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Doctor of Philosophy Program

Aims and Assumptions

The Yale University Ph.D. in nursing program educates students in research, scholarship, teaching, and health care policy. Under the guidance of the faculty, Ph.D. students engage in advanced study and generate new knowledge and ideas through research. They learn to disseminate this knowledge through scholarly publications, presentations, teaching, and leadership. Particular emphasis is placed on the development of scientific knowledge that is consistent with YSN’s mission of “better health for all people,” contributing to healthy life spans, reducing health disparities, improving quality of care, and shaping health policy. The educational program is provided through formal course work, seminars, research assistantships, teaching fellowships, dissertation research, mentorship by faculty experts, and informal faculty and student interactions within the School of Nursing and throughout Yale University. Interdisciplinary study is encouraged, and students have access to the vast resources of the University as they complete their course work and dissertation research.

The Ph.D. program is administered by the Yale Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS). To receive admissions information, please contact the Office of Admissions at the GSAS at 203.432.2771 or at www.yale.edu/graduateschool/admissions. More information about the program is available at http://nursing.yale.edu/phd-program and www.yale.edu/graduateschool.

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Fields of Study

Fields include chronic illness (e.g., diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, HIV/AIDS); self- and family management; maternal and child health; health equity and care of vulnerable populations; acute and critical care; end-of-life and palliative care; environmental health; genetics; and sleep disorders.

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Admission Requirements

Applicants should have a master’s degree in nursing, or the equivalent, including previous course work in statistics and graduate-level course work in research methods, with grades of at least High Pass, B, 3.0, or equivalent. The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) General Test taken no more than five years prior to application is required. The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) exam is required of all applicants for whom English is a second language. This requirement can be waived if the applicant has completed a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university in the United States or another English-speaking country. Samples of written work (e.g., published article, thesis, literature review) and a curriculum vitae are required. Qualified applicants will be invited for an interview with a member of the doctoral faculty.

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Special Requirements for the Ph.D. Degree

Course Work

Completion of the following core courses is required:

  • 901a, Quantitative Methods for Nursing Research
  • 903a, Measurement of Health Variables
  • 907a/b, Dissertation Seminar
  • 909a, Philosophical Foundations of Inquiry
  • 911, Doctoral Research Practicum
  • 913b, Theoretical Basis of Nursing Science
  • 925b, Qualitative Research in Nursing
  • 929b, Ethical Conduct of Clinical Research
  • 941a, Health Policy, Leadership, and Systems
  • 943a, Self- and Family Management of Vulnerable Populations
  • 943b, Methods of Intervention Development and Testing

In addition, students must take six elective cognates in their area of specialization (including one advanced analysis course). These cognates must be approved by the program’s Director of Graduate Studies.

The grading system includes Honors, High Pass, Pass, and Fail. Students must maintain a High Pass average and achieve a grade of Honors in at least two core courses to remain in good standing. High Pass is required in all core courses in the first year for a student to be eligible to take the Preliminary Examination. After the first year, no more than one grade of Pass in a core course will be permitted. A grade of Pass or better is required for all cognates, including the required advanced analysis course.

In addition to all other requirements, students must successfully complete 929b, Ethical Conduct of Clinical Research, prior to the end of their first year of study. This requirement must be met prior to registering for a second year of study.

Graduate Research Assistant and Teaching Fellow Experience

During the first two years of the program, students are Graduate Research Assistants with faculty mentors and participate in the mentor’s ongoing research.

Two terms of a Teaching Fellowship Program are required. Teaching Fellows assist with the teaching of larger master’s-level courses, typically during their third year of doctoral study.


Successful completion of three examinations is required.

  • 1. The Preliminary Examination is taken in June after the first year of course work has been completed. A grade of High Pass or better in each core course is required. The Preliminary Examination is intended to allow the student to demonstrate mastery of doctoral course work. This written examination is taken over two consecutive days. Passing the Preliminary Examination is a prerequisite for continuing in the second year of doctoral study.
  • 2. The Qualifying Examination is taken after all required course work is completed. It must be completed by the end of the third year of study. The student prepares a comprehensive dissertation proposal containing a statement of the problem to be studied, conceptual framework, critical review of relevant literature, design, methods, and plan for analysis. The oral Qualifying Examination typically lasts one to one and one-half hours. The student gives a fifteen-minute formal presentation of the proposed study and answers questions regarding the research and related topics. Successful completion of the Qualifying Examination is required for candidacy for the doctoral degree.
  • 3. The Final Oral Examination is based on the dissertation. The dissertation is intended to demonstrate that the student is competent in the chosen area of study and has conducted independent research. The Final Oral Examination typically lasts one and a half to two hours. The student gives a fifteen- to twenty-minute formal presentation of the dissertation and answers questions. Successful completion of the Final Oral Examination is required before the Ph.D. can be awarded.

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Master’s Degree

M.Phil. (en route to the Ph.D.) This degree will be granted to Ph.D. students who successfully complete two years of course work, but do not progress to the dissertation stage. To be awarded the M.Phil. degree, students need to complete all core courses, six cognates (may include independent study with faculty), and two years of Graduate Research Assistant experience, and must pass the Preliminary Examination. This degree is normally granted only to students who are withdrawing from the Ph.D. program.

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