The doctoral program requires you to complete three different research projects. All degree requirements must be completed within five years of beginning the doctoral program (seven years for post-baccalaureate entrants).
Directed Research (6 credits)
Must be completed before the qualifying project begins
- With your research mentor, you will devise a suitable project, including discussion of crucial experimental design issues as well as focused training in the specific methodologies of your chosen content area.
- For example, one student devised instrumental measures for the speech of Parkinson’s patients to document improvement in speech as a result of treatment. Another student investigated “the McGurk effect” with a research group at MIT.
- The discussion for each project must include data analysis and interpretation of statistical results with application to models and follow-up studies.
Qualifying Project (2 credits)
For this project, you will write a paper that meets the standards for peer-reviewed journals in speech, language & hearing sciences. Your paper may be a comprehensive literature review or a synthesis of research findings. The topic and scope are subject to the approval of your advisory committee. The qualifying project must be distinct from the dissertation.
Example of a recent qualifying project:
Nicole L. Marrone, Ellen S. Stockmann, Frank H. Guenther, Jennell C. Vick, Joseph S. Perkell, and Harlan Lane 8. “Audio-visual integration in listeners with normal hearing and hearing aid users.” Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 112 page 2358 (2002).
4aSC21. Audio-visual integration in listeners with normal hearing and hearing aid users. Nicole L. Marrone Dept. of Commun. Disord., Boston Univ., 635 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, MA 02215, Ellen S. Stockmann, Frank H. Guenther, Jennell C. Vick, Joseph S. Perkell, and Harlan LaneMIT, Cambridge, MA.
In listeners with normal hearing, the sight of a speaker’s face articulating a syllable can influence the auditory percept, most observably when the auditory and visual stimuli are different from one another. This study investigates differences in audio-visual AV integration ‘‘the McGurk effect’’ between adults with hearing loss who wear hearing aids HA and their normal-hearing NH counterparts. The following hypothesis is being tested: HA users will rely more on visual input and thus be biased more toward the visual stimulus in the mismatch condition. Audio-visual stimuli from three speakers are presented, pairing the consonants /b/, /d/, and /g/ with the vowels /a/, /i/, and /u/, in three conditions auditory-only, visual-only, and AV to the two subject groups, NH and HA. Participants label each stimulus according to the consonant perceived. Responses are coded into four categories: fusion, combination, auditory, or visual. Data analysis examines the relative strength of visual influences in the two groups. Pilot data show fusion and visual bias in an HA user. Further results will be presented. Work supported by NIH.
Dissertation Research (8 credits)
Completion of this requirement includes:
- Formulation of a research question
- Collection and analysis of data
- Preparation of a written document acceptable to the committee members
- Final oral defense
The initial portion of the dissertation defense is open to the Sargent College community. All doctoral candidates must fulfill the residency requirement and submit an acceptable doctoral dissertation.
Some examples of recent dissertation projects:
- A series of experiments examining how spatial separation affects selective attention to one “target” speaker in the presence of multiple, competing speakers. The study included both subjects with normal hearing and those with hearing loss.
- Three listening experiments examining the role of verb bias, plausibility, and prosodic phrasing in auditory comprehension of a sentence among younger, older, and aphasic adults.
- Experiments designed to demonstrate whether the ability to resolve an ambiguously worded sentence is facilitated by one’s verbal working memory.
Selecting a Research Mentor
Note that if your proposed research topic is fairly broad, you can contact the faculty member whose interest seems closest. He/she may have suggestions about how you could modify your topic to fit his/her interest, recommendations for other researchers who would be better suited to you as a mentor, or agree that the topic is close enough to encourage a mutual collaboration.
There are a number of ways to identify a mentor, but the best approach is to use a combination of these:
- Web of Science, Medline, and Google can help you to locate the scientists who are working in a topic area that interests you. Read some journal articles and form impressions of whether the research methodologies are things you would enjoy doing.
- If you can attend a national conference such as the ASHA convention, Acoustical Society of America, Neuroscience, or the BU Child Language Conference, you’ll have good opportunities to meet potential research mentors and ask questions.
- Use the faculty and/or department websites to evaluate the general philosophy of the program and the range of topics in which your potential mentor has expertise.
- Your undergraduate advisor and faculty can answer questions as to who is working in a particular research area and may have a direct connection to potential mentors for you.
- Use your personal network, too, if you have contacts through volunteer work, family, school advisors, etc.
- Look for people who have funding from a federal agency such as NIH. Their grants may have specific funds for student research assistantships.