PhD Academic Curriculum in Occupational Science

OS Kendra

The doctoral program in Occupational Science emphasizes a course of study appropriate to each student's interests and career goals. In addition to occupational science seminars, doctoral students select courses that build expertise in research and interdisciplinary perspectives in areas related to occupation and human activity.

Foundational Seminars

Philosophical foundations: Assumptions guiding research methodologies

This seminar investigates different underlying philosophical dispositions guiding the scientific enterprise of different disciplines. Assumptions surround what there is to be known and the nature of things to be studied lead to different research methodologies. Students are encouraged to identify underlying belief systems in the research of their own and other disciplines. 

Introduction to Qualitative Research

This seminar surveys different qualitative research methodologies designed to understand human experience and cultural practices.

Quantitative Foundations: Alternative designs, types of knowledge, and generalization

This seminar provides a foundation in research design and methods. Course focuses on becoming a critical reader of research, identifying dependent and independent variables, evaluating how those variables are measured, determining whether research designs are adequate to answer research questions, assessing the statistical procedures used, and determining threats to internal and external validity.

Doctoral seminars in occupational science

Conceptual introduction to occupational science: History & state of the discipline:      

Occupational Science is over 25 years old – still a young discipline and not without controversy, the original concept of a discipline focused on occupation persists.  This seminar begins with a hard look at the original precepts of occupational science. Then supports the student in developing their own occupational science “looking glass,” drawing from the original examination to consider several works from other disciplines.  Finally the seminar explores early and recent trends and critiques of occupational science in order to develop an assessment of the state of the discipline and the directions the students think it should take to continue its development.

Theories of Action:

This seminar examines works of philosophers and theoretical social scientists that can provide a basis for thinking more carefully and deeply about human occupation, broadly construed.  The fundamental premise is that scholars grounded in appropriate philosophy and theory can conceptualize and theorize occupation more rigorously and thereby add substantively to the discipline. Writings from various traditions compose the readings, including pragmatism, phenomenology, activity theory, actor-network theory and others. While works read will tend to focus on action, associated issues such as identity, place, culture and social relations will be considered.

Seminars on special topics in occupational science

Examples of courses include:

Processes transforming occupation across the life course:

Students synthesize research in order to generate robust understanding of everyday activities as explored in other disciplines.  The use this information to explore what brings about transformations in occupational performance or occupational meaning for a socially identified group of people (e.g., preschoolers, recently immigrated young adults, cancer survivors).  Adopting the perspective that occupation is the transaction that joins the person and situation in a functional way the student offers a conceptual analysis of how changes in the group’s occupations occur. By reading broadly in the literature from different disciplines students also critically analyze how the knowledge about occupation is socially constructed.

Translating Occupational Science into Evidence-Based Practice:

This seminar uses literature on the state of the science as related to autism and other developmental disabilities to examine how a body of work is translated into evidence-based practice.  Readings form a broad range of interdisciplinary research in occupational science, psychology, education, medicine, sociology, etc. will be utilized to critically analyze various research approaches and methods of data collection, analysis and interpretation.  This seminar targets the interfaces among theory, scientific knowledge, and practice and examines efficacy/intervention research that impact on health, development and social participation.


Interdisciplinary Cognate Area

Courses taken outside the division to gain interdisciplinary perspectives in areas related to human activity, occupation.


Research and Design Methodology

Three courses required to be consistent with career goals and anticipated dissertation plans

Academic Career Seminars

Academic Writing

This seminar will focus on different types of academic and scientific writing and the shifts that are required to meet the demands of different audiences, outlets, and purposes.

Proposal and Grant Writing

This course provides students with an applied introduction to proposal and grant writing. Since effective grant writing requires effective written communication, a primary goal of this course is the improvement of academic writing skills for a variety of audiences and purposes.

Personnel Development and Systems Change or College Teaching


Mentored research and teaching apprenticeships

Students will work with their primary Mentors and Program Advisory Committee to plan applied research and teaching experiences.  The research experiences are closely monitored apprenticeships and may cover a variety of research related experience.  The experience in teaching is also tailored to each student’s background and career goals. Students new to academic settings will have the opportunity to build their teaching portfolio.