Online PhD in Nursing Program

Over the past 25 years, more than 100 nurse scientists have graduated from our Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Nursing program, and have gone on to careers in nursing education, research and organizational leadership in the United States and abroad.

The goal of our PhD in Nursing program - the first completely online PhD program in the country - is to engage you in an intensive, rigorous manner that prepares you to be a nurse scholar. Applied research courses in qualitative, quantitative and mixed methodologies will prepare you to function as an independent researcher upon graduation.

PhD Program Outcomes

The overall purpose of the PhD in Program in Nursing is to prepare graduates for a lifetime of intellectual inquiry, creative scholarship, and research. Graduates of the program will be competent in research, scholarship and leadership within the profession of nursing. The graduate must possess and demonstrate specific competencies. These include the ability to:

  1. Function as an independent researcher and conduct original research that builds upon prior research and expands the science of nursing.
  2. Integrate theoretical frameworks and research finding from other disciplines to enhance the practice of professional nursing.
  3. Produce scholarly work that contributes to the science and profession of nursing by communicating creative solutions to problems in nursing and health care.
  4. Demonstrate leadership and collaborative strategies to reduce health care disparities on a local, national and international level.
  5. Help improve the health of the community by generating new evidence for nursing practice that solves problems related to health care delivery.
  6. Evaluate issues that affect health care and advocate for change in health care policies based on evidence and the principles of social justice.

Students may not be enrolled in more than one doctoral program at any given time.

Program Information

The program begins in May with the start of the summer semester. We offer three-year and four-year curriculum options, as well as a DNP to PhD program, which permits nurses with a DNP degree to gain valuable skills that will enable them to function as independent researchers.




3-4 years

Required Credit Hours

56 (53 if a 3-credit Statistics course is transferred).

PhD Scholarship Award Available


Students who are accepted, deposited and enrolled in either the PhD in Nursing or PhD in Nursing Ethics Program in 2023 are eligible to apply.


Two (2) individual $17,000 scholarships will be awarded and distributed as follows:

       $8,500 for 2023-2024
       $8,500 for 2024-2025

Scholarships are not renewable.

Application Process

If you are interested in applying for one of the PhD scholarships you must complete a scholarship application as well as an application for admission into one of our PhD programs. These applications must be completed by February 1, 2023.

Following the February 1 deadline, all applications will be reviewed by the PhD Admissions Committee as part of the admissions review process. If selected for a scholarship, you will be notified in your Acceptance Letter.

PhDs gathered around a table

Scholarship Deadline: February 1

Students accepted, deposited and enrolled in either the PhD in Nursing or the PhD in Nursing Ethics program is eligible to apply for the


PhD Overview

Various PhD Program Options

The program begins in May with the start of the summer semester. We offer three-year and four-year curriculum options, as well as a DNP to PhD program, which permits nurses with a DNP degree to gain valuable skills that will enable them to function as independent researchers.

All options are offered online with residency requirements at our Pittsburgh, PA, campus, as well as at Duquesne's Dublin, Ireland, campus as part of one study abroad experience.

3-Year and 4-Year Curriculum Options

The School of Nursing offers both a three-year and a four-year option for pursuing a PhD in Nursing program, allowing you to apply to the program that best fits with your goals and lifestyle. The three- and four-year options are identical but differ in intensity and duration.

The three-year option typically requires six-10 credits to be complete per semester, whereas the four-year option typically requires six credits per semester. If you are interested in applying to the three-year program, you must have a commitment to prioritizing your time in order to complete the program, unencumbered by expectations of an over-demanding life/work/job.

DNP to PhD Program

Apply the knowledge and skills you learned in your DNP program to this DNP to PhD option which allows you to conduct research related to your DNP Project. The DNP to PhD program requires completion of 38 credits, which typically takes two-and-a-half years, including dissertation.

Program coursework schedule by year

The program can be completed in either three or four years. Both options total of 56 credits, and the coursework remains the same. View the two curriculum schedules for both three- and four-year options.

Progam requirements include four residencies

Residency 1: Doctoral Week (Summer of Year 1)

Every student admitted to the PhD program is required to come to the Pittsburgh, PA, campus for the first residency, usually held during the second or third week of May. This week includes an orientation to the PhD program and provides an opportunity for students to meet faculty and participate in live classes for the courses in which they are enrolled that summer.

Residency 2: Study Abroad (Summer of Year 2)

Students enrolled in GPNG 924 Methods of Scientific Inquiry II will take part of the course as a study abroad experience (approximately 10-14 days) in locations such as Dublin, Ireland, where students will have housing at the Duquesne University Ireland campus. Please note that any tuition discounts that graduate students receive are not applicable to study abroad courses.

Residency 3: Topic and Committee Approval (Year 2 for 3-year Program and Year 3 for 4-year Program)

This residency provides an opportunity for the student to meet with their faculty mentor either at Duquesne University or another location, such as a conference setting, for intensive discussion and writing around dissertation topic development in preparation for approval.

Residency 4: Final Dissertation Defense (Year 3 for 3-year Program and Year 4 for 4-year Program)

Students are required to come to campus for the final public defense of their dissertation.

Progam requirements include two defneses

Each student must write and defend a dissertation on a topic of their choosing, and you can view a list of recently defended dissertation topics for ideas. As part of the PhD curriculum, you will be required to make a proposal defense and a final defense.

Proposal Defense

The Proposal Defense is an oral defense of a written dissertation research proposal.

Final Defense

The Final Defense is an oral defense of the completed dissertation. Students make one public oral defense. The University sets a deadline date for the final defense. Prior to this deadline, students must have already:

Successfully defended their dissertation.
Made any corrections requested by their dissertation committee.
Submitted an approved electronic (ETD) version of their dissertation.
Students need to work with their committee chairs to schedule their final defense dates at least four to six weeks prior to the University deadline.

You may reference the for the latest date to submit an approved thesis.

PhD Student Professional Development Fund

As a welcome to newly enrolled PhD students, the School of Nursing supports students' future scholarship by providing a one-time $2000 award to be used for professional development activities.

Course Descriptions

Revisions to courses and curricula are ongoing.

This course socializes beginning PhD students to the role of Nurse Scholar and Scientist. Students will explore the state of the science in a phenomenon of interest and to conceptualize gaps in scientific knowledge specific to their research topic. Intellectual enrichment activities will be underscored to facilitate: 1) identification and critical evaluation of gaps in existing knowledge in a specific scientific domain; 2) systematic exploration, critique, and synthesis of existing scientific literature; 3) participation in scholarly dialog and constructive evaluation of a scientific body of knowledge. Published theoretical and empirical literature will be examined to facilitate the development of the student's unique ideas regarding how to fill existing gaps in current knowledge for their specific scientific area.

At the end of this course, students will be able to describe their emerging role as a Nurse Scientist and Scholar; articulate their researchable topic in relation to a research question; examine and critique the current scientific literature for knowledge gaps in their topic of interest; and synthesize the extant literature within the context of their research interest.

- 3 credits

This course focuses on the application of measurement theory and psychometric techniques to the development, use, and evaluation of measurement instruments for nursing and health care research. The operationalization of concepts, assessment of reliability and validity, and appropriate and ethical use of measurement instruments is explored.

- 3 credits

Examines contemporary health policy through the lens of social and distributive justice. A major focus will include the identification, formulation, and legitimation of health policy in the United States.

At the conclusion of the course, the student will be able to trace elements of social and deliberative justice in American health policy; analyze the contemporary health care environment and its impact on health policy in the United States and beyond; recognize opportunities to create policy-level changes and weigh the impact of professional, organizational, and governmental policies on health delivery/practice; discuss the influences of political ideologies and fiscal constraints on the health care agenda; and discuss health policy in an age of globalization and terrorism.

 - 3 credits

This course focuses on both the history of philosophy of science and the philosophical and theoretical issues involved in the discovery and verification of theory. Selected writings of Popper and Kuhn are discussed in relationship to how they guided nursing research development. Readings from the nursing literature will focus specifically on how the philosophers impacted nursing knowledge and research.

Patterns of "knowing" are explored. The process of questioning what one knows and from whom or from where one has gained the knowledge will be explored. Using the method delineated by Walker and Avant, the various methods of theory development are analyzed. The contextual relevance of theory to practice is discussed. The course begins the process of looking at various theories as they relate to advance practice.

At the completion of this course, the student will be able to explicate the philosophies of Popper, Kuhn, and other philosophers whose work has influenced the development of nursing research and the advancement of knowledge; discuss the implications of Kuhn's concept of paradigm shifts as it relates to nursing practice; discuss the assigned literature of nursing scholars as the readings relates to History of Philosophy; discuss the meaning of theory and its relevance to knowing; clarify various methods by which a person comes to know; conduct a concept analysis; and analyze Walker and Avant's steps in theory development.

- 3 credits

Pre-requisite: GPNG 927 Structure of Nursing Knowledge
This course focuses on the analysis of research methodologies that guide the collection and analysis of quantitative data. The focus will be on the articulation of research questions with appropriate research methodologies. A critical analysis of quantitative research designs and methods and scientific inquiry from the perspective of the positivistic paradigm will be explored. Focus is placed on descriptive, correlational, experimental and quasi-experimental designs as applied to nursing problems.
The historical and philosophical foundations of mixed methods will be studied, and the principles for designing a mixed methods study will be introduced.

At the conclusion of the course, the student will be able to; design a study that uses appropriate quantitative methods to address complex problems in nursing and health care; analyze the complexity of relationships among the research problem(s), state of the science, and design; describe the role of theoretical and conceptual frameworks in designing and conducting a study; and describe the philosophical foundations of mixed methods designs.

- 4 credits

Pre-requisites: GPNG 923 Methods of Scientific Inquiry I and GPNG 927 Structure of Nursing Knowledge
This course focuses on the analysis of research methodologies that guide the collection and interpretation of qualitative data. Included are naturalistic, conceptual, interpretive and analytical research methods. In addition, detailed descriptions of the practical aspects of how mixing of methods can be rigorously achieved will be addressed. The six major mixed methods designs will be explored.

At the conclusion of the course, the student will be able to; compare and contrast selected qualitative methods for discovering and documenting nursing knowledge; describe selected qualitative data collection strategies to investigate a nursing phenomenon of interest; describe the process of considering appropriate data analyses procedures to analyze data; delineate the six major mixed methods designs; and describe the steps in mixed methods data collection used in different types of designs.

- 4 credits

This course explores the current state of the art of nursing research and the major research and funding trends in nursing and health care. Emphasis is placed on preparing a fundable grant application for dissertation study. A variety of pre-doctoral funding sources are explored. NIH-NINR mechanisms are addressed. Emphasis is also placed on developing a fundable program of research and understanding ethical issues related to research. The importance of multidisciplinary research to build science will be discussed.

At the conclusion of this course, the student will be able to explore the relationship between a national research agenda and the major research and funding trends in nursing and health care; develop a program of research that reflects the student's research interests, plans for dissertation and future research goals; identify funding sources for research in nursing and health care; apply the necessary principles of ethics in research when designing nursing research studies including the budget; discuss the key factors necessary to build a research team; and prepare a grant application for dissertation study.

- 3 credits

Pre-requisite: GPNG 901 State of the Science and Discovery
This course builds on the theory development course. In this course greater emphasis is placed on epistemology, the study of how knowledge is acquired. Further, the course examines how knowledge builds. Students are led through this process by looking at the work of Michael Polyani and, to a lesser extent, Benner’’s Novice to Expert. Since theorizing is an ethical endeavor and choices made may have ethical consequences in practice, this theme permeates the course. The testing of theory, refinement and modification of theory, and the use of theory in practice are brought together to explore and project the future direction of theory-based practice for advanced practice nurses and other health care professionals.

- 3 credits
Pre-requisite: GPNG 924 Methods of Scientific Inquiry II
This course extends the students’ theoretical understanding of quantitative designs related to research in health care and provides the opportunity for applied practice in quantitative methods. Topics to be covered include (but are not necessarily limited to) review of foundation statistical knowledge (as covered in prerequisite coursework), analysis of variance, repeated measures ANOVA, and regression analysis. Data management will also be examined. Students will gain competence in using common statistical tests and SPSS (statistical software package) to be able to conduct and report quantitative research from an applied perspective.

- 3 credits

The focus of this course is to promote a broader understanding of the student’s phenomena of interest through the process of qualitative inquiry, immersion and Field Work. Students are expected to choose a particular area of clinical research interest and keep field notes, observations and insights. Students will then analyze their field notes using a chosen process of analysis with a data manager. In moving from stranger to friend the perspective researcher should be aware of emerging research questions in relation to the domain of inquiry, regardless of the chosen methodology. The student will arrive at research questions grounded in the clinical area or area of inquiry with support from the literature and the prospect of moving to the next phase of inquiry. Students will have ample opportunity to work with data and use a data manager to assist with data analysis.

* Students in the TCN post masters program must be involved with phenomena related to culture.

- 3 credits

This course focuses on the general linear model in Fisherian statistics. There are two core areas: analysis of variance and multiple regression. Specific topics within the core areas include: one-way ANOVA, factorial ANOVA, post-hoc analysis, evaluation of model assumptions, repeated measures analysis, analysis of covariance, and bivariate and multiple regression procedures, along with Bayes and survival curve basics. Pre-requisite: A Statistics I graduate course. It can be transferred in from an accredited Institution.

- 3 credits
This series of courses, which may be taken either in nursing or related disciplines, support the dissertation. Please see more information under "areas of interest."

 - 12 credits
Duquesne University uses an Electronic Theses and Dissertations submission process. For more information, visit the ETD homepage.

- 15 credits