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Oklahoma State University
Watson Graduate School of Management

Spears School of Business at Oklahoma State University

Academic Program

The following information reflects the recommendations of the PhD Advisory Committee for the department of MSIS regarding the Ph.D. program.

The following document lays out the typical coursework, exams, structure of plans of study, responsibilities of committees, and the steps in obtaining a Ph.D. in Business Administration (MSIS option) at Oklahoma State University. It is subject to periodic review. All doctoral students and committees are advised to refer to the latest version of this document. An updated version of this document will be available in the departmental office.


The Ph.D. Program in Business Administration, MSIS option, at Oklahoma State prepares candidates for academic careers involving high quality research and instruction. There are four specializations offered under the MSIS option:

  • Management Information Systems (MIS)
  • Telecommunications Management (TCOM)
  • Management Science(MS)
  • Production and Operations Management (POM)

The purpose of this page is to describe the process of obtaining the PhD after the student enters the program. When students enter the program, they go through an orientation that is conducted immediately prior to the beginning of their first semester. This document is organized as follows:

  • Coursework and Plans of Study
  • Committees and responsibilities
  • Assessment
  • Dissertation

I. Coursework and Plans of Study

The Plans of Study for all specializations (MIS, TCOM, MS, POM) shall satisfy the following basic structure. The structure assumes that a student has been enrolled in the program after obtaining a Masters level degree. Students with a bachelor’s degree need an additional 30 hours:

Number of Courses
Credit Hours
Content/Business Courses (normally)
Doctoral Seminar/Practicum Courses (minimum)
Research Methods/Quantitative Tools Courses (normally)
Dissertation (max. that will be counted)
Total Hours (minimum)

Content/Business courses:

All students obtaining a Ph.D. in Business Administration should have at least one course in each of the following subjects: Financial Accounting, Management, Finance, Marketing and Economics (for a total 15 hours). Student’s coming in to the program with a non-business undergraduate and/or Masters degree without these courses, may use up to 15 hours (from 21) to satisfy these requirements. Students with a non-business background may be required to take more than 21 credit hours for the content/business component at the discretion of the doctoral program committee. Students with an MBA will normally take seven content courses (in their area(s) of specialization).

Doctoral Seminar/Practicum Courses:
Each student will take 3 doctoral seminars and one “practicum”. At least one of these seminars will be offered in the Fall and Spring semesters. These include:

MSIS 6333 Overview of MIS Research
MSIS 6433 Selected MIS research Topics I
MSIS 6443 Selected MIS research Topics II
MSIS 6200 Doctoral Seminar
BADM 6100 Seminar in Business Administration – “Practicum” Course – Offered each Fall

A typical new PhD student, entering in Fall, will register for these seminars in the sequence:

Fall Spring Fall Spring
Doctoral Seminar Doctoral Seminar Practicum Doctoral Seminar

Students entering in the Spring will have their schedules offset by one semester accordingly.

The fall practicum course will also serve the role of a “qualifying exam.” Students enrolled in this course during their 3rd semester in the program will be evaluated as to whether they will continue in the program. More details of this practicum are indicated later.

Research Methods/Quantitative Tools Courses:
Each doctoral student should have a minimum of 4 Research methods/Quantitative Tools courses. At least two of these courses shall be statistics courses. One of the statistics courses shall be either STAT 5013 (Statistics for Experimenters I) or STAT 5023 (Statistics for Experimenters II ). Other research methods courses can be chosen at the discretion of the student in consultation with the student’s doctoral program committee. A list of recommended courses is attached at the end of the document.

II. Committees and responsibilities

There are three different committees during the course of the PhD student’s tenure in the program. The doctoral program committee (consisting of a chairperson and at least two other members from within the department and one member from outside the department) will be formed at the end of the second (major) semester of the student’s tenure. This committee will be responsible for guiding the student’s plan of study, and administering the comprehensive examination. The Qualifying Review Committee (see details later) shall review the results of the student’s qualifying exam and certify whether the student shall continue in the program beyond the third semester in the program. Successful students will continue work in the program until the comprehensive examination (typically administered before the end of the student’s fifth semester in the program).

Upon successful completion of the comprehensive examination the student will choose a doctoral dissertation committee (consisting of at least 3 members from within the department and one member from outside the department). The members of this committee (including the chairperson) may be the same or different from the student’s program committee or qualifying review committee. This committee will be responsible for supervising the student’s dissertation work. The chairperson of the dissertation committee also has additional duties such as notifying the department and the PhD program coordinator of significant events during the student’s progression leading to ultimate graduation. These are discussed later in the document.

III. Assessment

The purpose of assessment is to ensure that a student is progressing satisfactorily during their tenure in the program. Given the scarce nature of resources available it is incumbent on the student to provide evidence of satisfactory progress towards the PhD degree, so that the institutional objectives as well as the student’s objectives are met. Effective utilization of departmental resources requires that a student meet academic requirements as well as complete their degree in a reasonable amount of time. The “normal” period of study in the PhD program is four years (assuming that a student has a Masters degree prior to being admitted into the program) beginning from the time of admission into the program. A student may take a shorter or longer time, but in no case shall exceed seven years from the time of admission.

After seven years, a student will no longer be considered to be part of the program. Unsatisfactory academic performance may also be a cause for dismissal from the program. The departmental policy is that a student is required to have a minimum GPA of 3.25 for all courses in their plan of study. This GPA must be maintained at the time of every annual assessment. Satisfactory academic progress is also assessed by other means as detailed below.

Annual Assessment:
On an annual basis (before the end of the week following the final examinations during the spring semester) all PhD students shall submit a file that includes:

  1. Their latest Plan of Study (which includes the composition of their current committee)
  2. Courses taken over the past year and grades
  3. Courses taught (if any) and student evaluations
  4. Research submissions and acceptances (conferences, journals, funding proposals etc.)
  5. An updated version of the checklist for progress in the PhD program (see appendix: “Checklist For Steps in The Doctoral Program”)
  6. Schedule for completion of the degree.

The PhD program coordinator will review the file. The PhD program coordinator, in conjunction with the departmental PhD advisory committee shall provide a summary review of the student’s progress in the PhD program to the chairperson of the student’s PhD committee (program or dissertation committee as relevant) and the departmental chairperson, prior to the commencement of the fall semester following the annual assessment, and suggest action (if any is necessary).

Qualifying Exams:
Each doctoral student shall, by the end of the second semester of the program (the Spring semester, if entering in Fall) have done the following:

  1. Chosen a doctoral program committee
  2. Completed and submitted a Plan of study, in consultation with the committee
  3. Arranged to register for Doctoral Practicum course, BADM 6100 Seminar in Business Administration

The practicum involves an independent piece of research carried to completion that demonstrates the student’s aptitude for a Ph.D. The research should be of sufficient quality to potentially result in a tangible outcome, such as a journal publication or a conference proceeding.

Students whose second semester in the program is a spring semester will commence work on the practicum in the first summer semester following the spring semester. They will register for the practicum in the fall semester. Their research shall be submitted no later than November 1. Students whose second semester in the program is a fall semester will register and commence work on the practicum in the spring semester. Their research shall be submitted no later than July 1. To be eligible to take the qualifying exams, the student must not have any “I” grades from any earlier coursework. All “I” grades have to cleared prior to the beginning of the semester in which the qualifying exam will be administered. That is, students whose qualifying exam date is November 1 should have cleared all “I” grades prior to the beginning of the fall semester and students whose qualifying exam date is July1 should have cleared all “I” grades prior to the last day of final exams of the spring semester.

The student’s research work for the qualifying exam will be submitted to a “Qualifying Review Committee” consisting of the student’s program committee chairperson (and/or) the person supervising the research work for the qualifying exam, the PhD coordinator and one or more members from the PhD advisory committee, who shall assess its merit. These members will also send out the student’s research to at least one external reviewer to assess its merit. The review will follow the normal review process of a peer-reviewed journal for article acceptance. To enable the process the student shall also submit the names of up to three journals, to which they would like to submit their completed research. This provides information to the review committee concerning the focus and methodological style of the research as well as potential external reviewers. If the paper has been processed by a journal accepted by the department, which may be submitted as additional input.

The reviewers shall submit their review no later than December 1 (or August 1, if the research deadline was July 1) to the qualifying review committee. The qualifying review committee, based on the reviews received and its own reviews, in conjunction with other information on progress to-date such as the results of the annual assessment, will certify whether the student has “passed” the qualifying examination or failed to do so. Successful completion of the qualifying examination will result in a “Satisfactory” grade in the BADM 6100 course. Student’s failing the qualifying examination will be required to pursue other options and will no longer be part of the MSIS PhD program. An “Unsatisfactory” grade will be recorded for the BADM 6100 course.

These guidelines are subject to change periodically at the discretion of the MSIS faculty.

PhD Comprehensive Examination Objectives:
The objective of the comprehensive examination is for the student to convince the program committee that she or he is ready to carry out an in-depth doctoral dissertation. In a sense, the committee is certifying that the student can undertake an in-depth dissertation based on the expectation that the candidate has identified potential areas of research and that they possess the necessary background for carrying out a dissertation in their field of specialization. Indeed, it is the responsibility of the committee to identify potential weaknesses and suggest remedial work. Thus, comprehensive exams, by definition, should be comprehensive in nature. They are meant to test the student’s ability to:

  • Integrate and synthesize all the coursework during their tenure in the program
  • Conceptualize research problems and issues
  • Apply the synthesized knowledge and relevant tools to research problems
  • Present concepts and results.

PhD Comprehensive Examination Guidelines:

  • The comprehensive exam should be generally taken no earlier than 6 credit hours prior to completion of all non-dissertation coursework in the student’s Plan of Study. In all cases, it must be taken prior to the student commencing the seventh semester in the program.
  • The comprehensive exam will be a whole-day exam consisting of two parts:
      1. A common component (about 4 hours) (see description below)
      2. An “area of study” component (about 4 hours) (see description below)
  • Students are allowed the use of laptops (in fact, it is encouraged), without internet connection.

Common Component:
This will test the student’s knowledge on:

  • MSIS Research literature
  • Research methods and tools

A common set of MSIS research readings will be identified in consultation with MSIS faculty and the student will be provided a list of the same, at least 60 days prior to the exam date. Similarly, in consultation with faculty teaching research methods courses other competent faculty and the faculty on the student’s committee, material relating to research methods that all PhD students taking the comprehensive exams will be broadly identified. All students taking exams at the same time will be administered the same set of questions. The exam will be closed book (with the exception of formula sheets and tables, if any are permitted) and should typically last about 4 hours.

Area of Study Component:
The purpose of this component is to test each student’s ability to understand and synthesize material in their chosen area of study, as well as be able to generate and communicate original ideas. In the weeks prior to their exam, each student will work with their committee to identify specific coursework and material related to the potential area of research (and which are not part of the common component above). At least two months prior to the comprehensive exam, the student shall provide brief mini-proposals” (3 or more “mini-proposals”, each one or two-pages in length). The committee shall use these mini-proposals as inputs to determining questions that will be asked during the comprehensive examinations. This component of the exam will also be closed book (with the exception of any material that may be made available by the student’s committee as appropriate) and should typically last around four hours.

Oral Examinations:
At the discretion of the student’s PhD committee, an oral exam may also be administered.

The exam is graded by the student’s program committee, in consultation with other faculty as appropriate. The PhD program coordinator will be notified of the result of the exam by the program committee chairperson. The result may be a Pass, Conditional Pass (contingent upon the student completing some additional work or retake of a portion), or Fail. A student who fails will be given one more chance. A second Fail will result in dismissal from the program.

Upon successful completion of the comprehensive examination and all the required (non-dissertation) coursework in the Plan of Study, the student shall proceed with Dissertation work.

IV. Dissertation

Dissertation Proposal Defense:
The dissertation proposal defense is expected after the successful completion of the comprehensive examinations. Prior to the proposal defense, the student shall have chosen the dissertation committee (which may be the same as or different from the doctoral program committee). Normally, the proposal defense should be held in the semester following the comprehensive exam, but no later that one year after successful completion of the comprehensive examination. Exceptions to this rule can be made following consultations between the PhD program coordinator and the committee chairperson, based on the merits of the situation. The student must present a formal written dissertation proposal to the dissertation committee and defend it orally before the committee in a meeting open to all members of the MSIS department, doctoral students and other invited faculty. The doctoral dissertation committee must receive a copy of the proposal no later than two weeks prior to the proposal defense. At least one week prior to the actual defense, the committee chairperson shall inform the Ph.D. program coordinator of the date, location, topic and provide a brief abstract of the proposal. The PhD coordinator shall distribute these details to the MSIS faculty and PhD students. A copy of the proposal shall also be kept in the departmental office.

Approval of the dissertation proposal, with modifications as needed, rests with the dissertation committee and requires a majority vote of the committee. However, the committee is expected to reflect the sentiment of the entire MSIS departmental faculty in its approval or rejection of the proposal.

Dissertation Defense:
The completed dissertation represents the culmination of a period of intensive research and must be defended orally before the MSIS departmental faculty and other invited faculty. It is marked by extensive interaction among the Ph.D. candidate, the Dissertation Chairperson, and the doctoral dissertation committee. Interaction will include general and specific guidance, usually involving draft copies of the dissertation. The normal period of completion of dissertation defense is one year after successful completion of the dissertation proposal. Extensions to this date shall be justified in writing by the committee chairperson to the Ph.D. program coordinator, every semester beyond this period. The justification shall also include an estimate of when the student is expected to complete defense of the dissertation. After a period of six years in the program, the student will be asked to take a comprehensive examination with one attempt at success. Failure of the comprehensive examination will result in the student being dismissed from the PhD program. In no case shall the successful completion of the dissertation extend beyond nine years from the time the student was admitted into the program. After nine years the student is deemed to be no longer part of the PhD program.

The dissertation itself must consist of original work by the Ph.D. candidate and make a contribution to their chosen field of specialization. Every committee member has a responsibility to assure that the Ph.D. dissertation meets the guidelines of the proposal and the standards of the department, college and the university. Therefore, a tentative acceptance of the dissertation should be obtained from all committee members based on a completed draft copy. At least two week prior to the actual defense, the committee chairperson shall inform the Ph.D. program coordinator of the date, location, topic and an abstract of the dissertation. The PhD coordinator shall distribute these details to the College faculty and PhD students. Furthermore, a copy of the dissertation should be placed in the department office at least one week prior to the defense, and made available to all interested parties. Approval of the dissertation rests with the doctoral dissertation committee. However, the committee is expected to reflect the sentiment of the entire MSIS departmental faculty in its approval or rejection of the dissertation.