Mar 01, 2024  
Graduate Catalog | 2021-2022 
Graduate Catalog | 2021-2022 Previous Edition

Health Services Research, Ph.D.

Return to {$returnto_text} Return to: Academic Programs (A-Z)

This interdisciplinary program in Health Services Research includes coursework in biostatistics, health economics, healthcare organizational structures and processes, epidemiology, health policy, personal behaviors, and social factors that affect access to healthcare, quality and cost of healthcare, and health outcomes.  Graduates are prepared to conduct interdisciplinary research utilizing quantitative methods supplemented with qualitative methods to advance knowledge to support innovations in healthcare delivery systems and health policy.  All students are required to complete a series of core and area of emphasis courses individually developed between the student and their advisor.  The cornerstone of the program is the student’s dissertation, which is expected to be a significant contribution based on original and independent research leading to publications in peer reviewed, indexed journals.  Graduates are prepared to work in healthcare delivery systems, academia, or government positions.

Admission Requirements

In addition to the general requirements for admission to the Graduate School, the following are required for study in the Ph.D. in Health Services Research program:

  • Master’s Degree in a health-related field from a college or university accredited by an accepted accrediting body
  • An overall graduate GPA of at least 3.5 out of 4.0 from a graduate program from a college or university accredited by an accepted accrediting body
  • Graduate Record Examination (GRE) test scores; visit the Ph.D. in Health Services Research program website for details
  • An essay addressing professional and academic experiences, motivation for pursuing the degree, specialty area of emphasis to pursue in the program, and how the program fits the applicant’s career plans.  The essay should also identify how the applicant’s research interests align with those of at least two members of the HSR Ph.D. Program or Participating Faculty.
  • A current curriculum vitae (CV)
  • Three letters of reference, at least one of which is from a former graduate faculty member
  • A score on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) examination, which meets University requirements for those applicants whose native language is not English
  • Completed at least one graduate level course with a grade of B or above in each of the following areas:
    • Statistics or biostatistics
    • Health policy
    • Epidemiology
    • Foundational public health knowledge

Note: Applicants will be considered for admission if they have not completed the prerequisite graduate courses. If admitted, students must consult with the Program Director to determine when to take these prerequisites during the course of their studies.  Graduates of a CEPH accredited degree program are waived from the foundational public health knowledge requirement.  Master’s level courses taken to fulfill the prerequisite requirements are not counted toward the 61 credit hour total for the Ph.D.

  • An interview with the Director or the Director’s designee and potential mentor(s) either in person or by telephone may be requested

Degree Requirements

The Ph.D. acknowledges the value of coursework for background and preparatory to conducting research.  The program requires 61 post-master’s credit hours.  This program emphasizes courses in research methods and analysis, as well as experiences working with faculty on research to support the development of research skills in order to carry out the dissertation on a significant research problem in the area of health services research.

Professional Roles and Responsiblilities Courses (7 credit hours)

Area of Interest Courses (12 credit hours)

Students design an area of emphasis in consultation with their advisor, subject to the Graduate Program Director’s approval.  The area of emphasis should align with the student’s intended research focus.  The area of emphasis must include at least two of the methodology courses listed below (or alternatives approved by the Graduate Program Director).  The remaining courses should provide added depth relevant to the area of emphasis (e.g., methods, health issue, population), and may be at the master’s or doctoral level.

Dissertation (18 credit hours)

Degree Total = 61 Credit Hours

Grade Requirements

Students must maintain a cumulative average of 3.0 in all coursework taken in the program. The seminars are graded on a Pass/Unsatisfactory basis and, therefore, are not included in the cumulative average.  An accumulation of two C grades results in termination of a student’s enrollment in the doctoral program.  A second failure in any of the following results in dismissal from the program:  the qualifying examination; the dissertation proposal defense; or final dissertation defense.  If a student receives a grade of U or NC in any course, enrollment is terminated.  A doctoral student whose enrollment has been terminated due to grades is ineligible to register in any semester or summer session.


Dissertation Process

Dissertation Chair Selection

The student selects a Dissertation Chair.  The Chair must be a member of the HSR Ph.D. Program Faculty, or a member of the HSR Ph.D. Participating Faculty with a co-Chair who is a member of the Program Faculty.  Students should consult with their faculty advisor and the Program Director as they develop their plans for selecting the dissertation committee chair, and for forming the dissertation committee.  The student should work closely with the Chair on identifying other committee members, and typically should approach other faculty about serving on the committee only after consulting with the Chair.

Dissertation Committee Selection

The student selects the Dissertation Committee, which must be at least 4 members.  Three must be from the HSR Ph.D. Program Faculty or Participating Faculty (one of whom is the Chair).  The student submits the “Appointment of Doctoral Dissertation Committee” form.  The Graduate School appoints the 4th member. The four members of the dissertation committee will serve as the student’s committee for the refinement of the dissertation topic, the development and defense of the dissertation proposal, the development of the dissertation, and dissertation defense.

Dissertation Topic Selection

The Chair of the dissertation committee and the student together select the dissertation topic.  The Chair is responsible to ensure that all members of the committee are actively involved and agree to the direction and the specifics of the proposal (e.g., data, methods).  Ensuring this involvement and agreement is a major goal of the Topic Approval Meeting.  When the Chair approves the topic and approach to the dissertation, the student schedules the Topic Approval Meeting with the Dissertation Committee.  The student submits a 2-3 page description of the dissertation plan to the Dissertation Committee at least 2 weeks prior to the Topic Approval Meeting.  This single-spaced description of the topic includes the following sections: (1) Background and Significance, (2) Hypotheses and Specific Aim, and (3) Methods.  The Topic Approval Meeting is not typically open to visitors.  Students will present a brief oral summary of: the dissertation topic, the context of related research literature, data and methods, and implications for policy and practice, followed by questions.

Dissertation Proposal

Following the topic approval, the student writes the dissertation proposal and prepares for the Oral Proposal Defense.  Students should consult with their Dissertation Chair and Committee early in the process to determine whether the “traditional” or “three manuscript” approach is most applicable to their proposed dissertation research.  Regardless of the approach selected, the dissertation proposal should contain the following elements:

  • Introduction - This chapter should highlight the importance of the problem to health services research and the significance of the proposed research.
  • Literature Review - This chapter should critically review and synthesize literature relevant to the proposed topic.  It may be appropriate to include a conceptual or biological model to further position the research questions to be explored.
  • Hypotheses and Specific Aims
  • Methods - This chapter should include information on the study design, study population, measurement of variables, and statistical analysis plan.  For the proposal, this chapter should also contain information on study strengths, limitations, and potential implications.  Please note that this information will be incorporated into a different chapter for the final dissertation.
  • References - Students should consult with their Dissertation Chair regarding what citation style to use.
  • Appendix - This chapter is optional but may include dummy tables, questionnaires, informed consent forms, data request forms, or other relevant information that is referenced in an earlier chapter.

If students plan on using the “three manuscript” approach they should also include a brief description of the three manuscripts they will produce and relate them to their hypotheses and specific aims.  Students should also list target journals for these manuscripts.  For the proposal, this information can be included within Chapter 3.  For additional information on the “three manuscript” approach, please consult the Graduate School website.   

Students are expected to meet with their Dissertation Chairs on a regular basis to discuss their dissertation research.  Students and Dissertation Chairs should consult with the Dissertation Research Credit Application that they completed together to ensure that appropriate progress is being made during the semester.  All members of the committee must receive the full proposal at least 2 weeks before the Proposal Defense.

Oral Defense of the Dissertation Proposal

The submission of the proposal is followed by the Oral Proposal Defense. In the HSR Ph.D. program, the Oral Proposal Defense is open to faculty and students.The student must provide the title of the proposed dissertation, and the date, time, and location of the Oral Proposal Defense to the Program Director no later than two weeks prior to the Oral Proposal Defense.

The student should prepare a PowerPoint presentation approximately 25 minutes in length summarizing the research proposal. Following the student’s presentation, the committee will ask questions about the research plan.The student will be excused from the meeting to permit the committee to discuss the merits of the proposal, after which the student will return to the meeting to receive the committee’s comments and required modifications to the research plan.After successful completion of the Oral Proposal Defense, the student submits two forms:(1) “Proposal Defense Report for Doctoral Dissertation and/or Master’s Thesis/Project ” and (2) “Exam Report of Comprehensive/Qualifying Examination, Portfolio Presentation, and Study Report for Master’s and Doctoral Students.”

Advancement to Candidacy

A doctoral student advances to candidacy after the dissertation proposal has been approved by the student’s Dissertation Committee and the Graduate School.  Candidacy must be achieved at least one term prior to the term of graduation.

Dissertation Research

Completion of the dissertation is the final component of the doctoral degree. A doctoral dissertation must demonstrate the candidate’s ability to conceive, design, conduct, and interpret independent, original, and creative research, and must make a unique contribution to knowledge in the field of health services research. Under the direct supervision of the Dissertation Committee Chairs, students are encouraged to consult regularly with their Dissertation Committee members during the planning, conducting, and writing of the dissertation. The dissertation defense is a public defense. Notice of the location and time will go to the campus community.

Following the approval of the dissertation topic and advancement to doctoral candidacy, students are required to maintain continuous enrollment in HSRD 8901  for dissertation study until work is completed. Continuous enrollment begins in the semester after the dissertation topic is approved.

Qualifying Examination

The qualifying examination will take place at least once per year.  Students sit for the qualifying examination after completion of their Theory, Methods, and Professional Roles and Responsibilities core coursework.  The qualifying examination consists of three sections:  1) Methods section, 2) Theory section, and 3) Integrative section. The examination must be taken and passed prior to enrollment in dissertation research credit hours (HSRD 8901 ).

Specific procedures regarding the grading of the qualifying examination are detailed in the Health Services Research Ph.D. Student Handbook.

Time Limits for Completion

All requirements for the degree must be completed within nine years after the first registration as a doctoral student or the registration for any course transferred into the program toward degree requirements. The student must receive admission to candidacy within 6 years after admission to the program and complete all requirements within 6 years of admission to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree. These time limits are maximums; students will be typically expected to complete the degree requirements within 5 years.

Transfer Credit

Only courses with grades of A or B may be accepted for transfer credit. A maximum of 6 hours of transfer credit for post-Master’s coursework earned from a college or university accredited by an accepted accrediting body within the previous five years may be accepted with the Graduate Program Director’s approval. Only courses appropriate for the program and curriculum in which the student is enrolled may be transferred.

UNC Charlotte Residency Requirement

The student must satisfy the UNC Charlotte residency requirement for the program by completing 21 credit hours. Residence is considered to be continuous if the student is enrolled in one or more courses in successive semesters until 21 hours are earned.

Return to {$returnto_text} Return to: Academic Programs (A-Z)