The Doctoral Experience

Academic Program

Doctoral students must master the fundamental concepts of research design and analytical methods that are essential for testing hypotheses and drawing valid inferences. There is a large literature in research methods and many complex analytical systems that are appropriate for different research applications. Students must also master the theoretical traditions and the empirical literature that make up a particular area of scholarship. All of this adds up to highly specialized bodies of knowledge. The GWSB Ph.D. program has been revised so that it is more rigorous and focused on the skills and knowledge relevant to a particular field of study. In effect our doctoral programs are now decentralized and organized around each participating department and its faculty strengths.

The curriculum for each participating department is summarized under the Fields of Study. While tailored to the unique features of each discipline, there are certain underlying commonalities. All programs require a minimum of four doctoral level methods courses selected from the following typical courses or equivalent ones (course numbers are subject to change).

  • DNSC 6274 Statistical Modeling and Analysis, or ECON 8375 Econometrics I, or STAT 6201, or equivalent.
  • DNSC 6275 Advanced Statistical Modeling and Analysis or ECON 8376 Econometrics II, STAT 6202, or equivalent
  • DNSC 8385 Research Methods and Design, or equivalent

Most students will end up taking a few more methods courses as electives such as DNSC 8397 Applied Stochastic Models for Business, DNSC 8397 Advanced Topics in Time-Series Analysis, etc.

All programs also require a minimum of four doctoral theory courses or seminars. These are much more department specific. For example, the programs in Accountancy and Finance require a number of courses from:

  • ECON 8301 Microeconomic Theory I, ECON 8302 Microeconomic Theory II, and ECON 8305 Macroeconomic Theory.
  • FINA 8321 Seminar in Asset Pricing, FINA 8322 Seminar in Corporate Finance, FINA 8397 Seminar in Empirical Investments, ACCY Seminar in Moral Hazard Agency Theory, Transaction Cost, and Contracts, ACCY Seminar in Financial Accounting and Governance, etc.

All programs require 46 credit hours of study completed in the first two years of the program. Twenty-four of the credit hours are usually predetermined and taken in the first year. Three credits go toward summer research. Eighteen credits are taken in the second year and many of these are electives. One credit is for training as a Graduate Assistant required by the university before a student can teach courses at GW. Teaching one course in the 4th or 5th year of the program is required as part of the student’s professional training. Students are also required to take a two-day workshop on Philosophy of Science, attend all department research seminars presented by faculty from outside GW, and be engaged in the intellectual life of the school. All in all the Ph. D. is a very intense program of study.

Detailed information on the academic requirements, policies and procedures common to all department programs are explained in the Ph.D. Handbook


Faculty Advisory Group

The student is counseled by the lead professor in the department until he/she is assigned a Faculty Advisory Group of two or more full-time GW faculty from the student’s field of study. The group advises and supervises the student through course work, summer research and the Comprehensive Exam. The Advisory Group reports student’s progress on an annual basis to the GWSB Doctoral Committee.


Summer Paper Requirement

In the summer following the first year of courses all students are required to conduct a research project and write a summer research paper. This is a very important first step in developing research skills and demonstrating the student has the aptitude for scholarly research. The summer research is supervised by the Faculty Advisory Group and evaluated by the school Doctoral/Research committees.

Departments have different time lines by when the research paper must be submitted, but all place great value in this first research product. Departments also have different time lines when this paper is to be presented to GWSB faculty and fellow students, and academic conferences. It is expected the paper will be ultimately submitted to a leading academic journal.


Study Plans

Department programs are pretty much scripted for the first year. By September 30 of the second year the student is required to develop a Study Plan showing the courses taken in the first year, proposed courses in the second year, summer research paper, and other relevant plans such as teaching. The Study Plan is based on the focus of interest in the field that a student develops, and developed under the guidance of the Faculty Advisory Group. Study plans are reviewed and approved by the GWSB Doctoral Committee.


Comprehensive Evaluation

After completing all course work, the student takes the Comprehensive Examinations. These are designed and administered by the Department or Advisory Group. They may have various formats including a verbal component, and are meant to demonstrate that the doctoral student has mastered the current and classic literature in the chosen field, and has the necessary command of research methodology. The comprehensive exam is an important right of passage. Successful completion means the doctoral student is admitted to candidacy, i.e., he/she is now a “doctoral candidate!”


Dissertation Process

Following the comprehensive examination the candidate chooses a faculty member willing to be her/his academic mentor during the research years. The faculty member (known as the Advocate or Chair of the Dissertation Committee) plays an important role in guiding the candidate’s dissertation research and in introducing the candidate to the academic community. The candidate and Chair select two or more faculty that have expertise in areas and methods related to the candidate’s research interest, to constitute the Dissertation Committee.

The research years are meant to focus on the dissertation process and related research. At times candidates work with more than one professor on research subjects that combine to form “essays” in a dissertation. At other times the dissertation is a primary product separate form other research projects the candidate pursues, for example, the summer research project. In either case the dissertation must pass through two formal evaluations–a dissertation proposal defense and defense of the final dissertation. The defenses are made before the Dissertation Committee plus additional examiners as required, and interested audiences. The fundamental goal of the Ph. D. dissertation is to contribute new knowledge in a field, using scientific methods commonly required for publication in leading scholarly journals of business. The proposal and dissertation defenses seek to evaluate this.

For further information on the dissertation requirements and process, see the Ph.D. Handbook.


Program Duration

To earn a Ph. D. in business typically takes 5 years—2 years of courses and 3 years of research. It can be completed in less. Under extenuating circumstances additional time up to a maximum of 2 more years may be allowed. In general the terms of the fellowships and scholarships that support our doctoral students require that the student will be in residence for eleven months each year that they are funded.

In unusual circumstances—such as medical or family emergencies—a student may be granted leave of absence during his/her time in the program for period(s) not to exceed two semesters in total. Leaves are granted by the Associate Dean in consultation with student’s faculty advisors and the Doctoral Committee if needed. The terms of the leave typically excuse the student from paying tuition during the leave period, but may or may not extend the maximum 7-year time to complete the program.