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Applied Research Paper

The Applied Research Paper

Graduate students who are not completing a thesis must complete an applied research paper (sometimes called a “file paper” or “exit paper”). Whereas the thesis is a report of the outcome of the student’s own research, the applied research paper is formatted similarly to a case presentation, including a comprehensive biopsychosocial relevant research literature (e.g., etiology, diagnosis, treatment), detailed theoretical case conceptualization, and a treatment summary (e.g. goals, methods, and course of treatment).

Applied Research Prospectus

Once a case is identified, students should prepare a 1-2 page prospectus for the Graduate Program Coordinator. The purpose of the prospectus is to verify that the selected case is appropriate for use in the applied research paper. To this end, students should provide the following information in the prospectus: brief summary of the presenting problem, nature and course of treatment, current treatment status, and a list of potential references for use in the paper. Furthermore, the prospectus should also indicate who the student would like to serve as Graduate Committee chair and committee member(s). The Graduate Program Coordinator will review the prospectus and circulate the document to the proposed committee chair and members for review. Should faculty feel there are significant concerns regarding the case, the student will be required to submit a revised prospectus or select another case for presentation and submit a new prospectus. Feedback will be provided to the student regarding faculty concerns by the Graduate Program Coordinator.

Applied Research Paper

The applied research paper represents formal evidence of a student’s mastery in applying research and theory to case conceptualization and intervention. To this end, the applied research paper should not only present a summary of assessment and intervention with a client, the applied research paper should provide a summary of relevant research. For example, if an student were presenting a case in which s/he were treating a patient diagnosed with major depressive disorder using an interpersonal theoretical orientation, then the applied research paper would necessarily provide a brief literature review of interpersonal theory and its usefulness in the treatment of major depressive disorder. A checklist of the typical sections and subsections of the applied research paper is provided below. Occasionally, the unique nature of a particular case may merit some deviation from this format. These deviations should be made with the approval of the graduate advisory chair.


Background Information

            Presenting problem/history of the problem

            Testing information (if available)

            Individual/family history

            Medical/Psychological history


            DSM-5 Diagnosis

Case Formulation[1]

            Nomothetic disorder conceptualization

    How does a particular theory explain a set of symptoms?

    What are the underlying mechanisms that support the development and persistence of the symptoms?

            Idiographic conceptualization

                        How is the patient’s presentation consistent with the theoretical constructs?


            Theory based treatment goals

            Strategies and rationale

Treatment Summary

            Changes across treatment




                        Therapy relationship/process

            Test scores (if available)         

Recommendations for the future

[1] This is the most important section of the applied research paper. Not only are students expected to demonstrate a clear, theoretically based understanding of the client’s symptoms and the mechanisms causing these symptoms, this conceptualization should directly inform the treatment goals and structure both treatment summary and recommendations for the future.

A thesis is one of two capstone options.  Completion of a thesis is an excellent opportunity to not only hone your research, analytic, and writing skills. Only students who have completed PSYC 5113 (Research and Statistical Analysis) will be eligible for pursuit of a thesis. 


Completion of a thesis is accomplished in three steps.  Each step must be completed by the prescribed deadlines (see Important Dates).  First, students must complete a thesis prospectus.  The purpose of the prospectus is to help ascertain a student's preparedness and potential for completing the thesis in a timely manner.  The prospectus must be completed the semester prior to enrollment in PSYC 6983 (Thesis I).  Second, students must enroll in and successfully complete PSYC 6983 (Thesis I).  Students must obtain committee approval of the thesis project while enrolled in PSYC 6983.  A Student may only enroll in PSYC 6983 one time during his/her academic career.  Failure to obtain committee approval to pursue the thesis research in PSYC 6993 will render the student ineligible to enroll in PSYC 6993. Under these circumstances, no credits will be granted for PSYC 6983 and the transcript grade will remain “X” which will not influence the student’s graduate GPA. Exceptions to this rule must be approved by the Department Chair.  The third, and final step is completion of the thesis.  Upon successful completion of PSYC 6983, students will enroll in PSYC 6993.  While it is anticipated that a student will be able to complete the the thesis during a single semester of PSYC 6993, should s/he require additional semesters, s/he will be required to continuously enroll in PSYC 6993 until the completion of the thesis project.  Additional information and details regarding the thesis process and product are found in the Graduate Handbook and Graduate Catalog