Walden’s online doctoral programs allow you to focus on your interests. With the guidance of a faculty mentor, you’ll gain the research and academic skills you need to make an original contribution as an expert in your field.

Some programs are course-based, which allow you to master critical concepts in a structured online classroom. Other programs use a mixed-model combination of courses and Knowledge Area Modules (KAMs), emphasizing faculty-guided independent research.

All doctoral degree programs incorporate face-to-face residencies and culminate in either a dissertation or doctoral study, with faculty supporting you along the way.

Learn more about the doctoral learning models at Walden. Request information or call 1-866-492-5336 in the United States or see a list of international phone numbers.

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  • Plan for Your Residency

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  • Dissertation

  • Doctoral Study

  • Knowledge Area Modules

  • Ph.D. Residencies

The dissertation is the unifying capstone of every doctoral student’s learning experience at Walden. You will have the opportunity to address a real-world problem, bring new information to light, and make an original contribution to your field.

Since students’ interest and courses of study vary, the nature of Walden dissertations also vary. The dissertation builds on your own interests and expertise, as opposed to that of faculty. As you work toward completing your dissertation, you will demonstrate your knowledge of research design and your ability to interpret research findings. Through the practical application of your unique research and insights, you can contribute to improving the caliber of professional practice.

The dissertation process comprises the following steps:

  1. Nominate a three-person supervisory committee.
  2. Prepare a dissertation proposal/presentation.
  3. Conduct a research study/data collection.
  4. Report the study results in a five-chapter dissertation.
    • Chapter 1—The research problem
    • Chapter 2—Literature review
    • Chapter 3—Research method(s)
    • Chapter 4—Findings
    • Chapter 5—Summary, conclusions, and implications
  5. Present an oral defense of the dissertation.

You will be supported throughout the dissertation process by a range of services and resources dedicated to your success, including the following:

  • Support for Fundamental Skills
  • Enrollment and Academic Advisors
  • Ph.D. residencies
  • The Center for Research Quality 

Learn more about the dissertation process at Walden. Request information or call 1-866-492-5336 in the United States or see a list of international phone numbers.

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The Writing Center

In programs that are focused on practice instead of research, your coursework will culminate with a doctoral study. As with a traditional dissertation, you will do rigorous work that makes an original contribution to your field. However, your focus will be on creating a practical solution.

You will choose a topic that interests you and then create a doctoral study that:

  • Demonstrates your ability to gather, analyze, and report data in a solutions-based context.
  • Provides new knowledge, a new practice, or a new product.
  • Is context-based within an organizational setting and linked to social change.

The doctoral study comprises two components:

  1. The doctoral study project, which culminates in a product
  2. A scholarly paper with four sections:
    • Problem
    • Methodology
    • Project description
    • Reflections

These components demonstrate your competence in research or evaluation design and your command of critical thinking and academic writing.

Learn more about the advantages of enrolling in Walden’s online degree programs. Request information or call 1-866-492-5336 in the United States or see a list of international phone numbers.

Knowledge at Work

“I learned how to design and carry out evaluations and academic studies to clarify aspects of health services and health administration. This has enabled me to better serve the needs of patients, caregivers, and families.”

Sally M. Lorbac
Ph.D. in Health Services Graduate

Many of Walden’s Ph.D. programs are based on a unique learning model called a Knowledge Area Module (KAM). KAMs are scholarly papers that demonstrate your academic mastery of a subject you choose and research with the guidance of a faculty mentor.

These scholarly papers are broken into three segments:


  • Build a foundation of theoretical knowledge and explore how the concepts, constructs, and principles are interrelated in a field of study relevant to the social sciences.
  • Develop your scholarly skills in researching and writing.
  • Practice the skills of making an original scholarly contribution.


  • Become familiar with significant resources (journals, databases, reports, texts, and Web-based sources) in your chosen field.
  • Bring yourself up to date with current research findings on your chosen topic.
  • Discover the methodologies and instruments adopted by other researchers in this field.
  • Find ways you might improve the practice of your profession.
  • Locate a place in the research literature where you might contribute a study of your own.


  • Assess an aspect of your professional world in terms of the theory and research you have examined in this KAM.
  • Use the information garnered in the Breadth and Depth segments to initiate some element of social change in your professional work.
  • Test the theories and research findings examined in this KAM in a real-life situation.

Many students use KAMs as the foundation for papers they publish in peer-reviewed journals or present at professional conferences. KAMs can also give you a head start on your dissertation.

Learn more about the KAM learning model. Request information or call 1-866-492-5336 in the United States or see a list of international phone numbers.

KAM at a Glance

Dr. Iris Yob, of Walden’s Center for Teaching and Learning, describes the KAM learning model in her own words.

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Residencies support learning at key points during your doctoral program. Walden offers face-to-face sessions as well as virtual residencies for eligible students.* These experiences are designed to enhance both your development as a scholar-practitioner and your ability to effect positive social change.

For your convenience, face-to-face residencies are scheduled at several times throughout the year and are held in a variety of locations in the United States and in other parts of the world. See the locations and dates of residencies that are available to current students. Residencies vary in length depending on your program, so please consult an enrollment advisor for more information.

Residency Benefits

Residencies offer you an opportunity to:

  • Participate in sessions with small groups of other students who share your academic and research interests.
  • Enhance your research, information literacy, critical thinking, and scholarly writing skills.
  • Network and socialize with peers, in-person and/or online, to strengthen your scholarly and professional community.
  • Meet one-on-one with faculty members, academic advisors, and student support staff members.

Residency Timing and Content

Residencies align with your courses and are timed to allow you to apply what you have learned and practice your skills. They contribute to your academic and professional success by focusing on research and scholarship.

Residency 1: Socialization

  • Timing: As soon as you enroll in your program
  • Goals: Socialization into Walden, community building, and introductory skills
  • Components: Orientation, colloquia on professional identity, team building, and scholarly writing

Residency 2: Research Methods (available as a virtual residency or face-to-face)

  • Timing: Within 18 months of your start date or linked to your registration in or completion of your first research course
  • Goals: Introduction to research skills, self-assessment, and skills development
  • Components: Dissertation and research skills, professional development activities

Residency 3: Prospectus and Proposal

  • Timing: By the end of third year
  • Goals: Prospectus completion and proposal development
  • Components: Prospectus writing and dissertation processes

Residency 4: Scholar-Practitioner (available as a virtual residency or face-to-face)

  • Timing: During your third year and beyond
  • Goals: Presentation of research and dissertation publishing
  • Components: Advanced dissertation skills

Residency Learning Outcomes

  1. Use critical thinking skills expected of doctoral students
  2. Engage faculty and peers in discourse that contributes to the collective advancement of scholarship in their discipline
  3. Use university support services to contribute to the successful completion of the dissertation and doctoral degree
  4. Analyze research ideas through engagement with faculty members and student colleagues to formulate appropriate research questions to be pursued in the doctoral dissertation
  5. Conceptualize, design, and execute dissertation research studies that reflect doctoral level thinking and have the potential to contribute to positive social change
  6. Conduct peer review to receive and provide critical feedback to shape the dissertation proposal and results that follow from the data analysis
  7. Demonstrate proficiency in quantitative and qualitative data collection and analysis approaches to support what is learned in research courses and what is required for the dissertation
  8. Articulate and demonstrate competency in professional practice skills required by student’s discipline
  9. Write a plan for research dissemination (e.g., peer reviewed journal article, conference presentation, book, workplace settings, or other venues)
  10. Identify strategies for continued professional development as scholar-practitioners

For more information about residencies and their role in your academic experience, call an enrollment advisor at 1-866-492-5336.

*Eligible Ph.D. students must be participating in a four-part residency model. Students currently enrolled in the Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision program are not eligible to attend virtual residencies.

Many Walden Ph.D. programs have a residency requirement. Residencies provide unique opportunities for you to strengthen your research skills and contribute to your academic and professional success as a Ph.D. student.

Walden’s virtual residency option allows you to participate in a residency experience without having to travel. If eligible,* you may choose to attend a virtual residency instead of a traditional face-to-face residencies, for residency two and/or residency four. See the dates of virtual residencies that are available to current students.

Virtual residencies include:

  • Innovative social networking technology that allows you to participate in learning activities through virtual conferences and dynamic classroom platforms.
  • Small cohorts of students, which will foster even more opportunities for you to connect with your classmates and faculty.
  • Greater flexibility when it comes to scheduling where you complete your residency coursework.

Find out what our online higher education community can offer you. Request information or speak with an enrollment advisor by calling 1-866-492-5336. A list of international toll-free phone numbers is available for students outside the United States.

*Eligible Ph.D. students must be participating in a four-part residency model. Students currently enrolled in the Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision program or those required to complete an Academic Year in Residence are not eligible to attend virtual residencies.