Outstanding Dissertation and Capstone Awards

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AACN created this new awards program to recognize and showcase outstanding dissertations and capstone projects completed by students in research- and practice-focused doctoral programs. Many doctoral students are advancing ground-breaking research and practice innovations that are worthy of national recognition and could serve as exemplars for other students to emulate.

  • Excellence in Advancing Nursing Science Award is for an outstanding dissertation from a student in a PhD in nursing or DNS program. A dissertation is an original research project that focuses on advancing nursing science and developing new evidence with the potential to guide nursing practice.
  • Excellence in Advancing Nursing Practice Award is for an outstanding capstone project from a student in a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program. A capstone project demonstrates high-level mastery of an area of advanced nursing practice and focuses on the translation of evidence into practice.

Award criteria:

  • Dissertation/capstone project has the potential to advance nursing science, education, practice, and/or policy. Scholarly ideas show great promise and originality, and contribute new knowledge to the profession.
  • Dissertation Award: Adds to the scientific base for nursing practice; advances understanding of a critical nursing issue; and demonstrates methodological sophistication.
  • Capstone Award: Demonstrates a measurable improvement or impact on care delivery and/or patient outcomes; may be replicated in other settings.
  • Only dissertations and capstone projects that have been successfully defended/completed may be considered for an award. Students must have defended/completed their dissertation or capstone/scholarly projects between October 1, 2013 and September 15, 2014.
  • Awards are offered for “early career” doctoral program students/graduates. Students with previous doctoral degrees will not be considered.
  • Student projects must be consistent with AACN’s mission and vision.

Submitting a Nomination

Nominations may be made by the dean, doctoral department chair, dissertation committee chair, or capstone project advisor. One nomination for each program type may be sent from an individual school of nursing. The nomination letter must include:

a. Description of the dissertation or capstone project, including projected outcomes. Letter may incorporate the original abstract and must not exceed 3 pages in length, single-spaced, 12 point font, 1-inch margins. The nomination letter must clearly convey how the award criteria are met. Contact information for the nominator must be included.

b. A personal statement and CV from the nominated student outlining implementation goals for new science/systems improvement, including progress toward publishing and/or disseminating their final work. Contact information for the student must be included. There is no page limit (or formatting requirement) for the student's input, but please caution that longer is not always better.

c. All nominations must be received by midnight (EST) September 15, 2014.

Click here to submit a nomination

Selection of Award Winners

A selection committee will review all complete nominations received and select award finalists. This committee reserves the right to decide not to recommend an award in any given year. Award finalists must be approved by the AACN Board of Directors.  Winners will be notified by November 1, 2014 to enable them to make plans to attend the AACN 2015 Doctoral Education Conference in late January 2015.

View Past Award Winners

Award Presentation and Promotion

  • The doctoral student/graduate receiving an award must attend AACN’s 2015 Doctoral Education Conference in late January 2015. Expenses related to attending the conference (e.g., transportation, conference hotel, and registration fee) will be reimbursed by AACN. However, travel expenses, including economy airfare and transportation to and from the hotel, will only be reimbursed up to $500.
  • The award will be presented by the AACN President at the start of conference.
  • Award winners will present their abstracts on the second day of AACN’s 2015 Doctoral Education Conference.
  • The award includes a “symbol” of appreciation and a $1,000 check. Winners will be announced via AACN publications and on its Website.

Contact Information

Please direct any questions related to this awards program to AACN’s Director of Faculty Development, Dr. Mary Bondmass at