Graduation Date

Fall 12-14-2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Medical Sciences Interdepartmental Area

First Advisor

Gilbert Willett, PT, PhD

Second Advisor

Susanna Von Essen, MD, MPH


While it is well-known that physical therapist (PT) faculty must retain a scholarly agenda, few report being activity engaged and many programs have low scholarly dissemination. There is evidence that knowledge of the make-up of a faculty network leads to improved performance and innovation. The purpose of this explanatory sequential mixed methods study was to explore agency (behaviors and perspectives about career advancement) and the professional network structure and composition of early career PT faculty as they relate to scholarly activity. This dissertation research study included 50 early career faculty who worked in accredited entry-level physical therapy programs.

The quantitative phase results showed a more open and less interconnected network is associated with higher scholarly activity when controlling for the duration as a faculty member and whether the individual has an academic doctoral degree. Agency behavior and perspective scores were not associated with higher scholarly activity. The Scholar Score developed during this phase offered a clear and uniform, peer-validated approach to account for the quantity and quality of scholarly activities.

The qualitative phase used a grounded theory approach to analyze interviews with a sub-set of 20 study participants. The result was a central phenomenon of connecting with others for scholarly activity. The two constructs in the model are strategies used to develop network connections and how these connections helped faculty participate in scholarly activity. The findings about the network development process helped explain the quantitative results of high and low performers of scholarly activity. Without both study phases important information would have been missed.

Key implications from this study include advancing the application of the Scholar Score and demonstrating network analysis for PT faculty. More importantly this study generated new knowledge about an effective network and the process used to create professional relationships to strengthen an early career PT faculty scholarly agenda. Network analysis made the connections visible for the early career faculty who reside at the lower end of the academic hierarchy in terms of tenure, academic rank, and scholarly productivity.