The qualifying examination in operations management consists of two components: a written examination and a summer literature review project.
In the second year, a written examination covering the topics in the required courses will be administered. Students who achieve excellent performance in required courses may be exempted from the exam. To receive an exemption from the written exam, a student must achieve a grade of A- or higher in all required courses. Students who do not meet this criterion will be required to take a written qualifying exam; in most cases, such students will take the exam in the Spring semester of their second year. The exam will cover some subset of the topics covered in the required courses, possibly including material from basic optimization, advanced optimization, microeconomics, stochastic models, and the Fuqua OM course material. The precise topics are determined by the OM faculty in response to the needs of each particular student, and the students taking the exam will be notified in advance of the subjects to be covered. Satisfactory performance on the written exam is required; poor performance may lead the faculty to require additional coursework, to retake the exam, or to depart the program.
In addition, in the Fall of the second year, the student will submit a research paper. The minimum requirement for this paper is a detailed literature review of a proposed research topic. The review must be at least 10 pages in length (double spaced, 12 point font), and should include the history of developments in the proposed area of study, recent advances on the topic, a proposal of a specific interesting research question, and an initial model formulation or plan of research; however, many students go further than this and submit a full research paper including analysis and results. This paper should be completed under the supervision of a faculty member chosen by the student at the start of the summer between years 1 and 2. During the Fall semester of the second year, the student will submit their completed paper and also present their work in front of the OM faculty.
A brief proposal (no more than two pages) for this research project is submitted to the doctoral coordinator at the end of the Spring semester of the first year. The research paper itself will be read by the doctoral committee, who will offer comments on the quality of the work as well as the potential of the research opportunities identified in the literature review. The doctoral committee will also review the student’s first year course grades, paying particular attention to essential courses in operations management, and the student’s performance on the written examination (if applicable) and oral presentation of the research project, to assess the student’s overall performance in the doctoral program.
The official preliminary examination in the OM doctoral program takes place at the start of the third year. At this time, the student will submit a completed research paper that is, at minimum, 25 pages in length (double spaced, 12 point font). This paper should be written in a style suitable for submission to a journal (i.e., with an introduction, literature review, model and analysis, and conclusion). The paper should be completed under the supervision of a faculty member chosen by the student, and need not be a continuation of the literature review submitted the previous year (although we expect that most students will continue with the same topic).
A brief proposal (no more than two pages) for this research paper is submitted to the doctoral coordinator at the end of the spring semester of the second year; see the Expectations section for more information on this proposal. The student will present the completed paper in front of a committee of four faculty members, consisting of the OM doctoral coordinator, the student’s advisor, one additional OM faculty member, and one faculty member from outside the OM area. The committee will offer comments on the quality of the work as well as the potential of the research to be published in a top journal. In addition, they will review the student’s second year course grades, paying particular attention to essential courses in operations management, and assess the student’s overall performance in the doctoral program, taking all of this information into account when determining whether the student passes the preliminary examination.
If the committee determines that the student has not shown sufficient potential to succeed in research based on the student’s grades and the research project, they may give the student a failing grade on the preliminary examination, ask the student to take additional courses, or ask the student to repeat the requirement by the end of the student’s third year in the doctoral program (i.e., to submit a revised paper and make a second presentation). To proceed to the dissertation phase of the doctoral program, the student must successfully pass this preliminary examination once.
Dissertation Proposal Examination
The dissertation proposal is a comprehensive presentation of the student’s existing work toward his or her dissertation as well as a proposal of the remaining steps to complete the dissertation, and is typically made in the student’s fourth year. At this stage, faculty assess whether the student has shown satisfactory progress toward completing the dissertation and whether the topic of the dissertation shows sufficient promise. Faculty may make suggestions for improvement in the dissertation topic or methods during this stage.
Final Dissertation Defense Examination
The dissertation defense (also known as the “final examination”) is a comprehensive presentation of the student’s dissertation, typically made in the Spring of the student’s fifth year. At this stage, faculty assess whether the student has shown sufficient mastery of methodology and research to submit their dissertation and be granted a PhD from Duke University. The dissertation defense and subsequent submission of the dissertation are the final stages in the doctoral program.