Accountancy Curriculum | Weatherhead School at Case Western Reserve University

Students take 36 semester hours of coursework over the first two years (equivalent to three 3-hour courses per semester). Students then register for at least 18 seminar hours of credit while they complete their independent research over the second two years. In addition to successful course completion, students must complete four written projects to be in good standing:

First-year paper (due about 12 months from matriculation)

A literature review where the adviser is satisfied that the student has summarized academic work within a domain in accounting in a manner that:

  • Evaluates strengths and weaknesses of others' existing work; and
  • Identifies consequential gaps in prior research;

Unlike lower degrees, the curriculum of study for the doctoral degree is not set in stone. Instead, some degree of customization should be expected. This allows the strengths and the weaknesses of prior academic and practical careers to be considered. The overriding objective of the curriculum undertaken by any student is to obtain the skills needed to support an academic career. This agenda also needs to consider the sub-field choices made by the student during the course of study.

The first two academic years are devoted to the study of the literature, methods, statistics, econometrics and recent research appropriate to the participant's identified interests. During the summer periods, participants engage in individual reading, development, and writing along the project lines determined by the chair and program committee. This two-year period provides the foundation for preparing well-developed research papers that exhibit knowledge and skill levels appropriate to career goals as one approaches candidacy.


Qualifying paper (about 24 months from matriculation)

A publishable prediction or explanation about an unexplored phenomenon in accounting, where the adviser is satisfied that the student:

  • Identifies an interesting, under-studied issue;
  • Demonstrates how a significant gap in prior research may be narrowed;
  • Shows how use of a theory supports explicitly-stated predictions or explanations;
  • Suggests:
    • constructs, variables, and pilot data if the qualifying paper is archival;
    • constructs, variables, and a workable instrument if the qualifying paper is experimental; or
    • primary sources if the qualifying paper is historical or biographical; and
  • Identifies possible limitations of the proposed study.

Proposal (about 36 months from matriculation)

An articulation of a model or framework that tests proposed predictions or explanations, where the committee chair is satisfied that the candidate:

  • Operationalizes constructs with proposed variables;
  • Suggests controls to rule out competing explanations; and
  • Offers provisional data or evidence that corroborates predictions or explanations.

Dissertation Defense (within 48 months from matriculation)

A complete academic study, composed of one large analysis or three smaller analyses, where the dissertation committee is satisfied that the candidate:

  • Offers reasons for why the topic was studied;
  • Explains theoretical justification for predictions or explanations;
  • Demonstrates validity and reliability of data or evidence selected;
  • Justifies how the data or evidence were collected and tested;
  • Explains findings and implications; and
  • Addresses challenges and objections of listeners.

Standard Course Plan (36 semester hours):

  • Accounting Seminars (4 courses)
  • Statistics and Methods (4 courses)
  • Electives (4 courses)

Other expectations:

  • Weekly participation in Department “brown bag” working paper discussions.
  • Presentation of an academic paper at an academic conference before graduation.
  • Submission of an academic paper to an accounting journal before graduation.