Qualifying Literature Assessment (QLA)


Any independent researcher must be able to propose significant research questions based on existing gaps in the field, which are identified through critical analyses of the literature.  This skill is fundamental to any area of BME research, and is thus the focus of our qualifying process at the end of the first year.  The QLA process is designed to mimic writing a journal review article and intentionally includes the process of revising the document and writing a response letter addressing the comments from a broad set of reviewers.  These skills prepare our students to develop a thesis proposal that addresses a significant and relevant biomedical question with potential to advance a field of research.


The selection and review of literature for the QLA should begin early in the second semester, with writing to continue through the Spring semester and completed in the summer session.  This happens while the student is continuing with coursework and research.  The initial submission of the QLA document is due on the Tuesday before the start of the Fall semester, and revisions take place during the Fall semester of Year 2.  Students receive constructive comments and suggestions from five reviewers (thesis advisor, one faculty expert in the chosen topic (within or outside of BME), and three BME faculty members of the PQP committee). Reviewer comments are intended to provide constructive criticism and positive feedback with clear goals that will help the student to successfully meet the expectations of this first exam, following a revision.  Reviewer comments are also intended to be modest in scope so that students can continue to work on their coursework and research while satisfying this early requirement in the PhD program.

Relevant Resources:


The QLA will be written independently by the student in the format of a journal review article and contains solely their original critical analysis of the literature surrounding a specific area of BME research chosen by the student with advice from their advisor and POS committee.  The QLA must contain more than just a description of the literature; a key aspect of this document is that it must contain critical analyses of the literature that build to a solid and concise description of defined hypothesis, experimental question, or engineering design proposal that will address one or more of the significant gaps identified by the student.  A detailed experimental design is not to be written in the QLA, but an overview of experimental approaches that could be used is required to demonstrate that the student has thought deeply enough to propose feasible approaches (both technically and time wise).

Potential Outcomes:

First submission:
  1. outright pass,
  2. minor revision (4 weeks), 
  3. major revision (10 weeks), and
  4. fail.
        All revisions must demonstrate significant improvement as documented by an improvement outcome category.  In some cases, a minor revision may be required following a major revision to address remaining weaknesses. 

Final submission:

  1. Pass,
  2. Fail.