Research Goals

When you set up your profile in Duke OPTIONS, you're asked a few demographic questions to support research The Graduate School is conducting to examine how planning for and engaging in professional development activities affects rates of matriculation and degree completion. In particular, we have two related research questions:

  1. To what extent does Duke OPTIONS affect The Graduate School’s recruiting and admissions numbers across all student groups, including underrepresented groups?
  2. What is the impact of involvement in professional development programs on persistence and completion rates among matriculants?

The data collected will only be used to make comparisons in the aggregate; individually identifying information will not be considered in answering these research questions. The information gained from this study will help administrators assess and improve programs, communication, and services for graduate students enrolled in The Graduate School at Duke University. It will also contribute to the research on best practices in graduate student professional development.

Research Framework

We are conducting this research because the existing literature on graduate student development indicates that

Our hope is that by developing the Duke OPTIONS tool and tracking its use among students, we can assess whether we are meeting the following research-driven goals:

Risks and Benefits

There are no anticipated risks associated with participating in this research. Participation is entirely voluntary through answering the demographic questions in the profile setup.


Individual responses to these questions will be confidential. The Graduate School will have sole access to this information. We plan to share this (de-identified) data with the Council of Graduate Schools & Educational Testing Service as part of the reporting requirement for the grant that funded this tool, and to publish any research findings.


No compensation will be provided to the respondents.


Fuhrmann, C.N., Halme, D.G., O’Sullivan, P.S., & Lindstaedt, B. (2011). Improving graduate education to support a branching career pipeline: Recommendations based on a survey of doctoral students in the basic biomedical sciences. CBE Life Sciences Education, 10, 239-249.

Gibbs, K.D., McGready, J., Bennett, J.C., & Griffin, K. (2014). Biomedical Science Ph.D. Career Interest Patterns by Race/Ethnicity and Gender. PLoS ONE 9(12):e114736.

Milkman, K.L., Akinola, M., & Chugh, D. (2014). What happens before? A field experiment exploring how pay and representation differentially shape bias on the pathway into organizations. Social Sciences Resources Network. Available at

Turk-Bicakci, L., Berger, A., & Haxton, C. (2014). The nonacademic careers of STEM PhD holders. Broadening Participation in STEM Education Issue Brief.