Exams & Dissertation
Clinical Qualifying Examination
At the end of the first year field internship, fellows take the Clinical Qualifying Examination which has both written and oral components. In the written exam, the fellow is asked to analyze a published piece of work and discuss selected theoretical and practice issues within it. In the oral exam, fellows prepare a clinical case and present it orally to a faculty committee at the school.
During the second field internship, fellows take a comprehensive examination which integrates learning from over the two-year period of study. For the comprehensive examination, a proposal is developed by the fellow in an area of his or her own interest. The examination takes the form of a comprehensive paper designed to move the fellow toward the preparation of a dissertation proposal.
The dissertation is a required independent scholarly research project that must examine a topic relevant to clinical social work. Through completion of the dissertation, each fellow demonstrates the capacity to contribute to the development and dissemination of knowledge for the profession. The dissertation is the hallmark of all doctoral-level study and represents the achievement of a high level of professional performance as a practitioner/researcher.
Required Research Courses
The PhD program supports fellows' development and completion of the dissertation project through the series of required and elective research courses that provide the foundation of knowledge required both to assess prior research and to design and implement one's own research. Core research methods, including advanced statistics, are taught in depth.
A dissertation seminar is offered in session V to support fellows in the development of their own dissertation proposal; however, in those instances when a fellow is well along in preparation of a proposal, the dissertation seminar may be taken in session III. A research advisor is assigned to each fellow to assist the fellow in identifying and refining an area of study for the dissertation.
A dissertation committee is appointed at the fellow's initiative to assist in the development of a dissertation proposal and in the completion, reporting and defense of the project. Each fellow's dissertation committee must consist of a minimum of three people: a chair and at least two members. At least two members of the committee must be members of the resident faculty at the Smith College School for Social Work. The fellow is responsible for identifying and recruiting both the chair and members of the dissertation committee. All dissertation committees must be approved by the program's research co-director.
Dissertations that have been submitted for the fulfillment of the requirement of the Ph.D. in Social Work since 2009 are accessible online through the Smith College Libraries - DSpace archive.
A list of dissertation titles since 1979 can be found on our Dissertation Titles page.