Graduate students who are not completing a thesis must complete an applied research paper (sometimes called a “file paper” or “exit paper”). Whereas the thesis is a report of the outcome of the student’s own research, the applied research paper is formatted similarly to a case presentation, including a comprehensive biopsychosocial, relevant research literature (e.g., etiology, diagnosis, treatment), detailed theoretical case conceptualization, and a treatment summary (e.g. goals, methods, and course of treatment).


Applied Research Prospectus

Once a case is identified, students should prepare a 1-2 page prospectus for the Graduate Program Coordinator. The purpose of the prospectus is to verify that the selected case is appropriate for use in the applied research paper. To this end, students should provide the following information in the prospectus: brief summary of the presenting problem, nature and course of treatment, current treatment status, and a list of potential references for use in the paper. Furthermore, the prospectus should also indicate who the student would like to serve as Graduate Committee chair and committee member(s). The Graduate Program Coordinator will review the prospectus and circulate the document to the proposed committee chair and members for review. Should faculty feel there are significant concerns regarding the case, the student will be required to submit a revised prospectus or select another case for presentation and submit a new prospectus. Feedback will be provided to the student regarding faculty concerns by the Graduate Program Coordinator.


Applied Research Paper

The applied research paper represents formal evidence of a student’s mastery in applying research and theory to case conceptualization and intervention. To this end, the applied research paper should not only present a summary of assessment and intervention with a client, the applied research paper should provide a summary of relevant research. For example, if an student were presenting a case in which one was treating a patient diagnosed with major depressive disorder using an interpersonal theoretical orientation, then the applied research paper would necessarily provide a brief literature review of interpersonal theory and its usefulness in the treatment of major depressive disorder. A checklist of the typical sections and subsections of the applied research paper is provided below. Occasionally, the unique nature of a particular case may merit some deviation from this format. These deviations should be made with the approval of the graduate advisory chair.


Applied paper is single spaced, with headers for each section, and written in a Biopsychosocial format. The following structure should be followed:

 1. Client Information

            For example: name, age, DOB, gender, marital status, children, date of intake, number

                 of sessions, referral


 2. Tests Administered (only if available)

            Simple list of full names of tests and abbreviations.

            e.g., Wide Range Achievement Test 5th Edition (WRAT 5)


 3. Presenting Problem

            Few brief sentences.

            Include information about client presentation, orientation x3 or 4, etc.


 4. Background Information

            History of the problem

            Individual/family history

            Medical/Psychological history

            Substance Use



 5. Test scores (if available)

            Description of Test(s) administered

            Table for Data



6. Case Formulation

           Nomothetic disorder conceptualization

           How does a particular theory explain a set of symptoms?

           What are the underlying mechanisms that support the development and persistence of

                the symptoms?

           Idiographic conceptualization

           How is the patient’s presentation consistent with the theoretical constructs?


This is the most important section of the applied research paper. Not only are students expected to demonstrate a clear, theoretically based understanding of the client’s symptoms and the mechanisms causing these symptoms, this conceptualization should directly inform the treatment goals and structure both treatment summary and recommendations for the future.


7. Diagnosis



8. Treatment and Theory based treatment goals

           Strategies and rationale

           Treatment Summary

           Changes across treatment




                        Therapy relationship/process


9. Summary

             Integration of presenting problem, important history, testing (if available), and



10. Recommendations (the following list is to stimulate ideas-dependent upon the client’s presentation)

            Short-term goals

            Long-term goals

            Treatment recommendations

            Testing Questions to be answered