Trial Research

In the first year of the program, all students are required to become involved in a research program under the supervision of a faculty member. In their second year, students begin work on their trial research, an empirical research project similar in scope to a master's thesis. The final paper must be approved by the supervising faculty member and a second faculty member. Many students present their papers at professional conferences, and some have won national awards for their work.

Course Outline

To prepare for a career in teaching or to develop expertise in an area of human development and its related policy arenas, students are required to prepare an annotated course outline. The assignment asks students to design an integrative course they would want to teach and to develop a syllabus complete with topics, rationale and reading list.


The most important project of a student's intellectual career is the PhD dissertation. It is an expanded report and discussion of an original and integrative research program, initiated and carried out by the student in consultation with his or her dissertation committee. In HDSP, the dissertation offers the best opportunity to bring together the different strands of inquiry in human development and social policy within an empirical study or series of studies that addresses an important intellectual issue. The dissertation is the capstone of the graduate-school experience and serves as the student's entrée into a professional career.

Dissertation Timeline

By the third year

Choose a dissertation committee.

Three weeks before proposing the dissertation

Complete "Recommendation for PhD Qualifying Examination Committee."

After successful proposal defense

Complete "Application for Candidacy" and register for 599 Postcandidacy Research for at least three quarters.

Three weeks before defending the dissertation

Complete "Recommendation for PhD Final Examination Committee," and send final dissertation draft to committee members.

After successful dissertation defense, complete

  • Committee report on Examination of Candidate for Degree
  • Certificate of Careful Editing
  • Application for a degree

Contact Us

The Graduate Program in Human Development and Social Policy

School of Education and Social Policy

2120 Campus Drive
Evanston, IL 60208
Northwestern University

Phone: 847/491-4329