2. The personality disorders redefined: categorical versus dimensional models. This is a good topic because it’s very current, controversial, and there are lots of empirical papers on the topic, and, again, one could get into a lot of issues: what are the advantages & disadvantages of the categorical DSM approach in relation to the different dimensional approaches? Among the dimensional approaches which is most powerful in explaining the variability maladaptive personality? Which do you recommend for taking the DSM forward?
3. Primary prevention in the schools: Are children benefiting? In this paper one could review the literature on primary prevention programs that have been implemented in schools to help prevent mental illness (or one could go more specific if there’s too much literature on mental illness, in general, and focus on, say, bullying, suicide, self-esteem, etc.). This could even be a meta-analysis. One could then provide an integration and analysis why these programs have not done as well as expected (if they haven’t) and provide recommendations for moving forward.
4. A cross-cultural analysis of major depressive disorder: Comparison of Asian and Western definitions. This is a good topic because you can get into a lot of aspects of the issue: do the two groups present differently. Why might that be? What are the cultural/historical/religious reasons that underlie differences in rates and symptom presentation? Is this changing with China’s rapidly Westernizing culture? What are the implications of this for our understanding of the syndrome of depression very generally and/or for mental health policy in China? There are lots of angles one could take with this.
(b) Empirical Paper Option
The purpose of this paper option is to produce an empirical paper on a topic that is not directly related to the student’s dissertation or any other empirical studies that have conducted so far in the student’s graduate career. This paper should also be of publishable quality in a top-tier general journal (e.g., Journal of Abnormal Psychology, Child Development, JPSP) or a secondary topical journal (e.g., Cognitive Therapy and Research, Child Abuse & Neglect, Archives of Sexual Behaviour). Students should target a particular journal when proposing the topic, and students are encouraged to peruse this journal for examples of appropriate topics of study.
This comps option has two important goals. The first is to expose students to a new literature that will hopefully expand understanding of clinical psychology, in general, and students’ specific research focus, in particular. Therefore, for example, if you have been working on the etiology and treatment of sexual dysfunctions, but for your dissertation topic you want to explore the effect of spousal depression in sex therapy outcome, you might want to pursue a data analysis project that explores some different topic related to depression (e.g., with another professor’s data) so that you are able to gain a deeper understanding of the phenomenology and etiology of the disorder. The second goal of this option (although not a requirement) is to expose students to new data analytic methods that they may not have had the opportunity to use, but with which they would like to become familiar. So, for example, if your dissertation topic is going to be a structural equation model of risk factors for bullying, you might want to get your feet wet by pursuing a data analysis project that explores a similar model using a different outcome (e.g., suicidality).
Students will need to read deeply into the literature supporting the analyses, and will need to conduct analyses that are appropriately complex. We expect students to demonstrate expertise in this new area when writing up the paper. We strongly encourage students to consult with your supervisor for help in picking a paper that does not overlap with their dissertation, but that will be of use in broadening their knowledge base. We also encourage students to consult with the comprehensive committee to determine whether the topic meets the criteria for a comps paper and for any questions about the paper’s structure. Once you have picked a topic, you will contact the faculty member whose data you wish to use to ask permission. We suggest that you come to this person with a fairly well-formed idea (e.g., “I would like to conduct a study for my comps looking at the relation of xxx and yyy to zzz. I see from your website that you are conducting studies in this area. Would you have a dataset that I could use?”). You may then consult with this person (and others) periodically throughout the process for practical guidance regarding, for example, how variables are coded, whether it makes sense to look at a variable in a certain way, etc., but you should be the primary author on the study and paper.
The structure of the empirical paper topics should simply follow that required by the targeted journal. Every journal has a website that provides guidelines to authors in writing their paper. Students should consult this information prior to writing the paper, and are encouraged to read other articles in this journal to get a sense for what the journal is looking for. Again, the comps committee should be consulted with questions regarding the appropriateness of the topic for a fulfillment of the comps requirement.
Important Dates and Guidelines
Proposal due date: Your 1-2 page proposal is due August 31 of your PhD1 year. For the theoretical/lit review option this proposal should briefly describe the main question addressed by the paper and should outline the paper’s structure. It should also clearly indicate the unique contribution your paper will make to the literature and why this is an important contribution. Your proposal should also clearly indicate how your proposed literature review relates to your main area of study. For the empirical paper option this proposal should outline the research question and hypotheses and should clearly indicate the unique contribution your paper will make to the literature and why this is an important contribution. You should also briefly describe the participants, measures, and procedure of the data set on which you will be basing your paper, as well as the data analytic procedures that you will be employing to test your hypotheses. Your proposal should also clearly indicate how your proposed study relates to your main research focus.
Paper due date: THE WRITTEN PAPER IS DUE MAY 1ST of the PhD2 year.
Criteria for Pass/Fail
If a student’s comprehensive paper requires revision, he/she will be given a list of required changes by the committee and will be given the opportunity to revise his/her paper. Students should understand that most papers will undergo at least one revision, similar to what they should expect when submitting their paper to the actual targeted journal. Students will receive their first action letter by June 1st. Their first revision will then be due by July 15th. Students will receive their second action letter by August 15th. Students whose rewrite is still deemed to require major revisions (i.e., more than just minor editorial changes) will be given a second list of required changes by the committee and will be given the opportunity to re-revise the paper. The revision will be due by October 31st of PhD3 at the latest. However, students hoping to apply for internship in PhD3, or apply for grants, should aim to re-submit their first and second revisions as early as possible. The final action letter will be received by November 30th at the latest. Students whose re-revision is still deemed unsatisfactory will be given a written explanation for the committee’s decision and will not be able to complete the PhD.