Department of Management and Human Resources
PhD Program Exams and Writing

Comprehensive Exam

After completing the formal course requirements at the end of the second academic year, students will take the Graduate School qualifying exam for their chosen area of specialization during the month of May prior to beginning their third year. The exam tests the student's detailed knowledge of the literature, including the important theories, models and empirical approaches used in this research. The exam is written by the student's Faculty Advisor, in cooperation with other members of the Exam Advisory Committee. Students will answer a set of analytical questions related to his/her major field. Students will need to demonstrate their understanding of the research questions dominating the literature as well as be able to provide new insights. In this regard, the exam is designed to test the ability of the student to integrate and make creative contributions to the literature, not just memorize it. The comprehensive exam consists of two parts--written and oral. Passing the comprehensive exam reflects the student's readiness to undertake dissertation research. Students must pass the exam to continue in the program.

Second Year Paper Requirement

In the first year of the program, the student will begin working on a research paper that will be completed during the second year of the program. The student will take primary responsibility for this project, but will also form a committee of two faculty members which will guide the student in developing a reasonable research question, theoretically derived model and hypotheses, as well as appropriate tests.

By December of the second year, the paper must be completed to the satisfaction of the committee members. After this, the paper must be submitted to a major national conference, such as Academy of Management, Academy of International Business, or Strategic Management Society. The submission deadlines for these conferences are typically in January and February. Acceptance of the paper into one of these conferences will reflect positively on the student’s progress. In addition, the student will be expected to present the completed paper to MHR faculty members and other Ph.D. students during a departmental forum such as a seminar or brown bag series.


The student officially enters the dissertation phase of the doctoral program after passing the Comprehensive Exam. This phase of the program typically lasts for two years and is concluded with the final Oral Dissertation Defense.

The dissertation is a scholarly contribution to knowledge in the student's area of specialization. By researching and writing a dissertation, the student is expected to demonstrate a high level of knowledge and the capacity to function as an independent scholar. The dissertation is directed by a Faculty Advisor and Dissertation Committee chosen by the student. Working with his/her Advisor and Committee, the student is expected to develop and defend a dissertation proposal, complete the research with guidance from faculty, present the research in a departmental forum in preparation for a job talk, and complete the Graduate School Oral Exam to defend the dissertation research in front of the Dissertation Committee.