Academic Skills

On this page, you will find the set of skills you are expected to develop in the course of your studies as well as information on your supervisor’s role in supporting this development.

During the course of the PhD programs, a significant emphasis is placed on the development of writing, presentation and publishing skills. Different elements of the curriculum will be geared towards the development of these skills.

Year 1

Writing skills: Summer research paper; plus course assignments
Publishing skills: Summer research paper developed for a conference submission
Presentation skills: Thematic seminars; plus presentations in courses

Year 2

Writing skills: Dissertation proposal; plus course assignments
Publishing skills: Dissertation proposal developed for conference/journal submission
Presentation skills: Conference presentation; Thematic seminars; plus presentations in courses

Year 3

Writing skills: Dissertation
Publishing skills: Dissertation papers developed for conference/journal submission
Presentation skills: Conference presentations; thematic seminar presentations

Year 4

Writing skills: Dissertation
Publishing skills: Dissertation papers developed for conference/journal submission
Presentation skills: Conference presentations; thematic seminar presentations

Students will be required to write, present and publish various papers during the duration of their study in the PhD program. The table above demonstrates where the different skills are required over the course of the program. Faculty teaching, supervising, and co-writing with the student will provide the student with detailed feedback on paper and assignment drafts and presentations in order to help develop these skills.

In addition, students will participate in a writing clinic in their first year that requires students to assume responsibility for peer evaluation of written work in the program.

Once students have written papers for academic conferences, and the work is developed into an acceptable standard, it may be published on a student-created web site as a working paper series.

Students in need of remedial help with writing may access the general support structures at Bentley, including the Writing Center, our English as a Second Language program and an English department that includes many faculty who teach writing and presentation skills.

Primary Supervisor and Dissertation Committee

Each student will be assigned to a primary supervisor and will be located in his or her academic department. All students pursuing the Accountancy degree will be based in the Accounting department, but students in the Business program will be placed in a department that is appropriate for their specific research interests.

Year One
During the first year, the primary supervisor is responsible for setting up regular meetings with the PhD student to discuss overall progress in the coursework, as well as to continue to discuss the student’s research interests. Where possible, the student should be encouraged to write coursework papers that relate to their general area of research interest — the supervisor can play an important role in helping to ensure this so that the student gradually builds up a multi-disciplinary perspective within their research area. Also, the supervisor is responsible for monitoring the transition of the student in terms of acclimation and/or language and writing development, where applicable, and for reporting such progress to the PhD Council. Progress of each student is regularly reviewed at PhD meetings, and it is important that the supervisor attends these in order to work with the student where problems are identified.

During the summer at the end of their first year, each student will take an independent study reading class that is focused on their specialized area of research. The supervisor is normally responsible for developing this course and acting as the independent study tutor and grading the final paper that will be the output from the course — a paper that will subsequently be developed in Year Two (see below).

Year Two
In addition to monitoring the progress of the student’s progress in the coursework, the supervisor should focus on specific areas such as working with the student on drafting a paper for a conference submission in the student’s second year (typically through continued development of their summer independent study paper and/or some previous course assignment papers; submitted in the middle of the second year to be delivered in the summer prior to the third year).

Year Three to Four
The primary supervisor, together with the PhD student, will be responsible for putting together the supporting dissertation committee (two to four faculty members) during the second and/or third years of the student’s program, based on discussions with the PhD student about his or her research interests and career goals. The committee will include only research-active faculty and must be approved by the PhD Council and will normally consist of faculty from different departments and a faculty member external to Bentley (Note: All PhD candidates will have an external member on their dissertation committee and/or have an external examiner at their final dissertation defense. Please refer to “Policies for Inclusion of External Member or External Examiner for Doctoral Student”).

The primary supervisor is responsible for setting up an initial meeting to include all members of the dissertation committee and the student. At this meeting, the committee will work with the student to agree to a division of responsibility between the different members and to agree to a schedule of meetings (committee and individual) for the year ahead. This committee meeting must occur at least annually, and the agreed outcomes of the meeting should be recorded and kept in the student’s file. The primary supervisor will then communicate regularly with the student to discuss progress of the dissertation proposal and data collection; to ensure that the student is meeting regularly with other members of the dissertation committee; and to discuss the dissertation research as well as other research opportunities. The supervisor, thus, has a role in relation to helping the student to consider the data collection sites; assisting the student in determining a primary area of specialization and the network of colleagues most appropriate for that area of research.

The PhD student has the responsibility for following the agreed schedule or for ensuring that any deviations from the agreed schedule are reported to the primary supervisor in the first instance. If the student feels that deviations are occurring because of a failure of supervision, the student can write formally to the PhD director, outlining the concerns. The PhD director will arrange a meeting with any PhD student who makes a formal complaint. Where deemed necessary, the PhD director will meet with the supervisor and/or the dissertation committee.

At Bentley, we admit students based on their fit with a supervisor. During the course of their study, either party may realize there is no longer a fit.  It is incumbent upon the student to find another supervisor who is willing and able (as defined by the PhD Council) to act in this capacity.

Authorship Protocol

Where a student co-authors a paper with a faculty member based on the student’s dissertation work, the student will in normal circumstances be the first author. Where a student co-authors a paper with a faculty member not based directly on the student’s dissertation work, author order will be determined by prior negotiation. In general, students are encouraged to work on conference submissions with their advisers.

Where there are disputes about the author-order on a paper, the aggrieved person (whether student or faculty member) can prepare a statement setting out their reasons for believing that the order of authorship is inappropriate. Other parties involved can read this statement and prepare their own statements. All statements will then be considered by the PhD Council, which will adjudicate between the conflicting parties based on the evidence presented, and request verbal presentations if this is considered to be appropriate.

Annual Assessment

All students are assessed annually in terms of their progress on the PhD program. The primary supervisor will set up the annual evaluation, which will focus on teaching, scholarly achievements and the effectiveness and relevance of the supervision that is being received. The student will prepare and present to the primary supervisor a portfolio of his or her work which will also be evaluated by members of the dissertation committee, once this committee is formed. Based on these evaluations, the primary supervisor will write an annual report, including a statement about whether the student is making satisfactory progress towards the PhD. The student must read and sign the report, and if desired, write a response to the report. These reports will be forwarded to the PhD director, who will review annual reports of all PhD students together with the student evaluations of their supervisors. Where problems are identified (i.e., unsatisfactory progress is recorded), the report will be brought to the PhD Council. The PhD Council will decide whether the student can continue on the program or not and whether changes to the dissertation committee are necessary. The primary supervisory may be invited to this meeting.

During the final two years of the PhD program, students will teach a maximum of one class per semester. The teaching will be evaluated in accord with the criteria for evaluation of tenure-track faculty as outlined in the university’s Faculty Manual. Specifically, the PhD student will be visited twice each year by two different tenured faculty evaluators, chosen by the chair of the academic department in which the student is based. Another visit can be made if requested by the PhD student, the chair, or one of the evaluators.

All students will also have an opportunity to assess their primary supervisor and the individual members of the dissertation committee once formed on an annual basis, including assessment of adequacy of feedback, responsiveness, and research guidance.

Conferences and Workshops

Students are encouraged to take an active involvement in all of the research-related activities that are ongoing in Bentley, including department seminars, the Provost’s Seminar Series, center-related workshops and conferences. These opportunities are regularly advertised to all faculty members and PhD students.

Comprehensive Examinations

At the end of the first stage, typically a two-year period (or when the taught courses have all been completed, which may be longer than two years for some students), students will be required to satisfactorily pass a set of comprehensive examinations. Students preparing for exams should review the examination policy and honor code.

Students continuing on the program will move to the PhD dissertation proposal stage once they have passed these exams.

At the end of this first stage of the PhD in Business or Accountancy programs, students who have satisfied the requirements of the first two years of the program may discontinue their studies and obtain a master’s degree (MBus Research).

Dissertation Proposal

Students will normally be required to present a detailed dissertation proposal during their third year that covers a review of the relevant literature and an overview of the intended research methods to be used in the research. The written proposal and an accompanying oral presentation will be evaluated by the student's Dissertation Committee (supplemented with experts as appropriate) who must approve each proposal before students are allowed to continue with the program. In exceptional circumstances, students can ask for an extension to the proposal submission date. Requests for extension with an explicit reason for the extension must be submitted to the primary supervisor who must seek approval for the extension on behalf of the student from the PhD Council.

Final Specifications for PhD Dissertations

For graduation purposes, students can submit as their final dissertation either:

  • Three papers, published, or deemed publishable, in a refereed journal or in high-quality refereed conference proceedings, including quantitative and or qualitative analysis, or both, as appropriate, which in combination with introductory and concluding chapters, constitute the PhD dissertation, or
  • An in-depth dissertation of a specific topic area, including either quantitative or qualitative analysis, or both, depending on the nature of the study. Students adopting this route will also be encouraged and mentored to publish one or more articles while in the program.

A member of the academic faculty from an external institution (i.e., a non-Bentley faculty member), with an established scholarly reputation in the area in which a student is working, will be invited to sit on the dissertation committee of that student and/or be bought in as a final examiner. The supervisory committee will nominate the external member, usually during the student’s third year of study. An external examiner is a person bought in at the end of the process to evaluate the final dissertation. The CV of the external member will be sent to the PhD Council, which will evaluate this individual’s scholarly reputation and other credentials, and either approve or disapprove him or her for membership on the supervisory committee. If this person is not approved the PhD Council will seek alternative nominations from the supervisory committee.

The dissertation committee (the supervisory committee plus the external member) will decide whether the student passes, needs to revise the dissertation, or fails. Such assessment will be made following oral examination of the written dissertation.

Time Limits

Upon completion of all the coursework requirements students have a maximum of two years to pass the comprehensive examination. The maximum time allowed to complete the degree from matriculation will be seven years. The minimum time of study is three years.

Written requests for extensions to these time limits must be submitted to the primary supervisor and must contain a comprehensive explanation of the reason for the student’s failure to complete the work within the time limit. If the student has received extensions to the time limit prior to the current request, the student must also provide a comprehensive explanation for his or her failure to complete the degree during the previous extension(s). If the student claims medical reasons (of self or family member) for failing to complete the degree, the student must include documentation from a physician with the appeal. The student may also request letters from members of the supervisory team which document the student’s progress toward completion of the dissertation. The primary supervisor will review the case and make an initial recommendation. This will be sent to the PhD Council along with the supporting documents. The PhD Council will make the final decision about granting any extension and communicate these in writing to the student and the primary supervisor.