Doctoral Project Syllabus

Course Title, Credit Hours and Semester

  • Course Title: PHTH 7970, Doctoral Project
  • Credit Hours 1 credit
  • Semester Fall

Course Instructor

Physical Therapy Faculty


Students must be enrolled in the Physical Therapy Program at the University of Utah.

Course Description

This course provides students with an opportunity to apply the principles of evidence-based practice to a written patient case, diagnosis, or clinical question. Evidence- based practice consists of formulating a clinical question, searching and retrieving the best available evidence, critical appraisal of studies, and incorporating the values and preferences of an informed patient into the decision-making process. Students will prepare a case report/scenario or clinical question and defend the clinical management (examination, evaluation, diagnosis, prognosis and intervention) of the case report/scenario or clinical question based on the principles of evidence-based practice. The case report/scenario or clinical question should consider several areas of the ICF.

Course Objectives

Upon successful completion of this course students should be able to:

  1. Formulate a clinical question that can be addressed with evidence.
  2. Search and retrieve the best available evidence to address a clinical question.
  3. Critically appraise literature related to physical therapy.
  4. Synthesize and discuss the literature used in clinical management of a case/scenario or clinical question.
  5. Plan, and evaluate the plan, for an examination, perform and defend an evaluation, determine and evaluate a diagnosis and prognosis, and plan an intervention for a case/scenario or clinical question.
  6. Present and justify the information that should be provided to patients to make an informed decision for a case/scenario or clinical question.

Course Concepts

  1. Evidence-based practice is a critical component of physical therapy practice.
  2. Understanding and applying evidence-based practice principles to a case, diagnosis or clinical question is a mandatory skill for professional physical therapy clinicians.

Required Textbooks


Learning Methods

Independent study

Performance Expectations

  1. Selecting a case, diagnosis, or clinical question and a chair: Students are expected to select a case, diagnosis, or clinical question. The case, diagnosis, or question must focus on an area where there is published literature that includes examination and intervention. Students should discuss the topic of their case/diagnosis/question with their project chair to determine the feasibility that evidence for the case/diagnosis/question can be assessed efficiently and successfully. For examples of clinical questions students should refer to the Evidence in Practice Series in the PT Journal at
  2. Students are to turn in a supervisory committee form (see Department webpage for form) with their chairs name and signature before spring break, second year (March 13, 2009). A committee will be assigned to the student. If a student has made alternative arrangements for a committee, then a completed form signed by all committee members should be turned in. These forms should be turned into Diane Nicholson by 3 pm on the Friday before spring break starts, second year.
  3. Prepare evidence tables to define and justify clinical management. The tables are:
    1. tables that present the methods and results of research articles
    2. tables that compare examination tools from several studies
    3. tables that compare intervention tools from several studies
    4. tables that compare outcomes across the ICF model
  4. The tables you prepare should not include everything – they should focus on information that is critical for decision making.
  5. Students should discuss their tables and products with their project chair to determine the format of their final product. The final product varies based upon student talents and goals, committee chair, and topic.
  6. Prepare a list of references organized into three groups: references for examination tools, references for prognosis decisions, and references for intervention decisions.
  7. Prepare a title page with the proper format.
  8. Prepare a 20 minute Power Point Presentation that focuses on the clinical question, examination tools, evaluation, diagnosis, prognosis, suggested interventions, and expected outcomes for the case/scenario or clinical question.
  9. Prepare a portfolio with the original case/scenario or question, original articles, tables, charts, final products, etc. This folder should be delivered to your committee chair two weeks prior to defending your project.
  10. Items 3, 5, 6, and 7 are to be given to your committee chair and each committee member one week prior to your defense.
  11. Students should bring a copy of item h to their presentation/defense for each committee member.
  12. Students should bring a copy of the Report of Final Project Form to their defense.
  13. The presentation will be followed by a maximum of a 40 minutes question and discussion interval for students to defend their case question in the presence of their doctoral committee.
  14. The presentation will be open to the public – families, friends, clinicians, students and faculty are encouraged to attend defenses.
  15. Please make a plan with your advisor for how you will successfully complete this project ASAP.

Course Outline

  1. Supervisory committee forms and program of study forms are due by the Friday before spring break, second year.
  2. You will be provided with the names of your committee members by April 15th. Presentations will take place in Fall.
  3. By spring break of Spring Semester – Students should contact their committee chair as soon as they have selected a case/question to study. The goal is to obtain the chair’s approval that tables for the case/question should be able to be completed efficiently and successfully. At this meeting students and chairs should develop a plan including deadlines for completing the project.
  4. By the end of Spring Semester - Students should meet with their committee chairs to insure that the doctoral project is progressing according to plan. As a minimum the following materials should be completed: tables, references and portfolio. Students should plan ~ a 1 hour meeting with their committee chair to review their materials.
  5. At the beginning of Fall Semester - Students should meet with their committee chairs to go over their final copies of the following materials: tables, references and portfolio. Students should plan ~ a 1 hour meeting with their committee chair to review their materials. At the end of the meeting students will be either 1) given permission to proceed with their defense, or 2) asked to revise their materials and plan on defending at a later date.
  6. One week before defending students are to announce their defense via electronic (Department Web-site) and hard-copy flyers. Please do not hang flyers on the building doors.

Grading Policy

A letter grade is given for doctoral projects.

Doctoral Committee Presentation 50%
Written Report 50%

Office Hours

To be determined by individual faculty members.

Day, Time or by appointment

Office Telephone Number: TBA<

American Disabilities Act Information

The University of Utah and the Division of Physical Therapy seeks to provide equal access to its programs, services, and activities for people with disabilities. In order to establish the existence of a disability and/or request reasonable accommodation for classes, students should contact the Center for Disability Services, (160 Olpin Union Bldg., 581-5020). If arrangements are not necessary through the Center for Disability Services, but through the instructor alone, please bring concerns to the instructor during the first couple of weeks of the semester so that accommodation can be considered.

The Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities

The code is provided in detail on the University of Utah web page ( The code specifies student rights as well as conduct involving cheating, plagiarism, collusion, fraud, theft, etc.