Dissertation Requirements

In a traditional PhD program, student research is focused towards the creation of articles intended for refereed journals. Publication is the ultimate goal, leading to a dissertation focused on creating a publishable body of research. While such a dissertation would certainly be acceptable for the USF DBA program, our normal expectation is that a candidate's work will be directed towards applying research to the actual problems the candidate must address in his or her professional life. As a result, with the approval of the candidate's dissertation committee, alternative deliverables—such as a research-grounded book, significant project or portfolio of activities—could meet the requirement.

The dissertation process involves three stages:

Qualification Exam

Taken near the end of the third semester, students write a research-grounded proposal for a potential dissertation topic. Dissertation committees are formed based upon the topics proposed in these exams, and the committee must approve the topic prior to the student's preparing a full proposal.

Proposal Course (Four Credit Hours)

The proposal course is offered during the student's fourth semester. It requires the student to select a four-person dissertation committee and submit a dissertation activity (or portfolio of activities) for approval by the committee.

Dissertation Courses (16 Credit Hours)

Dissertation courses are offered every quarter throughout the student's last year, upon satisfactory completion of at least 44 credit hours and 4 proposal credit hours. These courses require the student to work towards the completion of the dissertation activity or activities approved by his or her committee. Because the Doctor of Business Administration degree is designed to be responsive to the needs of the candidate, there is considerable flexibility in the form that the dissertation can take—subject to approval by the committee.

Examples that could be approved might include:

  1. a traditional research dissertation
  2. a practice-focused book submitted for publication
  3. a write-up of a substantial work-related project in which the principles of evidence-based research were applied
  4. a portfolio of related research products/activities that demonstrate knowledge creation or innovative application in a given area.

Such a portfolio might include journal submissions, books, magazine articles, conference papers and presentations. The candidate will meet with members of the committee during each residency of the final year of the program, and will present his or her dissertation to the committee in the final semester of the program; this presentation substitutes for what is sometimes referred to as a defense in traditional PhD programs. Upon satisfactory presentation, the dissertation committee will then approve the awarding of the degree, subject to all remaining program requirements being met.

The 16 dissertation credit hours can be earned by taking one or more of the following courses:

Proposal and dissertation courses are graded pass/fail, and must be passed. Students must complete all remaining courses with a grade of "B" or better. Should a student fail to pass or complete a course with the required grade, the DBA Program Committee may offer an alternative activity as a substitute.