The TIES PhD Experience
First Two Years
In the first two years of the program, TIES PhD students invest heavily in their human capital through course work. Our training philosophy puts a strong emphasis on immersion within a reference social science discipline: economics, or sociology. The choice of a core discipline has both short-run and long-run implications for TIES PhD students. In the short-run, it will determine many of the courses being selected. In the long-run, it will shape the theories and empirical methodologies with which students become familiar.
Examples of course work for recent students who selected economics as their discipline is available here. Students who would like sociology to be their reference discipline are encouraged to apply to the economic sociology PhD program, and to indicate TIES as an area of secondary specialization. TIES PhD students are required to take 15.357 Economics of Ideas, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship, as well as 15.342 Organizations and Environments. Over the first two years, our students also avail themselves to many other relevant classes taught elsewhere, including Harvard Business School and Harvard Kennedy School, the economics department at Harvard, Boston University School of Management, and other departments at MIT.
Exploring a Research Path
At the end of the second year, TIES PhD students must pass a written and an oral general examination to demonstrate thorough command of the academic literature in entrepreneurship, innovation and strategic management, particularly as it intersects with their reference discipline (economics or sociology).
Students also work on a “second-year” paper to begin the transition from being a consumer of research to being a producer of it. The paper is not intended to bootstrap the dissertation (though it sometimes does!), but rather to display the skills they have acquired during the course work phase of the program to address a question of theoretical and empirical interest. As such, the second year paper typically entails original data collection on a novel or understudied phenomenon.
Writing a Dissertation
After the general examination, students embark on their own dissertation journey while also collaborating with faculty on research projects. TIES PhD students have immense freedom to choose their own research topics, with the help and guidance of faculty members in (or even outside of) the group.
TIES dissertation-writers try to (i) find a fascinating, unanswered question; (ii) clarify how answering this question would relate to some broader theory (and associated literature) in the field, or help refine, modify or test this theory; (iii) demonstrate genuine engagement with, and understanding of the phenomenon under study; and (iv) bring to bear a compelling research design on the question so that the proposed answer is convincing. Bringing all these elements together is exactly what is meant by “advancing the research frontier.” It is a process that is both extremely challenging and intellectually rewarding.
TIES PhD students go on the academic job market when their “job market paper” (typically the most important essay in their dissertation) is at an advanced stage.
The fall semester in this last year of the program is typically devoted to improving the paper through presentations in front of diverse audiences, and regular feedback from peers and faculty advisors.
The “job talk” season typically stars in early January as peer schools invite job applicants to visits and present their work.
Launching a Career
Students in the TIES PhD program receive rigorous research training in a reference social science discipline, and are encouraged to start developing their own idea at an early stage in the program. As a result, they are well-positioned to launch a successful academic career at a top business school. Among the twenty-two students who graduated from our program between 2006 and 2016, twenty are currently tenured or employed in tenure-track academic positions.
PhD graduates from the TIES program currently teach at Boston University, Dartmouth College, University of Michigan, Harvard Business School, London Business School, MIT, Stanford University, University of Pennsylvania , University of Southern California, Georgia Institute of Technology, and University of California–Berkeley, among many others. Comprehensive placement information for alumni of the program can be found here.
Discover TIES Faculty and Research
The TIES faculty is an interdisciplinary group of leading economists, economic sociologists and management scholars working on frontier research in technological management, entrepreneurship and strategic management that aims to translate ideas into impact. TIES research often influences innovation and entrepreneurship policy and strategy in the US and beyond.