Requirements for a Ph.D. in Management Information Systems (MIS)

This document describes the Ph.D. policies adopted by the MIS area within the Decision and Information Sciences Department in the Bauer College of Business (Bauer). These policies are in addition to those mandated by Bauer (see Bauer Doctoral Program) and the University of Houston Graduate Student Policies (see University of Houston Graduate School). The MIS Ph.D. program requires full-time continuous enrollment and consists of approximately two years of coursework. Coursework is followed by a comprehensive exam, the development of a dissertation proposal, and your dissertation research. The program length varies depending on the time required to complete the dissertation. However, four and one half years is a reasonable estimate.


Major Field

Each student will take the following 21 hours (7 courses) that cover the MIS Major Field. Students must earn a grade of at least a B (i.e., 3.0 out of 4, where A = 4) in each of their Major Field courses.

MIS Content Seminars Most recent instructor
Survey of Past, Current, and Future MIS Research Blake Ives
Theory Building & Critical Analysis of MIS Research Randy Cooper
Current Theories in MIS Mark Grimes
MIS Methods Seminars Most recent instructor
Design of Experiments Norm Johnson
Introduction to Qualitative Research Jaana Porra
Structural Equation Modelling Wynne Chin
Advanced Qualitative Methods Leiser Silva
MIS Foundation

Each student will audit 9 hours (3 courses) from the MIS undergraduate program. This is required for the following reasons.  (1) Exposure to a variety of MIS practitioner issues provides insight into opportunities for MIS research. (2) Our graduates are expected to teach these courses in business schools, and experiencing how such courses are taught is valuable.  (3) Students then will be eligible to teach these undergraduate courses for the DISC department. Students will choose 3 from the following list of courses (though the choices may be constrained by DISC department teaching needs). Students must earn a grade of at least an A- (i.e., 3.6 out of 4, where A = 4) in their three foundation courses. This requirement may be reduced or waived for those students who have already taken these courses within the last 5 years and received a grade of at least A-.

MIS Undergraduate Courses
Information Systems Introduction MIS 6A41
Database Management MIS 3376
Systems Analysis and Design MIS 3360
Java or Transaction Processing MIS 3370 or MIS 3371
MIS Management MIS 4387
Supporting Field

Each student will take 12 hours (4 courses) from their supporting field, in order to get a masters-level understanding from which to draw for their dissertation research.  This understanding will include sufficient depth in terms of theory and research methodology to enable them to publish in a respected journal in the supporting field.  The breadth of understanding depends on the student’s research interests.  For example, if the student is interested in economic aspects of the firm, supporting field courses may focus on microeconomic production issues and exclude macroeconomic issues. Supporting fields may be found inside Bauer (e.g., Management, Supply Chain Management, Finance, and Marketing) and outside Bauer (e.g., Sociology, Psychology, Economics, Engineering, Anthropology, Computer Science) and are not limited to single colleges or departments. Students must earn a grade of at least a B (i.e., 3.0 out of 4, where A = 4) in each of their supporting field courses. Students must earn at least a B+ (i.e., 3.6 out of 4, where A = 4) average in their supporting field courses.

General Research Methods

Each student will take 9 hours (3 courses) of research methods from the list below. These courses are in addition to the MIS Methodology seminars and in addition to the Supporting Field courses; i.e., no double counting. Research methods courses should be chosen with the following in mind. Achieving breadth in research methodology and data analysis techniques provides students with a variety of options when confronting a research problem.  Rather than being constrained to a specific research approach ("using a hammer to solve every problem"), a more appropriate research approach can be employed for each problem. Such breadth also enables an appreciation of alternative approaches used by other researchers.  This can be helpful after graduation when reviewing articles, counseling Ph.D. students, etc. Students must earn a grade of at least a B (i.e., 3.0 out of 4, where A = 4) in each of their general research methods courses.

General Research Methods Courses
Course Content Example Courses
Regression Analysis BZAN 8397; PSYC 6300
Experimental Design (when not taken as part of the MIS Major Field) PSYC 6302
Advanced Statistical Methods (e.g., Non-Parametric, time series, multilevel, multivariate)  
Research Practicum
  1. Practicum Guidelines
    1. Practicum. One three-credit-hour MIS Practicum is typically offered every fall and spring semester. All PhD students who have not successfully completed their comprehensive exams are expected to enroll in each MIS Practicum; this may not be the case for first-semester students. One faculty member will teach each practicum, on a rotating basis.
    2. Purpose. Practicums are intended for students to identify and work on research that will lead to conference and journal submissions. Practicums provide foundational guidance, and are not expected to result in fully formed papers. (Students are subsequently expected to work with MIS tenured or tenure-track faculty co-authors to upgrade practicum papers to publication submissions.)
    3. Instructor Roles. Practicum instructors serve initially as a guide, later as an associate editor/reviewer, and finally as a “transitioner”.
      1. In the guide role, the instructor helps students:
        1. identify and select a good research problem,
        2. identify appropriate literatures associated with the research problem,
        3. flesh out and limit the scope of research question(s),
        4. identify and choose an appropriate theoretical perspective,
        5. identify and choose an appropriate research approach,
        6. identify and choose appropriate empirical methods and techniques.
      2. In the associate editor/reviewer role, the instructor should:
        1. take the position of an associate editor/reviewer for a top-tier journal,
        2. point out strong and weak areas of the student’s proposed research model, suggest appropriate literatures and/or extant theoretical models that may be applicable, etc.,
        3. suggest the kinds of analyses and/or methods that might be useful for the student to pursue,
        4. identify weaknesses in the paper’s exposition and provide the student with guidance regarding appropriate remedies,
        5. identify any research phenomenon, idea, or approach that has significant potential for pursuit as a publication, and is thus a candidate for further exploration.
      3. In the transitioner role, the instructor helps the student:
        1. decide the point at which he or she should move the paper out of the practicum phase and into the co-author phase,
        2. identify prospective co-authors,
        3. decide when to abandon or reshape a current research effort, in favor of a more promising alternative (perhaps restarting at the guide role, above).
    4. Student Role. Students must think of themselves as authors, developing a research paper based on feedback provided by instructors. For example, they should
      1. provide detailed point-by-point responses to suggestions given by instructors,
      2. address weaknesses in their work,
      3. be responsible for the significant development of their papers,
      4. be responsible for moving the paper out of the practicum phase and into the co-authorship phase at the appropriate time (students are free to discuss this with the practicum instructor as well as with other faculty members),
      5. not co-author with other students on their paper while the paper is in the practicum phase (other students may be co-authors in the co-author phase),
      6. seek feedback from other students currently in the practicum as well as students not currently in the practicum.
    5. Practicum Grade. Work on a practicum paper ends when a student chooses an MIS tenured or tenure-track faculty member as co-author and that faculty member agrees to be a co-author. If this occurs before the end of the semester in which a practicum is offered, then the student must begin “foundational work” on another paper during the practicum to complete the semester. The student’s practicum grade will thus be based on his or her work during the semester on one or more papers up to the point that the paper enters into the co-authorship phase.
  2. Co-Authorship
    1. Co-authorship Decision. A student who has progressed as far as possible on a paper within the “confines” of the practicum rules, must ask at least one MIS tenured or tenure-track faculty member to be co-author. The student’s choice is not limited to the current or past practicum instructors. (Practicum instructors may suggest to students that they have reached such a point with a paper.) The student is welcome to solicit additional (e.g., fellow students) as co-authors.
    2. Instructor Co-authorship. Practicum instructors should not expect to be co-authors on any papers that students develop during practicums. Because practicums are treated as regular classes, they will count toward a faculty member’s teaching load requirement.
    3. Co-author Choice. Practicum instructors must not pressure students to include them as a co-author. However, it is fair for instructors to be clear regarding the level of feedback that they will provide to the student in their role as a practicum instructor as opposed to the level of work a faculty member will provide in their potential role as a co-author. Faculty are free to decline a role as co-author.
    4. Author Order. By default, the student is the first author for any paper that started out in an MIS practicum. This ordering may change only under extreme circumstances. An example of this is when the student abandons the work and the co-author ends up doing substantially more work than the student.
  3. Paper Submission
    1. MIS Faculty Co-author. Papers that have at least one MIS tenured or tenure-track faculty co-author may be submitted by students to any public forum, such as conferences or journals with the permission of the faculty co-author.
    2. No MIS Faculty Co-author. For papers without an MIS tenured or tenure-track faculty co-author, students must receive permission from one MIS tenured or tenure-track faculty member to submit the paper to any public forum, such as conferences or journals. Such permission is not required if students do not directly or indirectly indicate their affiliation with the University of Houston to the public forum.
  4. Minimum Grade Requirement: Students must earn a grade of at least a B (i.e., 3.0 out of 4, where A = 4) in each of their practicum courses.

Cost Resulting from Retaking Courses

The cost of any course that a student retakes (e.g., due to substandard performance) will be borne by that student. For example, as of Spring 2018, substandard course performance occurs when a student receives:

  • a B- or less in any MIS course (MIS Requirement),
  • a B- or less in any research methods course (MIS Requirement),
  • a B- or less in any supporting field course (Bauer Requirement),
  • a B or less average across supporting field courses (Bauer Requirement).

Submission of Papers to Journals, Conferences, etc.

Before submitting a paper to any public forum (conference, journal, etc.), students must ask at least one MIS faculty member to review the paper and confirm its acceptability. This will allow students to benefit from faculty advice on (a) the content and presentation of the paper and (b) reasonable publication outlets.


Students will teach at least one undergraduate course as a Teaching Fellow. Students will first attend each MIS undergraduate course that they will teach. (See MIS Foundation, above.) Students will teach more than the minimum 1 course, depending on DISC department needs. However, this teaching shall not disrupt their progress toward publishing research and successful defense of their dissertation. Students are eligible to teach starting in fall of their second year.


All graduates of the program must research, write, and defend an original piece of research in the field of management information systems. This Dissertation must be completed within four years of the comprehensive examination (college policy); a student who fails to successfully defend a dissertation within six years of entering the program must retake the comprehensive examinations (college policy). Further details about the Dissertation are available here Bauer Dissertation Policies.

Dissertations can take the traditional form, with the following typical structure (from Davis, G.; Parker, C.; and Straub, D. (2012) Writing the Doctoral Dissertation: A Systematic Approach, 3rd  Edition, Barron’s, New York):

  • Abstract
  • Introduction of problem
  • Theoretical background
  • Hypotheses and research design
  • Data Collection and Analysis
  • Discussion of Results
  • Contribution of Research
  • Limitations and Future Research

Alternatively, students may opt for an alternative “three-article” form. MIS policies for this alternative can be found here.

Required Examinations

Comprehensive Examination

The purpose of the Comprehensive examination is to determine if the student has achieved acceptable mastery of the Management Information Systems field in order to successfully complete a doctoral degree in this program. The comprehensive examination has a written and oral component. Each student must complete the comprehensive examination by the end of the Fall semester of the third year of studies after completing the coursework specified in their degree plan (as specified by the College Ph.D. policies). MIS faculty will assign the materials, design the comprehensive examination questions and grade the questions. The examinations are graded as a “pass” or a “fail” and the student will be notified within the timeline specified by the College Ph.D. policies. If the student has failed either the written or the oral part of the comprehensive examination, they must retake both parts of the exam within six months of the notification that they have failed. Only one reexamination is allowed

Dissertation Proposal Defense

The dissertation proposal defense is an oral examination that takes place during the dissertation process. It establishes that the student has a solid understanding of the prior work that supports his or her dissertation, and provides an opportunity for the student and his or her dissertation committee to reach agreement about the research plan and potential outcomes. All course work must be successfully completed prior to the Dissertation Proposal Defense and the Comprehensive Examination Passed. This is usually completed at the end of year three of the program.

Final Dissertation Defense

This is an oral examination following the draft submission of the written dissertation. It is the final hurdle to obtaining a Ph.D.

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Professor Rex Du,
Director of Doctoral Programs


Professor Volkan Muslu,
Accounting Program Coordinator

Professor Kris Jacobs,
Finance Program Coordinator

Professor Richard DeFrank,
Management Program Coordinator

Professor Randolph Cooper,
MIS Program Coordinator

Professor Ye Hu,
Marketing Program Coordinator

Professor Funda Sahin,
Supply Chain Management Program Coordinator

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