PhD Courses

A minimum of 69 credit hours (51 hours of course work and 18 hours of dissertation research) is required for candidates with a Bachelor’s degree. Students who hold a Master’s degree can receive up to 9 waived credit hours toward this requirement. Because of the multidisciplinary nature of this degree, course requirements are divided into four categories:

  • Theoretical/Normative Ethics
  • Research Methods and Study Design
  • Discipline Specific Theory
  • Statistics

Bioethics Coursework
Thirty‑three (33) credit hours are required from courses offered by the Bioethics Department. All students are required to take:

BETH 503 Research Hours

Each student is required to perform 125 hours of mentored research, which can be supervised by a faculty advisor or other faculty (advisors must be notified in advance). Research hours are designed to help students plan and conduct their dissertation research. Faculty who supervise research will complete the Student Research Evaluation Form to certify completion of this requirement. (0 credit hours)

BETH 504 Critical Readings in Bioethics

This course is designed to develop skills for reading the bioethics literature critically. Each week, a student presents a journal article from the bioethics literature. The articles represent a core issue in bioethics or are illustrative of various empirical approaches to bioethical issues. Articles are also illustrative of different empirical data collection methods and analytic strategies. Students are asked to analyze articles in terms of their theoretical underpinnings and, as applicable, adequacy of empirical design, statistical analysis, and validity of conclusions. Two faculty, each representing a different area of expertise, coordinate each class. (3 credit hours)

BETH 505 & BETH 506 Advanced Seminar on Normative Methods in Bioethics

These two courses build on the tradition of bioethics as a normative enterprise aimed at providing informed moral evaluations of biomedical practices and policies. Increasingly, the field has come to appreciate the importance of nuanced empirical research in providing the contextual information necessary for that task. Nonetheless, bioethicists still have to know how to analyze moral problems and mount moral arguments in order to be able to ask creative research questions and generate relevant hypotheses, as well as to be able to draw conclusions and recommendations from such descriptive research. This course is designed to give graduate students an intensive grounding in the modes of moral reasoning that have been adopted and adapted by contemporary bioethics, and the major critical perspectives that have been brought to bear upon them. (Each course is 3 credit hours)

BETH 507 & BETH 508 Empirical Research Methods and Design in Bioethics I & II

This course introduces students to social science research methods. The first semester focuses on qualitative methods (participant observation, direct observation, focus groups, open‑ended interviewing, textual analysis, coding, and use of qualitative analysis software). The second semester introduces students to more structured (quantitative) data collection and analytic techniques, including survey design, scales, and quantification of textual data. Students are taught to match the research question with the best data collection techniques and the utility of multi-method approaches to data collection and analysis. (Each course is 3 credit hours)

BETH 511: Grant Writing

This course will teach students the fundaments of writing a grant proposal. We will concentrate on NIH-style applications, although the principles of grant writing can be applied to any venue. In the process of working through the development of a research question and study design, students will be encouraged to think about their dissertation topic. In addition to applying theoretical and research design knowledge gained through their other core course work, the course will teach students how to complete application forms and a budget. We will also familiarize students with the peer review process. Each student will produce a draft grant application. The students will form a mock peer review section and critique the grants.

BETH 512 Clinical Ethics Rotation

The clinical rotation involves a total of 120 hours in clinical settings where the students observe, keep a journal, and meet with a clinical supervisor once a week to discuss their experiences. During this rotation, students also attend hospital ethics committee and animal protection committee meetings. Rotations take place in three clinical sites: MetroHealth Medical Center (a large county hospital); University Hospitals (an academic medical center); Hospice of the Western Reserve. Doctoral students may decide to structure their clinical experiences to coincide more closely with their particular research interests. For example, a student whose research interests include public policy or public health ethics may design a clinical rotation in a public health department, state or federal agency, or a community organization. Students will be required to keep a journal of their clinical bioethics observations and assessments. (Course is 3 credit hours)

BETH 520 Foundations in Bioethics I & BETH 521 Foundations in Bioethics II

The courses cover ten basic topic areas. The fall semester course topics include: death and dying; health professional‑patient relationship; method and theory in bioethics; ethics and children; organ transplantation. The spring semester course includes the following topics: concepts of distributive justice in health care; defining health care needs; research ethics; reproduction and fertility; genetics and the human future. The class meets twice per week for seminar sessions. These courses provide an introduction to medical ethics in the clinical environment, exposing students to clinical cases as they arise, hospital ethics committees and ethics consultation programs, Institutional Review Boards (IRBs), and the many ethics policies that currently exist in hospitals—such as "do not resuscitate" orders (DNR), the use of advance directives, withdrawal of artificial feeding, organ procurement and transplantation, and "medical futility." Students will write two papers (10 – 15 pages each) each semester. (Each course is 3 credit hours)

TBA Introduction to Statistical Methods and Data Management

This required Statistical Methods course will focus on basic concepts of distribution of random variables, point and interval estimation, statistical hypotheses, correlation and regression, and survey of statistical methods in analysis of variance, categorical data analysis, survival data analysis, non-parametric methods, generalized linear model, and multivariate techniques. Students will also be introduced to data management strategies and computer applications in database management. (3 credit hours)

Students who plan to conduct empirical research in the social/behavioral sciences or public health will be required to enroll in at least one additional statistics course.


Twelve (12) credits of elective courses will be selected by the student with the guidance and permission of his or her advisor. Electives are classified as type A or type B. Elective A: Students are required to take a series of non-departmental courses in Statistics, Methods, and Social Science Theory. Students can choose from within blocks of these courses to fulfill this requirement. Elective B: Students are free to choose any course with the permission of their advisor.

Electives must enhance an understanding of issues in the field of bioethics and must be relevant to the student’s academic interests and goals. The following partial list is intended to give students an idea of the variety of courses that could reasonably be considered for elective credit. Each student should review the CASE General Bulletin for courses of interest and check the Schedule of Classes each semester to determine when these courses are offered. It may be necessary for students to make arrangements with the faculty member teaching the course to gain enrollment approval, especially for courses offered through CASE professional schools, such as the Schools of Law, Applied Social Sciences, Management, and elsewhere. These courses typically require approval from a dean of the appropriate school.

In addition to the introductory statistics course required of all candidates, students who plan to conduct empirical research on ethics topics in the social/behavioral sciences or public health are required to take a minimum of three (3) credit hours of statistics; one course in multivariate statistics is required. Students can choose from among the following courses.

EPBI 441 Biostatistics I (General Linear Models)
EPBI 442 Biostatistics II (Non-Parametric Statistics)
EPBI 453 Categorical Data Analysis
STAT 426 Data Analysis II
EPBI 443 Applied Multivariate Analysis
PSCL 407 Research Design & Quantitative Analysis I
PSCL 408 Research Design & Quantitative Analysis II
PSCL 417 Multivariate data Analysis
MGMT 573 Applied Multivariate Data Analysis
SOCI 509 Problems of Data Analysis
MPHP 405 Statistical Methods in Public Health

Methods and Study Design
A minimum of three (3) credit hours in methods and study design from outside the department are required. Courses can be chosen from the following:

EPBI 447 Survey Sampling
EPBI 460 Health Services Research Methods I
EPBI 461 Health Services Research Methods II
EPBI 463 Methocs in Health Research
SOCI 406 Sociological Research Methods I
SOCI 407 Sociological Research Methocs II

Students who plan on using qualitative methods in their dissertation research are required to take the following course:

BETH TBA Advanced Qualitative Research Methods and Analysis

Discipline-Specific Theory
Students will choose a minimum of six (6) credit hours of theory courses from a discipline outside the department. Students will be encouraged to take a coherent set of courses to develop a theoretical concentration in a particular discipline. Some examples of possible courses are listed below. Courses may require prerequisites from the departments listing the courses. Disciplinary-specific courses in the social and behavioral sciences, philosophy, public health, law, and other disciplines must be approved by a student’s advisor.

PSCL 409 Advanced Social Psychology
ANTH 462 Contemporary Theory in Anthropology
ANTH 480 Anthropology of Health & Illness I
ANTH 481 Anthropology of Health & Illness II
ECON 421 Health Care Economics
PHIL 302 Modern Philosophy
PHIL 315 Selected Topics – Evolution, Creation, and Science
PHIL 304/404 Science and Engineering Ethics
PHIL 305/405 Ethics
PHIL 314/415 Animal Consciousness and Cognition
PHIL 325/425 Philosophy of Feminism
PHIL 334/434 Political and Social Philosophy
PHIL 363/463 Philosophy and Social Neuroscience
PHIL 365/465 Philosophy of Mind
SOCI 400 Development of Sociological Thought
SOCI 401 Contemporary Sociological Theory
SOCI 443 Medical Sociology