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Arnold School of Public Health


Practicum/Thesis/Dissertation

Master’s Practicum

All MPH students are required to complete a practicum.  The purpose of the practicum is to blend practical field experiences with academic learning.  The practicum is a three-way partnership between the student, faculty advisor and preceptor. Each partner in this relationship assumes certain responsibilities, performs specific functions, and receives benefits.  A practicum is individually developed; therefore, the focus, substance, and approach of the practicum will vary depending on a student’s individual interests and professional goals.  From practicum planning through completion, a student works under the guidance of a departmental faculty member (practicum advisor) and the supervision of a professional (preceptor).  The following six major conditions are essential to a successful practicum:

  • The student has competence/experience that indicates the potential for contributions to the organization, including knowledge gained in prerequisite courses.
  • The student and the advisor have developed thoughtful and well-articulated learning objectives that can be pursued in the framework of the practicum experience.
  • The student demonstrates an understanding of the practicum objectives and identifies a network of people to help achieve the objectives.
  • The student seeks advice and mentoring from his/her practicum advisor.
  • A preceptor is identified who wants a productive experience for both the organization and the student.
  • An organization wants a project accomplished, and it “owns” the work results.

For more information about practicum requirements, consult the student handbook.


Master’s Thesis

All MSPH students are required to complete a master’s thesis.  The purpose of the Master’s Thesis is to apply the principles and methods learned during coursework and demonstrate competence of basic epidemiologic/biostatistical research.  From the beginning to the end of a thesis, students work under the guidance of their faculty Thesis Director, as well as the guidance of committee members, selected for their expertise related to the student’s research goals.  After completing a thesis, students should be able to demonstrate the ability to:

Epidemiology Thesis:

  • Develop a testable research question of public health significance;
  • Review the current literature as context for the research question;
  • Describe the research design and analytic strategy;
  • Conduct analyses appropriate for the research question;
  • Clearly present the results;
  • Draw appropriate inferences based on the results;
  • Discuss the findings in context of current knowledge and implications for public health and future research.

Biostatistics Thesis:

  • Extend a known statistical technique to a new area, or apply a known technique in a novel manner;
  • Review the current literature as context for the research question;
  • Describe the statistical issue in the context of the current literature and the focus of the thesis;
  • Conduct analyses to illustrate the technique or statistical issue;
  • Clearly present the results;
  • Draw appropriate inferences based on the results;
  • Discuss the findings in context of the current knowledge literature and implications for public health and future research.

For more information about thesis requirements, consult the student handbook or the Graduate School website.


Doctoral Dissertation

All doctoral students must complete a research project culminating in a dissertation. The dissertation must be based on original research, typically addressing a basic research problem. The student, in consultation with the Academic Advisor, will select a Dissertation Director from the departmental faculty. The Dissertation Director has primary responsibility for advising the student regarding technical work on the dissertation.  Dissertations should result in publishable manuscripts.

For more information about dissertation requirements, consult the student handbook or the Graduate School website.