Moving to the dissertation phase of the program requires satisfactory completion of coursework, the qualifying examination, and the preliminary examination. Students who fail in passing any requirements will be dismissed from the program. 
The student’s second year paper should, in most cases, lay the groundwork for a dissertation. A member of the OM faculty who agrees to act as a research advisor for the student must certify that the student is prepared to engage in original research. Therefore, prior to moving to the dissertation phase, it is important that students have developed research advisory relationships with faculty members. In particular, students must find a faculty member who agrees to serve as their advisor.

The dissertation is a substantial body of original research work that contributes to the body of knowledge in the student’s chosen research area. Typically (though not necessarily), a student’s dissertation topic grows naturally out of earlier research projects. Ideally, a student will have focused on a research topic by the end of the second year.

The student’s work on the dissertation is guided by a dissertation committee as specified by the academic regulations of the Graduate School. 
 In particular, each student, in consultation with an operations faculty member, selects a dissertation committee consisting of a minimum of four members of the Graduate Faculty, with at least one member coming from outside the operations management area.  This is often the same as the committee formed for the preliminary examination.  
Students must also satisfy all other dissertation requirements established by the Graduate School.

At the discretion of the student’s advisor, the student may be asked to prepare a dissertation proposal.  This typically may occur if the student’s dissertation topic differs substantially from the preliminary examination (second year summer paper), necessitating a fresh evaluation of the research potential of the topic.  Such a dissertation proposal would take place in the third or fourth year. At the proposal the student presents and defends his/her research project. Immediately following the proposal, it is the responsibility of the committee to evaluate whether the student has made satisfactory progress and should continue with this research project.

After the dissertation is completed, the final step in the program is to defend the work successfully before the dissertation committee.  The dissertation committee is responsible for reviewing the progress of the student in the dissertation phase, for providing feedback and for recommending corrective action (including dismissal) if that progress is unsatisfactory. (Such corrective action is rare. Most students who get to this stage ultimately succeed in writing a satisfactory dissertation.)