Key components of Accounting Ph.D. program

Learn about program expectations and some of the program's major components.

What to expect

We recommend that incoming Ph.D. students take refresher courses in Calculus, Linear Algebra, and Statistics prior to entering the program.

The courses offered through Khan Academy are quite good, but any comparable option should be fine. The better your quantitative background is, the easier your back-to-school transition will be.

Incoming students are required to participate in BYU’s online Coding Bootcamp. The Accounting academic area will cover the cost of the program and will provide details to all students by early summer.

Beginning to develop the coding skill set before the fall semester will allow you to hit the ground running in your first seminar and will also be beneficial as you begin thinking about and working on your First-Year Paper (FYP).

Each semester, you will be assigned as a research assistant (R.A.) to two faculty members. You will also serve as a teaching assistant (T.A.) for one class. Your T.A. responsibilities during the first year will be relatively light.

Regarding teaching, the school’s current policy is that Ph.D. students teach two sections during their time in residence. You will not have full (i.e., teacher of record) teaching responsibilities until you are finished with coursework.

In addition to the SAS Bootcamp, all students are required to take five seminars offered by the Accounting area.

Our current seminar list includes:

  • ACCT 928 (Introduction)
  • ACCT 932 (Financial)
  • ACCT 930 (Auditing)
  • ACCT 936 (Empirical Methods and Corporate Governance)
  • ACCT 929 (Capstone)

All students also are required to take FIN 901, which builds on concepts from the SAS Bootcamp.

The Accounting area hosts several research workshops per semester featuring faculty members from KU and other universities. To enhance the reputation of the Accounting area and its Ph.D. program, it is extremely important that Ph.D. students participate actively in these workshops.

To ensure adequate preparation and facilitate workshop participation, all Ph.D. students have a 45-minute session with selected faculty members before each workshop to discuss the paper that is to be presented. Accounting Ph.D. students should also attend the Finance research workshops, although no sessions with faculty will be held before these presentations.

First-Year Paper (FYP)

The FYP is the culmination of your first year in the Ph.D. program. Because your tenure clock effectively starts the minute you enter the Ph.D. program, your FYP should be developed and executed with the intent of future submission to an academic journal. As such, the FYP should be an original piece of research rather than a replication of an existing study.

Your FYP will be a collaborative effort with your advisor and ultimately — if the paper is sufficiently strong — will be co-authored with your advisor. However, you must demonstrate competence in all aspects of the project.

The idea for your FYP may be yours or (more likely) it may be recommended by or developed in collaboration with your advisor.

You and your advisor will work together to determine which statistical analyses are most appropriate for your project.

Your primary contribution to research projects as a Ph.D. student (and, frequently, as a new assistant professor) will be in the areas of data collection and coding. As such, you will be 100% responsible for coding the statistical analysis required by your FYP.

Your advisor and other faculty may (and other Ph.D. students likely will) provide valuable feedback as you manage this part of the project.

You will be responsible for writing the initial draft of all sections of the FYP.

Your advisor will recommend edits and provide general feedback for each section. Your advisor will be more directly involved in writing and packaging as the project matures. However, you will have to demonstrate competence and responsiveness to feedback as you revise the manuscript during its early and intermediate stages.

You will present your FYP to the faculty during the first two weeks of class in the fall semester of your second year.

Your presentation will be 20 minutes, with 10 minutes allowed at the end for questions. This format is adopted to familiarize you with what your experience will be in presentations at academic conferences.

Ultimately, the programmatic goal of the FYP is execution. Specifically, the FYP should establish that you are

  1. Learning “how to do” archival accounting research, and
  2. Progressing toward becoming an effective co-author and independent researcher.

The FYP is a critical part of the school’s Qualifier Assessment Team’s (QAT) third-semester determination of whether students are allowed to continue in the KU Ph.D. program. Please refer to the school’s Ph.D. Handbook for details on the QAT and the school’s qualifier policy.

FYP advisor

Your FYP advisor will be assigned to you before you arrive on campus. If you would like to request a specific FYP advisor based on your initial interview visit, please communicate your preference to the Accounting Ph.D. Director as soon as possible.

There is no guarantee that your preference will be honored, but the Ph.D. Director certainly will take your preference (if you have one) into consideration. Because the FYP is very much an apprenticeship project, it will require an extensive time commitment from your FYP advisor. Please plan to use your advisor’s time wisely.

Second-Year Paper (SYP)

Like the FYP, the SYP is also a collaborative project with your advisor. However, the SYP places an increased level of responsibility on you.

Specifically, whereas the FYP primarily emphasizes execution, the SYP attempts to prepare you more fully for the solo work that will be required for your dissertation.

The idea for your SYP should be yours or should be developed in very close collaboration with your advisor.

You will have primary responsibility for determining which statistical analyses are most appropriate for your project. You may consult with your advisor, other faculty, and Ph.D. students, but at this point your exposure to the literature should be sufficient to provide you with a strong road map.

As with your FYP, you will be 100% responsible for coding the statistical analysis required by your SYP.

Although your advisor and other faculty may (and other Ph.D. students likely will) continue to provide feedback in this area, you should need considerably less assistance than you did during your FYP.

As with your FYP, you will be responsible for writing the initial draft of all sections of the SYP.

Your advisor will recommend edits and provide general feedback for each section. Your advisor may be involved in writing and packaging as the project matures, but less so than during your FYP. Again, you will have to demonstrate competence and responsiveness to feedback as you revise the manuscript during its early and intermediate stages.

Overall, your responsibilities associated with writing the SYP are generally the same as they are with the FYP. However, your advisor should not have to spend as much time guiding your writing during the SYP.

You will present your SYP to the faculty during the first two weeks of class in the fall semester of your third year.

Your presentation will be 20 minutes, with 10 minutes allowed at the end for questions. Again, this format is comparable to what you will experience at academic conferences.

The programmatic goal of the SYP is maturation. Specifically, the SYP should establish that you

  1. have improved in your ability to do archival accounting research, and
  2. are making substantial progress toward being able to produce high quality, independent work.

Selecting a SYP advisor

By the time you begin thinking about your SYP, you should know which faculty members are most closely aligned with your research interests.

If your FYP advisor agrees, you may choose him or her to be your SYP advisor as well. Or you may choose a different person, especially if your interests have changed and/or if you are trying to establish a working relationship with a particular faculty member heading into your dissertation. Again, please plan to use your SYP advisor’s time wisely.

Beyond the FYP and SYP

Our most successful Ph.D. students are involved in numerous research projects (i.e., beyond the FYP, SYP and dissertation). As you proceed through your program, you should attempt to be involved in several projects in order to create a strong research pipeline. Your pipeline and dissertation combined will drive your job market opportunities.

Dissertation pre-planning

As you are working on your SYP and continuing with your coursework, you should be thinking about potential dissertation areas and dissertation advisors. You should solicit feedback on both of these important decisions from relevant faculty members.

Dissertation pre-planning should be on your radar during the spring semester of year 2 and should transition to a major focus during the capstone seminar in summer after year 2.

Formation of comprehensive examination committee

By summer after year 2, you should have established your comprehensive examination committee. The examination committee should consist of five members of the graduate faculty. One of the members must be from an area other than Accounting. Typically, this member will be a faculty member who has taught one of your other seminars within the School of Business.

The person you select as chair of your examination committee does not have to be the person who will chair your dissertation. However, those two roles often are served by the same person.

Written comprehensive examination

The written comprehensive examination likely will be given around the beginning of October in year 3. The examination includes your SYP and three take-home sections related to seminars, a potential research idea, and a referee report.  

Oral comprehensive examination

The oral comprehensive examination must be taken within two weeks of the written comprehensive examination. The primary purpose of the oral exam is to address deficiencies identified during the written exam and to provide you with the opportunity to discuss the plans that you have for your dissertation.


Within 60 days of the oral comprehensive examination, you must submit a one-page description of your dissertation and identify the members (and chair) of your proposed dissertation committee. The dissertation committee must consist of at least three members and may include a member from outside the University of Kansas.

The dissertation continues your progression from your FYP and SYP. In addition to these two projects, you probably will have served as a co-author on at least one other paper (perhaps more) prior to beginning your dissertation.

Because of your extensive involvement with the research process throughout your program, you should now be able to produce a high-quality piece of original research that will demonstrate your qualifications to potential employers.

The format of your dissertation will depend on your research productivity to date, your preferences, and the preferences of your dissertation advisor.

Some advisors and students may favor a dissertation of two or three related papers rather than a single paper. If that is the case, at least one of the papers must be solo-authored. The other paper(s) may be co-authored.

Other advisors and students may favor a single, solo-authored dissertation paper. This option is most appropriate for students who have at least one or two additional working papers (FYP, SYP, or other papers co-authored with faculty) that have relatively high potential for publication.

All aspects of the solo-authored piece of the dissertation should be your work, from idea generation through writing and packaging the final product. Your dissertation advisor will consult with you throughout the entire process, but his or her work will be much less “hands-on” than it was during the FYP and SYP. Stated differently, at this point you should view yourself as the expert rather than the apprentice.

You must defend your dissertation proposal in an oral examination with your dissertation committee. The objective of the proposal defense is to evaluate the potential contribution of the proposed research, to determine the adequacy and appropriateness of the proposed research methodology, and to assess your ability to complete the project.

You may wish to present your proposed topic in an abbreviated (45-60 minute) research workshop before scheduling your proposal defense to gather feedback in advance of your proposal defense.

When your dissertation committee has tentatively accepted your dissertation as “finished,” your dissertation advisor will request that the Ph.D. Team schedule your final oral examination.

The committee for the final examination consists of your dissertation committee plus at least two other members of the graduate faculty that are recommended by your dissertation advisor and approved by the Ph.D. Team. At least one of the members must be from outside of the Accounting area. Refer to School of Business documentation for specifics related to filing of the completed dissertation.

Our hope is that you will be able to interview for faculty positions and defend your dissertation during year 4. That should be the expectation. However, remaining in the program for a fifth year is possible if your advisor judges an extension to be prudent.