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Washington State University
Carson College of Business PhD: Management Information Systems Concentration

PhD: Management Information Systems Concentration

Now accepting applications for Fall 2024

This program focuses on behavioral issues in MIS, enabling you to develop critical skills in both research and teaching, and therefore compete for, and succeed in, the best academic jobs around the globe.

Successfully completing the PhD program in MIS requires completion of a prescribed set of coursework, a second-year paper, the comprehensive examination and preliminary oral examination and the dissertation. Here we document the coursework and comprehensive examination requirements in detail. The other requirements are documented in the main text of the PhD program manual.

General Competency

In general, students accepted in the program need to satisfy the following requirements:

  • A Master’s degree (M.S., M. A. in a related discipline, or preferably MBA), although outstanding applicants with bachelor’s degree will be considered.
  • GPA higher than 3.25 on a 4.00 scale.
  • Some technology-related background (educational or professional).
  • Fit between applicant and faculty areas of interest, and also compatibility of applicant’s goals with the doctoral program’s goals
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Work experience (while not necessary, appropriate experience can make an applicant more attractive to the program.)

While applicants can have diverse profiles, an educational or business background that reflects an understanding and interest in information systems or computer science creates a stronger applicant. Students with an MBA or good business experience are preferred. Since the program is focused on producing research ready faculty that can be placed at peer or better research institutions, incoming students should additionally have both good written and oral communication skills, as well as a reasonable level of skill in mathematics to facilitate the mastery of research methods and statistics.

MIS is a profession that merges both technology and business, and as such, graduates from our program must show adequate understanding of non-MIS business disciplines, such as accounting, marketing, management, etc. Usually, those coming in with a Master’s degree in Business Administration automatically satisfy these requirements. If there are deficiencies in this area, additional coursework beyond the formal requirements for the degree may be needed in order to successfully prepare for the comprehensive (or qualifying) examination. Likewise, a student with any information systems technology related deficiencies might also require additional coursework for adequate preparation.

Required Course Work

MIS Research

12–15 credits

Students are required to take at least 4 of the following 5 courses:

  • MIS 595: MIS Research Foundations
  • MIS 596: MIS Doctoral Topics
  • MIS 597: MIS Research Methods
  • MIS 598: MIS Research Topics
  • MIS 599: MIS Research Proposal Development

Research Methods and Statistics Requirements

15 credits

The purpose of these courses is to provide grounding for students in the area of philosophy of science, research methods, research design, and statistics in order to assist them in becoming productive information systems scholars.

All students must take at least one seminar in research methods, providing an overview of a wide range of methods. MKTG 593 is the typical course but another course can be substituted for this if MKTG 593 is not available.

Students must take a minimum of 12 credits of statistics, covering the following areas:

  • Design of Experiments, ANOVA (e.g. Psych 511, Stat 512, Stat 530, Stat 507, Soc 522)
  • Regression/Econometrics (e.g. Psych 512, Soc 521, Stat 513, Stat 533, Stat 535, EconS 511, EconS 512)
  • Psychometric Theory (e.g. Psych 514, Stat 520, EdPsy 576)
  • Structural Equation Modelling (e.g., Psych 516)

Other methods courses to support a specific research area may be recommended for individual students.

Supporting Field Requirements

3–6 credits

The major field of Information Systems draws on numerous contributing disciplines for the purposes of research. In consultation with the doctoral student’s committee, supporting doctoral level coursework may be selected from areas such as (but not limited to) research seminars in Psychology, Management, Marketing, Communication, Sociology, etc.

Taking appropriate courses from multiple disciplines may fulfill the above requirements, although there needs to be some degree of coherence in the underlying themes of the courses.

Other Requirements

4 credits

Students will also be required to take a one-credit course Research and Professional Development Seminar (BA 598) that will be coordinated by the CCB Graduate Programs Office and the 3-credit seminar in management teaching (BA 596).

Sample Program of Study

Based on Approximately 10 Credits Per Semester

Year 1

  • MIS Research Seminar
  • RM/Stats 1 (e.g., Psych 511)
  • Supporting Field Seminar
  • MIS 800 (≥1 credit)
  • MIS Research Seminar
  • RM/Stats 2 (e.g., Psych 512)
  • MKTG 593 – Research Methods
  • BA598 – Professional Development Seminar
  • MIS 800 (≥1 credit)

Begin work on 2nd year paper

Year 2

  • MIS Research Seminar
  • RM/Stats 3 (e.g., Psych 514)
  • Seminar in Management Teaching
  • MIS 800 (≥1 credit)
  • MIS Research Seminar
  • RM/Stats 4 (e.g., Psych 516)
  • MIS 599 – Proposal Development
  • MIS 800 (≥1 credit)

Year 3

  • Comprehensive Exam
  • MIS 800 (≥1 credit)
  • Full time Research (Dissertation and other)
  • MIS 800 (≥1 credit)

Year 4

  • Full time Research (Dissertation and other)
  • MIS 800 (≥1 credit)

Written Field and Preliminary Exams


Section 2.6 of the Carson College of Business PhD program manual defines the written field examination (hereafter the comprehensive exam) as testing “the breadth and depth of the student’s knowledge of the literature and ability to integrate the concepts, theories, models and practice in the major and supporting areas of study. It will also address the ability of the student to apply methodological and analytical tools to research problems in these fields.” (p.10).

The scope of the exam, then, is as broad as the IS field itself. The primary focus will be on materials from our doctoral seminars, but it is not limited to these materials. Successful scholars read widely in the literature and are familiar with the discipline beyond their own research interests and required readings.


The exam is open book and will take place over three days with 1-2 questions per day. Questions are likely to include such activities as a review of a paper, design of a study, synthesis of a theory and its application in the discipline, and commentary on key issues within the discipline. The grading scale for comprehensive exams is provided in the section 2.7 of the PhD program manual.

Successful completion of the written exam will be followed (within about a month) by scheduling of the preliminary oral exam. This oral exam will require you to defend and elaborate on your written exam and may introduce additional questions pertaining to the field.


The comprehensive exam will typically be scheduled during the summer between the student’s 2nd and 3rd years of study, with the preliminary exam scheduled as soon as possible thereafter, in semester 5. (The proposal defense is likely to be scheduled during semester 6 or 7.)


Preparation for the comprehensive exam begins on the day you enter the PhD program. As you read in the literature you develop your skills in understanding and applying theory and methods and you begin to form your own voice as a scholar. Throughout your coursework and other program activities (research presentations from other scholars, meetings with faculty) you are building your capabilities as a scholar and preparing yourself for your comprehensive exam.

Throughout your coursework you should be summarizing the articles you read, synthesizing the various bodies of literature you encounter and reflecting on the assumptions that underlie our scholarship. The more you write as you are reading, the better prepared you will be for your comprehensive exam.

Final preparation for your exam, during the summer following second year, should include reviewing materials already read, searching for updated articles on topics that you have studied (especially those published in the top journals) and writing practice questions. You can obtain prior exams from other students to use as practice questions. If you are preparing for the exams with other students in your cohort, you are encouraged to share your practice exams and provide feedback to each other.


Exams are evaluated based on the degree to which you demonstrate mastery of:

  • MIS research. You should be able to demonstrate a very thorough understanding of MIS research, including explanatory theories and past research findings. In addition, you will be expected to demonstrate command of the relevant literature from your supporting discipline.
  • MIS research methods and statistics. You should also have an extensive knowledge of statistics and the research methodologies that can be employed to study MIS phenomena.
  • Oral and written communication skills. Given our focus on graduating scholars who can succeed at accredited, peer or better research universities, you will be expected to demonstrate a high level of written and oral communication skills in the written and oral comprehensive exams.


Robert Crossler
Associate Professor
Todd 442A

Program at a glance

Degree offered: Doctor of Philosophy
Number of faculty working with students: 6
Number of students enrolled in program: 4
Students with assistantships/scholarships: 100%
Priority application deadline: January 10

Universities and colleges employing recent graduates:

  • San Jose State University
  • Baylor University
  • University of Memphis
  • Gonzaga University
  • University of British Columbia
  • and more!