The Occupational Therapy Doctoral (OTD) program at the University of Central Arkansas (UCA) elected to transition to an advanced degree in 2017.This was a choice we made due to the crucial need for practitioners to confidently understand and contribute to the literature for evidence-based interventions and research (Di Bona et al., 2017; Samuelsson & Wrestle, 2015).

UCA OTD students engage in a series of four research courses aimed at enhancing their proficiency in literature review, design, data collection, and dissemination of results. Our program is structured to provide mentorship from experienced faculty, ensuring that future practitioners acquire robust research skills. Armed with this knowledge, UCA OTD students collaborate with clients to deliver occupation and evidence-based interventions, integrating current research literature into their practice. Many of our graduate students incorporate research into their capstone projects, showcasing their ability to apply and extend their learning.

The core values underpinning our research courses reflect our dedication to scholarship, innovation, excellence, professionalism, and advocacy (see Program Information).

Figure 1.
Four Course Research Sequence


Summer I: Applied Research [OTHY 7317]

Under the guidance of a faculty mentor, students work in small research teams to collaboratively design projects aimed at evaluating various aspects of practice, service delivery, or professional issues. All projects are grounded in theory and deemed significant to the field of occupational therapy.

Fall II: Data Collection [OTHY 7318]

Upon approval from the UCA Institutional Research Board, students commence data collection relevant to their research questions. Faculty mentors provide support, encouraging students and facilitating community connections to aid in data organization.

Summer III: Data Analysis and Presentation [OTHY 7319]

With ongoing guidance from their mentors, students conduct qualitative and quantitative data analysis. They then synthesize their findings into a final paper and present them during a poster session attended by colleagues and faculty. Additionally, students are encouraged and supported in disseminating their research through appropriate state, local, and regional conferences, as well as journals.

UCA Occupational Therapy Department Student Research

Click on the logo of the cohort, by year, to see recent cohort topics and abstracts


Di Bona, L., Wenborn, J., Field, B., Hynes, S.M., Ledgerd, R. Mountain, G., & Swinson, T., (2017). Enablers and challenges to occupational therapists’ research engagement: A qualitative study. British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 80(11), 642-650. DOI:10.1177/0308022617719218

Samuelsson, K., Wrestle, E. (2015). Turning evidence into practice: Barriers to research use among occupational therapists. British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 78(3), 175-181. DOI:10.1177/0308022615569511