Portland-State-University 2022-2023 Bulletin

Social Work and Social Research Ph.D.

The School of Social Work offers the Ph.D. in Social Work and Social Research to educate the next generation of scholars, researchers, teachers and leaders in social work and related fields.  The program prepares students to contribute to scholarly knowledge, conduct ethical, rigorous, and community-engaged research, and teach passionately and effectively in various settings--all with special attention to equity and justice.  The Regional Research Institute for Human Services and the Center for the Improvement of Child and Family Services are major resources for the program. 

Coursework includes core social work courses, required research electives, and selected substantive area electives.  The core social work classes are taught seminar style, providing students with experiences of engagement in discussions about complex ideas and diverse viewpoints.  The elective courses can be taken in other academic units based on each student's individualized study plan.  Following completion of required and elective courses the student must pass written and oral comprehensive examinations before defending a dissertation proposal, conducting independent research and a final dissertation defense.   


Each doctoral student is required to select a social problem for study and become knowledgeable about relevant theories and proficient in the methodologies appropriate for scholarly inquiry of the problem.

Core requirements for the course of study are designed to ensure knowledge and skills in the history, theory, and organization of societal responses to social issues; quantitative and qualitative research methods and statistics; and expertise in a cognate area relevant to the social problem or method of inquiry through course work outside of the School of Social Work. Students also are required to enroll in a research practicum under the direction of an approved qualified supervisor. A teaching practicum may be elected. Each student’s program of study will be individually planned and approved. Students in the first and second years of the program are required to attend the Ph.D. seminar each quarter.

Core Courses (31 credits)

SW 620Substantive Area Conceptualization


SW 622Substantive Area Investigation


SW 626/PHE 626Teaching and Learning in Health Promotion & Social Work


SW 630Philosophy of Science for Social Sciences


SW 637/Psy 637Qualitative Research Methods for Social Inquiry


SW 640Research Practicum and Seminar


SW 650History of Social Work Profession/al


SW 660Ph.D. Seminar – First Year


SW 661Ph.D. Seminar – Second Year


SW 690Teaching Practicum and Seminar


SW 660 and SW 661 must be taken 3 times each for a total of 6 credits.

Required Elective Courses (16 credits)

Appropriate interdisciplinary social science research methods courses


Other Electives (16)

Appropriate courses in student's substantive area of focus


Dissertation (27 credits)

Total Credit Hours: 90

Comprehensive examination

A written comprehensive examination is taken after completion of required coursework.


After successful completion of the comprehensive examinations, the dissertation chairperson and committee are appointed. The student develops a dissertation proposal that is defended orally before the dissertation committee. When the proposal has been approved by the dissertation committee and by the University Human Subjects Research Review committee, the student is considered a candidate for the Ph.D. in Social Work and Social Research. A dissertation must be completed following the outlines of the approved proposal. Students must maintain continuous registration while engaged in dissertation research.

Final examination

At the conclusion of doctoral work, the student defends the completed dissertation before the dissertation committee and other interested faculty and doctoral students. The student is expected to demonstrate knowledge of the topic selected for study and to show that the dissertation is a contribution to knowledge in the social problem area.