created an organization through Canvas to assist with the thesis and dissertation submission process.  Through this site, you will be able to access all of the requirements for the submission process.  You will also be given an option to electronically submit most of your files, which will replace the requirement to submit your materials on a CD.  Specifics of the submission requirements can be found in the MU SSON PhD Handbook and on the MU Graduate School website at:

Jamie Morton

PhD Student

Jamie Morton, a current PhD candidate and Sinclair PhD Student fellow, received the 2021 Joseph & Jean Buckwalter Research Grant from the Midwest Nursing Research Society to support her dissertation research project entitled “Exploring Perinatal Prescription Opioid Use and Misuse in Rural Settings.”

Jamie Morton photo