Ph.D. Evaluation Process

There are three main components to the Ph.D. in Business Administration at Smeal:

Qualifying Exam

First, students must pass the qualifying examination in their primary area within three semesters in the doctoral program. The examination tests your competence to continue with your doctoral program, and because it will identify your strengths and weaknesses, it is used in planning your course of study.

Research Paper and Presentation

Success in the doctoral program requires that you achieve high-level competency in the use of the English language, including reading, writing, listening, and speaking. These competencies are demonstrated through the presentation of a paper you have written around a topic of your own research. You are required to complete the paper by the end of your second year in the doctoral program, and you are required to make an open presentation to the faculty by the end of your fifth semester.

Comprehensive Exam

The comprehensive exam is a requirement of the Graduate School. This is an oral exam that is administered by your doctoral committee and may have a written component. The comprehensive exam is scheduled after you have completed most of your graduate course work. Your doctoral committee chairperson will explain your field's requirements and format for the comprehensive exam.

Teaching Skills

It is important that doctoral students develop skills in teaching. Scholars not only develop knowledge through their research, they must be able to communicate knowledge to others. You will develop these skills throughout the program:

  • Teacher Training Mini Camp: designed to be taken before you teach in the college for the first time. This two-day intensive experience is designed to help you acquire the skills and the confidence to succeed in the classroom.
  • Smeal Scholars Seminar: a one-credit course you will take in the first year of the Ph.D. Program. It will cover topics on professional development, research ethics, writing, and presentation skills.


Ideally, when you begin taking your course work, you should begin thinking about potential topics for your dissertation. As you add to your knowledge base, your ideas will have a chance to develop and grow. If you have taken the time to incubate a number of ideas, you will have little difficulty in proposing a dissertation research topic to your doctoral committee. Your doctoral committee will require that you create a formal research proposal and present it orally for their counsel and approval. The presentation of this proposal is open to all Smeal graduate faculty.

When your committee confirms that you have a sound dissertation document, you will schedule a final oral examination. While this final examination is primarily a defense of your dissertation, it may also cover your entire program of study. This examination is open to the public. As a public document, your dissertation is made available to anyone who requests it. If, prior to your final examination, six years or more elapse since your qualifying examination, you must take a second comprehensive exam before you can complete your degree.