Rules for Progression

Rules for progression in the Scholarly Research Project

Rev 11-16-2016
The purpose of this document is to formalize the process by which students execute and complete the Scholarly Research Project (SRP). It is our goal to make the SRP an enjoyable and rewarding experience for all of our medical students. We believe this is best achieved by assuring that students stay on track with goals and effectively communicate with mentors and the SRP directors (Deans for Medical Student Research). This policy will enable the student to know what is required to make satisfactory progress toward meeting the SRP requirement.


The SRP is a longitudinal experience throughout the four years of the medical school curriculum. The goals of the SRP are to:

  1. Foster analytical thinking skills and the development of tools for rational decision making for our students;
  2. Provide role models, mentorship, and guidance for students regarding careers that integrate research, teaching, and clinical service;
  3. Present research and scholarly biomedical pursuits to students as endeavors that often, but not always, involve collegial interaction;
  4. Enhance the medical school culture of self-directed and peer group-fostered learning;
  5. Enhance the oral and written communication skills of graduating medical students.

This project was approved by the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine (UPSOM) Curriculum Committee as a requirement for the granting of the professional medicine degree (M.D.) beginning with the graduating class of 2008.

From matriculation through December of the second year, students are responsible for completing the Evidence-Based Medicine and the Investigation and Discovery blocks of courses. In addition, students may complete summer research between the first and second year that can count towards a Scholarly Research Project; however, this summer work is not a requirement, and is not sufficient for completion of the Scholarly Research Project as this is expected to be a longitudinal experience.

Progress Reports (PR’s) are required in the first year and in the beginning of the second year, as they are the starting facets of choosing a research project.

  • The first progress report is satisfied by providing a list of at least three potential mentors that the student has met or is scheduled to meet to discuss a potential research project.
  • The second progress report requires the student to outline their research domain, plans to begin to engage with the research group (e.g. attend lab meetings, complete background reading, etc.).
  • The third progress report will summarize progress toward finalizing the proposal and planned interactions with the mentor and research team. SRP initial proposals are due in mid-December of the second year.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Between January of the MS-2 year and January of the MS-4 year students are required to report SRP activity in the form of quarterly reports (QRs). The SRP proposal and QRs help assure satisfactory progress in the longitudinal SRP experience. The SRP final project report will be accepted between January 1 and February 15 of the MS-4 year; the report must be formally approved by the mentor at the time of submission.
QR Schedule QR may  be submitted as early as two weeks before due date

Year Level


PR/QR –      Due Date



PR/QR –      Due Date



PR/QR –      Due Date



QR – Due Date






PR 1 – Oct 1

PR 3 – Sept

QR 1 –July 1



PR 2 – March 1

QR 3 – Jan 1

QR 2 – Oct 1








QR4 – April 1




QR 5 – July 1


QR 6 – Oct 1


Grade Assignment
Students will be registered automatically for the appropriate SRP course segment and assigned a satisfactory/unsatisfactory grade every three months starting on May 1st of the MS2 year and continuing through November 1st of the MS4 year. Grades will be based on achieving the following milestones.

Second Year:In order to receive a satisfactory grade on May 1 of the second year, the student must have identified a mentor and received approval of his/her SRP proposal by the mentor and SRP Directors.

Third and Fourth Years:In order to receive a satisfactory grade for remaining periods, the student must:

  1. Have an approved SRP proposal. It is understood that some students may need to change mentors and/or projects. Changing a project while continuing to work with the same mentor does not necessarily require a new proposal. Changing both project and mentor requires submission of a new project proposal with accompanying approval by the mentor. Documentation of any changes in project and/or mentor should be provided in the QR. Failure to comply with these requirements may result in an unsatisfactory grade.
  2. Have project Ethical Approval by July 1st of the MS 3 year. Failure to obtain approval by this date may result in an unsatisfactory grade.
    1. *It is highly suggested that the chosen project has ethical (IRB, IACUC, CORID, QI or QA) approval at the time of initial submission. If this is not possible, the student should submit an explanation of why this cannot be accomplished and request an exception from the scholarly research project directors. Regardless, ethical approval must be submitted by 7/1 of the 3rd year to maintain satisfactory progress in the scholarly research project.
  3. Complete all required QRs in a timely fashion. Specific due dates for QRs are listed above and on each student’s Navigator portfolio site. The QR must address any questions posted by their mentor or director on the Navigator Portfolio (e.g., questions related to human subjects and/or animal research).
  4. Maintain an adequate level of longitudinal project. A single reporting period indicating no activity may not be cause for an unsatisfactory grade. Two consecutive QR quarters without appropriate activity may be cause for an unsatisfactory grade.
    Elective Options
    Up to three months of elective time dedicated to the SRP may be scheduled during the third and fourth years. This work will be reflected on the University transcript as course MSELCT 5720 – Mentored Project (see the separate policy for details). This course will be graded solely by the mentor using a five-level grading scale. Any additional months of elective time must be approved by the Associate Dean of Student Affairs and the Associate Dean for Medical Student Research.
  5. SRP Final Report
    The final project report will be accepted anytime between January 1 and February 15 of the MS-4 year. This report and the last two QRs will be the basis of the final grade. (SRPs that include research involving human subjects or animals must clearly document that data were collected in accordance with Institutional Review Board (IRB) or Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) regulations). Documentation of mentor approval of the final project report will be recorded on the student’s Navigator portfolio or through written signature. All mentor approved final reports must be posted on Navigator no later than February 15. This will allow time for potential modification, as requested by the Associate Dean for Medical Student Research. Projects submitted after February 15 are considered delinquent and will not be eligible for research awards. In addition, students who submit projects after the due date may not have the opportunity to remediate problems, potentially delaying graduation. The final SRP grade will be reflected on the University transcript as course MSELCT 5730 – Mentored Project Completion. This grade will be reported to the SOM Registrar by April 1 in preparation for the April meeting of the Committee on Student Promotion. Students who are unable to meet the stated deadlines should expect to graduate later than May. All grades are determined by the Associate Dean for Medical Student Research, based on the expectations set forth above.
  6. Combined Degree Programs
    Students accepted into the UPSOM combined degree programs — MD/PhD, MD/OMS (Oral Maxillofacial Surgery Residents), MD/MS, CSTP and PSTP– will be tracked by the awarding program rather than the SRP program. The awarding of the PhD will constitute fulfillment of the SRP completion requirement. The OMS, CSTP and PSTP programs require a scholarly research project, and completion of that requirement will meet the SRP requirement. Scholarly Research Project grades will be a function of those individual programs rather than the responsibility of the Deans for Medical Student Research. The April 1, MS-4 year, deadline for submission of the notice of completion will be the responsibility of those individual Program Directors. University transcripts for students matriculating in those programs will reflect the MSELCT 5730 course only.

Steps for Successful Completion of the Project
The basics:

  1. Complete an approved scholarly research project by the deadlines
  2. Complete the progress and quarterly reports on time, and show satisfactory progress
  3. Complete the final report on time
  4. For additional information, see [Satisfactory Progress Policy]

The top 10 reasons for which a scholarly research project may be unsuccessful and how to avoid them:

  1. The project has not been carefully vetted by your mentor.
    discuss the project in detail with your mentor and make sure he/she agrees with all aspects of it.
  2. The project does not have an existing IRB, and is not likely to soon receive one.
    pick a project for which an existing IRB approval is present, and submit a minor modification as needed.
  3. There is no funding for the project.
    this implies the mentor is not currently working in this area. Work with your mentor to pick a project for which he/she has funding.
  4. The project is overly ambitious.
    discuss with your mentor how to tone down the scope of the work.
  5. The project is unfocused, lacks a testable hypothesis and/or has no obvious question.
    work with your mentor to refine the project.
  6. The mentor and student do not have an effective working relationship.
    this may reflect issues with the project itself or with the individual parties involves. Plan a meeting with your SRP Director as well as your mentor to resolve any problems that arise.
  7. The project is no longer of interest to the student
    speak with your SRP director about an alternate project
  8. The project requires resources that are not available to the student
    speak to your SRP director and/or mentor regarding the possibilities for receiving funding.
  9. The project requires the study of a rare disease for which patients are infrequently encountered.
    refine the question or the project
  10. The project is not directly connected to a disease or health problem.
    work with your mentor to define the physiological relevance.

SRP Elective (MSELCT 5720) Application Procedure
This opportunity is offered to all third and fourth year students, within the scope of your schedule, to allow you a set time period (for credit) to work solely on your scholarly research project (SRP). Process for registration in this course: THE FOLLOWING MUST BE COMPLETED SIX WEEKS PRIOR TO THE SCHEDULED ELECTIVE TIME:

  1. Student creates a one page research prospectus (see Sample Research Elective Prospectus). The prospectus should be based on the student’s SRP proposal; however it must clearly state the work to be completed in the elective month.
  2. The prospectus must be approved and signed by the student’s Scholarly Research Project mentor.
  3. The signed prospectus must be handed in to Pam Harlow in the Office of Student Affairs (S-533 Scaife Hall) for approval review and registration.

***An emailed prospectus is acceptable ONLY if accompanied by an email approval from the designated mentor.
No registration will occur in the absence of a signed/approved prospectus. In addition, students cannot sign up for this elective in the absence of an approved scholarly project, and their Ethical Status approvals (e.g., IRB) must be up to date.

After completion of the elective, an evaluation form will be sent to the mentor to complete so the student may receive academic credit and a grade. Please be advised that once you are registered for this elective, the time MUST be used for the research outlined in your prospectus.

In the event the time is not utilized in ways congruent with the prospectus, no academic credit will be issued and that period on your schedule will be changed to “vacation” time.