QLA and Student Portfolio Assessment


Specific Goals:

  • Ensures all doctoral students possess capabilities to conduct cutting-edge engineering research, practice analytical and critical thinking skills, integrate concepts, and communicate effectively
  • Encourages students to select an advisor and research project within the first year of study
  • Students obtain a solid foundation for their engineering research to build upon

A number of factors are considered to assess the student's ability to conduct cutting-edge engineering research, practice analytical and critical thinking skills, integrate concepts, and communicate effectively. A student portfolio is used as the assessment tool and is evaluated by the PQP committee with the assistance of the research advisor and an ad-hoc reviewer.

The students submit a critical analysis of current literature (Qualifying Literature Assessment, QLA) written in the format of a journal review article on a topic of their own selection (preferably related to their intended PhD research).

Timeline and procedures associated with QLA Phase

All doctoral students must register for and submit a PQP student portfolio. To register to complete the portfolio, the student must notify the BME Graduate Office before July 15. This notification is accomplished by completing the "PhD Qualifying Portfolio Registration Form" (available in the BME Graduate Office and on-line). This form will request the specification of the topic for the QLA & their chosen research advisor.

The following documents are due to the BME Graduate Office by 4:00pm on the Tuesday of the week prior to the start of the fall semester:

  • One hard copy of the QLA
  • One PDF version of th QLA to WeldonBMEGrad@purdue.edu
  • Purdue transcript (unofficial will suffice)
  • Student CV
  • SafeAssign digital receipt*

*Prior to the submission deadline, student must submit their QLA document (without references) to SafeAssign software to quickly screen for plagiarism.

The QLA will be written by the student in the format of a journal review article and contains solely their original analysis of the literature. The QLA must contain a clearly defined hypothesis or experimental question that will address significant issues related to biomedical engineering that have not been presented previously in literature or at conferences.

Format Requirements

There are absolute requirements regarding format. NO EXCEPTIONS. QLAs which do not meet these requirements by the due date will result in a failure.

  • 25 page limit—this refers to main text only and does not include references or if you choose to include title page or table of contents or separate page for the abstract
  • Double spaced
  • 12 pt font
  • 1 inch margins
  • Include page numbers
  • Include continuous line numbers for entire document
  • Use reference style similar to Annals of Biomedical Engineering where references appear as numbers within the text of the document and are alphabetized in reference section at the end. Another journal that adheres to this style is Cell Transplantation.
  • Pages pertaining to the title, abstract, and references are not included in page limit

*If you are not familiar with reference management software, please consult Purdue libraries' citation management site for relevant information and workshops on campus.

The BME Graduate Office verifies that each student registering for the PQP portfolio assessment satisfies all eligibility requirements. An unjustified incomplete portfolio will be treated as a failure.

Suggested QLA Template

The following serves as a suggested QLA template and may be modified to fit your particular selected topic.

Title: A clear and descriptive title is required.

Author: Your full name

Abstract: The abstract provides a summary of the entire document. It should begin with a brief description of the topic and the general problem/gap identified in the Introduction. It should then summarize only the most important aspects of the topic presented in the Discussion of Literature section. It should conclude by stating a specific engineering design specification or hypothesis that, once designed or tested, will help fill the gap. The abstract should not exceed 300 words. Note that the abstract is not the first and introductory paragraph of your Introduction section. Brief statements included in your abstract that introduce your topic, the gap addressed, and the importance of addressing that gap should be a summary of more developed statements found in your Introduction.

Introduction: The introduction should be written in general text accessible by a broad audience of Biomedical Engineers. It may include relevant background information that clarifies the importance of the topic reviewed and should clearly identify the general engineering question or gap that was revealed through the literature review. It may conclude with a brief explanation of the content and organization of the rest of the QLA.

Discussion of Literature: This section should begin with a paragraph or subsection that describes the scope and methods of your review (e.g., list the databases searched, the search terms used, other approaches such as identification of additional papers cited in papers retrieved from the database searches, etc.). This section should also present the criteria used to reject or include papers in your review. Alternatively, this subsection could be a separate section titled "Methods of Literature Review" and be place just before the "Discussion of Literature."

The "Discussion of Literature" should be a summary of the literature analysis and not simply a serial description of the papers. All text, figures, and tables should be clearly related to the question or its significance and relevance to your literature assessment topic. The PQP Committee also recommends that you consider creating your own figures and tables, where appropriate, to show relationships between information gathered from references, but you must be certain to cite the original source(s) of data used. This section may have as many subsections as you deem necessary to organize and present the material in a logical manner. The organization of this section should help the reader see that you have conducted a thorough and balanced review and analysis of the current state of the chosen research field and that your literature analysis supports the question or the existence of the gap that you asked or identified in the Introduction.

Conclusions (Concluding Engineering Problem Specification or Hypothesis): This section should restate the general gap in what is known about your topic and then identify the specific gap you propose to study. This section also must clearly build on the analysis presented in your review and must justify and state a formulated engineering problem specification or hypothesis that addresses the specific gap. You must ensure that the question posed (hypothesis) or specifications for design are at the level of critical analysis appropriate for a PhD-level engineering research problem.

References: All references must be properly and fully cited. This section is not included in page number limitation and can be single spaced. The reference style used by many biomedical journals from the National Library of Medicine at NIH can be found at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/bsd/uniform_requirements.html

Sample QLAs

Hard copies of sample QLAs are available for check-out at the front desk in MJIS 1021. Students may also access these samples at Engineering Intranet and then log in with your career account login and password. Choose Biomedical > Files for Graduate Students > QLA.

Evaluation of QLA Phase

The portfolio assessment will involve review of student capabilities and progress as demonstrated in the QLA and other forums addressed within the portfolio contents demonstrating a sufficient ability to conduct cutting-edge research, practice analytical and critical thinking skills, integrate concepts, and/or effectively communicate. The QLA Evaluation Form will be used by reviewers to assess the QLA document and students will receive the first page as feedback.

A satisfactory portfolio will comprise:

  • An acceptable QLA which must (i) contain a complete and extensive literature review, (ii) present a logical and sound analysis of that literature, (iii) conclude with an engineering problem specification or hypothesis, and (iv) be presented in an organized manner demonstrating good written communication skills. An insufficiency in any of these four areas will result in an unacceptable QLA.
  • Reasonable performance in graduate coursework.

The BME Graduate Office will notify students of their complete portfolio assessment by mid-September.

Should the student need to revise only the QLA portion of the portfolio, they will receive written feedback containing comments from the PQP Committee with the notification of the portfolio assessment outcome. For a minor revision, the revised QLA document must be submitted to the BME graduate office within 4 weeks of notification. For a major revision, the revised QLA document must be submitted to the BME graduate office within 10 weeks of notification. It is required that a letter responding to the reviewers' comments accompanies the resubmitted QLA document. The evaluation of the revised QLAs will be completed by the PQP committee within 2 weeks of receipt of the document(s).

A QLA minor revision is only reviewed by members of the PQP committee while a major revision is reviewed similarly to the initial review.

In the event that a student portfolio is not found to be satisfactory, the PQP Committee will compose a brief document containing feedback on the portfolio content and stating specific areas of deficiencies.

In cases of unethical behavior or academic dishonesty, the PQP Committee reserves the right to find the portfolio content unacceptable. For a more information on the Purdue University Student Conduct Code see the Dean of Students website and the Purdue University Student integrity statement see the Academic Integrity: A Guide for Students.

The PQP chair will report the results to a closed meeting of the BME Graduate Committee (without the graduate student representative).

Decisions will be communicated to the student and the student's advisor by the chair of the PQP Committee in writing. Feedback will be also provided by the PQP Committee. Students and student advisors will not be allowed to view, inspect, or retain the portfolios.

A request, appeal, or petition regarding QLA Phase of the PQP may be made by the student within ten working days from the time the notification was mailed by the BME Graduate Office. The request must be submitted in writing to the chairperson of the PQP Committee.

Students who fail to assemble a passing portfolio within the number and types of allowable revisions will be terminated from the PhD program at the end of the current semester.

Students who fail the QLA submission have no chance to resubmit the QLA. Failure is the result of plagiarism, no QLA submission by the deadline, or student's lack of significant effort in writing the document.

The process and all evaluation and review documents involved are kept confidential and withheld from the student and their adviser.

Recommendations for QLA from PQP Committee

In spring 2007, the PQP Committee drafted some points of emphasis to help clarify for students what is expected for their QLA submissions. QLA submissions to date lack several key components. The following points of emphasis are meant to assist students in preparing a successful QLA document:

  1. Ensure that the questions posed (hypothesis) or specifications for design are at the level of critical analysis appropriate for a PhD level engineering research problem. The QLA is part of a PhD qualifying process.
  2. Include design criteria in the engineering specifications; for example, where appropriate show evidence that all necessary parameters of a design, such as sensitivity, reproducibility, materials, biocompatibility, etc. have been considered.
  3. Ensure that there are significant engineering concepts present in your hypothesis or engineering design specification.

This is a biomedical engineering graduate program.Critically consider* what the first experiments or design implementations may entail as a way to ensure thoroughness in analysis throughout the QLA. Particular attention should be given to the various approaches that may help in testing the questions posed (hypothesis) or design specifications and considerations of possible outcomes. Students should ask themselves “What might the results/outcomes reveal about the proposed approach?” After referring back to the original hypothesis or design specification, the student should ask “Are my ideas still sound?” The purpose of this exercise is to make the student think beyond simply stating the hypothesis or design specification; is what the student proposes realistic? Has he/she considered all the necessary specifications and potential trouble areas.

*IMPORTANT NOTE: inclusion of this draft of proposed first experiments in the submitted QLA is not a requirement. More than likely, there will not be room to include this. The exercise is meant to enhance, strengthen and clarify the questions posed (hypothesis) or specifications for design. The main objective of the QLA is to critically analyze literature and then from this analysis, propose a specific area in a research field that requires further investigation. While this objective may be accomplished from literature analysis alone, thinking about experiments to support proposed ideas will help to both strengthen the ideas and to ensure a level of realism that will ultimately help the student with endeavors in the laboratory.