The Department of Operations and Information Management offers Ph.D. programs in two areas: Information Systems and Operations Management. Both programs are designed to prepare individuals for academic careers in research and teaching. The requirements and framework described below apply to both programs and have been designed to assure basic knowledge in certain fundamental areas while allowing sufficient flexibility for students and advisors to design a course of study that best fits the student's interests.


All foundation courses can be waived based on previous coursework. No courses in the foundation can be taken as pass/fail.

Business Foundation

Twelve (12) credits of graduate-level courses in functional areas (i.e., operations management, marketing, finance, accounting, or management), selected in consultation with advisor. An undergraduate or MS degree in business or an MBA from an accredited institution can be used to fulfill these requirements.

Mathematical Foundation

  • MATH 340 Elementary Matrix and Linear Algebra OR
  • MATH 521 Advanced Calculus OR
  • Other advanced mathematics course approved by advisor

Statistical Foundation

  • STAT 333 Applied Regression Analysis OR
  • Other statistics course approved by advisor

Economics Foundation

  • ECON 311 Intermediate Microeconomic Theory-Math Treatment OR
  • ECON 711 Economic Theory OR 
  • Other economics course approved by advisor

Special Foundation

Other foundation courses may be required in the student’s chosen area of concentration, as determined by advisor (e.g., a student in IS is required to have programming skills).

Research Methods

Together with the student's advisor, a minimum of four courses (12 credits) must be chosen in the area of research methodology. These courses can be drawn from inside or outside the Wisconsin School of Business. Coursework in this group may be used to fulfill the requirements for the major and minor program.

Coursework in Major Area

Coursework in the candidate’s major research area of interest is to be chosen together with the advisor. In addition, each student must complete a research paper before taking the preliminary exam (see below). The main purpose of this paper is to let the student explore and deepen his/her knowledge in an area of study, structure the field, identify critical problems, and formulate a set of propositions and/or a research plan for future studies. The methodologies involved are most likely literature searches, case studies, and/or simple experiments. The paper, which will be done as a three credit-hour independent study under the supervision of the advisor, may represent the foundation for the candidate’s dissertation.

For a student entering the Ph.D. program with a master’s degree in the major area, the expected length of study to complete the required course work beyond the foundation—major and minor—is estimated to take two years.

Coursework in Minor Area

All students must complete a minor program consisting of at least 10 credits chosen in consultation with the advisor. Coursework can be drawn from a department other than the Wisconsin School of Business (external minor) or of a combination of courses from departments inside and outside the Wisconsin School of Business but excluding the OIM department. Courses taken as part of the requirements for the major area of study may count toward fulfillment of the minor program.

Preliminary Examination

By the end of the third year of study, and after the student has completed a research paper submitted to the advisor, the student is required to sit for a four-hour written exam in the major area of study. Immediately after the written exam, an article taken from the literature is to be reviewed as a take-home assignment. Within seven days, the student is to orally present his/her review. The preliminary exam, the written research paper, and the quality of the oral presentation will be graded by a departmental sub-committee, and a decision of pass/fail will be taken by the department as a whole. All incomplete/progress grades must be removed before the preliminary exam. This exam can only be taken twice. Failure to pass the second time, within the one-year time span after taking the first preliminary exam, will lead to the student’s termination in the Ph.D. program.

Dissertator Status

To achieve dissertator status, the student must have:

  • Passed the preliminary examination
  • Fulfilled the minor requirements
  • Completed all requirements for the major (except the proposal exam and the dissertation)
  • Removed any incomplete or progress grades in non-research courses
  • Satisfied any residence requirements

Proposal Examination

An oral dissertation proposal exam is to be taken approximately one year after the successful passing of the preliminary exam. The purpose of this exam is to test the student’s preparation to conduct the proposed research, the suitability of the topic, and the viability of the research methodology. Two weeks prior to the exam, a dissertation proposal document should be submitted to the examination committee. This proposal should contain (1) a clear statement of, and motivation for, the dissertation topic; (2) a thorough review of the literature; (3) an in-depth discussion of the research methodologies and analysis approaches that will be followed; (4) anticipated findings and contributions of the research; and (5) a time-phased plan of milestones to be reached during the remainder of the candidate’s study.

The proposal examination committee, chosen in conjunction with the student’s advisor, shall consist of between three and five professors. The proposal exam can only be taken twice. The second exam must be taken within one year of the first exam. Failure to pass the second time, as decided by the examination committee, will lead to the student’s termination from the Ph.D. program.

Dissertation Defense

A final oral examination in defense of the dissertation research must be taken, as administered by the candidate’s Ph.D. examination committee. This final exam can only be taken twice. The examination committee, chosen in conjunction with the candidate’s advisor, must consist of at least five current graduate University of Wisconsin-Madison faculty members, and at least one of these must represent a graduate field outside the Wisconsin School of Business. Each member of the committee must receive the written dissertation document at least two weeks before the exam. As per Graduate School requirements, the candidate has five years from the date of passing the preliminary examination to take the final oral examination and deposit the dissertation. Failure to take the final oral examination within five years after passing the preliminary examination requires the candidate to take another preliminary examination and be admitted to candidacy a second time.